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We have been writing articles for several years now, this means that some articles may contain outdated information.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.

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...

There is a nice myth regarding the origin of stamppot. It is said that the dish has its roots in the Siege of Leiden of 1573-1574. In 1568, Dutch rebels had taken up arms against the rule of the Spaniards. A few years later, in 1573, the Spaniards besieged the rebel city of Leiden. Although the rebels defended themselves well, even after fighting a whole year, they had been unable to lift the siege. Finally, in September 1754, they broke the dikes to let the seawater pour into the low, reclaimed land around the city and literally flush the enemy out. Unfortunately it took until October 3, 1754 for a big storm to finally push the water far enough through the dikes to make the Spaniards flee.

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.

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.

Children Of  Misery
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). This person, usually a woman or midwife, would simply take the child and let the poor thing die for a small fee. The parents would receive a small insurance payment for the deceased child that would often be enough to feed the family for a couple of months. Sometimes a midwife would promise the parents to care for the child, let it die and then keep the insurance payment herself! Although angel making did happen, it was a crime and was certainly not common practice.

Bokkenrijders: The Ghostly Goat Riders Of Limburg

Between 1730 and 1775 the southern tip of the province of Limburg was terrorized by a gang of robbers that became know as the "bokkenrijders", meaning goat riders. Over time 600 people were trialed and convicted as bokkenrijder. However, up until today it remains unclear whether all these people actually were bokkenrijders or whether they simply fell prey to a local hysteria, resembling that of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts. We do know that there were gangs of robbers active in those years. Their targets were mainly icons of local power and wealth. Three historic facts may have led to the forming of these gangs and the type of victim they chose.

First of all, the once so wealthy Dutch Republic had slid into an economic crisis due to the enormous costs of the wars against the English, the French and the Spaniards in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Second, the once so independent provinces had lost much of their power to regents, very much to the dislike of the people. These regents were far more interested in increasing their own power and wealth than in actually governing their territories as they should have.  And third, this was the Age of Enlightment that promoted rational thinking and secularisation.

Is Santa Actually A Dutch Immigrant?

This time of year, Santa makes his appearance again, riding the skies in his reindeer drawn sledge and filling socks with candy and presents whilst cheerfully yelling ho ho ho! But where did this jolly figure come from? Is it true the myth originated in the Netherlands? At Christmas, most Western people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We do this by setting up a Christmas tree in our home, decorating it with balls and candy, and hanging socks from our chimney that a mythical figure called Santa Claus will come and fill with presents on Christmas Eve. Presents that do not fit in the sock, are left underneath the tree. This Santa Claus is a jolly corpulent guy that somehow seems to fit through a chimney (even if there is none), and flies through the sky in a reindeer drawn sledge cheerfully jelling ho ho ho!

Somehow, this Santa figure does not quite fit in with the Christian idea of Christmas, and yet we are all so fond of him that it would be unthinkable to celebrate the holidays without him. Have you ever wondered where this strange mix of traditions came from? I have, and I will happily share my findings with you on these pages. You will even find out that Santa has, at least in part, Dutch roots just like you!

Bake Your Own Sinterklaas Candy: Kruidnootjes (a.k.a. pepernoten)

Hoor wie klopt daar kind’ren? Hoor wie klopt daar kind’ren?
Hoor wie klopt daar zachtjes tegen het raam?
Het is een vreemd’ling zeker, die verdwaald is zeker.
Ik zal hem even vragen naar zijn naam.
Sint Nicolaas, Sint Nicolaas, breng ons vanavond een bezoek
En strooi dan wat lekkers, in een of and’re hoek

(Hear, who’s knocking children?
Hear, who’s knocking children?
Hear, who’s knocking gently on the window ?
It’s a stranger for sure. That's lost his way, for sure.
I’ll ask him for his name.
Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicholas, please visit us tonight.
And throw us some candy in a corner of our room)
Click here to hear the song in Dutch

How Kruidnootjes Were Invented
This old Sinterklaas song beautifully illustrates the tradition of throwing candy –kruidnootjes– into the room whenever Sinterklaas arrives at a home. But kruidnootjes and their predecessors pepernoten originally had nothing to do with this children’s feast.

Pepernoten originated in the Middle Ages with the arrival of expensive exotic spices such as pepper. Pepper was thought to possess aphrodisiacal powers and was therefore used to bake fertility cookies. These were thrown at newly weds on their wedding day alongside traditional fertility symbols like rice and flowers. This throwing of fertility symbols had also been part of an old pagan sowing feast that was celebrated at the beginning of December. The throwing resembled the farmer that sows his fields and it was meant to invoke good spirits.Under the influence of the Catholic Church the sowing feast had slowly been replaced in the 16th century by the Saint Nicholas feast. But traces of the pagan tradition survived by throwing the then fashionable pepernoten.

Feasts of Light

Each year, more and more Dutch celebrate their own version of Halloween. They have imported the tradition from the United States. Since it is not a Dutch tradition in itself, most Halloween parties are kept by students and young people who enjoy the dressing up and scary jokes. However, typically, kids do not come at your door for candy.

The origin of Halloween is not completely certain but many attribute it to the Celtic Samhain feast that celebrates the end of summer. The British and Irish took their version of the feast to America. Samhain, however, is just one instance of a much broader tradition of celebrating the end of summer and the coming of winter. The thought that with winter, death and evil spirits come is also very old. It probably goes back to very early Germanic roots.

Inmate registers of poor colonies

The archive of the province of  Drenthe has put the inmate registers online of the poor colonies founded by the "Maatschappij van Weldadigheid". If one of your ancestors lived in Frederiksoord, Willemsoord, Wilhelminaoord, Boschoord, Veenhuizen or Ommerschans, then it certainly is worth having a detailed look at. It is very likely that they were inmates of one of these colonies.

So what are these poor colonies anyway? After the fall of Napoleon in 1814, the Netherlands were left in a deplorable state and especially in the big western cities families lived in extremely poor circumstances. It soon became apparent that something had to be done about this. It was not so much compassion for the poor, but rather the nuisance caused by the growing mass of beggars and desperados that turned to burglary that motivated plans to turn the poor into "decent people".