Netherlands Church Records

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Only once in a while will the minister or priest also enter a birth date or death date.
 
Only once in a while will the minister or priest also enter a birth date or death date.
  
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== How to find your ancestor in the Netherlands church records ==
 
== How to find your ancestor in the Netherlands church records ==

Revision as of 21:30, 13 August 2009

Church records [kerkelijke registers] are excellent sources for accurate information on names as well as dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Most people who lived in the Netherlands were recorded in a church record.

Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called "civil registration" because critical events in a person’s life are recorded in them. Church records that contain vital records were made by ministers and priests. They are often called parish registers or church books. They include records of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and burials. In addition, church records may include account books (which record fees for tolling bells, fees for masses for the dead, and so forth), lists of confirmations, and lists of members.

Church records are crucial for pre-1811 Dutch research. Church records continued to be kept after the introduction of civil registration, but the Family History Library has not microfilmed many post–1811 church records. See the "Civil Registration" section for more information about post–1811 sources.



Contents

Baptism/Christening [Dopen]

Children were usually baptized a few days after birth. Baptism registers usually give the infant’s name, parents’ names, status of legitimacy, witnesses or godparents, and baptism date. You may also find the child’s birth date, the father’s occupation, and the family’s place of residence. Death information was sometimes added as a note or signified by a cross.

Earlier registers typically give less information, sometimes including only the child’s and father’s names and the baptism date. Until the end of the 1700s, ministers in some communities did not name the mother in the records, or they included only her given name. Sometimes only the baptism date was recorded, but in later years the birth date was given as well.

Because of social conditions in the Netherlands, the birth of illegitimate children was not uncommon.

Introduction

Beginning about 1550, many churches required their clergy to keep christening (or baptism) records. The records may include birth dates. Information may be recorded on or after the date of birth. Information found in a christening depends on how detailed the minister made his record.

For more information on church christening records, see Background.

What You Are Looking For

The following information may be found in a christening record:

  • The name of your ancestor
  • The date of your ancestor's christening
  • The name of your ancestor's parents, or at least the father's name
  • The name of the witnesses and/or godparents
  • The place of your ancestor's birth and/or christening
  • The residence of the parents
  • The occupation of the father
  • Wether your ancestor was legitimate or illegitamate.

Remember, not all of this information will always be there, most often there is just the basic information. Make sure that when you find information on a christening that you don't enter that in your own records under 'birth date or death date'. The churches strictly kept records of the ordinances they performed, which are christenings, marriages and burial, so make sure that you enter that information in the correct field in your own records. Only once in a while will the minister or priest also enter a birth date or death date.


How to find your ancestor in the Netherlands church records

5 Steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in the Netherlands church records

Step 1. Find the year of your ancestor's christening or baptism record.

To find the christening 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 Town Records to see if your ancestor's parish is listed.

When looking for your ancestor's christening or baptism record, remember:

  • Christening records are usually arranged chronologically. Sometimes they are arranged by the first letter of the given name and then chronologically for each letter.
  • Christening records may be intermixed with marriage or burial records.
  • Separate indexes to the christening records often exist.

If you don't know which parish your ancestor lived in, look for a marriage or death record of that person to see if the birthplace was mentioned. If not, then see if there are 'membership' (lidmaten) records available and look for the 'incoming' or 'outgoing' members and that will tell you where they came from. If that person, however, moved into the parish at a young age, you may have to look for a family with the same name.

Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor.

Look for the last name, then look for the given name.

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. Take into account the patronymic (father's given name) naming conventions as appropriate. 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). Christening records of all churches except the Mennonite Church will be for infants, unless otherwise indicated. Mennonite Church christenings will only be for adults. Try to make sure the christening entry is of your direct line ancestor. Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct entry. For more help in finding the record entry, see Tip 1.

Tip 1. How do I find the entry of my ancestor? Look for the Latinized name. In different areas of the Netherlands and at different times, people sometimes Latinized their surnames. A person born and christened under the Dutch name of "Bakker," for example, may have later married and had children under the name "Pistorius," which was the Latin form of Bakker.

For help with name variations, see the Names, Personal section of The Netherlands Research Outline.

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

Tip 2. What if I can't read the record? Catholic church records are usually written in Latin, and most Protestant church records are written in Dutch. The language used in the record may also be affected by:

The language of bordering countries. The invasion by foreign countries. The movement of ethnic groups into the Netherlands, such as the French Huguenots.

For publications that can help you read the languages, see the Latin Word List, Dutch Word List, French Word List,and the Handwriting sections of both The Netherlands Research Outline and German Research Outline.

For help in verifying that you have the correct record entry, see Tip 3.

Tip 3. How do I verify the christening of my direct-line ancestor?

Often more than one family in a parish has the same family name. Because the same children's given names are used in every family, several children with the same given and family names could be christened within a few years of each other. To identify the correct direct-line ancestor and his or her parents:

  • Check 5 years on each side of the supposed christening year, and copy the entry of every child with the same given name and surname as the ancestor.
  • If one or more entries exist, check church burial records to eliminate those entries of children who died before your ancestor.
  • If burial records do not exist or you are not able to eliminate all of the possible entries, check marriage records to eliminate those who married someone other than your ancestor's spouse.
  • If you still cannot eliminate 2 or more possibilities, trace all lines to see if they go back to a common ancestor. Then continue research back from the common ancestor.
  • Be aware that Dutch parents usually named their first four children after their own parents, and other children after their brothers and sisters. Knowing about this naming practice is especially helpful when you are trying to identify those people that did not have fixed surnames (that is, they were identified by their father's given name, such as Peter Janssen).
  • If you eliminate all the possibilities, check the surrounding parishes, and repeat the above process until you find the christening entry for your ancestor.

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 christening records for entries of your ancestor's brothers and sisters. Search local death records or the christening records from surrounding parishes, especially if there are gaps of 3 or more years between the christening 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 christening records of surrounding parishes for any additional children. Search for children born before the parents' marriage. Children may have been christened under the mother's maiden name. Sometimes the father's name is not given.

For help in finding the entries for the ancestor's brothers and sisters, see Tip 4.

Tip 4. How do I find the record for each brother and sister? Remember, within the family, one or more children may have the same given name(s).

When more than one set of parents has the same given names and surnames (for example two John and Mary Smiths), use the following identifiers and records to separate the families:

  • The place of residence of the family.
  • The father's occupation.
  • The witnesses or godparents.
  • Other sources like census, probate and Orphans' Chamber records that list family members as a group.

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

If you can, copy the information on a flashdrive/thumbdrive, a cd or straight to a file on your own computer. If that is not possible you can also photocopy the record. If you can't, be sure to copy all the information in the entry either on paper or to the notes with your family group record, 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 birth, and death information pertaining to the child may be included. The minister may use symbols such as + for death.) Be sure to look for additional dates 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, etc.).
  • 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 christening record.

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

Is this the christening entry of my direct line ancestor? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.

  • Did the minister identify both parents, and is the mother's maiden name given?
  • Were additional event dates, such as death, given in the entry's margin? (The minister may use symbols such as + for death.)
  • Did more than 3 years pass since the christening of the last child? If so, another child may have been born and christened in a neighboring parish or born and died before it could be christened.
  • Did you search 5 years without finding any earlier christening entries of children? If you find no other entries, then begin looking for the parents' marriage record.

For help in verifying that you have the correct record entry, see Tip 3.

Confirmations [Belijdenissen or Vormsel Registers]

Catholics have their First Communion at age 6 or 7 and their Second Communion at age 12. Protestants have their confirmation at about age 15. Most confirmation registers merely list the names of those being confirmed and the confirmation date.

Marriages [Akten van trouw or Huwelijken]

Marriage registers give the marriage date and the names of the bride and groom. The registers also indicate whether they were single or widowed before the marriage and where they were from (which may or may not be their birthplace). They often include other information about the bride and groom, such as their ages, residences, occupations, birthplaces, parents’ names, and witnesses. In cases of second and later marriages, they may include the names of previous spouses.

The earliest marriage records may give only the names of the bride and groom and have little or no information about the couple’s parents. Couples were usually married in the residence parish of the bride. Typically, women married for the first time in their early to late twenties. Men typically married for the first time in their mid-twenties to early thirties.

What You Are Looking For

The following information may be found in a marriage entry:

  • The names of your ancestors.
  • The date of your ancestors' marriage.
  • Whether your ancestors were single, widowed or divorced at the time of marriage.
  • The names of your ancestors' parents.
  • The names of the witnesses.
  • The date of your ancestors' birth (or their age at the time of marriage).
  • The place of your ancestors' birth (or where they were residing when married).
  • The residence and occupation of your ancestors.
  • The occupation of the father.
  • The date of the marriage proclamations or banns.
  • The names of previous spouses.

4 Steps

These 4 steps will guide you in finding your ancestor in the Netherlands church 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 What to Do Next, select the Family History Library Catalog, and click on the tab for Town Records to see if your ancestor's parish is listed.

When looking for your ancestors' marriage record, remember:

  • Marriage records are usually arranged chronologically.
  • Marriage records may be intermixed with christening or burial records.
  • Separate indexes to the marriage records often exist.

Step 2. Find the entry for your ancestor. Look for the last name. Then look for the given name.

You may have to check further to make sure you find the correct entry:

  • If the entry gives the ages of the bride and groom, they should be compatible with their ages at death or on census or other records.

For more help in finding the record entry, see:

Tip 1.

Look for the Latinized name. In different areas of the Netherlands and at different times, people sometimes Latinized their surnames. A person born and christened under the Dutch name of "Bakker," for example, may have later married and had children under the name "Pistorius," which was the Latin form of Baker. For help in reading the record entry, see:

Tip 2.

Catholic Church records are usually written in Latin, and most Protestant church records are written in Dutch. The language used in the record may also be affected by:

  • The language of bordering countries.
  • The invasion by foreign countries.
  • The movement of ethnic groups into the Netherlands, such as the French Huguenots.

For help in verifying that you have the correct record entry, see:

Tip 3.

Often more than one family in a parish has the same family name. Because the same children's given names are used in every family, several children with the same given and family names could be married within a few years of each other. To identify the correct direct-line ancestor and his or her parents:

  • Check 5 years before and after the birth of the first child.
  • If one or more entries exist, check church burial records to eliminate those entries of couples that died before or after your ancestor.
  • If you eliminate all the possibilities, check the surrounding parishes, and repeat the above process until you find the marriage entry for your ancestors.

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

If you can, photocopy the record. 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. Be sure to look for additional dates 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, etc.).
  • 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 question:

Is this the marriage entry of my direct line ancestors? Because names are so common, you must be sure you have the correct record.

Marriage entries for soldiers usually only give the name of the commander or company that the groom was in. To locate the groom’s birthplace, consult the military service records. See the "Military Records" section for more information.

Sometimes different religions are mentioned in the church records. As the Netherlands was a seafaring nation, as well as professing freedom of religion, many people from other countries settled in the Netherlands and formed their own churches, often in different languages. Not always did these churches see eye to eye and couples who wanted to get married, but not in their spouses-to-be faith often were married by civil authorities. You may also find their marriage recorded in their own church. For additional help, see the "Public Records" section.

In the province of Holland a tax on marriages was imposed from 1695 to 1805. If you do not locate your ancestor’s marriage in any other source, look in the marriage tax records. See the "Taxation" section for more information.

Marriage Intentions or Publication of Banns [Ondertrouw].

In addition to the actual marriage registers, many churches in the Netherlands kept records of marriage intentions. These records are called 'notice of intended marriage' or 'marriage banns'. Often the marriage intention date and marriage date are recorded in the same register.

Marriage registers sometimes give the three dates on which intended marriages were announced (either read out loud or posted in church). These announcements, called banns, gave other community members a chance to object to the marriage, if necessary.

Burials [Begrafenissen]

Burials were recorded in the parish where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of death.

Burial registers give the deceased’s name, marital status, and date and place of death and/or burial. Sometimes the age, place of residence, cause of death, and names of survivors are given. Often the amount of money paid for ringing the bell or renting burial cloths is given.

Burial records may exist for individuals who were born before the earliest baptism and marriage records. In other places, burial records may start many years later than the baptism and marriage records of the same parish.

Church account books [kerkrekeningen] often give details about burials.

Membership Records [Lidmaten]

Most churches kept a record of their members, usually organized by village or street. The records contain members’ names, dates of confessions of faith, and dates of arrival from other parishes. They may also contain death dates, dates members left the parish, communion lists, or names of those partaking of the sacrament or attending catechism school. The records of members arriving or departing are of great value as they mention the town or parish the member came from or moved to, which helps to then locate further records.

Membership records are usually in the archive of the church council [kerkeraad] of the parish. Sometimes they are part of the baptism or marriage register.

Church Council Minutes [Kerkeraadshandelingen]

Minutes of the church council can provide important information about your ancestor. They usually contain ministers’ names and dates of service, appointments of elders and other parish officials, disciplinary actions, names of fathers of illegitimate children, and money paid for the poor.

Certificates of indemnity or surety [akten van indemniteit] were sometimes issued to church members moving to a new town. The certificates guaranteed that the former parish would receive the people back in case they became poor.

Church Records Indexes

Most of the registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials for the Netherlands have been indexed by the archives and other interested genealogists.

An example of an important index is that for the city of Amsterdam. Hundreds of registers for several denominations are easily accessible by using a card index. The christening records for Amsterdam can be found on the following web-site: Stadsarchief Amsterdam

You can also use the following guide:

  • Church and Civil Records of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, before 1811.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1975. (FHL book 929.1 G286gs ser. C no. 25; fiche 6000355–6000356.)

The Family History Library has collected many indexes to Dutch church records. These are listed in the Place search of the catalog under:

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – CHURCH RECORDS – INDEXES

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – CHURCH RECORDS – INDEXES

Locating Church Records

Church records were kept at the local parish of the church. The term parish refers to the jurisdiction of a church minister. Parishes are local congregations that may have included many neighboring villages in their boundaries.

To use church records, you must know both your ancestor’s religion and the town where he or she lived.

Some gazetteers indicate parish jurisdictions. For more information, see the "Gazetteers" section and the section below, which discusses church record inventories.

A small village that did not have its own church was usually assigned to a parish in a nearby larger town. Consequently, your ancestor may have lived in one village but belonged to a parish in another town. This is particularly true of Roman Catholic parishes. In predominant Dutch Reformed Church areas, Roman Catholic records include people for a wide area.

The Family History Library Catalog refers to parishes by the town in which the parish church was located, unless there was more than one church in the town. In large cities there may be many parishes for each religion. Church buildings were often named for saints, so the catalog uses the church name such as St. John to distinguish between different parishes in the same city.

Church Record Inventories

Church record inventories are essential tools for finding Dutch records. They identify records that are available, their location, and the years they cover. The following source, prepared by the Central Office for Genealogy, lists all known church records of the Netherlands:

  • Wijnaendts van Resandt, Willem. Repertorium DTB: Globaal Overzicht van de Nederlandse Doop–, Trouw– en Begraafregisters e.d. van voor de Invoering van de Burgerlijke Stand (Concise Repertory of Dutch Parish Registers, etc.). 2nd ed. ’s-Gravenhage: Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, 1980. (FHL book Ref 949.2 K2w 1980.) This inventory has explanations in Dutch, English, and German.

Church record inventories are also available for each province in the Netherlands. They are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under:

NETHERLANDS – CHURCH RECORDS – INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – CHURCH RECORDS – INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has filmed nearly all church records of the Netherlands. The library has church records to mostly 1811; some are later. The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. You can determine whether the library has records for the locality your ancestor came from by checking the "Locality Search" section of the Family History Library Catalog. However, if a record has been destroyed, was never kept, or has not been microfilmed, the Family History Library does not have a copy.

In the Family History Library Catalog, look under the name of the town where the church was, not necessarily the town where your ancestor lived. Look under:

NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – CHURCH RECORDS

Locating Records Not at the Family History Library

Baptism, marriage, and burial records not at the Family History Library may be found by contacting or visiting local parishes or archives in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has no single repository of church records. The present location of records depends on several factors of nationality, religion, and local history. Records are located in one or more of the following places:

  • Local parishes. Recent registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials are at the parish; older ones are at the state and municipal archives. Other church records such as membership lists, church council minutes, and account books are usually still at the parishes.
  • State archives. In 1929 the government ordered that all pre–1811 records be sent to the state archives. Most places complied. Some of the records have since been deposited in regional and municipal archives. Records at these archives have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library.
  • Church archives. Some church records are collected in diocese or general church archives. Church archives are often unable to handle genealogical requests but can determine whether specific records are available.
  • The Central Bureau for Genealogy. This office has copies of many parish registers. See the "Societies" section for more information.

Correspondence. You do not need to write in Dutch when corresponding with archives in the Netherlands. When writing for copies, send the following:

  • Check or money order for the search fee (usually about $10.00).
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event you want information about.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.
  • Three international reply coupons, available from your local post office.

Search Strategies

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies in addition to the general strategies:

  • Search for the ancestor you selected in step two. When you find his or her birth record, search for the births of the person’s brothers and sisters.
  • Search for the marriage record of his or her parents. The marriage record will often lead to the birth records of the parents. Marriage records usually give the birthplace or the place of residence and marital status. Some records like the Amsterdam marriage intentions are more informative.
  • Estimate the ages of the parents, and search for their birth records.
  • Use the above three strategies for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations are not in the record you are using, search neighboring towns and other denominations.
  • Search the burial registers for all family members.