Learn more about Dutch culture and genealogy!

If you like reading about Dutch culture, history and genealogy keep an eye on this page. We regularly post blog articles here about these topics. Want to make sure you don't miss out on new posts? Follow Dutch Ancestry Coach on Facebook were we post an announcement whenever a new blog article comes out. You can also find other Dutch genealogy enthousiasts there from all over the world to chat and share information with.

We have been writing articles for several years now, this means that some articles may contain outdated information. We are currently going through all our articles to make necessary updates. Keep this in mind when browsing through them.

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.

The Toko In Semarang

When researching my own tree I stumbled upon an ancestor named Henri Francois Grivel that seemed to have disappeared into thin air after his birth. I could not find any records on him except for his birth certificate. I had the rest of his family complete. I knew the fate of his parents and his siblings. But nothing on him, and that was nagging me.

Then, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Dutch Library) came to the rescue. They have scanned and indexed over a million newspaper pages starting in 1640, and put it all online! When I searched for "Grivel" literally dozens of hits turned up for an Indonesian newspaper from the mid 1800s. Intrigued, I clicked on the hits and to my amazement, they were newspaper ads, placed by my ancestor Henri to promote his shop in Semarang.

Peace And Exploration

At the beginning of the 1600s the battle for independence had shifted to the Eastern provinces of the Republic and by 1609 a truce with Spain was signed that would last for 12 years. This relative peace gave the Western provinces the opportunity for economic repairs. During the war many Protestant merchants had fled the Southern Netherlands and settled in the Northwestern provinces of Zeeland and Holland. They brought with them an enormous amount of knowledge about trading with and sea travel towards the Orient as well as considerable funds.

At the time, the spice trade was dominated by the Italians over land and the Portuguese and Spaniards over sea. But the Portuguese were weakened by English privateers and the Dutch saw a golden opportunity that they seized. They would go and get the so valued spices from the Orient themselves.

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. In most cases, she would be better off as a maid than as a burden to her family.

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". The flat version symbolizes the completely unfolded year, and the rolls symbolize the new, still folded year that will slowly unfold over the coming 365 days.

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, a friend 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...

Hansje In Den Kelder
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.

Before 1811: Baptisms
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. Only 15 years later in 1578 the Netherlands became a Protestant state. The new official Protestant Church maintained the mandatory baptism an marriage records and added also burial records.

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.

Baptisms before 1795
Most christening records are in Dutch, although in very old records some Latin may be used. At the top of the page, you will find the month and the year. Then in the left column you will find the date of baptism and sometimes the name of the child. In the left column you will find the names of the child, the parents and the witness (es). Sometimes the name of the vicar is also stated.