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We have been writing articles for several years now, this means that some articles may contain outdated information.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

The Golden Age

In the mid 1600s The Dutch Republic became the leading nation in trade, science and art. However, much of its success was the result of wealthy and smart immigrants that had fled persecution elsewhere. Especially the revocation of the Edict of Nantes –partially in 1629 and completely in 1685– caused over 50.000 Huguenots to flee to the Netherlands. In other words the Netherlands had become a free haven for the free minded.

With the founding of the East and West India Companies (VOC and WIC) fortunes were made on the spice and slave trade. The Dutch were good tradesmen but also had a lot of luck. Their big neighbors England and France were too caught up in internal affairs to pay due attention to that small Republic that silently took over their trading posts in the East.

Forgotten Crafts: Ferryman

The Netherlands is a country of water. It's everywhere. Every city, town, and piece of land is crossed by a maze of canals, ditches, rivers, lakes and the like. It was very common that the shortest way from home to school, work, church, or the market crossed water somewhere. If you did not have a boat, you would have to take a considerable detour to the next bridge.

Therefore, at strategic points in rivers and canals people would row or haul you to the other side for a small fee. These ferrymen where still very common in the 1960s and my mother still remembers jumping on the ferry every morning to go to school. She often was expelled from the ferry because she would jump onto the ferry when it had already left the shore. Because this was dangerous, the ferryman would make her get off again and walk the two-kilometer detour to teach her a lesson. Somehow it did not have the desired effect, this to great frustration of the ferryman.

10 inventions your great-grandmother wished she had

I have a job. A great job. One I could choose myself. My great-grandmother also had a job. A tough one and not one she could choose herself. She was a housewife, and in the 1800s being a housewife was a tough, full-time job. If you had the money you would hire a maid to do the dirty work for you. If not, you had to do it yourself.

I am a housewife too: 1 hour a day. In that time, I cook a meal for my family on my efficient gas stove, using the stock in my fridge, my freezer and the tins of food in my garage. While dinner is cooking, I pop some washing in the washing machine or dryer, vacuum clean the carpet or clear out the dishwasher.

And while I'm doing so, my thoughts wander off to my great-grandmother and how she would have marveled at my easy housekeeping. In honour to her and all the great-grandmothers in the world, here's a list of the 10 inventions they would have loved to have. The 10 inventions that have made it possible for our generation to seek a life beyond housekeeping if we want to!

What's in a name: the Vandenberg family name

Vandenberg is a very common American surname with Dutch roots. Several prominent Americans carry this surname, such as: Arthur Hendrick Vandenberg (republican senator from Michigan), Kim Vandenberg (swimmer), Hoyt Vandenberg (second Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force), there even is a rock band called Vandenberg. However, though many of you may recognize the name, I bet few of you know what it actually means.

In Dutch, the name Vandenberg is actually written Van den Berg, "van" and "den" being separate particles that come before the actual name "berg". It is also pronounced very differently, as you can hear here.

Sources Revealed: Orphan Chambers

Whenever a person died and left an orphan child, the possessions of the deceased were managed by a so-called "weeskamer" (orphan chamber). Appointing a guardian for the orphans by testament was a common way to exclude the orphan chamber. This practice was common among the rich.

Records from orphan chambers are very valuable to genealogists because they reveal quite a lot about the financial situation of an ancestor and about family relations. Very interesting are the inventories made by the chamber of the assets to be managed. These can be quite detailed and give a very nice insight in the kind of housing, furniture, clothing and the like your ancestors had.

Dutch Apple Pie

There is no greater treat I could give my family than home-made apple pie. Especially served a bit warm and with lots of whipped cream. Apple pie is no Dutch invention. Many countries have their own variants. Originally, it is an autumn dish, like applesauce. After the apple harvest, those apples that were a bit damaged, too small to be tasty, or any surplus apples that cannot be kept good over the winter would be processed into something tasty.

Dutch apple pie uses chunks of apple, not slices, which are mixed with raisins, sugar and cinnamon. Some people even add ginger. The pie is usually higher than variants from other countries.

Literacy: from luxury to everyday commodity

Today, we almost take it for granted that we can send our kids to school at no cost at all. To be precise, we must send them to school:  education is mandatory for children between 6 and 17 according to Dutch law. Home teaching is not allowed, and keeping your child at home for trivial reasons as an extra holiday can result in serious fines for the parents. It's clear that education is taken very seriously in the Netherlands. However, it has not always been like that. For many of our ancestors, learning to read and write was a luxury far beyond their reach.

Middle Ages
Up until the late 1500s education was a rich man's thing. Among the nobility it was customary to educate the firstborn son as the successor of his father. Private teachers would educate him in the art of reading, writing and calculating (all needed to run the estate he was to inherit) and politics, discussion and noble manners (needed to deal with political intrigues and acquiring a strategically chosen spouse). The second son would receive a decent military training, also given by private teachers. The third and other sons could opt to go into a monastery in order to get a proper education, which involved a generous donation to the monestary by their dad.

Finding Dutch Holocaust Victims

Every year on January 27, the victims of the Holocaust are remembered worldwide. The memorial day was established by the United Nations in 2005 to honor all those that lost their lives in this horrible episode of our history.

The Holocaust is especially painful to the Dutch since given their very well kept civil records that included faith specifics and collaboration of the Dutch NSB party (Nationaal Socialistische Beweging, meaning National Socialist Movement), an astonishing over 100,000 Jewish people were deported easily and murdered in concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor. As a comparison, in Germany –the heart of the fascist movement and a country about nine times bigger than the Netherlands– about 160,000 Jews shared the same horrible fate.

Tyrants, Heretics And Heroes

In 1555 Philips II, son of the legendary king Charles V, became ruler of the "Low Lands", a territory now known as The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. At the time, these were wealthy territories with important trading cities like Antwerp. Charles V, born and raised in the Belgian city of Gent, had been fond of the region and his wise rule had earned him the loyalty of the Dutch nobility. That loyalty was vital because it was the nobility that exerted real power in the cities and provinces that made up the Low Lands. Philips however, was born and raised in Spain and had no feelings for the region except a keen interest in its wealth. He was also a very devote Catholic. These two character treats would soon bring him into deep trouble with the Dutch.

Philips started out by reducing the power of local noblemen and relying more and more on Spanish counselors. This was his first vital mistake. By depriving the noblemen (and with them prominent cities) of their power he created a strong seed for rebellion under the high classes of Dutch society. Dutch nobility had always been happy to accept the protection of a sovereign king as long as it did not interfere with their own local power. Philips severely underestimated the importance of this tradition.

Forgotten Crafts: Bridge Hauler

Of course, Amsterdam is famous for its many canals. To get across these canals there are numerous small bridges. These bridges are typically very steep, to allow highly loaded cargo ships pass easily underneath them.

However, these steep bridges used to be very annoying for any merchant with a cart. And there were a lot of those in past centuries: milkmen, bread sellers, vegetable sellers, you name it.