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Burgelijke Stand / Civil Registration

General Historical Background

The earliest vital records in the Netherlands were kept by the churches. Civil authorities began recording marriages and often also deaths of nonconformists in 1575. France annexed the country between 1795 and 1811.

On 6 January 1811 the French Imperial (Napoleon) decree served notice that by 1 March 1811 all births, marriages and deaths had to be recorded by the civil authorities of each municipality. The civil officers were made responsible for keeping vital records. Civil registration was accomplished by requiring the people to report all births, marriages, and deaths to a civil registration office [Burgerlijke Stand], located in the municipality [gemeente]. After Napoleon's defeat, the Dutch government continued the civil registration system.

In some southern areas Napoleon had already conquered, this recording had started earlier. After this date all individuals who lived in the Netherlands are recorded. They cover the entire population and have one year and 10 year indexes. Civil registration records are the most important source for genealogical research in the Netherlands and are easily accessible.

Index at WieWasWie.nl

A signficant database of extracted civil registration records from all over the Netherlands can be found at https://www.wiewaswie.nl/ or https://www.wiewaswie.nl/en/home/ English Version . This is a joint effort of the government archives in the Netherlands. WieWasWie is a database in development. New information is added frequently. It should be noted that it replaces Genlias, which was removed from the web in 2012. The information in WieWasWie is taken directly from the Civil Register, the most important Dutch source for genealogical research. Since 1811 the most important events in the life of every person resident in the Netherlands – birth, marriage and death – have been systematically recorded. Marriage records from all provinces were entered first into the system. Most of the participating archives are also entering records of birth and death. As of December 2013 over 86.5 million records have been extracted and posted. 

Not all the information contained in a record is added to the database. Only the essential data you need to reconstruct your family tree will be included. Once you find a person on WieWasWie.nl, then you can find the original record in Historical Records at FamilySearch.org or on some of the provincial archive websites such as http://www.drenlias.nl/ for Drenthe or http://www.allegroningers.nl/ for Groningen.

Geboorten / Births

The following information will usually be found in a birth entry:

  • The name of the child.
  • The birth date of the child.
  • The birth place of the child.
  • The name of the child's parents.
  • The names, ages, occupations, and residences of the witnesses.
  • The relationships of the witnesses to the child, if any.
  • The residence of the parents.
  • The age and occupation of the parents.
  • It will never say if the child is legitimate or illegitimate.

If a child was born out of wedlock it will just not mention a father, even if he is known. If the child's parents do later marry and acknowlegde the child as theirs, it will mention this in the margin. At that time the last name of the child will also change from the mother's last name to the father's last name.
Remember, this means also that when you enter the surname (last name) of this illegitimate child you have to make it an "or" name - born as "van der VEER" but later became "van WAGENAAR" - "van der VEER or van WAGENAAR".
If you do not do this others will have a very hard time finding that person in the original records of births as the child is not born as van WAGENAAR and thus not found in any index as such, nor when you look for the date of birth.
On the other hand, if you put only the birth name down, you will not find him/her in any of the marriage or death indexes or records.

The following 5 steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in the Netherlands’ civil registration records.

Step 1. Find the year of your ancestor's birth record.

To find the birth records available at the Family History Library, look in the Family History Library Catalog. Select the Family History Library Catalog, and click on the tab for 'Place Search'; type in the name of the town and click 'Enter' to see if your ancestor's town is listed.

When looking for your ancestor's birth record, remember:

  • Birth records are arranged chronologically.
  • Birth records were kept by the civil registration office in the municipality where your ancestor lived.
  • Yearly indexes and 10-year indexes to the birth records exist.

If you don't know which municipality your ancestor lived in, see the Netherlands gazetteer Van Goor's aardrijkskundig woordenboek van Nederland. Instructions for using this gazetteer are found in 'How to use the Netherlands Gazetteer'.

Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor.

Use the index first. Look for the last name, and then look for the given name. Record the date of registration and entry number. Next locate the entry. If you do not know the exact year your ancestor was born, go to the 10 year indices and see if you can find the name there, it will tell you the date the person's information was registered. If you do not know the names of your ancestor's parents, you may have to check further to make sure you find the correct entry:

  • Find the entries for all the children with the same given name and last name as your ancestor. Start with the year when you think your ancestor was born. Then check the entries for five years before and five years after. You may find several entries for children with the same name but with different parents.
  • Eliminate the entries that contradict what you know about your ancestor. Check death records to see if any of the children died before your ancestor did. Check marriage records to see if any of the children married someone other than your ancestor's spouse (but remember that your ancestor may have married more than once).
  • Make sure the birth entry is of your direct line ancestor. Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct entry.

Step 3. Find the entries for each brother and sister of your ancestor.

Once you have the entry for your ancestor, find the entries for your ancestor's brothers and sisters:

  • Search the birth records for entries of your ancestor's brothers and sisters.
  • Search local death records or the birth records from surrounding municipalities maybe check the web-sites), especially if there are gaps of 3 or more years between the births of siblings. Gaps of 3 or more years may indicate there was another child.
  • To make sure you have found entries of all the family members, search death records and birth records of surrounding municipalities for any additional children.
  • Search for children born before the parents' marriage. Children may have been born under the mother's maiden name. Sometimes the father's name is not given.

If the search is for ancestors born, married or died after 1811, always check to see if they are recorded on WieWasWie.nl

Step 4. Copy the information, and document your sources.

If you can, photocopy the record or download it on a disc or flashdrive/thumbdrive. If you can't, be sure to copy all the information in the entry, including:

  • All the people listed and their relationships to each other. (Remember, witnesses are often relatives.)
  • All the dates in the entry and the events they pertain to. (Sometimes corrections to a birth record were added in the entry's margin.)
  • All the localities in the entry and who was from the places listed.

On the copy, document where the information came from. List:

  • The type of source (a paper certificate, a microform, a book, an Internet site, and so forth).
  • All reference numbers for the source. Carefully record any microfilm, book, or certificate numbers or the name and Internet address of the site you used.

Step 5. Analyze the information you obtain from the birth record.

To effectively use the information from the birth record, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this the birth entry of my direct line ancestor? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.
  • Did the civil registrar identify both parents, and is the mother's maiden name given?
  • Did more than 3 years pass since the birth of the last child? If so, another child may have been stillborn or born in a neighboring municipality.
  • Did you search 5 years without finding any earlier birth entries of children? If you find no other entries, then begin looking for the parents' marriage record.

Huwelijken / Marriage

What You Are Looking For

The following information will usually be found in a marriage entry:

  • The names of your ancestors.
  • The date of your ancestors' marriage.
  • The names of your ancestors' parents and their residence and occupation, if living.
  • The ages of your ancestors.
  • The place of your ancestors' birth and/or where they were residing when married.
  • The occupation of the groom.
  • Whether the bride and groom were single or widowed before the marriage.
  • The names of the witnesses, their ages, occupations, residence, and relationship to the bride or groom, if any.

The following 5 steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in the Netherlands civil registration records.

Step 1. Find the year of your ancestor's marriage record.

To find the marriage records available at the library, look in the Family History Library Catalog. Go to the Family History Library Catalog, and click on the tab for 'Place Search'; type in the name of the town and click 'Enter' to see if your ancestor's town is listed. If you can't find it listed you can search in Wikipedia and search for the town. If it states that it is a municipality, it means that it has its own governmental records, if it states that it is a village in ..... (name of city) then you need to look for records in that city.

When looking for your ancestor's marriage record, remember:

  • Marriage records are arranged chronologically.
  • Marriage records were kept by the civil registration office in the municipality where your ancestor lived.
  • Yearly indexes and 10-year indexes to the marriage records exist.
  • The index is arranged by the husband's last name.

Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor.

Use the index first. Look for the last name, and then look for the given name. Record the date of marriage and entry number. Next locate the entry. For more help in finding the record entry, see Tip 1.

  • Tip 1.

How do I find the entry of my ancestor? In some indexes, only the first letter of the surname is in alphabetical order. The index may only contain grooms' names. A brides index may be separate or not exist.

For help in reading the record entry, see Tip 2.

  • Tip 2.

What if I can't read the record? Civil registration records are written in Dutch. The language used in the record may also be in French during the time Napoleon occupied the country. See the Netherlands Language and Languages or France Language and Languages.

Step 3. Copy the information, and document your sources.

If you can, photocopy the record or download it on a disc or flashdrive/thumbdrive. If you can't, be sure to copy all the information in the entry, including:

  • All the people listed and their relationships to each other. (Remember, witnesses are often relatives.)
  • All the dates in the entry and the events they pertain to.
  • All the localities in the entry and who was from the places listed.

On the copy, document where the information came from. List:

  • The type of source (a paper certificate, a microform, a book, an Internet site, and so forth).
  • All reference numbers for the source. Carefully record any microfilm, book, or certificate numbers or the name and Internet address of the site you used.

Step 4. Analyze the information you obtain from the marriage record.

To effectively use the information from the marriage record, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this the marriage entry of my direct line ancestors? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.
  • Were additional event dates, such as birth, death, etc., given in the entry? (Each couple had to produce identifying documents including copies of their birth/christening certificates, death certificates of parents and/or former spouses, and sometimes of grandparents if applicable.) While these documents are contained in a separate packet, the information may also be recorded within the marriage entry.

Echtscheidingen / Divorce Records

Divorce cases are handled by the district courts. A record of the divorce will be recorded at the back of the marriage register of the municipality where the couple lived at the time of their divorce. For large cities in later years they will be in separate registers. There is sometimes a note in the margin of the original marriage record. Divorces before the 20th century were uncommon.

Overlijden / Deaths

Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information on a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals whom there are no birth or marriage records for. Deaths were usually registered within three days of the death in the municipality where the person died. If the deceased person was not a resident of that town, often a copy would be sent to that person's residence.

Information you can find in the death record:

  • The names of your ancestors.
  • The date of your ancestors' death.
  • The names of your ancestors' parents.
  • The names of your ancestors' spouse.
  • The age of your ancestor at the time of death.
  • The place of your ancestors' birth.
  • The occupation of the deceased.
  • The names of the witnesses, their ages, occupations, residence, and relationship if any.

Remember, married women are always recorded under their maiden surname. The informant’s name (often a relative) is also given.
Information about parents, the birth date and birthplace of the deceased, and other information in a death record may be inaccurate since the person who gave the information may not have had complete information.

Children who died before the declaration of birth was made, are recorded as stillborn and are found only in the death records. This also means that when a child is recorded as stillborn it may not necessarily be true, as a birth had to be recorded within 3 days of birth. In other words, if the child died within those three days, it would most likely not be recorded in the birth records.

When looking for a stillborn child you may have to look in the index under 'L' for 'Levenloos' (stillborn), or under the father's or mother's last name.

Those people who were born without a fixed surname are probably recorded under a different name (like a patronymic surname) in the death records.

The Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie or cbg has records of everyone who has died since 1940.

Following are examples of birth, marriage and death records translated from original records:

Civil Registration - births

Number ninety-one

Today, the 6th of August eighteen hundred sixty -three, appeared before us (name of registrar) Frederic Louis Rambonnet, Burgermeester (mayor) , official of the civil registration office of the Gemeente Wijhe; Jan Westerveld, age forty years, day laborer, living in Wijhe, assisted by two witnesses, the first one named Lucas Eikelboom, age forty-nine years, farmer or builder (occupation) , and the second Hendrikus Johannes Christinus van Assen, age thirty-three years, blacksmith (occupation) , living in Wijhe, who has declared before us that his wife Willemina de Weerd, a laborer by occupation on the sixth of this [month] in the morning at three o’clock gave birth to a child of female gender , and to whom the first name of Martha Hendrika is given, from which declaration we have created this record, which, after having been read, is signed by us and the witnesses.


Civil Registration - marriages


Number eighteen

Today, the twenty-ninth of April in the year one thousand eight hundred fifty-eight, appeared before us Willem Christiaan Theodorus van Nahuijs, mayor, official of the civil registration office of the gemeente Wijhe in the public area of the town hall

Jan Westerveld, age thiry-five years, born and living in Wijhe , day laborer, of age son of Gerrit Westerveld, and of Marta Dollemans, by occupation farmers (or builders) , both living in Wijhe, and Willemina de Weerd, age thirty-three years, born in Heerde and living in Wijhe, day laborer, widow of Aalt Huge van de Beek, of age daughter of Hendrik Jan Geerlig de Weerd, and of Jennigje Boldewijn, both deceased

who asked us to perform their anticipated marriage, for which the public announcements had been made in front of the main door of the city hall here, on Sunday, the eighteenth, and Sunday, the twenty-fifth of April eighteen hundred fifty-eight, at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Since no objections to the said marriage were known to us, we have, after the future marriage partners had declared that they would take each other for spouses and dutifully fulfill all their duties, which are associated by the Law with the state of matrimony , declared in the name of the Law that

Jan Westerveld and Willemina de Weerd are united in marriage.

Of which we have created this record in the presence of

Lammert Halfwerk, age fourty-nine years, capenter, Willem Neppelenbroek, age fifty-three years, farmer Jozienus Eduard van Assen, age thirty-two years, employed by the Canton, and Jan Willem Broekhus, age fifty-four years, day laborer, all living in Wijhe, who have signed this record, after it had been read , together with us and the contracting parties.

Death Record

Number twenty-six

Today the seventeenth of March eighteen hundred fifty-seven appeared before us, Willem Christiaan Theodorus van Nahuijs, mayor, official of the civil registration office of the gemeente Wijhe

Jan Westerveld, age thirty-four years, and Berend Gerrits van der Wijk, age forty-three years, day laborers, both living in Wijhe

who have told us that Aalt Huge van de Beek, age thirty-nine years, born in Hattem, day laborer, spouse of Willemina de Weerd, by occupation a day laborer, living in Wijhe, son of Jan van de Beek and Fennigje Kolkers, day laborers living inHattem

living in Wijhe, has died on the sixteenth of this months at three o’clock in the afternoon at his home in the hamlet of Herxen.

Of which declaration we have written up this record, which, after having been read, was signed by us and the first witness; the second one did not know how to write.


Marriage Supplements (Huwelijksbijlagen)

1. Extract of the husband’s birth

Overijssel Province Gemeente Wijhe

Civil Registration

Extract from the birth register of the above-named Gemeente

In the year one thousand eight hundred twenty-two on the twenty-first of the month of December was born Jan , son of Gerrit Westerveld and Marta Dollemans

As extract the mayor , official of the civil registration of the gemeente Wijhe. Wijhe, 17 April 1858


2. Extract of the wife’s birth

Civil Registration

Province Gelderland Arrondissement Arnhem Gemeente Heerde

Extract From the birth register of the Gemeente Heerde was extracted that Willemina, daughter of Hendrik Jan Geerlig de Weerd and Jennigje Boldewyn- married couple- was born on the seventh of April eighteen hundred thirty five crossed out and corrected in the margin to “eighteen hundred twenty five” in Heerde.

[signed by the registrar and certified as a proper copy on the bottom]

3. Militia certificate

National Militia Province Overijssel Certificate

The King’s commissioner in the province of Overijssel declares that Jan Westerveld, born in Wijhe on 21 December 1822, chair maker, son of Gerrit and of Marta Dollemans, by occupation nietdekken is enrolled in the National Militia in the gemeente of Wijhe, that in the lottery he received number 34, and that he is exempt in accordance with the decision made by the military council, which was held at Zwolle, .................... ......................... ................................... .

Given in Zwolle, on 15 April 1858

the King’s Commissioner in the Province

The block on the left of the document, if filled in, provides a physical description of the individual (height, stature, eye/hair color, shape of face, chin etc. )

4. Death certificate of the wife’s first husband

Province Overijssel Gemeente Wijhe Civil Registration

Extract from the death register of the above-named Gemeente

In the year one thousand eight hundred fifty-seven on the sixth of the month of March has passed away Aalt Huge van der Beek, husband of Willemina de Weerd.

Certified by the mayor, official of the civil registration office in the Gemeente Wijhe.

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