Netherlands Church Records
|The Netherlands Background|
|Local Research Resources|
The FamilySearch moderator for The Netherlands is Daniel Jones.
For information about records for non-Christian religions in the Netherlands, go to the Religious Records page.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Information in Records
- 2.1 Baptisms (Dopen)
- 2.2 Confirmations (Communicanten)
- 2.3 Marriages (Trouwen)
- 2.4 Burials (Begraven)
- 2.5 Membership Records (Lidmaten)
- 2.6 Church Council Minutes (Kerkeraadshandelingen)
- 3 Finding Netherlands Church Records
- 4 Search Strategies and Tips
Church records (DTB) are the main sources for births, marriages and deaths in the Netherlands between about 1550 and 1811.They recorded baptisms (or circumcisions), marriages and burials and sometimes confirmations, membership records and conversions.
In the late 1500s Churches began to mandate that registers of baptisms and marriages were kept. Burials were often not recorded at first. Records do not always exist for the period before 1700.
Records kept by Catholics are written in Latin. Most other records will be written in Dutch.
The main types of Church records are
- Dopen (Baptisms)
- Trouwen (Marriages)
- Begraven (Burials)
- Lidmaten (List of Parish Members)
Church records are arranged by religion. Most people in the Netherlands belonged to either the Dutch Reformed(Nederduits Gereformeerd) or Roman Catholic Churches. Some belonged to other religions such as Lutherans or Mennonites (Doopsgezinde) or were Jews(Jooden). See the page Netherlands Church History for more information about different religions in the Netherlands.
Church records are crucial for pre-1811 Dutch research. Church records continued to be kept after the introduction of civil registration,but are not kept by the Family History Library and are generally difficult to access. After 1811 they were mostly superseded by Civil Registration.
Information in Records
From about 1550 onwards, Churches started to keep registers of infants that had been baptized. Catholics were usually baptized within two days of birth. Protestants may have waited until a Sunday. Mennonites/Doopsgezinden only baptized adults.
Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes including only the child’s and father’s names and the baptism date. Earlier records do not always name the mother, or give only her first name.
Because of social conditions in the Netherlands, the birth of illegitimate children was not uncommon.
The Following information will usually be found in a baptism record:
- The name of the baptized
- The date of the baptism, and sometimes the date of birth
- The name of the parents, or at least the father's name
- The name of the witnesses or godparents
- The place of birth and/or baptism
- Whether the child was legitimate or illegitimate
Remember, not all of this information will always be there, especially the names of witnesses and the place/date of birth. The main date on the record will be that of the baptism, not the birth. Most baptism records do not have a birth date.
Catholics have their First Communion at age 6 or 7 and their Second Communion at age 12. Protestants have their confirmation at about age 15. Most confirmation registers merely list the names of those being confirmed and the confirmation date.
Marriage registers list all newly married couples. They started to be kept in the late 1500s. To be married in the Netherlands, marriage banns (ondertrouwen) had to be posted for three weeks in every town recently resided in by either or both of the groom and bride. Only then could they marry in the Dutch Reformed Church or before the court or civil authorities, usually in the residence of the bride. Then they could marry in the church of another religion. Thus you will often find multiple records of banns and marriages for the same couple.
After marriage they usually went to live in the residence place of the groom. Typically the groom was a few years old than the bride. The average age at first marriage in the Netherlands was very high for the times, with grooms often aged around thirty.
It is important to note that records of banns and the actual marriage are almost always included together. If the marriage was recorded separately to the banns, the record often includes names only and is not worth pursuing. Catholic marriage registers often only contain names.
The following information may be found in a pre-1811 entry:
- The names of the bride and groom
- The date of the marriage.
- Whether they were single(usually written j.m. or j.d.), widowed or divorced at the time of marriage. Any previous spouses may be named
- The names of the witnesses.
- The place of their births (or where they were residing when married).
- The date of the marriage proclamations or banns.
- If the groom was a member of the military, the regiment or name of the commanding officer
In Some registers, especially after 1794 and in Amsterdam, the following may be recorded.
- The names of their parents.
- The date of their births (or their age at the time of marriage).
- Their occupation
Marriage Supplements (Trouwbijlagen)
Especially after 1794 there may be marriage supplements. These will contain evidence of deaths of former spouses and the names of parents(for parental consent). Other information may be found.
Marriage Tax (Impost op Trouwen)
In the province of Holland (now Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland) a tax on marriages was imposed from 1695 to 1805. If you do not locate your ancestor’s marriage in any other source, look in the marriage tax records. They are also useful for determing how wealthy there were. See the "Taxation" section for more information.
Marriage contracts and banns (Huwelijksaangaanen en bijlagen)
Content: Couples’ names, marriage intention dates, residences, occupations, witnesses’ names, often parents’ names and sometimes other relationships.
Burials were recorded in the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of death. In some places burial records started long before baptisms and marriages but in most places they start quite late, often well into the 1700s. In most places people of all religions had to be buried in the Dutch Reformed Church or in the Catholic Church, depending on which was dominant in that town.
The following information will usually be found in a burial record
- The date of burial
- The name of the deceased
- The spouse of the deceased
- The age, especially if the deceased is a child
- The parents if the deceased is a child
- The tax paid, which was determined by their wealth and ability to pay
Some records, especially later records after 1794 may contain
- Cause of death
- Place of residence or death
Church account books [kerkrekeningen] often give details about burials.
Membership Records (Lidmaten)
Most churches kept a record of their members, usually organized by village or street. The records contain members’ names, dates of confessions of faith, and dates of arrival from other parishes. They may also contain death dates, dates members left the parish, communion lists, or names of those partaking of the sacrament or attending catechism school. The records of members arriving or departing are of great value as they mention the town or parish the member came from or moved to, which helps to then locate further records.
Membership records are usually in the archive of the church council [kerkeraad] of the parish. Sometimes they are part of the baptism or marriage register.
Church Council Minutes (Kerkeraadshandelingen)
Minutes of the church council can provide important information about your ancestor. They usually contain ministers’ names and dates of service, appointments of elders and other parish officials, disciplinary actions, names of fathers of illegitimate children, and money paid for the poor.
Certificates of indemnity or surety [akten van indemniteit] were sometimes issued to church members moving to a new town. The certificates guaranteed that the former parish would receive the people back in case they became poor.
Finding Netherlands Church Records
Essentially all Netherlands Church records from before 1811 are now online. This section gives instructions on where to find them and how to search them.
2. Search next in a published transcription, often found on GeneaKnowHow, or try a Google search
3. Search next in a alphabetical index, where they exist. Try GeneaKnowHow or Zoekakten
||Search on the site of the Stadsarchief Amsterdam. As of January 2017, images are now free to view.|
|Alkmaar||Search on the site of the Regionaal Archief Alkmaar|
|| Search on the site of the West-Fries Archief|
|| Some are transcribed on the site of Waterlands Archief, browse originals on Geneaknowhow or Zoekakten|
|Haarlem||Very limited coverage for Haarlem and Zandvoort at Noord-Hollands Archief|
|| Search on the site of Erfgoed Leiden en omstreken|
| Rijnlands Midden
|| Search on the site of Streekarchief Rijnlands Midden, only covers records listed here|
| Midden Holland
|| Search on the site of the Streekarchief Midden Holland|
|| Search on the site of the Rotterdam Stadsarchief|
|| Search on the site of the Delft Archief|
| Den Haag
|| Search on the site of the Haags Archief|
|| Search on the site of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht|
|| Search on Wie Was Wie or Het Utrechts Archief|
|| Search on the site of Gelders Archief|
|| Search on the site of BHIC|
|Limburg||Search on the site of AlleLimburgers|
|| Search in the Generale Index Zwolle (for the city of Zwolle only)|
|| Search on the site AlleFriezen|
|| Search on AlleDrenten|
|| Search on AlleGroningers|
FamilySearch has put online all Netherlands church records with only very few exceptions(for example, some burials from Amsterdam). But the way the films are arranged can be confusing, so Zoekakten was created to make it easier to find Netherlands records on FamilySearch. See the Zoekakten page on this wiki for further details on how to use Zoekakten.
Note that in rural areas some records are not categorised under the town you may expect, so search in a town and its surrounding towns.
For the few records not on Zoekakten/FamilySearch, try the Family Search catalog. These records are usually under 'Cemeteries" or some other category and because of this were not included in the Online Record Collections.
Church record inventories are essential tools for finding Dutch records. They identify records that are available, their location, and the years they cover. The following source, prepared by the Central Office for Genealogy, lists all known church records of the Netherlands:
The CBG (Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie) has the following nationwide inventory of Netherlands church records, by Willem Wijnaendts van Resandt. It is also viewable on Zoekakten or the FamilySearch Catalog. L.It can be accessed on the website of the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie at this link.
For specific places or provinces, use the applicable archives inventory feature. It will list in an ordered manner all the records held by the archive. Available online images and indexes are usually indicated there.
To use church records, you must know both your ancestor’s religion and the town where he or she lived.
Some gazetteers indicate parish jurisdictions. For more information, see the "Gazetteers" section and the section below, which discusses church record inventories.
A small village that did not have its own church was usually assigned to a parish in a nearby larger town. Consequently, your ancestor may have lived in one village but belonged to a parish in another town. This is particularly true of Roman Catholic parishes. In predominant Dutch Reformed Church areas, Roman Catholic records include people for a wide area.
Search Strategies and Tips
- Useful tips about different religions in the Netherlands can be found on Netherlands Church History
- Protestants(excepts Huguenots/Wallonia Reformed and Lutherans) wrote their records in Dutch. See Netherlands Language and Languages and Netherlands Handwriting
- Huguenots/Wallonia Reformed and a few French Catholics wrote their records in French. See French Wordlist
- Catholics wrote their records in Latin. See Latin Genealogical Word List
- Lutherans wrote their records in German. See Germany Handwriting
- Mothers will almost certainly be referred to by her maiden name but this is not always true for witnesses/sponsors/godparents.
- Don't assume people went to the nearest church, especially in rural areas. Always search the neighboring towns.
- Names in Catholic records will be Latinised, especially first names. For example Hendrik Bakker may become Hendricus Pistorius.
- Remember that some names are very common(e.g. Jan Jansz). Don't assume that just because their names are the same that they are the same people. If their are multiple people born around the same time that you cannot distinguish, use these tips:
- Look at the names of their parents and their mothers maiden name
- Look at the names of the witnesses to their marriages and the baptisms of their children. These are often siblings.
- Look at burial records to see if any of them died as a baby or child
- Sometimes Baptisms and Marriages were recorded in the same book
- Ondertrouwen(The Marriage banns) were recorded in the residences of both the bride and groom, but the actual marriage was recorded only in the residence of the bride.
- Everyone had to marry before the Dutch Reformed Church or court. They could then marry in their own religion but did not always, due to legal reasons.
- The Marriage banns system only applies to marriages in the Dutch Reformed Church. For other religions there will only be one marriage-in the residence of the bride
- The first child is often born illegitimately or within 9 months of marriage. It is rare for a couple to be childless 2 years after marriage.
- Gaps between children tend to be 12-24 months while the women is young, but stretch out to as much as every 5 years when she is older.
- Be aware of naming traditions. The first son should be names after the father's father and the first daughter after the mothers mother. The second son and second daughter should be named after the other two grandparents
- Unless two of the grandparents had the same name, two siblings alive at the same time should not have the same given name. If two children in a family received the same name, it probably means the elder died.
- Always search for all the siblings in a family so that you can use the above two points and for the witnesses/godparents who were usually relatives.
- Be sure you know where you get information from. Note down the precise church. Note the number of the book(RBS number) and the name of the parish.