The use of surnames in the Netherlands occurs in what I describe in three distinctive ‘waves’
- Pre 1800 a name was used by some men which related to their place of origin or occupation, especially if this occupation had run across several generations. This was so you could distinguish one Johan from other, though it was not the norm.
- Usage of surnames from around 1800, which was much later than other European countries. We now see people using a loose Patronymic structure where it was using the name of the father, and essentially the name changed each generation and this was the usual way people were identified from one another.
- Mandatory surnames from 1811 following instructions from Napoleon Bonaparte.
Many Dutch surnames have a prefix, these are:
- Van – of
- Ter – at
- Van der – the
Some example are:
- De Groot – this becomes Degroot in databases
- Van der Bilt – this becomes Vanderbilt
In Dutch indexes the prefix is ignored, whereas in the UK this can be recorded as Degroot as in the Netherlands or De Groot and therefore under D.
Having become mandatory from 1811 everyone was required to select a name that was to be permanent for the family. Here is the details of surname types selected by the Dutch population:
- Patronymic Surnames – Many took this option as it was likely to have been in some use previously.
- Occupation Surnames – This was probably the second most popular option selected – here are a few examples
- Koek translates to cookie and was often used by bakers
- Balk translates to beam and likely selected by someone was a carpenter
- Timmerman also translates to carpenter
- Slager translates to Butcher
- Boer translates to farmer
- Geographic Surnames
- Name of town of origin
- Name of a feature or landmark
- Names ending in:
- ink – likely to be from Overijssel
- ing – likely to be from Drenthe
- inc – likely to be from Gelderland
- inga, ma or stra – likely to have originated in Friesland
- Where the name relates to a building, farm, or road for example it might be possible with the use of a map to locate the actual building or location and perhaps identify, with some research the individual who first adopted the name.
- Surnames based on nicknames or Characteristics – Based upon fact or perhaps ironic – examples
- fat translates to vet
- skinny translates to mager
- red hair translates to rood haar (name likely to be roodhaar)
- Surnames given to Foundlings – Names might be given as
- Zondernaam which translates to without name or they might have been given the name of the place where they were found. Registration might also be written as Int’veld which means in the field
Many thought this was to be a temporary requirement, or only to be used in official situations, and chose names that were funny