Netherlands History

From FamilySearch Wiki
Revision as of 12:17, 7 February 2009 by JensenFA (talk | contribs) (fixed table of contents for the page)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. These events may have led to the creation of records such as land and military documents that mention your family.

Your ancestors will become more interesting to you if you also use histories to learn about the events they may have participated in. For example, by using a history you might learn about the events that occurred in the year your great-grandparents were married.

During the 15th century the Netherlands had a population of nearly 750,000 people, most of whom made their living by farming or fishing. Only about 7 percent of the people lived in towns. By the 17th century the picture had changed completely. The country had a population of about two million, with about 45 percent residing in the towns. In the provinces bordering the seacoast, many people were employed in industry and the trades while the people of the inland provinces were engaged primarily in agriculture.

In the 18th century there was a definite decline in the trades and industry. This, in turn, caused high unemployment, and public assistance became a burden. Town governments sought to combat the problem through various statutes aimed at curtailing the movement of the poor.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

Below are some key dates and events in the history of the Netherlands.

1576 The provinces of Holland and Zeeland were unified. The 17 provinces of the Netherlands (north and south) were also unified into what was called the Pacification of Ghent.

1579 The southern provinces broke with the Pacification of Ghent; the northern provinces formed the Union of Utrecht.

1579 The southern provinces broke with the Pacification of Ghent; the northern provinces formed the Union of Utrecht.

1588 Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was founded.

1614-1664 New Netherland Colony settled in North America from Cape Cod to Virginia. Taken over by the English at the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

1648 The Peace of Munster ended the 80-year war for independence. The Dutch Republic was officially recognized as a nation.

1685 Edict of Nantes (a decree issued by Henry IV of France in 1598 that gave political equality to the Huguenots) was revoked. Consequently, there was a heavy influx of Huguenots into the Netherlands (by 1686 there were 75,000), resulting in the founding of many French Reformed Church congregations.

1795 The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands was overthrown, and the Batavian Republic, patterned after the French republic, was established. Zeeuws Flanders, Flanders, and Dutch areas in Limburg were annexed to France.

1805 The Batavian Republic was dissolved, and the Kingdom of Holland was established, with Louis Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, as king.

1810 The Kingdom of Holland was dissolved, and the territory was annexed to the French Empire.

1814 French troops left the country. Prince Willem VI of Orange–Nassau became King Willem I, and a new constitution was adopted.

1815 The former Southern (or Austrian) Netherlands became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

1831 The people of the former Southern Netherlands rebelled and set up their own government. This was the beginning of the Kingdom of Belgium.

1839 Belgium was recognized as an independent nation, and border disputes were resolved. Limburg became a province of the Netherlands.

1840 The province of Noord–Holland was created by a division of the province of Holland. The remaining part of the province of Holland later came to be known as Zuid–Holland.

Histories at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library has many published national, regional, provincial, and local histories for the Netherlands. You can find histories in the Family History Library Catalog under one of the following:





The following are only a few of the many historical sources that are available. Books with film numbers can be ordered through local Family History Centers. Some may be found in major research libraries.

  • Grattan, Thomas. Holland: The History of the Netherlands. New York: Peter Fenelon Collier, 1899. (FHL film 1181862 item 5.)
  • Historical Background Affecting Genealogical Research in the Netherlands. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1977. (FHL book 929.1 G286gs ser. C no. 32; fiche 6001722.) This work emphasizes religious minorities and emigration.
  • Kurian, George Thomas. The Benelux Countries. New York: [s.n.], 1989. (FHL book 949.3 H2k.)

Calendar Changes[edit | edit source]

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar commonly used in the world today. It is a correction of the Julian calendar, which had been in use since A.D. 46. Leap years had been miscalculated in the Julian calendar, so by 1582 the calendar was 10 days behind the solar year. For calendar conversion go to

Brabant, Zeeland, and lands belonging to the States General (mostly Limburg) adopted the Gregorian calendar on 14 December 1582. The days 15 December through 24 December 1582 were dropped to correct the calendar error. Holland adopted the calendar on 1 January 1583 (omitting 2 January through 11 January).

The last areas adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1700 and 1701. In the province of Gelderland the Gregorian calendar was adopted 30 June 1700 (omitting 1 July through 11 July 1700), in Utrecht and Overijssel on 30 November 1700 (omitting 1 December through 11 December 1700), in Friesland and Groningen on 31 December 1700 (omitting 1 January through 11 January 1701), and in Drenthe on 30 April 1701 (omitting 1 May through 11 May 1701).

Double Dating[edit | edit source]

When an area changed from Julian to Gregorian calendars, the first day of the year changed to 1 January. Before the change the first day of the year was 25 March. Pre-change dates may be confusing. For example, before the change, 24 March 1565 was followed by 25 March 1566. Many researchers record dates between 1 January and 24 March with two years, using a technique called double dating. An example of a pre-change date using double dating is 16 February 1573/1574.

Alternative Month Names[edit | edit source]

Sometimes you will find these old Dutch names for the months of the year:

Dutch English
Louwmaand January
Sprokkelmaand February
Lentemaand March
Grasmaand April
Bloeimaand May
Zomermaand June
Hooimaand July
Oogstmaand August
Herfstmaand September
Wijnmaand October
Slachtmaand November
Wintermaand December

French Republican Calendar[edit | edit source]

During 1793 to 1805, when the French Empire under Napoleon controlled parts of the Netherlands, another calendar was introduced. This calendar was based on the founding of the French Republic, and it used a system of months unrelated to the regular calendar. See the library publication French Republican Calendar Research Outline for more information.