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We have been writing articles for several years now, this means that some articles may contain outdated information.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

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.

When the Haarlem reached Cape Good Hope on May 25, 1647, it was caught in a nasty storm that smashed it on the cape. The marooned crew was left with no other option than to make the best of it until another Company ship would come to their rescue a year later. During their forced stay, the idea was born of setting up a permanent refreshment station that could supply passing Company ships with fresh water and fruits and that could harbor surviving crew of inevitable future shipwrecks.

The Company liked the idea and already in 1652 an expedition of five Company ships, the Reiger, Olifant, Walvis, Goede Hoop and Drommedaris, led by Jan van Riebeeck set sail for Cape Good Hope to make the refreshment station a reality. It was the only settlement the Dutch East India Company ever founded that had no trading purpose in itself. It would merely serve as a safe haven where all Company ships were obliged to moor for repairs, heal the sick and above all take in fresh fruits and vegetables to keep the crew strong and healthy.

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? The Dutch celebrate New Year on December 31 and 1st of January. Some New Year traditions are bound to exactly those two days, others take place in the weeks surrounding the turn of the year mostly between Advent and Epiphany. And 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.

New Year's Dive
This tradition was introduced by a swimming association in the sixties: the brave members of the club plunged into the freezing North Sea on New Year's Day. Canadians may be familiar with this event since they have a similar tradition dating back to the 1920s.

Over the years taking the New Year's Dive has become a popular and massive event (10,000 divers!) that is sponsored by Unox, a big food manufacturer famous for its traditional Dutch pea soup and smoked sausages. They provide the divers with flashy orange pompom hats and gloves. Some bathers add to their funny looks by dressing up like all kinds of odd things. Some even skinny dip. Everyone that has taken a serious dive is given a certificate and a cup of steaming hot pea soup to warm up again. Watch it here!

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. This usually took on the form of little clusters of small houses on the premises of a church or a convent. These were called "hofjes" (lit. courtyard, because they used to be arranged around a little yard with common facilities such as the latrines). These houses were appointed by the church to selected poor and elderly people. Staying was free but required impeccable behavior from the residents. Yard doors were closed at ten o'clock in the evening, church visits were compulsory, no alcohol was permitted within the premises as was drunkenness or any other kind of frivolous behaviour.

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.

Stadt And Lande
Groningen has long been seen as the Dutch Outback since for centuries it was one of the most inhospitable areas of the Lowlands. Large parts of the area would flood at high tide and fall dry at low tide.

Understandably, earliest settlement of the province was only possible by building small artificial hills to stay dry during high tide. These hills are called wierden, and still many towns in Groningen and Friesland have names ending in  –werd, –ward, –uert or –uard like Jukwerd, Laskward, Usquert and Aduard.

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?

1. Business Opportunities
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?

Digging For Fuel
Peat is formed when dead plant material –especially from mosses– accumulates over time. When compressed and dried, it becomes turf, which makes excellent fuel. It burns slow and heats well without much smoke. Peat is also used as potting soil and as a raw material for producing activated coal, a key ingredient for certain medical and chemical industries.

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.

Sticky Prefixes
Many Dutch surnames have one or more prefixes like van, ter or van der, meaning of, at the and of the. These prefixes are often glued to the surname when transcribed to English. This way De Groot becomes Degroot and Van der Bilt ends up as Vanderbilt. In Dutch listings these prefixes are ignored, so if you type in Degroot you will not get a match. Groot however will yield De Groot. Common prefixes to look out for are: van, van der, van de, de, ter, op, op 't, in, in 't (of, of the, of the, the, at, on, on the, in and in the).

April 30, Queen's Day

Every year, on this day, April 30, the Dutch celebrate Koninginnedag (Queen's Day). In practice, this means that most cities and towns are filled with orange decorations, flags are hanged from the windows, and all kinds of festivities are organized. The most popular event is the massive garage sale that is organized along the streets. This is the only day of the year that everybody is allowed to sell their stuff on the street without a permit, and many people enthusiastically take advantage of this opportunity.

The Queen and her family actively participate in the festivities, personally visiting and interacting with the Queen's subjects in a different town every year. However, in the past this was not always the case. This festive day was originally introduced at the fifth birthday of the first Dutch crown princess, Wilhelmina, on August 31, 1885. It was intended to promote a sense of national unity in the young kingdom. When Wilhelmina became Queen in 1898, the day became known as Queen's Day and was primarily a children's feast in which the Queen herself did not participate at all.