An Orphans’ Chamber [weeskamer] was established by the civil authorities of a town to manage the affairs of orphans who inherited property from deceased parents or other relatives. An Orphans’ Chamber is different from an orphanage [weeshuis]. The earliest records begin in the 1400s and usually begin 100 to 200 years before the parish registers. Often family surnames are listed in these records for persons who are only recorded with patronymics in the parish registers.
Orphans’ Chambers were abolished in 1811, although it sometimes took an additional 40 years to settle all of the accounts.
Orphans were normally considered under age until they were 25 years old. Orphans’ Chambers could be "excluded" from administering an estate by a will or notarized exclusion.
The records of Orphans’ Chambers contain names and residences of parents and other relatives, names of children and their ages, guardians, wills, marriage contracts, estate inventories, and accounts. One guardian was usually from the father’s side of the family and one from the mother’s side.
For the most part, Orphans’ Chambers only existed in the provinces of Noord–Holland, Zuid–Holland, and Zeeland and parts of Utrecht. In the other provinces the function of overseeing inheritances of orphans was handled by the courts. See the "Court Records" section for more information.
Locating Guardianship Records
Orphans’ Chamber records are found in state, regional, and municipal archives in the Netherlands. Many of the records have been indexed.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has a large collection of guardianship records. Check the Family History Library Catalog under:
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – GUARDIANSHIP
Orphans’ Chamber records of Noord–Holland were often included with the regular court books. Therefore, also check the catalog under:
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – COURT RECORDS