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!


How the Khoikhoi lost their land to the Dutch

On January 16, 1647 captain Pieter Pietersz., captain of the Dutch East India Company vessel "Nieuw Haarlem", set sail from Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) back home to the island of Texel in the Netherlands. It was the beginning of what should have been just an ordinary trip home but it set in motion a series of events that in the end drove the South African tribe of the Khoikhoi off their native land...

Using Google Translate For Dutch Genealogy Sources

The Netherlands has vast archives that will make every serious genealogist drool. Many provincial archives have started to offer digital search even on their church records (which date back to the 1600s). More and more Dutch newspapers are being digitized. Regularly new special collections appear online, such as maritime archives, East India archives, criminal archives, to name just a few. The only catch is, all these sources are in Dutch. Some sites provide an English interface, but most of the time the results of any query are still delivered in Dutch. If you cannot read Dutch, that is quite annoying...

The New Year's Dive And Other Odd Dutch New Year Traditions

What would you do to welcome the new year: Blow up a milk churn with carbide? Dive in a freezing sea wearing only a swimsuit and an orange hat? Collect all the Christmas trees in your street to burn them in a big bonfire? Blow a very large horn? Although the Dutch do have traditions in common with other nations like waiting for the clock, toasting with champagne, lighting fireworks and having a great time at a party, they also have customs that may seem very odd to the foreign eye...

Poor Relief Registers

With Christmas drawing nearer, our thoughts go out more often to the poor than at any other time of year. We have grown used to governments taking care of the poor in our Western societies. Even in times of crisis, governments cover at least the most basic needs of the poor. But what was it like for our ancestors? Could they rely on some sort of poor relief? And can we still find evidence of this in the archives? From as early as the 1400s there was a system of poor relief available in the Low Lands...

From scribble to chat

Last weekend my two boys wrote an e-mail to grandma who lives in Germany and together we made a beautiful postcard for my twin nieces in Spain who will celebrate their birthday next week. Grandma responded within minutes even though she was over a hundred miles away and we know my nieces will get the card within five days, because that is just how reliable the postal services are today. That made me think of my great-grandmother who set sail with her husband in 1909 to Aceh (Indonesia), then known as the "outback" of the Dutch East Indies. I imagine she and her mom cried bitter tears, knowing that they would not see each other again for a long time. A letter could take months to get from Aceh to Amsterdam, and a telegraph office had not been installed there yet. By the time my great-great-grandmother read the news about the birth of her first granddaughter, the child already set her first steps on the other end of the globe...

The Dutch Outback. Land Of The Independent: The Province Of Groningen

Groningen is the most northeastern province of the Netherlands. It is bordered by three little uninhabited islands and the Wadden Sea in the North, by the province of Drenthe in the South, Friesland in the West and Germany in the East. It is a relatively small province with only around 570,000 inhabitants, one third of which lives in the province capital of Groningen city. Although small, it has a very varied landscape. It hosts new reclaimed land in the North, a huge earth gas reserve –almost exhausted now– in the West, hills, little rivers and forests in the East and large marshes in the South...

Five Good Reasons To Leave Holland Between 1600 And Today

The Netherlands are famous for their wealth both in the past and today. The Dutch are known as a healthy, tolerant people that have created a country where you are free to speak your mind, where welfare takes cares of everybody and where living standards are high even for the less fortunate. Then why have so many Dutch left and still leave this apparent wonderland? In 1602 the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie better known as VOC or Dutch East India Company was founded. It facilitated big expeditions to the East that returned to Holland with great riches. Every man brave enough to make the trip could share in this wealth, so many set sail to foreign destinations like South Africa and Indonesia...

Forgotten Crafts: Peat Diggers

Could you imagine having a job that required you standing in a wobbly boat bending over to dig out heavy mud out of the water for sixteen hours a day, six days a week and sleeping in a damp, dirty tent for six weeks a year? Would you do that to earn a salary that could barely feed your family? Peat diggers did! If your ancestors are from the province of Groningen or Drenthe, it is not unlikely that you will find that one of them was working in the peat industry. Both provinces had large reserves of peat. So, what is peat anyway and why would people go through the trouble of digging it up: hard, backbreaking work?...

Making Sense Of Your Dutch Surname

If you know your surname is Dutch, then it is still very possible that you will find no match at all in Dutch online databases. This of course does not necessarily mean that your ancestors did not come from the Netherlands after all. A more plausible explanation is that your surname has been anglicized over time and that the current spelling has little to do with the original Dutch spelling. So how do you go about reconstructing the original Dutch spelling of your surname? Let's have a look first at common changes that Dutch surnames have suffered under the influence of English...

10 Practical Tips To Kick Start Your Research In The Netherlands

Dutch archives are vast and can therefore be a real goldmine. Large parts of the basic birth, marriage and death records since 1811 have been digitized and can be easily searched online. The rest of it however (records prior to 1811, deeds, military archives, photo archives and much, much more...), still exists only on paper or microfilm and is not accessible online (yet). In this article I will give you ten practical tips to get your search for digital and non-digital records started...

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