Netherlands Language and Languages

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Netherlands Language and Languages

This list summarizes what languages are used in different records.

Dutch: Used in Dutch Reformed Church records and Civil Registration after 1813. Used for any other government records.
Frisian: May be used in place of Dutch in Friesland
Latin: Used in Catholic Church records
German: Used in Lutheran Church records
French: Used in Wallonia Reformed Church records, and in pre-1813 Civil Registration
Portuguese: Used in some Jewish records

Dutch Language

Dutch (like English and German), is a Germanic language derived from Old Low Franconian and Old Saxon.

Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands, northern Belgium, the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean, and Suriname. Flemish, which is spoken in Belgium, is a major dialect (regional variation) of Dutch. It uses words similar to the words on this list. Afrikaans, a separate language spoken in South Africa, is descended  from Dutch and preserves many older and dialect features of Dutch, but contains many German and English words as well .
Frisian, which is spoken in the Dutch province of Friesland, is a different language from Dutch.
The "Additional Resources" section below will tell you how to use the FamilySearch Catalog to find dictionaries of the various dialects and related languages.

In addition, Dutch is found in some early records of the United States (mostly in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and Iowa) and in South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Brazil and Taiwan.

Language Characteristics

Dutch, along with German, English, Frisian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Afrikaans, is a Germanic language. It is very closely related to the dialects of northern Germany known as Low German.  Indeed, the traditional dialects along the Dutch-German border are virtually the same.  You may want to read about the linguistic situation in the lower Rhine area or about spelling variations there.

Dutch words for nouns (persons, places, and things) are classified as either common or neuter.

Variant Forms of Words

In Dutch, as in English, the forms of some words will vary according to how they are used in a sentence. Who—whose—whom, or marry—marries—married are examples of words in English with variant forms. This word list gives the standard form of each Dutch word. As you read Dutch records, you will need to be aware that some words vary with usage.

The prefix t is equal to the Dutch word het, which means the. The prefix s- is a part of many place-names and means des (of the). All prefixes are disregarded in alphabetized lists, except in Flemish records.

The endings of words in a document may differ from what you find in this list. For example, the document may use the word jonger, but you will find it in this word list as jong. In addition, the suffixes -je, -tje,-tien, or -ke are often added to words to indicate "little." These suffixes can also indicate the feminine version of a name. Therefore, the word zoontje means "little" or "young (tje) son (zoon)." The ending -sdr means "daughter of."

Plural forms of Dutch words usually add -en or -s to the singular word. Thus boer (farmer) becomes boeren (farmers), and tafel (table or index) becomes tafels (tables or indexes). Rarely, -eren is added to form the plural. Examples: blad becomes bladeren (leaves [of a tree]), kind becomes kinderen (children).

In Dutch, many words are formed by joining two or more words. Very few of these compound words are included in this list. You will need to look up each part of the word separately. For example, geboortedag is a combination of two words, geboorte (birth) and dag (day).

Alphabetical Order

In the Dutch language, the letter combination ij is considered a single letter. It has the same value as y, and it is usually alphabetized as if it were a y. Some Dutch dictionaries and indexes use the following alphabetical order:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, ij (or y), z

Some Dutch dictionaries alphabetize the letter ij under i then j. Just remember, when a name or town starts with the letter IJ, that you capitalize BOTH the I and the J. In the Netherlands the IJ or ij is ONE letter, not 2 and seeing that you can hardly split one letter when you capitalize it, you really have to capitalize the whole letter - IJ not Ij!

This word list follows the standard English alphabetical order. However, when working with alphabetized Dutch records, use the Dutch alphabetical order.

When the Dutch alphabetize names of places or surnames, prefixes such as van der, de, or ter are not considered in the alphabetization.


ten Brock

van der Graf


van Hijden

de Jong

van Leeuwen

ter Pelkwijk

van IJlst

't Zandt


Spelling rules were not standardized in earlier centuries. Writers often failed to dot the ij, so that it looks like a y. The letter y was not used in older records. In Dutch, the following spelling variations are common.See the article Spelling Variants in Dutch Documents

y used for ij

g used for ch

d and t used interchangeably

j and i used interchangeably


echt spelled as egt

overlijden spelled as overlyden

Arie spelled as Arij

Marietje spelled as Marietie

Additional Resources

The word list on this article includes only the words most commonly found in genealogical sources. For further help, use a Dutch-English dictionary. Several Dutch-English dictionaries are available at the Family History Library. These are in the European collection. Their call numbers begin with 439.31321.

The following dictionary is available on microfilm for use in Family History Centers:

Dutch-English, English-Dutch Van Goor Dictionary. 's-Gravenhage: G. B. Van Goor, 1938. (FHL film 1183584 item 2.)

Additional dictionaries are listed in the Subject search of the FamilySearch Catalog under DUTCH LANGUAGE - DICTIONARIES or in the Place search under NETHERLANDS - LANGUAGE AND LANGUAGES. These include dictionaries of various dialects and time periods.

On the following Internet address Integrated Language Bank you can find: a modern Dutch dictionary, old, early Middle Ages and later Middle Ages Dutch dictionaries and a Frisian dictionary.

The File:German Gothic Handwriting Guide.pdfincludes an example of the German (Gothic) alphabet in print and handwriting. Also go to Germany Handwriting.

See the 3 FamilySearch Tutorials on "Reading Dutch Written Records" 

Cassell’s English–Dutch Dutch–English Dictionary. 36th ed. New York: Macmillan, 1981. (FHL book 439.31321 Ca272.)

Stierp–Impink, A. C. Practisijns Woordenboekje, of Verzameling van Meest alle de Woorden in de Rechtskunde Gebruikelijk (Lawyer’s Dictionary, or List of Most Words Used in Legal Documents). Alkmaar: A. C. Stierp–Impink, 1985. (FHL book 949.2 P26s.) This legal dictionary, originally created in 1785, identifies words found in court, land, notarial, and guardianship records.

Verdam, J. Middelnederlandsch Handwoordenboek (Middle Dutch Dictionary). ’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964. (FHL book 439.317 V582m; film 1045404 item 2.) This dictionary will help with most archaic words found in documents before 1811.

Additional language aids, including dictionaries of various dialects and time periods, are listed in the Place search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:



or in the "Subject Search" under:


Key Words

To find and use specific types of Dutch records, you will need to know some key words in Dutch. This section lists key genealogical terms in English and the Dutch words with the same or similar meanings.

For example, in the first column you will find the English word marriage. In the second column you will find Dutch words with meanings such as marry, marriage, wedding, wedlock, unite, legitimate, joined, and other words used in Dutch records to indicate marriage.

For a full word list, visit Dutch Genealogical Word List

English Dutch
baptism dopen, doop, gedoopt
birth geboren, geboorte
burial begraven, begraaf
Catholic rooms katholiek, oud katholiek
census volkstelling, bevolking
child, children kind, kinderen
christening (see baptism)
civil registry burgerlijke stand
death overleden, overlijden, gestorven
father vader
husband echtgenoot, man
index tafel, klapper, fiche
Jewish joods
marriage(s) huwelijk(en), trouwen, echt, gehuwden, getrouwd
military militaire, landweer, krijgsmacht
month maand
mother moeder
name, given voornaam, eerste naam
name, surname achternaam, familienaam, bijnaam, toenaam
parents ouders
parish parochie, gemeente
Protestant protestant
supplement bijlage
town, village stad, gemeente, dorp
wife huisvrouw, vrouw, echtgenote
year jaar


In some genealogical records, numbers are written out. This is especially true with dates. The following list gives the cardinal (1, 2, 3) and the ordinal (1st, 2nd, 3rd) versions of each number. Days of the month are written in ordinal form.

Cardinal Ordinal
1 een 1st eerste
2 twee 2nd tweede
3 drie 3rd derde
4 vier 4th vierde
5 vijf 5th vijfde
6 zes 6th zesde
7 zeven 7th zevende
8 acht 8th achtste
9 negen 9th negende
10 tien 10th tiende
11 elf 11th elfde
12 twaalf 12th twaalfde
13 dertien 13th dertiende
14 veertien 14th veertiende
15 vijftien 15th vijftiende
16 zestien 16th zestiende
17 zeventien 17th zeventiende
18 achttien 18th achttiende
19 negentie 19th negentiende
20 twintig 20th twintigste
21 eenentwintig 21st eenentwintigste
22 tweeëntwintig 22th tweeëntwintigste
23 drieentwintig 23th drieentwintigste
24 vierentwintig 24th vierentwintigste
25 vijfentwintig 25th vijfentwintigste
26 zesentwintig 26th zesentwintigste
27 zevenentwintig 27th zevenentwintigste
28 achtentwintig 28th achtentwintigste
29 negenentwintig 29th negenentwintigste
30 dertig 30th dertigste
31 eenendertig 31th eenendertigste
40 veertig 40th veertigste
50 vijftig 50th vijftigste
60 zestig 60th zestigste
70 zeventig 70th zevenstigte
80 tachtig 80th tachtigste
90 negentig 90th negentigste
100 honderd 100th honderdste
101 honderd(en)een 101st honderd(en)eerste
200 tweehonderd 200th tweehonderdste
1000 duizend 1000th duizendste

Dates and Time

In Dutch records, dates are often written out. For example:

Donderdag, drie en twintig maart in het jaar van onse heer een duizend acht hondert en zesendertig [Thursday, three and twenty March in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and six and thirty].

To understand Dutch dates, use the following lists as well as the preceding "Numbers" section.

English Dutch Archaic Form
January Januari louwmaand tanning month
February Februari sprokkelmaand wood-gathering month
March Maart lentemaand spring month
April April grasmaand grass month
May Mei bloeimaand blossom month
June Juni zomermaand summer month
July Juli hooimaand hay month
August Augustus oogstmaand harvest month
September September (7ber) herfstmaand autumn month
October October (8ber) wijnmaand wine month
November November (9ber) slachtmaand slaughter month
December December (10ber) wintermaand winter month
Days of the Week
English Dutch
Sunday Sondag
Monday Maandag
Tuesday Dinsdag
Wednesday Woensdag
Thursday Donderdag
Friday Vrijdag
Saturday Zaterdag
Times of the Day

Dutch birth and death records often indicated the time of day when the birth or death occurred. This is usually written out.

Dutch English
des avonds ('s avonds) in the evening
des middags ('s middags) in the afternoon
des morgens ('s morgens) in the morning
des nachts ('s nachts) in the night
in de namiddag in the mid-afternoon
in de voormiddag in the mid-morning

Other languages

The Family History Library has genealogical word lists for Dutch, French, German, Latin, and Portuguese. The Dutch Word list is found below at the end of this article.

The File:German Gothic Handwriting Guide.pdfincludes an example of the German (Gothic) alphabet in print and handwriting. Also go to Germany Handwriting.