Dutch Genealogy – Maybe Not So Hopeless Afterall…

When we blog, we think about helping others.  I never thought that it might help me….but it has and in a most unexpected way.

One of the blog subscribers, a lovely lady named Yvette Hoitink, posted the following comment in response to my DNA Pedigree Chart blog where I mentioned that my Dutch line was pretty much hopeless:

“I’m sorry that you’re having such a hard time finding your Dutch ancestors. BTW, it’s not true that Dutch people didn’t have surnames until 1811. When surnames became hereditary differs greatly from province to province. In Friesland, most people used patronymics like you described until 1811.  In provinces like Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant, most people had hereditary surnames by the end of the medieval period.

What are your Dutch brick walls? Perhaps I can help you break through them.”

We began an e-mail exchange at that point.  Never being one to turn away a possible ancestor lead, I answered Yvette:

“Thank you very much for your offer of help.  I am obviously ignorant of Dutch resources and I appreciate your kindness.

I have primarily three Dutch lines.  One is rather recent and that is the one I’d love to break through the most.

Bauke Hendrick Ferverda was born, probably in Leeuwarden, where his father lived and was a school teacher, on Jan. 26, 1830.  He married Geertje Harmens de Jong probably in 1853 as their first of 3 children was born in Sept. of 1854.  She died on October 3rd, 1860.  Their daughter, Lysbertus, was born on Nov. 21 1859 and died on July 23, 1860.  I would guess that the mother and daughter are buried someplace together.

Bauke remarried in 1863 in the Netherlands.  He and his new wife immigrated to the states in 1868.

Back in the 1970s, one of the Ferverda family members went back to Holland, to Leeuwarden and discovered quite a bit about the Ferverda family side, but they neglected her side of the family.

I don’t even know where to begin to look for information in the Netherlands, or where the records might be.  Do you have any online research tools?

Thank you in advance for any enlightenment.”

Yvette’s answer gave me hope like I haven’t had in years.

“Boy do we have online resources:)  I think the Netherlands has a great combination of very reliable records, many of which are available online for free.”

Ok, Yvette, now you have my attention.

“Ferverda sounds like an Americanization of Ferwerda. That’s a typical Frisian name, which they probably took in 1811 to denote that they came from the municipality of Ferwerderadeel. In Friesland, most people had patronymics only until 1811.”

She’s right, it did used to be Ferwerda.  I’m impressed.

“Some Frisian resources: http://www.tresoar.nl (Friesland provincial archives) and http://www.allefriezen.nl (genealogical database + images, all free!).

On the Alle Friezen website, which is also available in English by clicking the British flag, you can find a lot of the birth, marriages and death records of the period of the civil registration (1811 onwards). You can use the Advanced search option to search for first person – family name: Ferwerda and first name: Bauke and second person – family name: Jong (careful: don’t include “de” because that is a prefix and not considered to be a part of the family name). This will yield 3 results. The first is their marriage, with the option to click through to a scan.”

You know, I’m sure, that I never read the next paragraph for several hours.  When I discovered that my ancestor’s marriage record was on that site…I slipped into some type of genealogical stupor from which I only regained consciousness after I had tried every single family member’s name in that website’s search engine.  I then discovered it was the middle of the night.  It was afternoon when I started.

“Both the index and the scan provide you with her parents’ names: Harmen Gerrits de Jong and Angenietje Wytses Houtsma. You can now repeat the same process by searching for the first person: Jong and second person: Houtsma to find their marriage certificate which shows their parents names.  Their marriage would have been prior to 1811, so you can’t find that on AlleFriezen but you may have more luck on the Tresoar site (see below). You can try to find their death records as chances are that they died after 1811.”

Oh no, a new brick wall….

“Go to http://asksam.tresoar.nl/ (no English version) and select Dopen voor 1811 (baptisms before 1811), Trouwen voor 1811 (Marriage before 1811) and Begraven voor 1811 (Burials before 1811) and then type in the names you’re searching for in the ‘Zoeken naar’ (Search for) textbox and then click “Zoek” (Search). You can first try to search for their family name but it’s very probably that they only started using this name since 1811 so search for the first name and patronymic as well.”

Ok, now this is getting tough.  That “no English version” put a bit of a damper on things….but then again, Yvette obviously speaks and reads Dutch.  Hmmmm……

“You can also consult the records of who took which name by going to http://www.tresoar.nl/mmtresoar/main/content_pagina_volledig.jsp?lang=nl&pagina=famnaam&stylesheet=onderzoek.css%20target= and type in the family name in the “Zoek op” (search for) textbox and then press “Zoek” (Search).”

These are the actual naming records.  I think I’ve died and gone to Heaven.  They tell you who was in the family in 1811 when they adopted their surnames.

“Another good site is http://www.archiefleeuwardercourant.nl/, which is a newspaper archive of the most popular provincial newspaper. Just type in a last name to see what pops up.”

Well, the only thing that popped up was Dutch.  Of course.

“By using these sources, you should be able to go back to at least the middle of the 18th century. If you’re lucky, the family will have some unusual first names and you’ll be able to go back further. Feel free to ask me again once you’ve hit your new brick walls:)”

Why yes, I’ve already hit new ones already.  That didn’t take long at all.

“You might also be interested in the slides of a presentation I gave earlier this year. The slides are available at http://www.dutchgenealogy.nl/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=159&Itemid=1 and give an overview of the most important records for Dutch research. The focus is mainly on records that are available online.”

Am I really drooling on myself???

“Another favorite website of mine is http://www.geneaknowhow.net/digi/resources.html. That’s a portal website with links to all online sources, transcriptions, scans and databases. Just click the ‘internet’ link below Friesland and you’ll find more than enough to get you through the winter.”

Wow, Yvette, Wow!  I haven’t slept in 3 days.  I love those words, online and free.  And on many of these sites are the actual images.  I saw my ancestor’s actual SIGNATURE!  An incredible find for a genealogy junkie.  I just love bureaucracy because it taxed people, kept records of them and made them sign things.  YES!!!

I mined and dug and browsed and it all worked well, until I ran out of dates.  Since I can’t read Dutch, I couldn’t read the various documents to determine if the Jan Ferwerda in question was mine.  And while Ferwerda (Ferverda) is an extremely unique name here, believe me, it’s like Smith in the village where they lived in Holland.

Now what?

Yvette to the rescue again.  Turns out, Yvette is also a professional genealogist.  Who-hoooo….my lucky day.  But it gets better.  She works at the National Archives.  I’ve died and gone to Dutch ancestor Heaven.  Be still my beating heart!

Here’s the website about her services….but only on one condition….you folks can’t have her until I’m done:)


Yvette sent me a wonderful research plan based on what I have (not a lot) and what I want (well, duh….everything) and we get started tomorrow.  She of course had to tell me what was reasonable given the extant records….and there is actually an amazing amount.  And just think, I thought this line was hopeless.  Apparently not!

And maybe, just maybe, I can add to my number of ancestors found, including wonderful details of their lives.  Maybe eventually, I can also to the list of those whose DNA I have as well.  I can hardly wait as I embark on this unexpected genealogical journey through Friesland in Holland, the land of my ancestors with Yvette!  Let’s go!



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24 thoughts on “Dutch Genealogy – Maybe Not So Hopeless Afterall…

  1. Roberta,

    I believe some browsers will translate entire webpages into English for you. I know my Google Chrome does.

  2. Detail resultaat: (Bruidegom)

    Bron / Source: Burgerlijke stand – Huwelijk / Marriage
    Archieflocatie/ Archive location:
    Tresoar, Frysk Histoarysk en Letterkundich Sintrum
    Algemeen Toegangnr: 30-04
    Inventarisnr: 2010
    Gemeente/ Municipality: Baarderadeel
    Soort akte: Huwelijksakte / marriage certificate
    Aktenummer: 18
    Datum: 14-05-1853 (14 – May – 1853)
    Bruidegom / Bridegroom: Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda
    Leeftijd/ age : 23
    Geboorteplaats / Birthplace: Blija
    Bruid / Bride: Geertje Harmens de Jong
    Leeftijd / age: 24
    Geboorteplaats / Birthplace: Baard

    Vader/Father of bruidegom Hendrik Jans Ferwerda
    Moeder/Mother of bruidegom Lijsbert Baukes Camstra
    Vader/Father of bruid Harmen Gerrits de Jong
    Moeder/Mother of bruid Angenietje Wytses Houtsma

    source: http://www.genlias.nl/ > Zoeken in Genlias database

  3. What a wonderful success story Roberta. Thank you for the share ….

    You bring to light so many important issues here for researchers, but one of the most important issue (obstacle) for so many researchers –the SURNAME/Patronymic in all its twist and turns glory . That subject could be a LARGE ongoing post for all the variants and nuances of different regions ….

    I have a “family research luncheon” tomorrow on one of my Alsace (location) families whom I suspect was of Dutch origin …..I will be sharing your post <J

    Kind Regards


  4. I love reading this version of our conversation Roberta 🙂 I knew you were very excited but reading how you spent hours on those websites well into the night is just wonderful. I’m glad to be your tour guide!

    • Once you’ve “done genealogy” for a long time, all of the low-hanging-fruit is long picked. You’re up against brick wall after brick wall. So when you can actually find a new source, and one as rich as these records, to unlock, you feel like you’ve won the lottery. It has been a long time since I’ve actually gotten to add a relative to my family tree, or something as exciting as the marriage translation you sent me this morning. It was nearly a full page long and told what happened at the ceremony, who was there, what the bride and groom did for a living, about their parents, professions, including that his mother was dead, and when….and the signatures of the three living parents. Signatures, of people born in the 1700s. Something I never imagined that I’d see. So today, I’ve added birth and death dates, a marriage date, several locations and a female surname. I’m on cloud 9.

      • Your reply made me realize how I’ve been taking for granted that I can read all the ‘formulaic’ information in the records. For my own research, I tend to skip over all of the information about the ceremony and who read what to whom because I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and go straight to the part with the names and family relationships. But I’m then missing out on the real historical sensation of the event as it took place.

        • Yes, I could kind of “see them” standing there, providing the required paperwork, him showing his military papers, then listening as they were being read to, the 4 officials, their 3 parents, then signing the document when they were done. I was king of peeking through a keyhole in time:)

  5. Roberta – Yvette was the best person for you to find to help you through this! She and I have been doing genealogy together for many years – in the U.S. and NL. Take my word for – the more you search the online sites in the Netherlands the more familiar you will become with genealogy terms and how to decipher records. It really does get easier the more you do! Good luck with your continued searching!

  6. This is completely thrilling! Congratulations, Roberta. I have acquired a predominately Dutch daughter-in-law and am so encouraged to learn of the resources available (especially Yvette!) when I begin working on her family.

  7. What a wonderful example of the documentation “trampoline effect.” The bounce up to a new level, down to earth to consolidate details, the next bounce up can be in a new direction, and back down for more comparison and new energy. Huzzah! Good hunting!

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  13. My maiden name is Ferwerda. My father Hein Johan born in Amsterdam, His father Hein Johan born in Amsterdam. But his father came from Ferward, now called Ferwart.

    If you get your DNA analyzed by 23 and me you will likely get matches from the Netherlands. You have to pay to “confirm” them. I got matches and could find where some came from in my family tree.

    • I wonder if our Ferverda and Ferwerda families are descended from the same family line. If you have a male to test, you can test the Y chromosome at Family Tree DNA and we can see if our lines match. I am contacting you via e-mail.

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