Modern Software Experience

2012-04-09

cover of Dutch Roots

English Guide to Dutch Genealogy

Dutch genealogy

There are many books of interest to Dutch genealogy. There even are plenty of books introducing Dutch genealogy and like so many others, I starting doing genealogy without reading any one of them.

I learned by doing, failing, making mistakes and advice from the helpful staff at the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG). I later picked up a copy of Voorouders Gezocht (Ancestors Wanted), published by the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging (Dutch Genealogical Society) in 1981. It is the only introduction to genealogy I ever read, and I probably did not even read all of it. After all, by the time I finally got myself a genealogy book, I already knew my way around the major Dutch record collections.

Dutch genealogy books

Over time, I've built a small collection of books on specialist genealogy and heraldry topics, of rather variable usefulness; the Gemeentewapens in Nederland (Municipal Coats of Arms in the Netherlands), published in 1989, to commemorate the dodranscentennial of the Bank voor de Nederlandse Gemeenten (Bank for Dutch Municipalities), is a nice book to have, but hardly one I consult regularly. I never bought another introduction to genealogy.

When Rob van Drie, deputy director and head of research services of the Central Bureau for Genealogy wrote Het Stamboomboek (The Family Tree Book) as a companion to Verre Verwanten (Distant Cousins), the Dutch adaptation of Who Do You Think You Are), I was seriously disinterested.

English publication

During a meeting back in 2010, Rob van Drie told me about his plan to write Dutch Roots, an English-language guide to researching Dutch ancestor. The first question that came to mind is whether it had be done before. As far as we could tell, no one had ever written an English introduction to Dutch genealogy yet. There may be some chapters on Dutch genealogy in several English language books, and there is no shortage of books about Dutch migrants in America, but that was about it.
Still, Dutch Roots isn't the very first English-language guide to researching Dutch ancestry.

Searching for Your Ancestors

Back in 1972, the Central Bureau for Genealogy published Searching for your Ancestors in the Netherlands by Willem Wijnaendts van Resandt (1915-2000), a former director of the CBG.
Searching for Your Ancestors is a booklet of only 16 pages, several of which are dedicated to explaining the function of the Central Bureau of Genealogy.
The booklet starts by pointing out that descendants of emigrants need to prepare by doing research in their own country; as without some concrete facts to start with, research is practically impossible. There is no central register of vital records in the Netherlands, each municipality keeps its own records, so you really need to know where your ancestors came from. Go back before 1811, and you will also need to check the baptisation records of the several churches.
The booklet explains the various systems of vital record keeping used during different time periods, what records are available, and how to obtain copies for your research. The booklet points out that archives keep many records besides vital records, but that study of these generally requires a knowledge of both the Dutch language and old handwriting.

Searching for Your Ancestors is a nice brief publication that provides some good information, but it also out of print and seriously dated. Back in 1972, the world-wide web did not exist, and few people outside academic circles had heard about the Internet yet. Nowadays, genealogists complain when it takes service providers a few days to load all images of the USA 1940 census into their databases.

dated

Back in 1972, traditional genealogical research was an all-paper affair. Today the Netherlands has a digital civil registration system, paper publications are being replaced by digital ones, genealogical organisations have websites and major record indexes are online. Researchers routinely use genealogy applications, email, bulletin boards and blogs to communicate with each other and publish their research online.

Searching for Your Ancestors is seriously, hopelessly dated. The past few years the CBG has published several Dutch language guides about researching ancestry in former Dutch colonies, and now they've published Dutch Roots, an English-language book about researching ancestry in the Netherlands.

Dutch Roots

Dutch Roots is a new book published by the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG). It is an English-language guide to researching Dutch ancestors written by Rob van Drie. Rob van Drie is not only the deputy director and head of research services of the CBG, he also maintains a genealogy blog, Genealogisch Gezien (Genealogically Viewed), that often includes short English summaries at the end of his Dutch blog posts.

Dutch Roots is the first English-language guide to Dutch genealogy in decades, and, as far as I know, the first full-length English book about Dutch genealogy.

Stamboomboek

It is reasonable to think that Dutch Roots and Het Stamboomboek have a lot in common. These two books were written shortly after another, by the same author, and both are introductions to the same subject, but these two different books were definitely not written for the same audience. Het Stamboomboek is a national publication, aimed at Dutch people becoming interested in their roots, whereas Dutch Roots is an international publication, aimed at genealogical researchers abroad. The Dutch guide helps Dutch people get started, the English guide introduces foreign researchers to the cornucopia of Dutch records.

There naturally are some similarities, but comparison is pointless. The whole point of Dutch Roots is that has been published in English. Dutch Roots is the first English-language guide to Dutch genealogy in decades, and, as far as I know, the first full-length English book about Dutch genealogy.

Searching for Your Ancestor

The 1972 Searching for Your Ancestors is a booklet of 16 pages, several of which are dedicated to explaining the function of the Central Bureau of Genealogy.
The booklet starts by pointing out that descendants of emigrants need to prepare by doing research in their own country; as without some concrete facts to start with, research is practically impossible. There is no central register of vital records in the Netherlands, each municipality keeps its own records, so you really need to know where your ancestors came from. Go back before 1811, and you will also need to check the baptisation records of the several churches.
The booklet explains the various systems of vital record keeping used during different time periods, what records are available, and how to obtain copies for your research. The booklet points out that archives keep many records besides vital records, but that study of these generally requires a knowledge of both the Dutch language and old handwriting.

order

Dutch Roots isn't an updated edition of the 1972 booklet, but a brand new book of a few hundred pages. You can order it from the CBG site, but doing so is a bit awkward. You can find the book is on the CBG's English-language publications page, but the order link is in Dutch; to order the book, you have to click the bestellen (order) link. and when you do click that link, you are not taken to an order form to you can complete your transaction. That link will open your mail application with several fields already filled in, so you can send an email.

Right now, dealing with this less than ideal CBG ordering process is the only way to get yourself a nicely printed copy, but a printed copy is not your only option. Dutch Roots is also available as an ebook of a few hundred megabytes. The EPUB edition will be available soon, the Kindle edition is available from Amazon now. I recommend waiting for the EPUB edition, as Amazon seems to be overcharging for the Kindle edition. The CBG charges € 25 for the printed book, excluding shipping & handling, and € 15 for the ebook, yet Amazon charges € 25,30 for the Kindle edition.

first impression

I received a pre-publication copy of the EPUB edition review.
I did not download the ebook to my Palm T|X or Samsung Galaxy S, but viewed it on my Windows desktop using the free and open source Calibre application. On a first browse through the book, the first thing I noticed is that it is richly illustrated. That made me look for an index to illustration, but there is none.

The second thing I noticed, as I recognised screenshot after screenshot of Dutch genealogical websites, is just how central the web is in this book. Rob van Drie understands that most readers of this book do not live in the Netherlands, and will not be able to visit many archives in person. Luckily, a lot of information, including indexed scans of original records, can be found online, and practically every major Dutch genealogy website is mentioned.

Table of Contents

  1. Basic Information
  2. Emigration
  3. Civil registration (burgelijke stand)
  4. Population registration
  5. Church records (DTB-registers)
  6. Dutch names
  7. Notarial records (notariële bronnen)
  8. Court records (rechterlijke archieven)
  9. Migration records
  10. Tax records (belastingregistratie)
  11. Military records
  12. Coat of arms
  13. Literature on Dutch history
  14. Vocabulary

content and structure

This book does not assume that you are beginning genealogist. This book assumes you already know what genealogy is, and want to learn about Dutch genealogy. It does not assume any previous knowledge about Dutch genealogy.

Dutch Roots starts with a chapter providing some basic information, followed by one on emigration. It then goes on to discuss the various records available, dedicating one chapter to each record type. At appropriate points in between are chapters on population registration and Dutch names. The final chapters discuss Dutch coats of arms, provides a brief list of recommended books on Dutch history, and a helpful list of Dutch words you are likely to come across during your research.
These fourteen chapters are preceded by a brief introduction that remarks on the need for this book; …many people in the world today have Dutch ancestry. We don’t know exactly how many, but it is definitely much, much more than the sixteen million-plus inhabitants of the Netherlands itself..

Basic information

The first chapter, Basic information, is about many different things. Subjects are mentioned only briefly, superficially even, but do not think that means that you can easily skip this chapter. On the contrary, the information in this chapter is essential; you will find Dutch genealogy research a lot easier once you've memorised the basic facts in there.

The first chapter introduces the various administrative levels (country, province, municipality, place), and explains about the record offices and archives at the national, provincial archives and municipal level.
It provides a brief overview of Dutch genealogical societies, many of which publish their own periodical.
A large part of this first chapter is about the Central Bureau of Genealogy (CBG), and for good reason. If you are going to research Dutch genealogy, you will need to become familiar with the CBG and the collections it holds. Research into Dutch genealogy should generally start by checking out the collection of the Central Bureau for Genealogy, to find out what research has already been done for a particular family. The entire catalogue of publications and several digitised collections are available online.

good advice

Dutch Roots is filled with good information and advice. For example, many American researchers have a habit of checking out the digitised microfilms at FamilySearch first. Rob van Drie points out that, although FamilySearch does have lot, it is mistake to do so. Many of the old microfilms that FamilySearch digitised are of low quality to begin with. Many Dutch collections have been filmed again for quality reasons, have been digitised and even been indexed, by native Dutch speakers, and are now online at a Dutch archive, so it really pays to familiarise yourself with these archives and their websites.

web sites

This chapter includes a list of the provincial archives, complete with links. There is no list of links to municipal and regional archives, but the chapter mentions www.archiefnet.nl, which does provide such an overview for both the Netherlands and Flanders.

That the author mentions StamboomNederland, a project of the CBG is understandable, and at the same time the worst advice in there. StamboomNederland is a poor site, even if you are merely trying to search for existing trees. The two best places to search for existing Dutch family trees are Genealogie Online and GeneaNet.

emigration

If you are reading an English guide to Dutch genealogy, that's probably because some Dutch ancestors migrated, so the second chapter is about emigration.
When researching your Dutch ancestry, it is helpful to know where your ancestors came from. There are several collections of emigration records that can help you discover their place of origin. This chapter discusses them and mentions caveats you should be aware of. It highlights all the emigration information that can be found online, on both Dutch and American sites.

Thanks to the many digitised collections and indexes, things are easier than they were back in 1972, but you should still try to find an emigration record. It may provide additional information you were not even looking for.
This chapter is likely to introduce to some lesser known digital sources, such as the emigration cards of Dutch emigrants to Australia.

Dutch records

Most of remaining chapters are about Dutch records. There is no fluff here. There are multiple records types, and all are discussed in some detail. Some of the information discussed, such as the ten-year tables, which used to be an essential index into the civil records, already seems quaint and outdated, but it is not completely irrelevant yet, so it is still in here.

To American genealogist, census records are essential. The Dutch civil registration makes the census practically superfluous. Most Dutch researchers never bother checking the census records, yet even these are discussed.

Dutch names

Quite a few American would-be experts on Dutch genealogy have written there were only two naming system before 1811. That is simply not true. There were three major systems in common usage. This book includes an entire chapter discussing Dutch names that discusses all three systems and more.

web sites

If you haven't researched Dutch ancestors before, you'll be surprised just how many Dutch websites this book mentions. There are national archives, provincial archives and municipal archives. Cemeteries have there own web site and there are several Dutch equivalents to the American Find-A-Grave. The Meertens Institute has a database of Dutch names, their origin and distribution. There is a wide variety of genealogy, history, and military sites, and this book mentions many of these in the course of its topical chapters.

Many pictures, webshots in particular, clearly show the undesirable artefacts so dinstictive of JPEG images.

criticism

Chapter 13, a list of literature on Dutch history, is surprisingly brief; surely there are more than four books the author can recommend?
Problems with my pre-publication copy are that it lacks a table of contents and that there is no index at all. You may not need either one in an electronic edition, but what I really missed was an appendix collecting all links, and the ability to click the links. I do hope the final publication offers both.

Dutch Roots has a strong focus on Dutch web sites, and that make it surprising, for the electronic edition in particular, that it does not include a categorised index of sites.
Many pictures, webshots in particular, clearly show the undesirable artefacts so dinstictive of JPEG images; it keeps surprising me that I have to explain to archives that JPEG is a lossy format, and that screenshots containing text tend to be come out particularly bad. You'd expect archives, including the Central Bureau of Genealogy, to lead by example. The low quality of the webshots distracts from an otherwise fine book, and I really hope these will be redone for a second edition.

conclusion

Dutch Roots is a book I recommend to any English reader wanting to learn about Dutch genealogy. Dutch Roots is a richly illustrated no-fluff English language guide to Dutch genealogy written by a experienced expert. Dutch Roots covers all the major records types and the necessary background information, it is up-to-date with the latest Dutch developments, and realistically focusses on research a foreigner can do online.

details

titleDutch Roots
authorRob van Drie
PublisherCentral Bureau of Genealogy
ISBN978 90 5802 088 8
pages272 pages
priceprinted: € 25
ebook: € 15

updates

2013-06-11 French translation

Dutch Roots has been translated into French. Rechercher ses ancêtres aux Pays-Bas is published by Archives & Culture.

links

Dutch Roots

CBG

Dutch genealogy