Modern Software Experience


distribution map

Dutch census

In 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War, the Dutch government conducted a census.

The first Dutch census took place in 1795, the second one in 1830, and they happened regularly with ten year intervals after that. On 1879 Apr 22, a law was passed that there would be a census every ten years, and the practice of one census every decade continued until the Second World War.
There was no census in 1939 or 1940, and it was two years after the war, in 1947, that the Dutch government conducted a census again. The next two census took place in 1956 and 160. The census of 1971 is not just the latest one, it is the last one ever. There was much concern about privacy and protest against that one already, and the 1981 census was first postponed, then cancelled. The law that there should be census has been repelled.

virtual census

The government is not organising any real census anymore, but Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) collects lots of electronic data and creates a yearly Social Statistical File, informally known as the virtual census.

census digitisation

Digitisation of the Dutch census started back in 1997. Many institutions were involved in multiple projects in three phases. The overall project is not finished yet, but the data available on the site Volkstellingen 1795-1971 (Census 1795-1971). The site includes an overview of the various projects that form the basis of its creation.

The Volkstellingen site offers both images and Excel tables, but it is a work in progress. All data currently being offered is raw data, that still needs to be checked. The site already offers more than 40.000 digitised records pages, and should eventually offer digitised copy of all the hand-written tables.

The site is bilingual, it supports both Dutch and English. However, the census themselves are in Dutch so even with the English interface, some it may hard to understand for those who do not read Dutch.

It is important to understand that the site offers the statistical data only. It does not offer data on any individual or household.

Meertens Institute

For years, the Meertens Institute has been offering a family name database based on the 1947 census. You can enter a family name, and it shows the number of name bearers in each province and the three largest cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague).

There are two obvious complaints about this geocoded data; the resolution is very limited and the data is half a century old. There where there less than 10 million Dutch people back then and there are more than 16 million now, and many of these are first, second or third-generation immigrations whose family name did not occur in 1947 at all.

De Vries in Meertens NFD 1947

This screenshot shows the 1947 data for the Dutch name De Vries, one of the most common Dutch names.


Many Dutch genealogist have been using It provides distribution of family names based on the phonebook of 1993.

The Dutch phonebook had become available on CD-ROM in 1992. The poor encryption used on the CD-ROM was cracked in 1993, and a programs to read all the data into a database have been publicly available since. The data has been used for various purposes, most famously a reverse lookup.

The site does not show the distribution for each province, but down to the postal code areas for municipalities, which gives a good idea of the national distribution of a name.
The site is currently asking for a user name and password and then fails with an error message. is a similar site for Belgium, which is based on official government data for 1998.

De Vries in, the Dutch site for (Dynastree), also provides name distribution maps based on the telephone book. The map is comically ugly, but they do provide a table of place names and how often each name occurs there. Verwandt also allows you to embed the distribution map on your web site.

Family Names Bank

On 2009 December 2, the Meertens Institute unveiled the Nederlandse Familienamen Bank (literally: Dutch Family Names Bank, but translated as Corpus of Family Names in the Netherlands). The databank contains all 314.000 family names that occurs in the municipal administration, and for more than 100.000 names contains additional information as well.

The Nederlandse Familienamen Bank (NFD) allows you to enter a family name to see the name distribution down to the level of the municipalities.
It shows the total number of name bearers for 2007 as well as for 1947, and allows you to click through to the see the 1947 data per province.

The map only shows distribution maps for names with at least five name bearers. The page does not include a table, but if you allow JavaScript and mouse over a region, the name of the municipality and the exact number of name bearers living there in 2007 are shown in a tooltip.

De Vries in Meertens NFD 2007

Distribution of the name De Vries in 2007. This image clearly shows that the name is most common in the northern province of Friesland.


The database does not just provide distribution maps. The row of Dutch links along the top link to pages that provide analysis and explanation, documentation, variations and external links. The links and the pages they link to are in Dutch, but with a tool like Google Translate you should be able to make some sense of it.

analysis and explanation

For De Vries, the analysis and explanation is

Deze familienaam identificeert een Fries, een persoon afkomstig uit Friesland of iemand met Friese wortels. In de vroege middeleeuwen duidde de volksnaam degenen aan die in de gehele kuststrook woonden, in het gebied dat als Frisia of Fresia bekend stond, van Wezer tot Zwin. Pas in de 11e eeuw kwam de naam Holland in zwang voor het Westfriese deel dat nu globaal de provincies Zuid- en Noord-Holland omvat, van Vlie tot Maas. Het is opvallend dat deze naam ten tijde van de naamsaanneming onder het bewind van de Fransen in 1811-12 massaal door inwoners van Friesland is aangenomen. Een gebaar van regionaal bewustzijn of uit gemak?

A fairly literal English translation of the above:

This family name identifies a Frisian, a person from Friesland or someone with Frisian roots. In the early Middle Ages the common name indicated those who lived along the entire coastal line of the area known as Frisia or Fresia, from Wezer to Zwin. Only in the 11th century did the name Holland come into vogue for the part of West Frisia that roughly includes what are now the provinces of South- and North Holland, from Vlie to Maas. It is remarkable that, during the adoption of family names under French rule in 1811-12, the inhabitants of Friesland massively adopted this name. A gesture of regional awareness or easiness?

The database does not just provide a short explanation for the name, but also notes that it is a herkomstnaam (literally: origin name), a geographical name that identifies the region of origin.


The documentation page list consulted sources and early occurrences of the name in official documents and Dutch literature. The variations page lists known variations of the name, such as De Freese, Fries and De Vrijs. This list includes double names that have De Vries as part of the familyname, such as De Vries van Leeuwen or Ten Cate de Vries.

external links

There is just one external link for De Vries, and it is a link to the Central Bureau of Genealogy. That is a bit surprising, as the external links often include links to individual genealogy sites. You might expect the page for De Vries to link to a lot of these, but the Meertens Institute does not actively search for these sites.


There is an email address on the external links page. If you have a name of Dutch origin and maintain a genealogy site, you can use that email address to inform the Meertens Institute about your web site.



The site is still active, but the site is not. The broken link has been removed.