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The population register

This is the third part of our Sources for Dutch genealogy series.

The population register

The population register (bevolkingsregister) is similar to a census, but kept up to date. It was introduced nation-wide in 1850, but already existed in several places before that. The population register was maintained by the municipality.

Why were they made?

Nationwide censuses have taken place on a regular basis since 1828. However, information in censuses outdates quickly, and local magistrates needed a better system to keep track of their inhabitants.

What information do they have?

Population registers contained the same information as earlier censuses, but it was kept up to date.

For each household, you can find the names of the people in the household, with their dates and places of birth (in the oldest registers sometimes only the ages), occupations, religions, and family relations. Outdated information was removed (usually by crossing it out), new information was added all the time: New-borns were were added, the deceased were removed, and people who left the household were moved to another page.

Early registers were ordered by address, later registers by family name. But registers were kept in bound volumes, so it was not possible to add pages at the right location, and after a while the pages were out of order. There is usually a contemporary name index (and sometimes address index) to find information in the register.

Once in a while the register became too full (or too messy), and a new register was started. Data from the old register that was still relevant was copied into the new register, and the old register was archived away.

Because of all the copying, the population registers contain many errors. You should always check names and birth and death dates with the BMD acts of the civil register.

Around 1900 (earlier in some places, later in others), a new, loose-leave system was introduced: the so-called gezinskaarten (family cards). A full (or messy) page could easily be replaced, or an additional page could be added. These cards contain the same information as the earlier bound volumes, and when you look at scans or microfilmed copies, you may not even know you are dealing with gezinskaarten.

The gezinskaarten were replaced by persoonskaarten in 1939, this is the topic of the next post. Stay tuned!

Where can I find them?

Population registers can be found in local or regional archives. For towns without a local archive that do not participate in a regional archive, the registers can be consulted in the town hall. The Central Bureau for Genealogy has microfilmed copies of the population registers of many towns in their study room in The Hague. Unfortunately, population registers are rarely available online, and the LDS has filmed only a few registers.


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Blogger Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, Henk,

How often were these registers updated? Was it done on a regular basis, like every New Year or every summer? Or were updates made as the registrars were informed of them?

How was new and updated information gathered? Were the citizens required to go to an office and give the new or updated information, or did the officials visit every home?

This is great information; thanks for educating us!

Blogger Henk van Kampen said...

In most cases, they were updated as registrars were informed. People had to register events like births, deaths and changes of address at the town hall (actually, we still have to do that). The court would also inform registrars of certain events (e.g. divorces, bankruptcies, imprisonments). Registrars also made spot checks, but I'm not aware of any official guidelines for these checks. And once every ten years there was a national census, so that was also a good time to verify all information in the population register.

Of course, in small villages everyone knew everything about everyone, so the registrars also knew when it was time to update the registers.


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