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!


Why the Pennsylvania Dutch are actually German

If you research your Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors, you may well find very little about them in the Dutch archives. This is because most of them are actually German. Then why on earth, you may wonder, are they called Dutch? Today Germany and the Netherlands are two separate countries lying next to each other. We call the people from the Netherlands and their language Dutch, and their neighbors and their language German. However, it wasn't always like that...

What's Cooking: Tulip bulbs

That the Dutch are fond of their tulips is known worldwide. Thousands of tourists come over each spring to see the immense tulip fields in the western part of the country. However, what is far less known is that the Dutch even used to eat them. Yes, you got that right; there was a time when the Dutch actually ate their tulip bulbs. Not because they tasted so great, but simply because there was nothing else to eat. The period in which this happened was the winter of 1944/1945 known to the Dutch as "Hongerwinter" (winter of hunger). While the southern part of the Netherlands had been freed by allied troops, the North remained occupied by the Germans. In September 1944, Queen Wilhelmina, living in exile at the time, urged the Dutch Railway personnel to go on strike, so as to sabotage the Germans in supplying their troops. The railway personnel obeyed her with disastrous results...

Forgotten Crafts: Dienstmeid

There was a time when virtually every unmarried girl from the lower classes was a maid. And there was a time when every middle or upper class housewife employed one or several maids. In 18th century Holland, maids were almost considered part of the family. They lived in with their employers and were treated almost as an equal. Almost, because even though she would sit at the table with the family for supper and her masters would speak to her kindly (so much that it surprised foreign travelers), she did not have much rights, let alone a salary. Most maids did not have a room of their own but would sleep in the kitchen or the attic. She was supposed to work seven days a week and would only get time off to go to church every Sunday and to visit her family once a month. She would be paid with food and clothing and an "education" in keeping house. The fact that she could live in, get fed and learn how to run a household that would serve her well once she got married, made the job very popular in spite of the disadvantages...

What's Cooking: Knieperties

Knieperties (lit. "little pinchies"), also known as ijzerkoeken (iron cookies), are small crispy waffles, typical of the Northeastern part of the Netherlands (especially Groningen, Drenthe, Twente and the Achterhoek). They are called knieperties because they are made by pinching a dough ball with a hot waffle iron. Pinching is called "knijpen" in Dutch and "kniep'n" in Eastern Dutch dialects. Knieperties are usually served around New Year. On New Year's Eve they are served as round flat cookies and on New Year's Day as little rolls known as "rollechies"...

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...

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