Dutch Ancestry Blog

Ever wondered how and why we ended up with all those windmills?
Did you know that Santa came from the Netherlands and was quite a different guy?
Want to give baking typical Dutch treats a try? Or wondered why we go mad for pea soup?
You'll find the answers in our blog articles on the Dutch and their somewhat quirky habits. Enjoy!


Chasing A Hare

Maybe it was a nice sunny spring morning or a stormy autumn afternoon when, sometime in the late 1800s, Cornelis de Haas set sail for the biggest voyage of his life. He left everything he knew behind to seek a new and better life in Australia.When the ship finally arrived, Cornelis reported to an immigration officer and told him his name, in the best English he could. The officer gave him a puzzled look. Could you repeat that, sir? And Cornelis said it again. The officer gave him another puzzled look. "Haas", said Cornelis. "H-A-A-S, like a hare." He put his fingers on top of his head to mimic a hare's ears. The officer finally smiled and said "Oh, a hare!" and then scribbled down: "Cornelius de Hayr from Sassenheim, Holland." About a 150 years later, one of his descendents started tracing his family tree and got stuck on Cornelis. Understandably, he couldn't find any "de Hayr" in The Netherlands, and nobody knew the name had originally been "de Haas"...

Bargoens, The Slang From Amsterdam

Dutch is all but a uniform language. The many regional variants can differ greatly from each other. Even so much that people cannot understand each other very well when using different dialects. Several years ago, my husband and I were travelling from our hometown in the east to the south of the Netherlands. We shared a train compartment with two elderly ladies who were submerged in a lively conversation. The whole trip we tried to make out what language they were speaking, and even though we both have a linguistic background, we could not make sense of it. When at a certain point one of the ladies asked us, with a heavy southern accent, whether this was the train station of Eindhoven, it finally dawned on us that we had been listening to a southern Dutch dialect all the time...

Hansje In Den Kelder: Old Dutch Birth Rituals

As in any other culture, in the Netherlands birth was long surrounded by rituals en superstitions. This is not surprising because giving birth was a life threatening activity. Reason enough to do whatever possible to humor the gods to protect mother and child. In this article we have collected some of the dutch birth traditions during the last three centuries. Telling out loud that you were expecting a child was challenging evil spirits, at least so people thought in the 17th and 18thcentury. So you had to let family and friends know about the pregnancy without actually saying so. Upper-class families had a nice ceremony for this called Hansje In De Kelder (Little Henry In The Basement). Family and friends would be invited over for a drink. Then a special silver cup was put on the table...

Dutch Birth Records Basics

The Netherlands have been registering births as far back as the 1500s. First only baptisms were recorded by the Church. Later, the government took over and started registering births. What data you can find and where to look for them depends on the place and date. This article will help you understand Dutch birth records and will teach you how to use them. In 1563 the Council of Trent imposed the registration of marriages and baptisms and in the years afterwards baptism and marriage records were kept at most churches in the Netherlands....

Dutch Birth Record Terminology You Should Know

Doing online research is fine, but reading the actual records is far more interesting. Not only do they often provide more details that could help your research, but also the sight of the real old handwriting can be very exciting and inspiring. Maybe you are put off to request the real documents because of the language. Therefore, I will give you the basic text and terminology for a typical baptism record and birth certificate. Although slight variations occur of course, this list will make reading a Dutch birth record doable...

What's Cooking: Bare Buttocks In The Grass

"Blote billetjes in het gras" meaning "bare buttocks in the grass" is a dish made of potatoes, snap beans and white beans. The white beans are the bare buttocks and the snap beans are the grass. It is a spring variation of "stamppot", one of the most popular and versatile dishes in Dutch cuisine. The basics are simple: mix together any pick of vegetables with mashed potatoes and condiments to taste. Endive stamppot is another popular spring variant. Most other variants are usually eaten in the fall or winter...

May 5th: Celebrating Freedom

May 5th is a special day for the Dutch. On this day we celebrate our freedom. It used to be tied exclusively to the liberation from the German occupation of WWII on May 5, 1945. However, over the last decade the day has become a more general celebration of peace and freedom so it can appeal to the younger generations as well. Usually all major cities organize festivities and Dutch flags are hung out. May 4th is a special day too. On this day all war casualties, especially those of WWII, are commemorated. This is done by a special service in the New Church of Amsterdam attended by the royal family, ministers, prime minister and veterans. After the service, a short speech is held at the war victims memorial monument on the Dam in Amsterdam and the royal family lays a wreath at the monument...

What's Cooking: Beschuit (Dutch Rusks)

A beschuit is a typical Dutch rusk that is eaten at breakfast or lunch and especially at the birth of a baby. The idea of a preservable replacement for bread already existed in Roman times. Rome had a vast army that had to be fed. Bread was not practical on long marches since it would go stale within a few days. The reason for this is that bread contains too much moist making it a perfect breading soil for fungae. But if you bake the bread twice you substract virtually all moist from it. The hard, dry cookies that result from this baking proces can be kept fresh for weeks. The romans called the cookie biscotum, meaning baked twice, after the baking process...

The Duke Of Alba: Favorite April Fool Of The Dutch

Tomorrow, April 1, the Dutch celebrate Fools' Day just as a lot of other countries worldwide. I personally enjoy this day very much, even though I usually fall prey to many pranks. This is no wonder since I've got three boys that love to poke mommy: one is 8 years old, the other almost 10 and the third is 45 ;o)). Last year they all had a great time planting a fake tarantula on my bedroom floor, which looked alarmingly real! Where this odd custom came from, nobody actually knows. The most plausible, though not proven, theory I read about is that the feast is a variation of celebrations of the coming Spring. However, for many Dutch the origin is clear: the feast started on April 1, 1572. On this day the Duke of Alba, known to the Dutch as Alva, lost the city of Brielle to the Dutch rebels. Now why was this so important to the Dutch?...

Deciphering Dutch Foundling Surnames

If nowadays a foundling is found it usually hits the newspapers because it is a rare event. However, in the days of our ancestors abandoning a child was unfortunately far more common. In a time when contraception was virtually unheard of and abstinence was thought to be bad for your health and soul, couples would get children whether they could afford to care for them or not. There were also many unmarried women who got pregnant either through carelessness in love or through prostitution.There were not many options for parents of an unwanted child. Sometimes family would take care of the little one until times improved and the parents could care for the child themselves. However, in the case of illegitimate children this was often not an option. In order for the young mother and her family to keep up her reputation, the baby had to "disappear". Some babies were handed over to a so-called engeltjesmaker (angel maker)...

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