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A second look at the population register

We looked at the population register (bevolkingsregister) before, but there is a lot more to tell about this register than I could in an introductory blog article.

In this article we will have a look at a few other aspects of the population register:

  • Population registers list addresses, but not necessarily as street name and house number. We will have a look at the addresses you may find.
  • The Remarks column may give you some exciting clues for further research.
  • There are many abbreviations used in the registers, especially in the remarks and religion columns. I will explain some of the most frequently used abbreviations.
  • Gezinskaarten are sorted alphabetically on name, earlier registers may be sorted differently. We will have a look at how the registers are sorted.
  • And finally, we will see how the population register was (and is) maintained.

I will assume you already know a few things about the Dutch population register, if not please read my earlier article The population register.

Addresses in the population register

The population register nearly always contains addresses, but not necessarily in a recognizable form. In early registers houses are numbered per district, and an address will often be a letter (for the district) plus a number: A134 is house 134 in district A. Villages and small towns sometimes use numbers only. Sometimes you will also find the street name on the register, but often the district and sequence number is all you have.

The population register often contains a table (usually called concordans, concordance) to find the street and house number from a district and sequence number. The concordance is part of the population register, so you will find it at the same place as the rest of the register.

Later registers contain a street and house number. If a family moved, the address was striked out and a new address was added. Some families, especially from the labouring classes, moved a lot, and the address section on the register can be messy, sometimes indecipherable.

Keep in mind that the addresses in the registers and concordance may have changed: Streets have been renamed or renumbered, and sometimes disappeared. Occasionally, new streets get the same name as a former (or even existing) street.

Remarks column

The remarks column sometimes contains surprising facts about your family, or put you on the trace of a family story you would not have found otherwise. A few things you may find in the remarks column:

  • Bankruptcy, with the dates the bankruptcy started and ended, and the court that pronounced the bankruptcy.
  • Emigration, sometimes with destination.
  • Imprisonment, sometimes with the name and location of the prison, and the court that passed the sentence.
  • Insanity, maybe with the name and location of an asylum.


When you study the population register, you will discover there are lots of abbreviations used, especially in the Remarks and Religion columns. We list the most common ones.

AKAparte kaartSeparate cardOften used on gezinskaarten, when one of the household members left to start his own household.
BDBuitengewoon dienstplichtigExtraordinary conscriptConscript that will not be called up for active service
DDoopsgezindBaptistFound in the Religion column
GDGewoon dienstplichtigOrdinary conscriptConscript that has been/will be called up for active service
geennoneFound in the Religion column
HHoofdHeadSometimes found in the occupation column. It means that someone is his own boss, either self-employed or a business owner.
HHuwelijk, GehuwdMarriage, Married
hvhuisvrouw vanwife of
IRInvaliditeitsrenteDisability benefitBenefit from a (compuslory) disability insurance for employees, introduced in 1919
LSLandstormmember of the LandstormThe Landstorm was an army reserve of volunteers who could be called up in case of mobilization. Existed from 1918 until 1940.
NGNederlands GereformeerdDutch ReformedFound in the Religion column. Found in early registers, later replaced by NH. Note: You may also find Nederduits(ch) Gereformeerd, this is the same church.
NHNederlands HervormdDutch ReformedFound in the Religion column. NH is the same religion as NG. NH is a more modern name.
NINederlands IsraelitischDutch IsraeliteThe religion of most Dutch Jews. Found in the religion column.
OOndergeschiktesubordinateSometimes found in the occupation column. It means they are an employee.
OOngehuwdNot married
OROuderdomsrenteold age benefitBenefit from a (compuslory) disability insurance for employees, introduced in 1919. It paid employees who became disabled or reached the age of 70 (later 65) a small allowance.
PKPersoonskaartSometimes found in the remarks column of a gezinskaart. It means a persoonskaart was created for this person.
RC, RKRooms Catholiek/KatholiekRoman CatholicFound in the Religion column
SScheiding, GescheidenDivorce, Divorced
vo, vowvertrokken onbekend (waarheen)departed unknown (destination)
vocvertrokken onbekend [waarheen], controledeparted unknown [destination], inspectionan inspector (or census taker) discovered that someone did not live at the registered address anymore, and it is unknown where they are now
VTVolkstellingCensusThis usually means some information was updated because the census taker discovered it was out of date

Sorting of the register

The first registers are sorted on address (district and sequence number, usually not on street name). You will often find several families listed at the same address (and thus on the same page), either because they shared a house or because they lived there successively. There is usually a contemporary index on family name.

Later registers are sorted on family name, but usually only on the first two or three letters (this varies from town to town), so Smid will sort before Snoek, but not necessarily before Smits.

Gezinskaarten are nearly always sorted alphabetically on family name.

There are often contemporary indexes on people with a different surname than the head of the household (like wifes, stepchildren, live-in parents in law). Usually these indexes are also sorted on the first two or three letters of the surname, sometimes also on the full surname.

If the head of the household is a married or widowed woman, she will usually be sorted under her husband's name, even though her maiden name is listed in the register.

The population register (with the exception of the gezinskaarten) consisted of bound volumes, so it was not always possible to insert a family at the correct place. Sometimes there are supplements to the population register where these families are listed. If you can't find a family in the register while you know they should be there, check the supplements and the indexes.

Maintaining the population register

After my previous article on the population register, Miriam Midkiff asked how the registers were maintained.

In most places, the population register started in 1850 and was based on the 1849 census. To keep the registers up to date, people were (and still are) required to register births, deaths, marriages, and address changes with the municipality. Occasionally, the register was updated after an inspection, which may have taken place because there was a suspicion someone had left. Other institutions would also inform registrars of certain events: information about divorces, bankruptcies, and imprisonments, for example, would come from the courts of justice. National censuses took place roughly every ten years (until 1971). The information was then used to update the population register.


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