Spelling Variants in Dutch Documents

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In this day and age of high literacy and standardization, we are used to, indeed expect, that what we see in print will be uniform. For example, we can look up words in dictionaries to find the ‘correct spelling.’ However, such has not always been the case. Centuries ago, there were no dictionaries available to dictate ‘correct spelling’ and most dictionaries that were available were designed to give definitions, not spelling. Most writers from before the 18th century would have found the idea of a single spelling for any particular word rather odd. If several possible spelling variants are available, why should one be limited to only one choice? Early writers certainly took advantage of the many possibilities available to them. After all, variety is the spice of life. In modern Dutch, the sound represented by the English word ‘I’ can be rendered by several letter sets, including ‘ij’ and ‘ei.’ Again, writers from previous centuries could and did use either of these in addition to several others that are not in common use today to render the ‘I’ sound.

In this article we will look at spelling that deviate from standard modern Dutch that appear in genealogical documents. In the vast majority of cases, the variant spellings represent the same pronunciation as the standard form. Some are simply antiquated; others are dialect forms. We will not consider personal names or words that have Latin endings, such as ‘Aprilis.’ We will, however, consider some place names.  The traditional dialect of northern Germany, Low German, is very closely related to Dutch. 

So, the researcher should not be alarmed, nor think the scribe ‘did not know how to spell,’ when he encounters these variants. Many of these variants will be found well into the 19th century. In some cases, it is impossible to tell whether the scribe wrote ‘ij’ or ‘y’. Although we list a few of these, to list every possible variation with this set would be superfluous.

Standard Dutch Variant
aangenomen aen genoomen
acht agt
achttien agtien
avondtmael, avontmael
ambtenaar ambtenaer
august oogst
Christelijke crijstelijcke
dag dagh, dach
dertien dartien
dertig dartig
dezes deses
Dinsdag Dingsdag
dochter dogter
dochtertje Dogtertje
door dooir
duizend duizent, duyzend
een ëen
februari feeberijuarij
geboren gebooren
geboorte Gheboorte
gebracht gebragt
gekocht gecogt
gekomen geekomen
gedoopt gedooipt
gekomen gekoomen
genaamt  genaemt, genaemd, genaempt
geslacht geslagt


getuigen getuygen, getuijgen 
gevluchte gevlugte
heden heeden

huijsvrouw, huysvrouwe, huÿsvrouw

huwelijk houwelijk
jaar jaer, jaere
jaren jaeren
januari January
juni Junij
kerk kerck
kind kindt, kinnd
kleermaker kledermaker
knecht knegt
laten laeten

leedematen,  leede maten, leede maaet

licht ligt
maand maend
maandag maendag
maart maert, meert 
-maker -maacker
mei Maaij
metselaar metzelaar
mochten mogten
naar naer
's nachts 's nachs
namen (noun) naemen
negentig t'negentig
nemen neemen
november nohvembr
onecht onegt
ontvangen ontfangen
Oostvlaanderen Oostvlaenderen
oud oudt
paard peerd
personen paersoone
plaats plaets
raad raed, raedt
rechter regter
sedert zeedert
soldaat zoldaat
tachtig tagtig
tijd teyd
tussen tuschen, tusschen 
vader vaader
verklaard verklaerd

verstoruen, uerstoruen, versturven, voorstoruen,  voor storuen

verzocht verzogt
vijftig vyftig
vleeschhouwer vleeshouwer
volmacht volmagt
vrijdag Vrydag
wezen weezen
woonachtig wonagtig, woonachtigh
zaterdag Saterdag
zelven selven
zestig tsestig
zeven seven, zeeven, seeven
zeventien seventien
zich zig
zijn sijn, syn, zyn
zijne syne
zoon soon, sone, soone
zuster susther


This list will grow over time as we encounter more spelling variations.

For more information on this topic, see this article, which discusses these variations as regular alternatives: Juengling, Fritz. "Spelling Variants in Dutch Documents." Dutch-American Genealogy Spring 2015: 1-8.

Dutch-American Genealogy is a publication of the Immigrant Genealogical Society and can be found at the Family History Library, call number 973 F25da.