Netherlands Research Tips and Strategies
|The Netherlands Background|
|Local Research Resources|
The FamilySearch moderator for The Netherlands is Daniel Jones.
This page gives an overview for beginners of how to do Netherlands genealogical research.
Identify what you know
Since genealogical records since about 1932 or so are closed to the public, you'll need to ask your family members about more recent events. Ask older members about where they were born, their family, parents and even grandparents. See if anyone else in the family has an interest in genealogy. If your family is in possession of old documents like passports, marriage booklets (trouwboekje), birth certificates, family Bibles, obituaries, or diaries, use these as a further starting point. Organize the information you find and record it on pedigree charts and family group records.
Find previous research
Chances are that someone has already done research on parts of your family tree. If so, this is a potential chance to meet a relative and to get a head start on your research. To find online trees with your ancestors, simply search up their names on a search engine like Google. Also search the FamilySearch Family Tree, which is not on Google (FamilySearch account required). While this information can be helpful, don't just blindly copy online trees. Not only could this be seen as impolite or even in breach of copyright, but there is so much inaccurate information on online trees caused by this sort of copying. Use these trees as a starting point, but always verify the information yourself.
Other sources to find previous research:
- Printed family histories and genealogies
- Local histories
- The International Genealogical Index
- Ancestral File
- The Family Group Records Collections
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.
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.
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:
- Begin by obtaining some background information.
- Look for any research that may have been previously done on the individual or family of interest.
- Search original records.
Obtain background information
It is important to know geographical and historical information about the areas you are researching.
- 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.
Search original documents
After surveying previous records and obtaining background information you will be ready to begin original research. Original research is the process of searching through original documents (often copied on microfilm, or available online), which are usually handwritten in the native language. These 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.
1811- 1932 Research
This time period is the easiest for doing Netherlands genealogy. Many different detailed, reliable and easily accessible records exist. The main records are:
- Civil Registration. Starts 1811 (or 1796 in some southern areas of the Netherlands), and is public up to at least 1912 for births, 1932 for marriages and 1960 for deaths. Can be public as late as 1916 for births, 1941 for marriages and 1966 for deaths, as of 2017.
- Population Registers. Start no later than 1850, and are public to as late as 1939.
Other records useful in this period include:
- Cadrastal Registers(1832)
- Wills and Notarial Records
- Military Records
Research in this time period is relatively straightforward and can be done almost entirely online. Civil Registration will usually prove to be the basis of research, with other record types providing additional details beyond births, deaths and marriages. The main barrier will be to understand the Dutch language. The linked articles provide assistance for this, as well as the articles Dutch Genealogical Word List and Netherlands Language and Languages
Before 1811/1796 there was generally no state registration of individuals in the Netherlands. Also, surnames were not universal, especially in rural areas where patroynmics were used instead [son/daughter of X]. This makes genealogical research more difficult. Church Records of baptisms, marriages and burials become the main record type use. The further back you go, the less records there are. To trace a line back to 1600 is fairly rare, and anything further back is probably possible only if the records have survived or your ancestors were wealthy.
The Main records for this period are:
Other records that may be used are:
In practice, research will be usually confined to Church Records, and will use other sources where they exist and are relevant for the family. The site GeneaknowHow is especially recommended for this period
"Bridging the Gap" between the two periods
Several records are especially useful for individuals who lived across the year 1811
- Marriage Supplements (Huwelijksbijlagen) for those married after 1811 but born before 1811 will have a copy of their baptism record
- Name Adoption Records list the old name and new name of individuals when forced by the French to adopt surnames. Members of the household and their ages are often recorded.
The articles on this wiki for each record type will list where to find the records. Nearly all of the more commonly used ones are online. Sometimes you will be able to search by name, sometimes you need to look up the name in an alphabetical index, and other times manually browse either the originals or a typed-up transcript.
The following sites are commonly used:
- WieWasWie- search by name for many civil registration records and some others
- OpenArch- search by name in data taken from provincial and local archives.
- GeneaKnowHow- links to hundreds of records. They aim to have virtually all relevant records online listed in a logical way.
- The sites of provincial and local archives- see the Netherlands Regional Websites article
- see also the article Netherlands Websites and Netherlands Online Genealogy Records