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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in May 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Dutch Ancestors in the Netherlands by Susanna de Groot, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Dutch and Frisian are the two official languages of the Netherlands. Dutch is a Germanic language and many words are similar to German and English words. You will also find some are the same or similar to French words.
The Dutch Language
Frisian is the language of the northern province of Friesland. This language is often mistaken as a dialect of Dutch. It is not. To be able to research your Dutch ancestors you will have to learn how to read some Dutch, but it is not necessary to learn Frisian. The civil registration records from Friesland are written in the Dutch language.
In general, Dutch civil registration and population records follow a standard format throughout the country.
It is necessary to learn to read some Dutch to understand the information in the records. However, it is not necessary to write in Dutch when requesting information from archives in the Netherlands. Many people can speak, read and write English. A word of caution, if you have found someone who may be a relative and they are elderly, it is likely they cannot communicate with you in English. The older generation does not speak English fluently.
It is recommended you find a good Dutch-English dictionary to assist you with the translation of the language. A dictionary purchased from a used bookstore can be most useful (for example, Engels Woordenboek, Nederlands-Engels, 17th Edition; Groningen, Nethelands: H. D. Tjeenk Willink, 1974). The North American published dictionaries seem to lack entries. Dictionaries published in the United Kingdom (UK) seem to be better. The same applies to maps of the Netherlands. You will find much more detail in maps and atlases that are published in the UK and the Netherlands. So be sure to check the used bookstore!
Online Translation Dictionaries
There are many online translation dictionaries that are available to you. Dictionary.com Translator is one of the many websites available. The Verbix website will be of great help when you need assistance with conjugating Dutch verbs. There are a number of online translation sites that you could use to help translate your documents. One such website is Bing Translator.
|These sites will return Dutch words if it cannot translate it. They can also return the wrong English word. When this happens you will still need to use your dictionary.|
Perhaps you would like to learn the language of your ancestors. This too can be done online! Learn Dutch is one such website. You can even test your proficiency in Dutch on the Transparent Language website.
FamilySearch has the Netherlands Language and Languages webpage that provides a Dutch Word List. If you are researching records prior to 1814, you may also want to see the French and Latin word lists available on the same webpage.
Dutch Word List
To assist you in becoming familiar with Dutch words, below is a list of words that you will encounter often in your research. It is also advised that you start your own list of frequently used Dutch words and terms. This list will assist you in saving time when translating documents. With all these tools, you will soon easily extract genealogical details about your Dutch ancestors from the documents!
|achterneef||great-nephew, second cousin|
|achternicht||great-niece, second cousin|
|algemeen rijksarchief||general or state archive (national archive)|
|alhier||here, at this place|
|ambtenaar||officer, civil servant|
|burgerlijke stand||civil registration|
|Evangelisch Luthers||Evangelical Lutheran|
|gemeentearchief||city or municipal archive|
|Hervormd Lidmaat||Reformed Church Member|
|natuur kind||natural child|
|Nederlands Gereformeerd||Dutch Reformed Church|
|Nederduits Hervormd||Dutch Reformed|
|notariële protocollen||notarial records|
|ondertrouwd||publication of the banns|
|ouder||older, elder, parent|
|polder||drained land protected by dikes|
|stadsarchief||city or municipal archive|
|stadshuis||town or city hall|
|stamboom||family tree, pedigree|
|tegenwoordigheid||present, present day|
|toestemming||consent, assent, permission|
|wed.||abbr, widow or widower|
|wijk||town district or quarter|
|You may have noticed when reviewing this list that the Dutch will sometimes put two or three words together to form one word. For example, naamsaanneming is formed from naams (names) and aanneming (adoption). If you cannot find the word in your dictionary, try breaking the word down and looking for the words individually.|
Days of the Week
Numbers are written in words on the documents you will use for your research.
You will find that ordinals are used in documents; mostly in dates and street addresses.
The Dutch use ordinals to express dates. Here are a few examples of how you may see a date written.
|één juli||the first of July|
|op één juli||on the first of July|
|twintig maart||twentieth of March|
|opl twintig maart||on the twentieth of March|
In many of the Dutch civil registration records, you will find that the time of day that an event occurred has been included in full words. When the time is written in numbers, the 24-hour clock is used.
|Important Tip: When reading time, remember that the half hour always refers to the previous hour rather than the following one. For example, half acht, literally means “half eight”, is actually 7:30.|
Here are some examples of time:
|één uur||one o'clock|
|tien uur||ten o'clock|
|vijf over één||five past one|
|tien over twee||ten past two|
|twintig over één||twenty past one|
|kwart over twee||quarter past two|
|half drie||half past two|
|tien voor twee||ten to two|
|kwart voor vier||quarter to four|
|twaalf uur 's middags||noon|
|The Dutch letter “Y”or “y” can be typed as “IJ” or “ij”; as in “Ype” or “IJpe”, which are both the same name. When doing searches on the Internet, use both possibilities when entering search words. Neither “Y” nor “IJ” is wrong, it depends on how a person generally types this letter. Example surname: “Van der Leij” and “Van der Ley”.|
Calendar Changes in The Netherlands
The Gregorian calendar was adopted by different areas of the Netherlands at different times. The chart below provides you with the dates the Gregorian calendar was adopted and the dates that were omitted to make the correction in the calendar.
Date Gregorian Calendar Adopted
|Dates Omitted to Correct Calendar Error|
|Brabant, Zeeland and most of Limburg||14 December 1582||15-24 December 1582|
|Holland (most of present day North and South Holland)||1 January 1583/30 June 1700||2-11 January 1583|
||1-11 July 1700|
|Utrecht and Overijssel||30 November 1700||1-11 December 1700|
|Friesland and Groningen||31 December 1700||1-11 January 1701|
|Drenthe||30 Apr 1701||1-11 May 1701|
The area of Groningen actually first switched to the Gregorian calendar 10 February 1583 and dropped the dates 11 to 20 February 1583. However, they reverted back to the Julian calendar in November 1594. The switch to the Gregorian calendar was again made on 31 December 1700.
French Republican Calendar
As if this is not confusing enough for you, remember some areas of the Netherlands were part of the French Empire. The French Empire used the French Republican calendar from 1793 to 1805. It is possible to find dates that relate to this calendar. For more details on the French Republican calendar, see the FamilySearch Wiki page, French Republican Calendar.
To assist you in identifying if the French Republican calendar was used in your ancestors’ record, the following chart provides you with the names of the months in English, French, Dutch and Latin.
Months of the French Republican Calendar
|grape harvest||Vendémiaire||Wijnoogstmaand||Menis vindemiarum|
|heat||Thermidor or Fervidor||Hittemaand||mensis thermarum|
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Dutch Ancestors in the Netherlands offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.
- This page was last modified on 30 April 2013, at 17:52.
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