Netherlands Emigration and Immigration
Emigration and immigration sources list the names of people leaving (emigrating) or arriving (immigrating) in the Netherlands. These sources may be passenger lists, permissions to emigrate, or records of passports issued. The information in these records may include the emigrants’ names, ages, occupations, destinations, and places of origin or birthplaces. Sometimes they also show family groups.
If you cannot find your ancestor, you may be able to find emigration information on your ancestor’s neighbors. People who lived near each other in the Netherlands often settled together in the country they emigrated to.
Records were created when individuals emigrated from the Netherlands. Other records document their arrival in the destination country. This section discusses the following subjects:
- Finding the emigrant’s town of origin.
- Emigration from the Netherlands, including the historical background of Dutch emigration.
- Records of Dutch emigrants in their destination countries.
Finding the Emigrant’s Town of Origin
Once you have traced your family back to a Dutch emigrant, you must find the town your ancestor came from if you wish to find earlier generations. The records you will need to continue your research, such as birth, marriage, and death records, are kept in local areas. The Netherlands has no nationwide index to these records.
Several sources may reveal where your ancestor came from. You may learn of your ancestor’s place of origin by talking to older family members. Other relatives or a library may have documents that name the town, such as the following:
- Birth, marriage, and death certificates
- Family Bibles
- Church certificates or records
- Naturalization applications and petitions
- Passenger lists
The FamilySearch Wiki article Tracing Immigrant Origins gives more suggestions for finding your ancestor’s place of origin.
Emigration from the Netherlands
Significant numbers of Dutch emigrants can be found on every continent and in many countries around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people left the Netherlands in several waves of migration. Most emigrants left during the following periods:
1614 to 1820. Emigrants left the Netherlands and migrated to North America, South America, Africa, India, Indonesia, and the West Indies. This included the New Netherland Colony which claimed the shore from Cape Cod to Virginia in North America. This colony lasted from 1614 to 1664 when it was taken over by the English at the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War.
1820 to 1940. More than 250,000 emigrants left the Netherlands and migrated to North America, Indonesia, Africa, and the West Indies. Many of these emigrants were from the provinces of Friesland and Gelderland. Most settled in Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
1940 to 1970. Thousands of people left after World War II and settled in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.
The Dutch emigrated for several reasons:
- Suppression by religious and government leaders
- The search for new land
- Emigration agents’ glowing accounts
- Letters of encouragement from relatives and friends who had gone before
Emigrants from the Netherlands left records documenting their migration in the country they left as well as in the country they moved to.
The Dutch government compiled lists of emigrants leaving the country from 1845 to 1877. These give each emigrant’s name, age, occupation, religion, municipality of last residence, reason for leaving, and destination. They also list the number of women, children, and servants accompanying the emigrant. The lists are indexed. Only statistics were kept from 1831 to 1844.
These records are described in the Family History Library Catalog as follows:
Nederland. Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken. Emigranten naar Amerika en Andere Landen, 1831–1877 (Emigrants to America and Other Countries, 1831–1877). (FHL film 1393230–1393231.)
There are also lists of emigrants who left after 1877 for the provinces of Friesland, Groningen, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Zuid–Holland. The records are found in the state archives. Some of these have been acquired by the Family History Library.
For these and other emigration records, check the Family History Library Catalog Place search under:
NETHERLANDS – EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Records of departures are called passenger lists. The information in these lists usually includes each emigrant’s name, age, occupation, destination, relationship to traveling companions, and last residence. His or her birthplace may be given.
The Family History Library has microfiche copies of the Holland–America Line passenger lists from the port of Rotterdam for 1900 to 1940. The fiche numbers of these records are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
NETHERLANDS, ZUID–HOLLAND, ROTTERDAM – EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
For the period before 1812, look at notarial records of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other harbor towns such as Dordrecht. There are comprehensive indexes for most of these places. Immigrants often obtained notarized documents before leaving the country. For more information, see the "Notarial Records" section.
The collection Noord-Amerika Chronologie (North America Chronology) contains 5,000 cards abstracted from Amsterdam notarial records. It covers 1598 to 1750 and gives places of origin of immigrants to New Netherland (modern day New York, New Jersey, and Delaware). The collection is available on microfilm at The New York State Library. The address is:
Records of Dutch Emigrants in Their Destination Countries
Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the country he or she emigrated to. The records there may provide his or her place of origin and other information. To learn about these records, use available handbooks, manuals, and research outlines for that country.
Passenger Lists. Most Dutch immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New York and Quebec. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records and some indexes. See the United States Research Topics for more information about United States immigration records.
Important books on Dutch immigrants to the United States and Canada are:
Boyer, Carl, ed. Ship Passenger Lists, New York and New Jersey, 1600–1825. Newhall, California: C. Boyer, 1978. (FHL book 973 W3sa; fiche 6048671.)
Lucas, Henry S. Netherlanders in America: Dutch Immigration to the United States and Canada, 1789–1950. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1955. (FHL book 973 F2dL.)
Swierenga, Robert P. Dutch Immigrants in U.S. Ship Passenger Manifests, 1820–1880: An Alphabetical Listing by Household Heads and Independent Persons. 2 vol. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, 1983. (FHL book Ref 973 W3sr.) A microfiche edition of this work is found on FHL fiche 6200012 to 6200035.