Quick tip – Was your ancestor the first to use the surname?

Let’s say you’ve gone all the way back to the 1500s, 1600s or 1700s and can’t find the parents of your brick wall ancestor. Could it be that your ancestor was the first one to use the name?

Perhaps your Van Etten really was from Etten, and his parents only used a patronymic. Perhaps your Hoitink ancestor was born on another farm, and only called himself Hoitink after he married a Hoitink daughter and moved into her farm. Perhaps your Marijnissen ancestor was the son of Marijnis, whose patronymic was Peters.

Next time you’re really stuck, try asking yourself if this ancestor was the first to use that last name. Could his parents be hiding under a different name?

Mardi Gras, 1911.

Mardi Gras, 1911. Credits: Spaarnestad Photo (Flickr, no known copyrights)


About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® is a board-certified genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 30 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. nicole goldberg says

    help! I have been searching for my husbands ancestors for years…. They always thought they’re family came from Germany, but I’ve found records that traces them back to the Netherlands. The last record that I have is his 4th great grandfather that traveled to Michigan back in 1854. John (or Johannes?) Goldberg (possibly Goudberg), and he was born June 19 1829. He had a brother (Also John) born about 1821, also died in Grand Haven, MI. I am at a loss, I’ve searched everywhere, and every Netherland search site. I don’t have a lot of money to spend, and I’m not sure what else to do.

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