Netherlands Civil Registration- Vital Records
Civil registers are the vital records made by the government. Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly referred to as "vital records" because they refer to critical events in a person’s life. Dutch civil registration records are an excellent source for accurate information on names; dates; and places of births, marriages, deaths, and divorces.
Civil registration is crucial for research in the Netherlands. Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths on 1 March 1811 (earlier for some southern areas). After this date all individuals who lived in the Netherlands are recorded. Because they cover the entire population, are indexed, and are easily accessible, civil registration records are the most important source for genealogical research in the Netherlands.
- 1 General Historical Background
- 2 Regional Differences in Record Keeping
- 3 Information Recorded in Civil Registers
- 4 Births [Geboorten]
- 5 Marriages [Huwelijken]
- 6 Divorce Records [Echtscheidingen]
- 7 Deaths [Overlijdens]
- 8 Locating Civil Registration Records
- 9 Indexes to Civil Registration Records
- 10 Records at the Family History Library
- 11 Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
- 12 Search Strategies
- 13 Web Sites
General Historical Background
The earliest vital records in the Netherlands were made by the churches. Civil authorities began recording marriages of nonconformists in 1575. France annexed the country between 1795 and 1811 and made civil officers 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 the Kingdom of the Netherlands became a country in 1814, the government continued the civil registration system.
Birth, marriage, and death registers are made in duplicate. One copy stays in the municipal hall [gemeentehuis], and the other copy is sent at the end of each year to the clerk of the district court. The clerk creates a yearly index and at the end of each decade creates a 10-year index. The indexes and the duplicate copy eventually end up in the state archives.
Regional Differences in Record Keeping
Fryslân or Friesland. The Civil Registration records in Friesland are kept on the regional level.
Limburg. Parts of the province of Limburg were annexed by France at different times, namely in 1795, 1798, and 1801.
Zeeuws–Vlaanderen. The area of Zeeuws–Vlaanderen, in the province of Zeeland, was annexed by France in 1795.
Because of these annexations, records for these areas begin earlier than the rest of the country.
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
The most important civil records for genealogical research are birth, marriage, and death registers and marriage supplements. Divorce records were originally recorded in the back of the marriage registers.
Each birth, marriage, and death entry includes witnesses’ names, ages, occupations, residences, and relationships to the principal party. Large cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam have more than one book for a given time period. Sometimes even-numbered entries are kept in one register and odd-numbered ones are in another.
Civil registration records were often written in French until 1814. After this date the Dutch language was used exclusively. Annual indexes are available, and beginning with the decade from 1813 to 1822, decennial (10-year) indexes were made. Each municipality (a town or group of towns) was its own civil registration district and included villages belonging to that municipality.
Birth records usually give the child’s name; sex; date, time, and place of birth; and parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden surname. The occupations and ages of the parents are also given.
Births were usually registered within two or three days of the child’s birth, usually by the father but sometimes by a relative or friend, especially if the father was absent. Corrections to a birth record may have been added as a marginal note.
Children whose records show they died very young were not necessarily stillborn [levenloos or doodgeboren] but probably died shortly after birth. Legally, information about children who were born "without life" was not to be reported to the civil registrar. Children who died at birth are only recorded in the death records. They are either found under the last name of the father (or in case of an illegitimate child, the last name of the mother) or under the letter L in the index. L stands for Levenloos - lifeless.
Civil register births usually have yearly indexes in addition to the 10-year indexes. (For more specific index information see "Indexes to Civil Registration Records" below).
Marriages during the 19th century were usually recorded where the bride resided. After 1795 a civil marriage ceremony was required by the Dutch government. This requirement continued when the country was under French rule and is still in force today.
If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a record of the marriage, search records of intent to marry.
Records of Intention to Marry. You may find records that show a couple’s "intent to marry" in addition to or instead of the records of the actual marriage. Various records have been created that show a couple’s intent to marry.
- Marriage Intentions [Huwelijksaangiften] were made a few days before the first marriage proclamation. The couple were required to announce their intention to marry in the residence of both bride and groom. This allowed other community members the opportunity to raise any objections to the marriage. The intentions give the couple’s names, ages, marital statuses before the marriage, occupations, and residences. From 1811 to 1879 the records were combined with the marriage proclamations in one register. After 1879 they were placed in separate registers. They were not prepared in duplicate and are not indexed. Marriage intentions were discontinued in 1935.
- Marriage Proclamations [Huwelijksafkondigingen], also called marriage banns, were published for two weeks in a row. They provide the couple’s names, ages, marital statuses before the marriage, occupations, and residences. They also give the names of the parents and their occupations, residences, and marital statuses. Like the marriage intentions, the proclamations were not prepared in duplicate and are not indexed. They were kept in the same register as the intentions until 1879 and were discontinued in 1935.
- Marriage Consents [Huwelijkstoestemmingen]. Parents were normally present at the wedding and stated that they gave their consent for the couple to marry. If parents were absent, their written permission would be included with the marriage supplements. Beginning in 1913, separate registers were used to record the parents’ permission for the bride and groom to marry.
- Marriage Supplements [Huwelijksbijlagen] were documents filed by the bride and groom in support of their application to be married. The documents formed a packet that had the same number as the marriage entry. The packets contained extracts of birth or baptism records of the bride and groom; death certificates of their parents if they were not living; and, until about 1850, death certificates of grandparents if both parents were dead. When no baptism or birth record exists, a notarized certificate of acquaintance [akte van bekendheid] is included. The certificate was signed by witnesses (usually relatives) who certified that they personally knew the bride or groom. A certificate from the National Militia (up to about 1860) stating that the groom had fulfilled his military duty is also included. This certificate usually gives his physical description, including height; color of hair, eyes, and eyebrows; and description of nose, chin, and other distinguishing features. Death certificates of any former spouse are also included. Finally, marriage consents are included.
Marriage Registers [Huwelijken]. Civil officials recorded the marriages they performed in registers, usually preprinted forms bound in a book and kept in the civil office. In the Netherlands, marriages had to be performed by civil officials. Marriage registers give the date of the marriage and the names of the bride and groom. They also indicate whether they were single or widowed before the marriage; give their ages, birthplaces, occupations, and residences; and list parents’ names, residences, and occupations, if living. Note the marriage entry number [aktenummer]; you will need this to locate the marriage supplements.
Divorce Records [Echtscheidingen]
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.
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 a day or two of the death in the municipality where the person died.
The records give the deceased person’s name, date and place of death, age, birthplace, occupation, spouse’s name, and parents’ names. Married women are recorded under their maiden surname. If the spouse and parents are living, their occupation and residence will be given; otherwise it will name the place of their death. 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.
Those people who were born without a fixed surname are probably recorded under a different name in the death records. See the "Names, Personal" section for more information.
The Central Office for Genealogy at http://www.genealogyspot.com/country/netherlands.htm has records of everyone who has died since 1940. See the discussion about person cards and lists in the "Population" section.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Civil registration records were kept at the local civil registration office [Burgerlijke Stand] in each municipality. Therefore, you must determine the municipality where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. For many places the municipality and town are the same. You may need to use gazetteers and other geographic reference aides to identify the place your ancestor lived and the civil registration office that served it. For additional help, see the "Gazetteers" section.
Some large cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague had more than one sequence of books for the registering process. For example, you may find even-numbered entries in one book and odd-numbered entries in another book.
Birth registers are open to the public and are available in the state archives after 100 years, marriage registers and marriage supplements after 75 years, and death registers after 50 years.
Indexes to Civil Registration Records
Births, marriages, and deaths were written in the civil registration records as they occurred and thus are arranged chronologically. Yearly indexes and 10-year indexes to the records can help you find your ancestor more easily.
Indexes are usually bound with each year’s register. Ten-year indexes were kept in a separate register. You will sometimes find the 10-year indexes for several towns in the same district bound together in the same volume. A 10-year index is especially useful when you are not certain of the year of an event. There are 10-year indexes for each decade, commencing in 1813 and continuing until 1932. An 8-year index exists for 1933 to 1940, followed by 10-year indexes again for 1941 to 1950, and so on.
Yearly indexes and 10-year indexes have several characteristics in common. The clerk usually indexed births, marriages, and deaths separately. The indexes are alphabetical by surname, although those for the Groningen province are also arranged by given name up to 1842 because of the existence of patronymics. The indexes list the name, document number, and date of the civil register entry. In marriage indexes the groom’s name is usually in alphabetical order, with the bride’s maiden surname listed after the groom. Later marriage indexes are by bride’s surname and groom’s surname. In some indexes only the first letter of the surname is in alphabetical order.
Children who died before their births were registered will be indexed either under their father’s name, under the letter "D" for stillborn child [doodgeboren kind], or under the letter "L" for stillborn child [levenloos kind].
Marriage intentions, proclamations, and supplements are not indexed.
National Index. The state archives of the Netherlands are preparing a national online index of all civil registration records open to the public. Currently, entries from the provinces of Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Noord-Brabant, and Utrecht have been added to the database. The web site is available in either Dutch or English.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed the civil registration records of all municipalities throughout the Netherlands, normally for births to 1902, for marriages to 1922, and for deaths to 1932. Some death records are available until 1940.
The Family History Library has records from all municipalities. However, if a record has been destroyed, was never kept, was not available in the archive at the time of microfilming, was not microfilmed, or is restricted from public access by the laws of the country, the Family History Library does not have a copy. You may use the records at the library for your family research, but the library does not issue certificates for living or deceased individuals.
The specific holdings of the Family History Library are listed in the Family History Library Catalog. To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, look in the Place search of the library’s catalog under:
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – CIVIL REGISTRATION
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – CIVIL REGISTRATION
The library’s collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed and added to the collection from numerous sources. Do not give up if records are not available yet. The Family History Library Catalog is updated regularly. Check it periodically for the records you need.
Locating Records Not at the Family History Library
Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting local civil registration offices or archives in the Netherlands. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.
The Netherlands has no single repository of civil registration records. They are available by writing to the municipal secretary. You do not need to write in Dutch. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to the district court or state archives.
Effective use of civil registers 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 birth records of the person’s brothers and sisters.
- Search for the death records of his or her parents, which records will tell you where the mother came from and where the marriage probably took place.
- Search for marriage records of all the children. Marriage records will tell you if the parents were deceased at the time and where and when they died.
- If you cannot find the person you want in the regular marriage records, search the marriage intentions and publications.
- Search for the marriage record of the parents. The marriage record will give you birth dates, birthplaces, and parents’ names.
- Locate the marriage supplements for the parents’ marriage. The supplements will take you back to the parish register period, giving you dates and places of births or baptisms.
- Repeat the process for both the father and the mother.
- Search the death registers for all family members. These are indexed and will also take you back to the parish register period, giving you ages and places of birth.
- Search the civil registers completely before you begin searching the parish registers.
The premier online site for vital records is genlias.