Trace your Dutch roots

Your quarterly Dutch genealogy guide

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Quarterly newsletter on Dutch genealogy. Issue #8. Publication date April 2008.

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Welcome to the April issue of this newsletter, the second issue of 2008.

In this issue:

  • Sources for Dutch genealogy
  • Monitoring Genlias
  • Offline Dutch genealogy

The next issue is planned for June. As always, topic suggestions may be sent to

Sources for Dutch genealogy

In a recent series of articles on the Trace your Dutch roots blog, we looked at sources for Dutch genealogy.

Visit the blog if you want to learn more about sources like Dutch birth, marriage and death (BMD) records, the population register and church books.

I am preparing a slightly more advanced series of posts, taking a second look at some of these sources and discussing a few additional sources. This series is planned for May.

Monitoring Genlias

From time to time, new records are added to Genlias, the internet database of Dutch BMD records. You have probably searched Genlias before, and found that some of the records you need are not available yet. If you want to receive an e-mail when the records you are looking for are added to Genlias you should subscribe to the Genlias Monitor. On the Genlias Monitor you can fill in a search form, in the same way you would fill in a search form for Genlias. Every time records are added to Genlias, the Genlias Monitor will use the search form you have filled in to search Genlias, and if it finds new records, you will receive an e-mail.

There is a similar service for the Digitale Stamboom (digital family tree) databases used by Rotterdam, Leiden, Haarlem, Amersfoort, Eindhoven, Delft and Alkmaar: the Digitale Stamboom Monitor.

Offline Dutch genealogy

With the wealth of genealogical information available online nowadays, it is easy to overlook offline sources for our research. But the amount of information available online - large as it may be - is only a fraction of the total amount of information available to us.

There are several ways to extend our research to offline sources, for instance:

  • Research in The Netherlands,
  • Research in archives in the immigrant's new homeland,
  • Research in genealogical collections,
  • Literature research,
  • Family papers,
  • Research by others.

Research in The Netherlands

The best place to trace your Dutch roots is in The Netherlands. You can visit the villages where your ancestors lived, and maybe attend a service in the church where your ancestors married. And there is a lot of information about your ancestors available in local, regional and provincial archives. The population register in particular can contain a lot of information, and is rarely available elsewhere.

A good time to visit is right now, because of the blooming tulip fields in the west of The Netherlands.

If you plan to do research in a Dutch archive, you should read my articles Visit a Dutch archive and Visiting The Netherlands.

Research in archives in the immigrant's new homeland

Immigrants left their traces in (at least) two countries. There will be information on the immigrant in archives in their new country, also about their pre-immigration days. Documents to look out for include passenger and immigration lists, naturalization papers, and obituaries.

Research in genealogical collections

There are genealogical collections all over the world that may contain information on your ancestors.

The largest and best known collection is the collection of the LDS. Most of their collection is available through their family history centers, with probably a branch near you.

There are several collections in The Netherlands that will be interesting, in particular the collections of the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) and the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging (Dutch Genealogical Society, NGV). The latter is only accessible for members.

Libraries and genealogical societies in areas where many Dutch immigrants settled may also have something about your ancestors in their collections. It may be worthwhile to join a genealogical society or public library in the town or region your ancestors settled. Talk to the other members, and to the librarian. They will know what is available in their collections. They may even know about your ancestors!

Literature research

There are many printed sources that could help you with your research, but most of them will be in Dutch. There are a lot of local, regional and provincial historical societies in The Netherlands, as well as a number of genealogical societies. Many of them will publish a periodical, some have published one or more books. These publications may contain lots of interesting information about your ancestors or the towns they lived in.

Many people have privately published books with genealogical information. The Central Bureau for Genealogy has a lot of these books in its library. You can search their catalogue from their home page. Recently, some people have published books with online publishers like Lulu, so it may be worthwhile searching their collections.

There are also a few publications in English that may be interesting, for example the books of Robert P. Swierenga about Dutch communities in the U.S.

Another interesting source are the collections of letters from Dutch immigrants to their family in Holland. Even if they don't contain a letter from your ancestors, they will at least tell you what the life of the immigrants was like. And maybe someone will mention your ancestors in their letters. Examples of these books are Iowa Letters: Dutch Immigrants On The American Frontier , The First Dutch Settlement in Alberta: Letters from the Pioneer Years 1903-14 , or The Last Illusion: Letters from Dutch Immigrants in the "Land of Opportunity," 1924-1930 .

Another important printed source is old newspapers, both in the old and in the new homeland. Dutch archives usually have a collection of newspapers from their area. The Royal Dutch Library, the national library of The Netherlands, has almost every Dutch newspaper ever printed in their collection. The newspaper catalogue is available online (in Dutch). The library is also working on a scanning project and eventually a large number of old newspapers (8,000,000 pages) will be available online. Some papers from 1910-1945 are already online as part of a pilot project. Newspaper publishers usually have an archive of old newspapers too.

Don't limit yourself to printed sources. Dutch genealogical societies like NGV and commercial organizations such as have published many transcriptions on disk or cd, and many of these sources are not available on the web. Digital Resources Netherlands and Belgium has a list of sources on cd as well as the internet.

Hunt for family papers

Family papers, like trouwboekjes, are often handed down from generation to generation. Hunt down your relatives in both the old and the new world and ask them what they have. Of course, the more recent your ancestors emigrated, the better your chances of success - if your ancestors were among the early settlers in the New Netherland colony, hunting down Dutch relatives will not be a viable approach to tracing your roots.

Research by others

Maybe someone in The Netherlands has already researched your family. Many people have donated their research, or copies of it, to the Central Bureau for Genealogy. Search their catalogue from their home page.

Research in a Dutch archive or collection may be out of your reach, but perhaps you can find someone to do it for you. Many Dutch archives offer paid research and lookups. CBG maintains a list of Dutch professional researchers. Some archives maintain a list of professional researchers doing research in their area.

A cheaper solution would be to use volunteers willing to do occasional lookups for you (they are probably not willing to do extensive research). Try RAOGK, or ask around on forums and mailing lists. There are some tips on getting help in my article Trace your Dutch roots online.

©2008 Henk van Kampen. All rights reserved.