Dutch term – Vredegerecht

The Vredegerecht (sometimes spelled vredegeregt) is the Peace Court or Justice of the Peace.

The system of vredegerechten was introduced during the French occupation and lasted from 1811 to 1838. The Vredegerecht held the lower jurisdiction in a canton, a district roughly the size of one or a few municipalities. After 1838, the vredegerechten were renamed to kantongerechten. In Belgium, these courts are still called vredegerechten.

The vredegerechten only had the jurisdiction over misdemeanors, not over more serious criminal offenses. So you may find an ancestor convicted by the vredegerecht for drunkenness, but not for assault or murder. But even drunkenness could get you sent to jail if you did not pay the fine.

The vredegerecht also had the jurisdiction over civil cases, such as custody cases, disputes over business arrangements, and forced admission in an insane asylum.

The records of vredegerechten can usually be found in the archives in the capital of the province where the court was located. Most of these records are not available online, although some provinces offer access via scanning-on-demand. See the Digital Resources Netherlands and Belgium website for an overview of online available sources.

court building

Former vredegerecht in Dronrijp. Credits: IJ. Th. Heins, collection Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed (CC-BY-SA)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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