Zeeland traditional dressZeeland is a province in the south-west of the Netherlands. It borders on Noord-Brabant in the east, the country of Belgium in the south, the North Sea in the west and Zuid-Holland in the north.

The capital of Zeeland is Middelburg. Other larger towns are:

  • Vlissingen
  • Goes
  • Terneuzen

Geography of Zeeland

Zeeland consists of several islands and a piece of mainland called Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. The names of the islands are:

  • Tholen
  • St. Philipsland
  • Schouwen-Duiveland
  • Noord-Beveland
  • Zuid-Beveland
  • Walcheren.

Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is the southern-most part. It is attached to Belgium and has always had many Flemmish influences.

Genealogy in Zeeland

Genealogy in Zeeland is complicated by the fact that many of the records were destroyed during the bombing of Middelburg in World War II. The main problem is with the church records of the 17th and 18th century. For the 19th century, the situation is better. Two copies were kept of the civil registration records so one copy still exists.

For genealogical research in Zeeland before 1800, many towns lack the usual church records. Other sources that can be consulted instead are judicial records and government records such as the registration of orphans.

Because many of the islands used to be somewhat isolated, naming traditions can vary from region to region. Most people in Zeeland had fixed last names long before the introduction of the civil registration. In other parts, people used patronymics.

Another important factor to take into account when researching your Zeeland ancestors is that Zeeland has over the centuries received many people from other regions. In the 17th and 18th century, many French protestants (Huguenots) settled in the region. Most of them settled in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen or Middelburg. From there, several moved on to cities like Leiden (Zuid-Holland) and Amsterdam (Noord-Holland), or settled in New Netherland (New York).

The Zeeland islands also had a lot of influx from the Noord-Brabant mainland. People migrated from Bergen op Zoom in Noord-Brabant to the Zeeland islands. Bergen op Zoom was a garrison town, and in turn had many people who were originally born elsewhere.

In short, if your ancestors were emigrants from Zeeland, chances are that they had emigrant ancestors as well.

Many Zeeland records are kept by the Zeeuws Archief. Many of the records of the civil registration can be found in WieWasWie or in the Zeeuwen gezocht (Searching for Zeelanders) of the Zeeuws archief. Church records are available at Familysearch.org.

Emigration from Zeeland

Zeeland is probably the province from where the most people emigrated in the 19th century. Many members of the seceder churches emigrated in the 1840’s. They followed rev. Cornelis van der Meulen to the newly founded colony of Holland, MI.

Even more people emigrated at the end of the 19th century. Thousands of people from Zeeland left to find a new home. Many people from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen settled in the areas around the Great Lakes like Michigan and Wisconsin. Other people settled in New York state.

Lists of emigrants can be found online in the Zeeuwen gezocht database of the Zeeuws Archief.

Online images

Images of Zeeland can be found in several online resources:

  • Zeeland image database. Choose either Foto’s (pictures), Affiches (posters) or Prentbriefkaarten (postcards) and then type in the name of the person of town you’re looking for and press ‘start’.
  • Zeeuws Archief image database. This image database contains portraits, photographs, postcards, etc. Type in your term and press ‘Zoek’ to search.
  • Zeelandboek. This database contains photographs of Zeeland in the 1908-1940 period. Type in the name you’re looking for and press ‘Zoek foto’s’ (search pictures).
  • Zeeland provincial atlas 1865-1870. This atlas contains a map of the entire province as well as the maps of all the municipalities.


About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. I recently found http://www.ancestors.nl/ as well. It is an easy site to navigate for non-Dutch speakers. You could use his trees to search for the primary records at wiewaswie.nl or Zeeuwen gezocht. Once you get the index information from one of the databases, you can find the original documents online at familysearch.org I found microfilmed birth records for my fourth and fifth grandfathers this way. I wish searching in the US was as easy as this!

    • Thanks for that addition, Kim! I’ve done research in several countries and totally agree with you that we are really spoiled here, with excellent records that are often available online for free.

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