Trace your Dutch roots

Your quarterly Dutch genealogy guide

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Quarterly newsletter on Dutch genealogy. Issue #14. Publication date October 2009.

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Welcome to the October issue of this newsletter, the last issue of 2009.

In this issue:

  • Leasing a grave
  • How to find your Dutch ancestor's grave
  • Genlias and New Amsterdam

The next issue is planned for January 2010. As always, topic suggestions may be sent to

Leasing a grave

Readers of Trace your Dutch roots often ask me to help them find their ancestors' graves, or even ask me to take photos. They are invariably surprised - and sometimes shocked - when I tell them that there is a good chance their ancestors' graves have been removed. It is, however, common practice in The Netherlands (and indeed in many European countries) to bury the dead in rented graves.

Graves are usually leased for ten or twenty years. In most cases it is possible to extend the lease, but in practice this only happens if the partner of the deceased is still alive.

When a lease has expired and the cemetery plans to remove the grave, the cemetery will try to contact the next of kin. If that fails, they will put up a notice on the notice board at the entrance, and place a sign at the grave, warning that the grave will be removed soon (you can see a few examples of these signs at the end of my Graveyard Rabbit album). This way, interested parties get a chance to contact the cemetery and extend the lease.

When a grave is removed, tombstones and other grave decorations are usually destroyed (but see People of the Past for an example of reuse), as are remains of the coffin and other goods found in the grave. Human remains are collected and buried in a collective grave or an ossuary, on the cemetery or elsewhere.

How to find your Dutch ancestor's grave

In the previous article I explained that your Dutch ancestors' graves are probably removed by now. But not all graves are removed. On many cemeteries there are still a few late 19th and early 20th century graves (earlier graves are extremely rare), especially in rural areas. If a grave still exists, how would you get a photo of it?

There are a few national and several local inventories online, usually private projects by volunteers who go around cemeteries transcribing and photographing headstones. The main projects are Graftombe (Tomb) and Online begraafplaatsen (Online cemeteries).


Graftombe started out as a cemetery indexing project in the province Groningen, later extended into neighbouring provinces Drenthe and Friesland, and now has indexed (or is in the process of indexing) many cemeteries in all provinces, though some provinces are still far from complete.

There are two ways to find a grave on Graftombe: Searching and browsing. Unfortunately the website is only available in Dutch.

To search Graftombe, click Zoeken in the third column, and fill in the search form: First name (naam), surname (achternaam) and province. Watch out: Prefixes like van, de, or van der should be typed after the surname: if I want to search for my own surname (van Kampen) I have to type Kampen van. Select the results you are interested in, and click Plaats geselecteerde foto's in het opvraag mandje (Add selected photos to basket). When you are finished click Fotomandje (photo basket) at the top of the page. In the popup window, click the link in the first paragraph to register, or login if you are already registered. The photos will be sent to you by e-mail.

Browse by choosing a province in the second column, choose a gemeente (municipality) from the list, and choose a cemetery. Select the results you are interested in and continue as in the previous paragraph.

Online begraafplaatsen

The focus of Online begraafplaatsen (Online cemeteries) is the province Zuid-Holland, but they, too, are slowly expanding their site with cemeteries from other Dutch provinces. Like Graftombe, it is available in Dutch only. The site works similar to Graftombe, but it has images of the tombstones on the site (like Graftombe, you can also receive them by e-mail).

To search, click Zoeken in the navigation menu on the left, fill in the search form (on this form type surnames without prefixes) and press Zoek, and select a name from the list. If you prefer to browse, start on the home page, select a region from the third column, and then select a cemetery from the same column. Click Naar de Persoonslijst for an alphabetic name list, and choose the name you are interested in.

Other projects

There are many other (often local) projects, search the index of online resources to find them. Most of them do not have an English interface, and many projects are still in progress. Some of the larger ones are:

  • Het Grafstenen project Noord-Holland (The Noord-Holland tombstone project). A project similar to Graftombe and Online begraafplaatsen, but limited to the province Noord-Holland. Photos of tombstones can be requested from the site owner by e-mail.
  • Het Stenen Archief (The Stone Archive) aims to photograph and describe all Jewish graves in The Netherlands. The site is a bit difficult to navigate: Click Naar het Stenen Archief in the navigation menu on the left, and then either a province on the map to browse, or Zoeken in het Stenen Archief in the navigation menu on the left to search.
  • The Jewish database on Tresoar (click Voorouders in the navigation menu on the left, then scroll to and click Joodse database) contains photos of Jewish tombstones from Friesland.
  • Grafstenen (Tombstones) from Ferwerderadeel in Friesland. Choose English from the list on the top right for an English interface.
  • The website of the Stichting Historie Joods Groningen (History of Jewish Groningen Foundation) has a tombstone section. Choose the name of a town in the province Groningen from the list for information (in Dutch) about the Jewish cemetery in that town, or click Database Joodse graven (Database Jewish graves) in the navigation menu on the left to search.
  • Begraven in de Haarlemmermeer (Burials in Haarlemmermeer) contains an index of tombstones in Haarlemmermeer, a municipality in the province Noord-Holland. E-mail the webmaster to request photos.
  • There are two albums with photos of tombstones in Sloten (province Noord-Holland) on Shutterfly: The Dutch Reformed cemetery and the Roman Catholic cemetery.
  • Begraafplaatsen (cemeteries) from the Hoeksche Waard region in the province Zuid-Holland. E-mail the webmaster to request photos.
  • The website of Pieter van der Louw has indexes of several cemeteries in the Gouda region in the province Zuid-Holland. Choose one of the cemeteries listed under Grafstenen: in the navigation menu on the left. Photos are available from the website owner on request.
  • There are two websites just for the Baarn (province Utrecht) region: Het Groene Graf (The Green Grave) and Begraafplaatsen in Baarn (Cemeteries in Baarn). Both have photos on the website, but Het Groene Graf requires (free) registration to see photos of recent tombstones.
  • Begraafplaatsen (Cemeteries) contains indexes of several cemeteries in the province Noord-Brabant. Photos are available from the website owner on request.

Note: Most of the listed websites are updated regularly, but a few have not been updated for several years. I did not verify whether the website owners of these sites still respond to requests for photos. Let me know your experiences with these sites.

Genlias and New Amsterdam

On the Trace your Dutch roots website you can read:

If you want to research your Dutch ancestors via the internet, your starting point should be the Genlias website. Genlias is the most important online source for Dutch genealogy research.

The Genlias website has mostly birth, marriage and death records from the 19th and early 20th century, and a handful of earlier church books. Very useful if your ancestors emigrated in the Ellis Island era, or if they were among the post-war immigrants of Canada or Australia, but not so useful if your ancestors were early Dutch settlers of New Netherland.

This changed in August with the addition of the church books of the early Dutch settlers: Genlias added baptisms (1639-1800) and marriages (1639-1801) from the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam and New York. So from now on Genlias is the most important online source for Dutch genealogy research, even if your ancestors lived in New Netherland.

A few examples of what you can find in Genlias:

  • The baptism Nicolaes Willem on 2 December 1648. His parents were Petrus Stuijvesant and Judith Baijard.
  • The marriage of Nicolaes Willem Stuijvesant and Maria Beeckmans, on 5 May 1672.
  • The marriage of Jeremia van Renselaer and Judith Baijard, on 3 July 1760.
  • Willem Kieft was a witness at 24 baptisms between 1640 and 1647.

©2009 Henk van Kampen. All rights reserved.