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Readers' questions

In this post I try to answer some questions from my always overflowing mailbox.

Many people asked about the origin or meaning of their Dutch surname. The Meertens Institute - part of the Royal Dutch Acadamy of Science - has a database of surnames with information on many Dutch names. Though there is an English interface (click the English flag), all the information is in Dutch, so some understanding of Dutch would be useful. In 2006 I wrote two blog posts about Dutch surnames, which you may find here and here.

  • Ronna asked information about several surnames. Not all names were Dutch, but Beye (in The Netherlands commonly spelled Beije) and Teerlink are. The name Beije is mainly found in Zeeland, so search Genlias or Zeeuwen Gezocht. Teerlink is found in 19th century Zuid-Holland en also in Zeeland. See Genealogy in Zuid-Holland for a list of Zuid-Holland databases.
  • David asked about the De Vaal family tree. De Vaal is a name found in the provinces Zuid-Holland, Utrecht, and Gelderland. Again, Genlias is the website to search.
  • Someone asked about the meaning of the surname Strijker. He or she had read it might mean to iron or iron out differences. The latter seems a bit far-fetched, in my opinion. The Meertens Corpus of Family Names in the Netherlands suggests it may be a name derived of an occupation, but does not mention which occupation. Checking a few reference works I found several possibilities, to discover the correct one for this family more (genealogical and historical) research is needed. Strijker can mean:
    • someone who irons
    • a musician that plays the strings
    • a healer who heals by stroking
    • someone who smooths cloth so that it can be measured
    • someone who measures corn (or possibly other goods)
    • an inspector of fish at a fish market or auction
    • someone who roughens blankets
    • someone who makes woven cloth shiny
    • someone who planes planks
    And I may well have overlooked a meaning or two of the word strijker. Not all meanings are valid for all regions and all periods, of course, and I suspect that a few of these meanings are quite obscure.
  • Roelfsema revisited: Last summer I answered a question about Roelf Roelfsema. Bonnie asked me if I knew more on Roelf's sister Christina Fredricka Roelfsema and their parents Roelf Roelfsema and Christina Matthijs. The population register of The Hague has a scan of Christina Frederika Roelfsema and her husband Adam Marius de Rijke. I already mentioned the Roelfsema-Matthijs marriage: Roelf Roelfsema, 34, carpenter, born in Norg, living in The Hague, son of Kornelis Roelfsema (deceased) and Grietje Jans (without occupation, living in The Hague), married Christina Frederika Matthijs, 21, without occupation, born and living in The Hague, daughter of Johannes Frederik Matthijs (bookbinder, living in The Hague, present at the wedding) and Frederika Kaemmerer (deceased), on 1 June 1887.
  • Christopher asked what the surname Gaag might mean. Though I don't know the surname Gaag, I do know Van der Gaag, a quite common surname. According to Meertens the name is an address name (i.e. it denotes a location): Gaag is a canal in Zuid-Holland, between Schipluiden and Den Hoorn.

From Marjorie I received a tip for Scott who asked last spring about Dutch immigrants in Australia. Marjorie wrote:

The National Archives of Australia has the immigration records for assisted migrants to Australia and most of them have been listed on their database RecordSearch (http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/recordsearch/index.aspx, then log in as guest, no need to register). In the keyword field just type in the family name, if it is not too common, or the given and family name, remembering to adjust for any anglicisation of the name such as using y for ij. If you find a relevant record you can even purchase an online or printed copy - just click on the 'Request copy' button and follow the prompts.

A good advise indeed, thanks Marjorie. The Dutch national archive also has a database with emigrants to Australia.

I will answer more questions next month. Send me a message if you have a question that you want me to answer. Try to be specific in your question: The more specific the question is, the more useful the answer can be. If you just give me a surname all I can do is give you very general advise or point you to Genlias.


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