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Online records: Muster rolls from the Northern Maritime Museum

The website

Today we will have a look at a brand new database: The muster rolls of the Northern Maritime Museum in Groningen, a database launched on the 8th of this month.

The Northern Maritime Museum shows the history of shipbuilding and shipping in the northern parts of the Netherlands from the Middle Ages until the present day. The museum has an informative website, and since last week a database with online Dutch records.

What do they have?

Muster rolls (monsterrollen in Dutch) of the northern provinces, from the period 1806-1937, listing almost 20,000 sailors. The data is collected by dr. Jurjen Richard Leinenga from several archives in the northern provinces. You can find information on wages (in guilders per month), rank, and ships. Johannes Fransens (or Franssens) from Appingedam, for example, was listed as lichtmatroos (ordinary seaman) on the Celeritas in 1869, with a wage of 14 guilders. In 1873, he was matroos (sailor) on the Geessien Schreuder and earned 30 guilders, and in 1874, he was matroos on the Sincerite and earned 40 guilders. There are several other records on him.

Is there an English interface?

Yes, but it's a bit quirky. The link to the database is only available on the Dutch homepage, not on the English homepage, and not in the (Dutch or English) navigation menu. I expect that will change soon. If you click on the English flag on the left hand side, the right hand side is still in Dutch and v.v., you have to change the language on both the left and the right hand side.

How do I use it?

On the Dutch home page, click on the text Zoek in de database (Search the database), in the middle of the page. Or follow this direct link and click on both English flags. Use the links in the navigation menu on the left for background information. To search by name, click Search by family name in the navigation menu on the left, enter a name, and click Search!. If your search is successful, you will get basic information on the sailors found: Name, hometown, age, rank, salary. Click on the number in the first column to find the entire crew. Click on Search in the last column to find out more about the ship.

The search interface and the information pages are available in English, but the data in the database is partly in Dutch. This is mainly an issue for the rank. The most important words to know are kapitein (captain), stuurman (steersman), matroos (sailor), lichtmatroos (ordinary seaman), scheepsjongen (cabin-boy) and kok (cook).

How much does it cost?

Use of the database is free.

Future plans

I could not find any statement about future plans, but I assume the database is a completed project.


If your ancestors are listed on these muster rolls, you can find some interesting tidbits about them that are not easily available elsewhere, like their monthly wage, or the names of their colleagues. I missed only one thing: Images of the muster rolls would be a great addition to this website.

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