Find My Dutch Ancestors

Genealogy, Identity and Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands

By Antecedentia 17 Oct, 2017
In the center of the Netherlands lies the city of Apeldoorn. It has about 160,000 inhabitants and is well-known for its zoo with 35 different species of monkeys, called Apenheul. The city is also famous for one of the finest Dutch palaces: Het Loo. I recently visited the palace, the gardens and the park. Although I was there a couple of times before, it was interesting again to see the staterooms and to read about the royals who lived here during many centuries. In the first half of the 20th century Het Loo was the favorite palace of Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962). After she abdicated, she spent the last fourteen years in quietness in and around this palace. Here she made many paintings of the surrounding area. Her granddaughter, princess Margriet, was the last resident. She lived here until 1975, together with her husband and four sons. Since 1984 the palace is a museum and is open to the public.

English royals
One of the most fascinating parts of Het Loo’s history, is the fact that it was built between 1684 and 1686 for stadhouder William III of Orange (1650-1702). Because of his marriage to Mary Stuart in 1677, he became king of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1689. As a Prince of Orange he was already a sovereign prince and this - together with the office of stadtholder of the Dutch Republic - gave him an international status. His position only improved when he ascended the English throne. He now needed his palace in Apeldoorn to be an impressive summer residence, full of splendor and grandeur. The palace was enlarged, the gardens became a true example of garden art. If you want to read more about the history of the palace, please visit the website of Het Loo .
By Antecedentia 10 Oct, 2017

Let me start with a few lines of an email message that I received in August 2017.

“I will be in Amsterdam from 24-28 September (2017) and had hoped to contact a local genealogist, well before now, to access further family records prior to my arrival. Given the time lines at this point I imagine that this might not be possible.”

These words were written by Eileen Baker of Canberra, Australia. In another email she wrote: “During my visit to Amsterdam I had hoped to visit some of the areas that the Bouman family lived in.”

Although there was only one month left, I wanted to give this a try. Could I help Eileen find some locations in Amsterdam, that were related to her family history? Without specific locations for her to visit she would still enjoy Amsterdam. But it was my strong intention to give her that special feeling when you step into your ancestors’ footsteps.

What could I do? I started with her great-great-grandfather, Johannes Bouman, who was born in Amsterdam in 1828. He was the family member that decided to emigrate to Australia in 1852. From his birth record I learned the names of his parents and with help of their names I found the birth records of his siblings. These records showed the names of three streets: Wittenburgerstraat, Kattenburgerplein and Kattenburgerdwarsstraat. I then looked for the Bouman family in the population registers of Amsterdam for the periods 1851-1853 and 1853-1863. All entries showed the same street name: Kleine Kattenburgerstraat.

It was clear the family lived in the Kattenburg area. Could I help Eileen find the addresses in nowadays Amsterdam? The answer was disappointing: no, not really. In the 19th century the Kattenburg area was famous for shipyards. Many people in this neighborhood worked on one of the shipyards, as a sailor, carpenter or porter. The Bouman family was no exception. In the 1930s – during the great economic recession – the deterioration of Kattenburg started and by the 1960s the whole neighborhood was impoverished. Large parts of the area were demolished, except for the facades of some houses on Kattenburgerplein. On the spots of the removed premises, modern flat buildings were built.
By Antecedentia 12 Jul, 2017

It was a sunny Saturday morning in June. I arrived at 9.45am in Bergen op Zoom, a former military town in the western part of the province of Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands. This was the moment that I would meet an American couple: Jim and Kathy VanVliet of Tacoma, Washington. Four months earlier they asked me if I was able to be their guide on a heritage trip to see some ancestral places in the Dutch provinces of Zuid-Holland and Zeeland. Literally they said: “Ideally we would love to have someone who could spend a half day or day guiding us through the area so we can make the most of our time.”

From the moment they arrived by train, we spoke about genealogy. Not so much about their family history – we would do that later that day – but more about what it is like to be a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. We also spoke about new developments in genealogy, for example DNA research. As with other couples that I met before on heritage trips, Jim and Kathy were very much interested in the Dutch culture, history and landscape.

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