Introduction Where Do I Start? LDS Microfilm Holdings Civil Registration Records Civil Registration in the Province of Zeeland Church Records A Final Note
Nineteenth century (1800s) Dutch research offers much to the genealogical researcher. Contrary to popular belief, one does not have to visit the Netherlands or even send to the Netherlands for information on one's Dutch ancestors from this time period. One of the most valuable resources for this aspect of genealogical research is to be found in the LDS Family History Centers. Hundreds of records are available for the various towns and cities of the Netherlands - a wonderful research tool!
Since my own research in the Netherlands had prompted this entire article, and I like to share what I have learned, I would like to use my own family line as an example throughout this article.
I was researching my family lines of CROUSE and YONKMAN (spelling as I knew them at the time. I have since found out that in Dutch they are KROES and JONGMAN.) I first spoke with my father's sister and an elderly CROUSE cousin for any information about this family. My aunt informed me that the name was pronounced "KRUSE". (first clue) My elderly cousin was able to tell me quite a bit regarding the children of my Peter Crouse and Peternalia Yonkman. This cousin remembered that Peternalia was still living in 1904 when her father and mother used to visit her in Ellenville, Ulster County, New York and that Nellie, as she was called, had a heavy Dutch accent and had mentioned having several babies named Peter who had all died. (later was proven to be true)
The point of all this is to first question any living relatives about your Dutch ancestors. The next thing is to gather as much information States-side as you possibly can. For me this involved making a trip to Ellenville, Ulster County, New York. I visited the town hall and got the death record for my Peter Crouse (which unfortunately did not give his parents), and I also got a death record for a John Yonkman whom I thought might be connected with my family. (I found out later that he was indeed a brother to my Peternalia.) I also went page by page on the 1880 census (This census is only soundexed for families with children ages 10 and under.) and found my CROUSE family on there, giving me approximate ages of Peter and Peternalia, and corroborating the age on Peter's death record.
I also tried finding my ancestors in the Ellenville cemeteries without a lot of success, although I did find a son of Peter and Peternalia buried in the Fantinekill Cemetery there, along with his wife. Next I checked wills and land records, finding a will for a John YONKMAN and wife Henrietta/Harriet. (I tucked that one away because two of the children of Peter and Peternalia were John and Harriet.) In addition I found a deed in which Peter CROUSE of Ellenville was buying land in Ellenville and I was able to figure out the approximate current location. Plus, I realized that the family had immigrated by 1870, as that was the date of the deed. For awhile it seemed I was stuck with just this amount of information. Then came a major breakthrough.
I "met" two very kind gentleman on the Internet who lived in the Netherlands. I shared my desire to find Peter and Peternalia in the Netherlands. I told one of those gentlemen the pronunciation of the names. He wrote back that in the Netherlands these names would be KROES and JONGMAN, and that there would be very few "Y" surnames in the Netherlands. (One of these Dutch gentlemen, Paul Peek, very suddenly passed away on January 14, 2000. Previous to this he was willing to correspond with those who had questions regarding Dutch research. It is with sadness that I inform those of you who may have noted his e-mail address which I formerly had on this page.) My next suggestion would be to check with other Dutch people to make sure you have the various spelling variants of the surnames for which you are searching.
Next, my e-mail contact was making a trip to the Centraal Bureau Voor Genealogie. While there, he checked a list of immigrants from the Netherlands going to the United States and found a Pieter Kroes leaving for America in 1860 with a wife and 4 children. Pieter was leaving from Schoondijke, Province of Zeeland, and leaving for economic improvement. It also mentioned that he was of the Dutch Reformed religion. (important for later research) Thanks to a few other e-mail contacts, I was able to find when they left Schoondijke - the exact date that is- and the ship's list of when they arrived in America!
Once my contact discovered where this Pieter Kroes was from, he checked for a marriage index for West Zeeuws Vlaanderen (the mainland part of Zeeland) and found a Pieter Kroes marrying in Schoondijke on 25 May 1843 and a Pieternella Jongman marrying in Schoondijke on 25 May 1843! Coincidental? Not likely, but now it was time to check this out.
I would also like to mention that by this time, I now had another Dutch contact, via e-mail, who was a tremendous help, explaining civil registration to me, and helping with translating from Dutch into English. My heartfelt thanks goes to both of these gentlemen for their help.
I know that I had contacts in the Netherlands, but if I had not had these contacts, I know now that I could still have found all of the above information. I found that the LDS Family History Library (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints- Choose the Family History Library Catalog option) has the microfilm of Dutch immigrants and does indeed list my Pieter Kroes. I also found the index for West Zeeuws Vlaanderen on microfilm. Therefore, check immigration records to see where your ancestor might have come from and check for indexes of marriages, etc. within the specific province of the Netherlands. (The LDS microfilm for Dutch Immigration which I used was #1181553, Dutch Emmigration Records 1847-1877.) Now I was ready for the next step. I was not sure what the LDS Church had microfilmed, but I was about to find out!
Using the Family History Center computer, I typed in "Schoondijke", "Zeeland", "Netherlands". A number of records appeared on a list. I had since found out from one of my e-mail contacts in the Netherlands, that I was looking for civil registration records during this time period, not church records. Civil registration was started under the rule of Napoleon in 1811, but in the Province of Zeeland, it was started earlier in 1796. Previous to these time periods, one has to look at church records. Civil registration is what makes this time period so conducive to research. The information given on these records is fantastic!!
There is one thing to note when looking for your ancestors in the Netherlands. When you are checking for birth records, you would of course check the maiden name of the female in question. However, when looking for the death record of the female in question, you will also look for her maiden name! She will not be recorded under her married name as in the United States. That said, this is the possible sequence in which you will search.
When looking at the list of items that appeared on the computer for Schoondijke, I then chose the "Civil Registration" option. This is a good time to mention the necessity of a good Dutch/English dictionary and the need of help from someone who can speak Dutch. Many of the records listed on the computer are in Dutch, and many of the records you will get on microfilm are lengthy, and are written in Dutch, or French, if it is during the time of Napoleon.
Once you find the civil registration records of the town for which you are searching, you will encounter the following Dutch words, along with the time period which they cover, and the microfilm which you need to order. Some of these are in the "old Dutch" spelling, such as "geboorten" for "geborten". (birth records) Here then follow the words which you will encounter:
Rather than explain what is in each record, there follows an example of each record, both in Dutch and in English. There will be some variations in content of each record. For example, some death records give the birthplace of the deceased, whereas others do not. Once again, I want to thank the two Dutch gentlemen who helped me tremendously with the translations of the following documents. Now choose the document which you wish to view. (Remember, spelling of the words is as it appears on the Family History Library Catalog.)
Once you get back far enough in your research, when your records are pre-civil registration, you will need to consult church records. However, you need to know that in the province of Zeeland, there is civil registration previous to 1811, starting in 1796. This time period brings with it a unique research challenge - the French Republican Calendar. From 1792 until about the end of 1805, the French Republican Calendar was in use. When looking at civil registration during this time period, you will encounter strange names for the months of the year. I have written an explanation of the French Republican Calendar, which you may view. (Within this article, there is also a link to an excellent calendar conversion source, which you will find most helpful.)
When your research takes you to pre-civil registration time periods, then you will need to look for church records. In my case, I knew that I was searching for Dutch Reformed Church records. In Dutch this is "Nederlands Hervormde Kerk".
In order to know which church (the town in which it is found) you are seeking, you need to pay attention to the clues given to you in the civil registration records which you have obtained. I learned from the marriage record of Pieter Kroes and Pieternella Jongman that Pieter's father was deceased, but it did not say where, and the marriage appendices did not give an extract for that record. However, it stated that Pieter's mother was living in IJzendijke at the time of the marriage. So I decided to look at the death records for IJzendijke, knowing that I was looking for a pre-May 1843 death record. I found that record for Pieter's father in 1835 in IJzendijke. I was fortunate in that this record gave the names of his parents, his birthplace as 's-Heerenhoek, Zeeland, Netherlands, and mentioned that he was the widower of Tannetje/Tanneke Faas. Since Tannetje was living in IJzendijke, I decided to check death records for her also and found that she died the very year her son got married - in 1843.
Since the father of Pieternella Jongman (Jan Jongman) was living in Terneuzen at the time of her marriage, I decided to search for a death record for him in Terneuzen, and found one in 1854. This record gave his parents' names and his current wife's name, plus mentioned that his first wife was Janneke van Male, who was Pieternella's mother. One cautionary note: not all death records are so informative. Some just mention the marriage partner's name and do not give a birth place or the parents' names.
In the meantime, marriage indexes had been checked for West Zeeuws Vlaanderen and a marriage entry was discovered for a Pieter Kroes and Tannetje/Tanneke Faas, parents of my Pieter Kroes. This marriage record gave me the birth places for each and I was able to find a baptismal record for Pieter in 's-Heerenhoek. The record gave Tannetje's place of baptism as Philippine, Zeeland, Netherlands, but I still have been unable to find the actual baptismal record for her. The marriage record for Jan Jongman and Janneke Van Male gave birth places for both of them and I was able to find the baptism for Jan Jongman in Hoofdplaat, Zeeland, Netherlands. Janneke was born during the time of civil registration in Groede, Zeeland, Netherlands, so I was able to find that record, plus the names of her parents - Isaac van Male and Janneke Gernaert. This confirmed what I had found on her marriage record. Additionally, the marriage record of Janneke van Male gave information that she was a widow, so I was able to find her first marriage, and while going through the birth records for Biervliet, I found that Janneke had had a daughter before she was married to either husband! It is this daughter who appears on the ship's list when Pieter Kroes and Pieternella Jongman came to America. Here I thought that this Katharina (Catrina) van Male was a relative of her mother, and it was Pieternella's half sister!
Proceeding in this vein, you will be able to discover many church baptismal records which are listed as dopen in Dutch. Church marriage records are trouwen and burial records are begraven. You will find that many church records have been microfilmed by the LDS Church. One cautionary note. Many of the records from the province of Zeeland were destroyed during World War II. The Middelburg area of Zeeland took a hard hit when the Allies were trying to reclaim this area, and as a result, many records were destroyed. I count myself fortunate to have obtained as much information as I have thus far.
When you do use the Family History Library Catolog to search for possible church records, you may find as I have, that the computer is the easiest method for searching for indexes. Using the computer, type in the name of the town, the name of the province and "Netherlands". Choose church records as your topic and then see if the denomination for which you are searching is available and also the years for which you are searching. You will need a Dutch dictionary at this point, as the explananation regarding the Dutch churches is in Dutch and also the records which are available are written in Dutch.
In addition to birth, marriage and death records, one may also research the bevolkingsregister, a type of census which was introduced in the 1860s. Municipalities kept track, house by house, of who the inhabitants were. Any change of address had (and still has) to be reported.
I was very fortunate in my own study to find that there is a searchable database for Zeeland emmigrants on the Internet. This is found on the page, Surname Overview. Choose your surname and it will give you immigration information. It will bring up various people by this name whom you can then check.Click on "Information" in order to obtain translations and abbreviation information. I found Pieter Kroes and Pieternella Jongman on this list. (Remember to look for the wife under her maiden name.) I also found the four children who came over with Pieter and Pieternella.
Additionally, make queries on the various newsgroups, in this case, soc.genealogy.benelux and also put surname queries on the Roots Surname List. You may be surprised at the number of people who will respond. I was able to get much further with my Van der Hooft line and my Buteyn line because of this! I was then able to check church records on my own for these ancestral lines and make some additional discoveries which helped the people who contacted me by e-mail. The Internet is a valuable tool which can help you tremendously in finding your ancestors. Using all of the aforementioned tools should help you very much in your search.