Netherlands Notarial Records
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Notarial records [notariële akten] are records prepared by a notary public [notaris]. Notary publics were quasigovernment officials who received their appointment by the provincial court upon recommendation of the officials of the town where they planned on practicing. The notarial system is based on Roman law and was established in the Netherlands by Charles V in the 1500s. With a few exceptions, there were no notaries in the provinces of Drenthe, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg (some parts), and Overijssel. Notaries became government employees in 1811 and were appointed in the provinces where formerly there were none.
Notarial records often do not contain their own indexes. Fortunately, the Dutch archives are indexing the notarial records. Always check for the existence of indexes before using the records. Large towns had several notaries at one time. Cumulative indexes for these places will save you an enormous amount of time. For example, such indexes have been created for Amsterdam, Breda, Dordrecht, Haarlem, ’s-Gravenhage, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.
While you will find all kinds of legal documents in notarial records, the most useful for genealogical research include:
- Wills [testamenten].
- Marriage contracts [huwelijksvoorwaarden].
- Divisions of estates [boedelscheidingen or akten van scheiding en deling].
- Appointments of guardians [benoemingen van voogden or voogdij].
- Land transfers [transporten van onroerend goed, akten van verkoop, vestbrieven or recognitieën].
- Mortgages [hypotheken].
A very useful handbook for notarial records is:
Gehlen, A. Fl. Notariële Akten uit de 17e en 18e Eeuw: Handleiding voor Gebruikers (Notarial Documents from the 17th and 18th Centuries: Handbook for Users). Zutphen: De Walburg Pers, 1986. (FHL book 949.2 N37g.)
Locating Notarial Records
While some notarial records have been destroyed, many still survive. They are found in the state, regional, and municipal archives. The following book describes the whereabouts of all known notarial records; it is arranged by locality and by the name of the notary:
- Hartong, F. L. Register der Protocollen van Notarissen in Nederland: Samengesteld in Opdracht van de Broederschap der Notarissen in Nederland van [circa] 1550 tot Heden (Register of Notarial Records in the Netherlands from about 1550 to Today). [Rotterdam]: De Broederschap, 1916. (FHL book 949.2 N24h; film 599146 item 1.)
If you do not find records for your ancestor’s town of residence, try searching the records of nearby towns. Most notaries had clients from a wide geographical area. Furthermore, families often continued using the same notary even though they had moved elsewhere.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has many Dutch notarial records on microfilm. Most are from the provinces of Noord–Holland, Zuid–Holland, Utrecht, and Zeeland and are pre–1811 records. Check the Family History Library Catalog under:
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE] – NOTARIAL RECORDS
NETHERLANDS, [PROVINCE], [TOWN] – NOTARIAL RECORDS
In many ways, notarial records are simply a subset of court records. Both contain the same kinds of documents. For that reason you should use this article in connection with the Netherlands Court Records and Netherlands Guardianship.