Trace your Dutch roots

Your bi-monthly guide to finding your Dutch ancestors

About this newsletter

Bi-monthly newsletter on Dutch genealogy research. Issue #5. Publication date 30 April 2007.

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Welcome to the April issue of this newsletter.

In this issue:

  • Netherlands Antilles records in Genlias
  • Website of the month: Zeeuwen gezocht
  • Visiting The Netherlands
  • Times in Dutch acts
The next issue is planned for June. Topic suggestions may be sent to

Netherlands Antilles records in Genlias

Records of the Netherlands Antilles, the Caribbean island groups that are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, are now available in Genlias:

Almost half the records from the Civil Registration of the period 1828-1950 of the Netherlands Antilles have been added to Genlias. That is good news for the population of the Antilles and for Dutch people with ancestors from the Antilles.

All records of Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten and Bonaire, and some records of Aruba and Saba, are now available. The records of Curaçao, and the remaining records of Aruba and Saba, will follow soon.

Website of the month

Every newsletter we will discuss a resource for Dutch genealogy that is available online. This month: Zeeuwen gezocht.

Zeeuwen gezocht (also known as Zeeuws Archief ISIS) is a genealogical research database maintained by the Zeeland Archives. It contains over five million records from various sources, many of them not available on Genlias: Tax returns, emigration records, criminal records, population registers, and many more. Even if your ancestors are not from Zeeland you may find them on Zeeuwen gezocht: One of the sources is a collection of guest lists from the seaside resort at Domburg.

Zeeuwen gezocht means something like Zeeuwen wanted, or looking for Zeeuwen (Zeeuw, plural Zeeuwen, is the Dutch word for an inhabitant of the province Zeeland). If you are looking for Zeeuwen, then Zeeuwen gezocht is the place you will find them.

Visiting The Netherlands

When you are visiting The Netherlands, you will of course see tulips, windmills and Rembrandt's night watch - read Eight essential excursions for a list of must-sees. But as you are tracing your Dutch roots, you will also visit your ancestral town, and maybe look up some records in Dutch archives.

If your ancestors come from a city, you should explore this city on foot. Visit the local tourist office (sometimes called VVV) - they usually have descriptions of city walks, and they always have city maps. In many cities it is also possible to join a guided walking tour, a bus tour or a boat tour through the canals. Ask at your hotel or at the tourist office what is possible in your city.

In rural areas you are on your own. Many villages and towns have a tourist office, but they may not have any material in English (and occasionally they don't have English-speaking staff). A good way to explore a region is by bicycle. Bikes can be rented in many places, including large railway stations. Road signs specifically for cyclists lead you to your destination over bicycle paths and quiet roads.

When you want to see your ancestral home or your ancestors' graves, you may be in for a disappointment. Graves are often cleared and reused after ten or twenty years, and many houses were demolished to make room for traffic or large-scale building projects.

If you want to look up some records while you are in The Netherlands you will first have to find out where these records are kept. There may be a city archive or regional archive in the city or region you're interested in. If so, they will have birth, marriage and death (BMD) records (from 1811), population registers, and often church books (until 1811). Provincial archives have BMD records (these were created in duplicate, so they are often accessible in two places) and the church books that are not in local or regional archives. The province Zuid-Holland does not have a provincial archive, records are kept in the National Archive in The Hague. For a list of all Dutch archives, and their addresses, phone numbers and websites, see Archieven in Nederland (in Dutch).

The Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) in The Hague has microfilm copies of many Dutch BMD registers, church books and population registers. They also have some very interesting collections, like folders with notes and clippings on many Dutch families, and a large collection of death notices cut from Dutch newspapers. You can search their catalogue online (on family name or on place name).

Staff in the Dutch archives are generally helpful, but they cannot do your research for you. They will not translate acts for you, but they will help you when you are stuck on a single word. To do research in Dutch archives, you will need to understand Dutch (or take someone with you who does).

Times in Dutch acts

Dutch acts usually contain the time of birth, death or marriage. In the 19th and early 20th century, times were usually rounded to the nearest half hour, and written in the 12-hour notation. After that, times became more precise, and the 24-hour notation was used.

Whole hours are easy to understand, you only need to know the first twelve numerals: één (or een), twee, drie, vier, vijf, zes, zeven, acht (in older acts also agt), negen, tien, elf, twaalf. You can also find these numerals in any Dutch dictionary, or in the Dutch genealogy dictionary. The time will often be written as om .. uur, ten .. uur or ten .. ure: om zes uur, ten zes ure, at six o'clock.

Half hours are a pitfall for English-speaking readers. The word half is added before the numeral of the next hour, and the word uur is sometimes dropped. So om half zes and ten half zes uur (litt. half six) both mean at half past five, and not at half past six!

Modifiers used to distinguish between a.m. and p.m. can be voor de middag, des voormiddags, des voordemiddags, or v.m. (litt. before midday) for a.m., and na de middag, des namiddags, des nademiddags or n.m. (litt. after midday) for p.m. Times can contain the part of day instead of am/pm: des nachts (at night), des ochtends or des morgens (in the morning), des middags (in the afternoon), des avonds (in the evening). The prefix des is occasionally (in modern Dutch usually) abbreviated to 's.

Some examples:

des middags ten twaalf uur noon
des morgens ten negen uur 9 a.m.
des namiddags ten acht ure 8 p.m.
des namiddags te half drie ure 2:30 p.m.
half drie v.m. 2:30 a.m.
om half vijf des voordemiddags 4.30 a.m..

©2007 Henk van Kampen. All rights reserved.