The Netherlands Finding Town of Origin

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The FamilySearch moderator for The Netherlands is Daniel Jones.

Finding Town of Origin

Finding the Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

In order to research your family in the Netherlands, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. You must know the city, town, or parish that they came from. it will be difficult to identify the place of origin by going directly to Dutch sources. Therefore, you will need to search in United States (or other country of arrival) sources first.

Important Tips[edit | edit source]

Before you can begin to search in the records of the Netherlands you must find that one record that gives the name of his or her hometown. You must also know enough about the ancestor to positively identify him in the records. Dates (even if they are approximate), places, and familial connections are key to helping you decide if a person you find, who has the same name as your ancestor, really is your ancestor.

  • Do you know the name of his/her parents?
  • Do you know his/her birth, marriage, or death date or can you calculate an approximate range of years to search for his/her birth, marriage, or death?
  • Do you know the name of the spouse? Did they marry before or after coming to the United States?
  • Do you know the names of any of his/her siblings?
  • Do you know the names of any children born in the Netherlands?

Documents in the Home[edit | edit source]

Often the document you need to pinpoint the place of origin of your ancestor from the Netherlands is already found at home. These might include the following:

  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates or licenses
  • Death certificates
  • Obituaries
  • Funeral cards
  • Journals
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Family Bible
  • Naturalization papers
  • Citizenship papers
  • Military service records

Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives[edit | edit source]

Find the oldest living relatives that you can and ask them:

  1. What do you know about our first ancestor to come from the Netherlands? (open-ended)
  2. Have you ever heard mention of towns in the Netherlands where the family lived?
  3. Do you have contact with any relatives in the Netherlands?
  4. . Do you have contact with other branches of the family in the U.S.?
  5. . When _____________ came from the Netherlands, did he travel with other family members?
  6. . Do you know when _________________ arrived and which port city?
  7. Did _______________ever become a citizen?
  8. Did_________________fight in World War I or II?
  9. When they first came, were there already family members here who they joined?
  10. Did_______________ever mention their parents in the Netherlands?
  11. Were they Catholic?
  12. Do you have any old letters or postcards from your the Netherlands family?
  13. Do you have any pictures of family members in the Netherlands?

Search Genealogies Compiled by Others[edit | edit source]

Records of The Netherlands[edit | edit source]

Make Sure You Found the Correct Entry for Your Ancestor[edit | edit source]


There may be many types of indexed records that cover parts, even large parts of the Netherlands. Searching those indexes by name only can turn up several entries of the same name. Never jump to an immediate conclusion that you have found an entry that matches your ancestor. Study the information for other clues that verify the match.

  • Make sure the person you found in Dutch records left the Netherlands. Look for them in marriage and death records of the same vicinity. See whether they have children a generation later in the vicinity. These things prove they remained in the Netherlands and would rule them out as your ancestor.
  • Match any other relationships. If you already know the parents' names, spouse's name, and/or siblings' names, make sure they match the parents' names, spouse's name, and/or siblings' names of the person you are considering in the Dutch records. The parents and grandparents will usually be listed in birth records found in church records or civil records. Search for siblings' birth records and any marriage before leaving the Netherlands in the same index.
  • Study all available entries for that name born at the same approximate time, not just the first possible match you see.
  • Consider the coverage of the database you are using. Does it cover all of the Netherlands? Or could there be many other records not covered that could hold your ancestor's record.
  • Make sure the details you have learned about the person after they immigrate have no discrepancies with the person you found in Dutch records.

Nationwide Indexes[edit | edit source]

It is possible to search some indexes being developed that cover the whole country. In that sense, it may seem that you can search for your ancestor without knowing the town. But notice these cautions:

1. The index might show several individuals with identical names, very close dates, and partially similar parents' names. You will need as much detail as possible, taken from other records about your ancestor, to correctly pick your ancestor out of all these duplicates.
2. Since the index is incomplete, your ancestor might not have been added to it yet. You might mistakenly settle for an entry that seems the closest match, simply because the correct match is not available yet.

Use these indexes. But first locate all the detail you can in other records about the family. Expect a high level of matching before trusting your connection to an entry: exact matching dates, matching parents, matching siblings, matching spouses, matching children. Verify that the person you choose did not die in the Netherlands.

Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

Records to Search Created in the United States[edit | edit source]

Census Records[edit | edit source]

  • Search census records, available for the United States, Canada, England, and other countries. Censuses are often taken every ten years.
  • Try to locate your ancestor in every census during which he or she was alive. This information provides a good framework for further research.
  • The 1850-1880 U.S. federal censuses sometimes lists a Dutch state or province as birth place.
  • The censuses for 1900 to 1930 ask for the year of immigration and whether or not the person was naturalized. This information can help you find naturalization records or a passenger list.
  • Censuses can be accessed online. Links to both free and subscription websites are found at United States Census Online Genealogy Records.
  • State census records vary in availability and the type of information they contain, but they are always useful as another source to document an ancestor in a specific locality. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online state censuses.

Example: This 1900 census shows the birthdate and birthplace of the head of the household and his parents as Amsterdam, Holland (in red). It tells the year he immigrated, how many years he has lived in the U.S. and whether he is a citizen.

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Vital Records[edit | edit source]

Vital records, or civil birth, marriage, and death records document important events in an ancestor’s life. Many states have posted statewide indexes on the Internet. Understand that any birth, marriage, or death certificate gives information about other people besides the primary person it is about

  • 1. It is important to remember that a birth certificate for a child might tell it's parents' birthplaces.
  • 2. Marriage certificates might name birth dates and places of the bride and groom. They might also give the names and birth places of the parents of the bride and groom.
  • 3. Death certificates are very important. Birth and marriage certificates might not have kept by a state during the earlier years of your ancestor's life. There is a greater chance that your ancestor died after detailed record-keeping began. Death certificates frequently state birth date and place. They also state the names of parents and their birth places.

There are wiki articles giving details on how to find vital records of each state.

  • You can select the state of interest and the record (birth, marriage, or death) from this list:

How-To Articles.

Example: This Michigan death certificate gives the birthdate of the deceased, her birthplace in Holland, the names of her parents, and their birthplace in Holland.

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Example: This Montana marriage certificate gives the birthdate of the groom, his birthplace in Holland, and the names of his parents.

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Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Websites such as FindAGrave and Billion Graves are making it easier to get information from headstones, which frequently give birth dates, and occasionally give birth places. Each state has additional collections of cemetery records. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to other online cemetery records. Every state also has a Cemetery topic page you can search, for example, California Cemeteries, Washington Cemeteries. etc.

Example: This FindAGrave entry gives the birthdate, birthplace in Holland, and at least part of the parents' names.

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Obituaries[edit | edit source]

Obituaries are an excellent source of biographical information about immigrants. In addition to names and death dates, you can learn about surviving family members, church affiliations, spouses, parents, occupations, burial places, and hometowns in the old country. Even if a place of origin is not given, an obituary may provide additional research clues, such as the date or ship of immigration or traveling companions. Much of this information cannot be found in other sources. For many immigrants, an obituary is the only “biographical sketch” ever written about them. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online obituary collections. If the town of death is known, Google newspapers in that town and contact them to see if they kept archives of their obituaries.

Example: Although this obituary gives only the province and not the town of birth in the Netherlands, it does give complete information on the marriage. Using that information, we can locate the original marriage record, which will state the birthplace and enable us to find the original birth record.

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Social Security[edit | edit source]

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Military Records[edit | edit source]

Draft records for World War I and II ask for birth place, which can be listed as just the Netherlands or in greater detail.

U.S. WW I Draft Registration Card

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U.S., World War II Draft Registration Card

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Passenger Arrival Lists[edit | edit source]

Passenger lists, especially in the 20th century, may list birth place, last residence in mother country, and name and residence of a close relative in the mother country. Study the records of fellow passengers, as frequently relatives and neighbors traveled together. United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records is a comprehensive list of passenger arrival databases that you can search right now from your computer. There are many, many databases. The following search strategy will make your search more efficient.

Suggested Search Strategy[edit | edit source]

  1. Check the partner website indexes, as these cover many, many databases at once. The FamilySearch Historical Records databases is free to search with a free registered account. The other websites are subscription-based but can be searched for free at a Family History Center near you. Try to search each partner site because their search engines can often bring up slightly different results.
  2. If it is difficult for you to get access to the subscription databases, next try Additional Nationwide Collections Not Included in Partner Sites. These websites have a lot of overlap with the subscription websites.
  3. Search a nationality, religious, or political group collection that applies to your ancestor.
  4. Search the state collection for the first state where your ancestor lived.

Example: This first page of passenger list gives several clues that can lead to records in the Netherlands.

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Example: The second page of a passenger list gives the birthplace in the Netherlands. It can also state information on other relatives.

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Naturalization Records[edit | edit source]

  • Naturalization records may also list an ancestor’s birth place.
  • Prior to 1906 any U.S. court could naturalize foreigners. Many pre-1900 records only list “Netherlands” as the country of citizenship; however, there are notable exceptions, so these records should be checked routinely.
  • The process involved two sets of papers: a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen, and a petition filed some time later.
  • Beginning in 1906, naturalization records became more detailed, as the responsibility shifted to the Federal government.
  • More information about naturalization records, along with helpful links, is found at Beginning Research in United States Naturalization Records and United States Naturalization and Citizenship Online Genealogy Records.

Passport Applications[edit | edit source]

Example: This passport application gives the birthdate and birthplace of the applicant in the Netherlands, his father's name and birthplace,

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Alien Registration[edit | edit source]

Example: This online index entry for an A-File gives minimal identifying information. You then send for the full file which can contain birth records, marriage records, and other legal documents.

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