Introduction to the Netherlands Search Strategies

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Step 1. Identify What You Know about Your Family

Begin with family and home sources. Look for names, dates, and places on certificates, family Bibles, obituaries, diaries, and similar sources. Ask your relatives for any additional information they may have. It's likely that your second cousin, great-aunt, or other relative already has some family information. Organize the information you find, and record it on pedigree charts and family group records.

Step 2. Decide What You Want to Learn

Select a specific relative or ancestor born in The Netherlands for whom you know at least a name, the village or parish where he or she lived in the Netherlands, and an approximate date when he or she lived there. It is also very helpful to know the names of other family members born in the Netherlands .

Step 3. Select a Record to Search

Learn about the types of records used for Netherlands research. Several factors can affect your choice of which records to search. Factors such as: record contents, availability, ease of use, time period covered, and reliability of the records, as well as the likelihood that your ancestor will be listed in them must be considered.

To do effective research you should:

  1. Begin by obtaining some background information.
  2. Look for any research that may have been previously done on the individual or family of interest.
  3. Search original records.

Remember to search from the known to the unknown, building evidence as you go. Let’s look at each of these steps more closely.

Next, decide what you want to learn about your ancestor, such as where and when he was married, or the names of his parents. You may want to ask an experienced researcher to help you select a goal that you can achieve.

1- Obtaining Background Information

You may need some geographical and historical information. This can save you time and effort by helping you focus your research in the correct place and time period.

  • Locate the town or place of residence.

Examine maps, gazetteers, postal guides, and other place-finding aids to learn as much as you can about each of the places where your ancestors lived. Identify the major migration routes, nearby cities, provincial boundaries, other geographical features, and government or ecclesiastical jurisdictions.

  • Review local history.

It will help to understand the history of the Nedtherlands. If possible, study a history of the areas where your ancestors lived. Look for clues about the people, places, and events that may have affected their lives and the records about them. Records with information about migration routes, nearby cities, provincial boundaries, governmental jurisdictions, and local historical events may be described in periodicals from the area.

  • Learn about jurisdictions in the Netherlands.

You will need to know how the Netherlands is divided into provinces and how each province is divided into other jurisdictions.

  • Use language helps.

The records and histories of places in the Netherlands will usually be written in Dutch. You do not need to know the entire Dutch language to search the records, but you will need to learn some key words and phrases. Some helpful sources are described in the "Language and Languages" section through the Nederland: Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki.

  • Understand naming patterns.

The naming patterns of the Netherlands were influenced by factors such as: where you ancestor lived (in the city or a rural area), the time period, the social standing and the occupation. Understanding the naming customs can help you locate missing ancestors, and prevent the mistake of choosing an incorrect ancestor or family.

  • Understand local customs.

Local customs may have affected the way individuals were recorded in the records. Illegitimacy, marital customs, and local conditions are discussed in the "Social Life and Customs" section of the Nederland: Portal on the FamilySearch Wiki.

2- Previous Research Sources.

Most genealogists do a survey of research previously done by others. This can save time and give you valuable information. You may want to look in:

Remember that the information in these sources might be wrong, depending on who did the research. Therefore, you need to analyze and verify the information you find from these secondary sources.

3- Search Original Documents.

After surveying previous records you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original documents (often copied on microfilm, or available on-line), which are usually handwritten in the native language. The documents can provide primary information about your family because they were generally recorded near the time of an event by a reliable witness. To do thorough research, you should search each place where your ancestor lived, during the time period he or she lived there. You need to search all the jurisdictions that kept records which might mention your ancestor (town, parish, province, and nation). You will be most successful with Netherlands research if you can examine the original records (on microfilm or Internet). In some cases, transcripts of the original records are available. Although these may be easier to read, they may be less accurate than the original record.

As you search original records for your Dutch ancestors, most of your time will be spent searching:

  • Civil Records.
  • Church Records.
  • Census Records.