A gazetteer is a dictionary of place names. Gazetteers describe towns and villages, municipalities and provinces, rivers and mountains, populations, and other geographical features. They usually include only the names of places that existed at the time the gazetteer was published. The place names are generally listed in alphabetical order, similar to a dictionary.
Gazetteers may also provide additional information about towns, such as:
- The population.
- The different religious denominations.
- The schools, colleges, and universities.
- Major manufacturing works, canals, docks, and railroad stations.
You can use a gazetteer to locate the places where your ancestor lived and to determine the civil and church jurisdictions over those places. For example, Vemde is a small village that belongs to the municipality of Epe in the province of Gelderland. You would need to look in the records of Epe to find information about people who came from Vemde.
Some places in the Netherlands have the same or similar names. You will need to use a gazetteer to identify the specific town where your ancestor lived, the province it was in, and the jurisdictions where records were kept.
Gazetteers are also helpful for determining municipality jurisdictions as used in the Family History Library Catalog.
Finding Place Names in the Family History Library Catalog
Place names in the Family History Library Catalog are listed under the names and provinces as they existed in 1968. To find the province that a town is filed under in the Family History Library Catalog, you can use the "see" references on the first Family History Library Locality Catalog microfiche of each country. If you are using the catalog on compact disc, use the "Locality Browse" search. The computer will find places with that name.
Dutch places are listed in the Family History Library Catalog by the name and province listed in:
- Laan, Kornelis ter. Van Goor’s Aardrijkskundig Woordenboek van Nederland (Van Goor’s Geographic Dictionary of the Netherlands). Den Haag: Van Goor Zonen, 1968. (FHL book 949.2 E2tL; not on microfilm.)
Modern Place Names
For some research purposes such as correspondence it is useful to learn modern jurisdictions for the area where your ancestor lived. This may also be helpful when finding the ancestral town on modern maps. The following listing of place names is kept current as changes are made to the boundaries and names of municipalities:
- Lijst van Nederlandse Gemeenten (List of Dutch Municipalities). 2 vol. ’s-Gravenhage: VUGA Uitgeverij, 1995–1999. (FHL book Ref 949.2 E5L; not on microfilm.) This source will give the address and phone number of the municipal hall (municipal secretary), which keeps civil registration records and population registers not yet deposited in government archives. It is also valuable because it tells which municipality a place has belonged to since 1830.
Historical Place Names
Because names and boundaries of some places have changed or no longer exist, you may need to use sources that describe places as they were known earlier. Some of the historical national gazetteers that identify places in the Netherlands are:
- Aa, Abraham Jacobus van der. Aardrijkskundig Woordenboek der Nederlanden (Geographical Dictionary of the Netherlands). 13 vol. Gorinchem: Jacobus Noorduyn, 1839–1851. (FHL book 949.2 E5a; film 496582–496590.) This historical dictionary also includes places in Belgium, Indonesia, Luxembourg, and Suriname, all of which were formerly part of the Netherlands.
- Witkamp, P. H. Aardrijkskundig Woordenboek van Nederland (Geographical Dictionary of the Netherlands). Tiel: D. Mijs, 1877. (FHL book 949.2 E26w; film 1573201 item 1.) This book gives less history than the preceding one but gives valuable information in a concise format.
These sources are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under:
NETHERLANDS – GAZETTEERS
See also the "Names, Geographical" section.