which spelling should be used? Schoonover or Van Schoonover?

+4 votes
Which one should be used?
in Policy and Style by Michelle Hartley G2G6 Pilot (152k points)

3 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer

From the research I have done, the Schoonover surname didn't evolve until around 1800 (give or take). Before that, the Schoonover ancestors were "Schoonhoven." All but a few of the church records I've seen from Fort Orange, Kingston, and Minisink where the family first lived lists them as Schoonhoven. I honestly would have expected them to be written as "Van Schoonhoven" which is how most of the early generations are listed on the very robust Schoonover Mastertree.

In the spirit of naming people how they referred to themselves, I actually think the early Schoonovers of colonial NY should be renamed to "Schoonhoven" and the generations that changed should have that reflected between their 'Last Name at Birth' and 'Current Last Name' fields.

It is worth saying too that I have seen the names Schoonhoven, Van Schoonhoven, and Schoonover, but never Van Schoonover.

by Jeremy Kidd G2G2 (2.5k points)
selected by Navarro Mariott
+5 votes
Hi Michelle,

'Van' is part of the surname. Always. The meaning of 'van' is 'of'. My guess is, that the person who invented this surname, lived by a brook or other stream, where you could get to the other side, without getting wet (schoon over =  clean across).

Important to know is wether your ancestors were Dutch or Flemish. Because if they were Dutch, you should know that when first AND last names are combined, 'van' is always written without use of capital V. In The Netherlands, a person called Jan will write his name like this:

- Jan van Schoonover
- Mr. Van Schoonover

If he was from Belgium he would probably (as far as I know) be used to writing :

- Jan Van Schoonover
- Mr. Van Schoonover

In any case, his name is NEVER 'Jan Schoonover'.

I hope my answer is useful!

Kind regards, Marit Floor-Veenstra from the Netherlands.
by Marit Veenstra G2G Crew (350 points)
So, all the names that are listed Schoonover should all have Van or van depending on if they are dutch or Flemish?
Well actually, have you considered the possibility that your Dutch/Belgian ancestors had a surname that phonetically sort of sounds like schoonover? I had never heard of that surname, so I googled it. There are only hits on American names! (Darrill, Ethan, Schoonover.com, schoonoverinc.com, etc.) If it were a current dutch/flemish surname, at least a few of the hits would be for Dutch web sites. Also, on the web site of the Dutch Meertens Institute, which keeps track of the spreading of all Dutch surnames, the name 'schoonover' is not listed *at all*.

e.g. this is the spreading of my maiden name in NL: http://www.meertens.knaw.nl/nfb/detail_naam.php?gba_lcnaam=veenstra&gba_naam=Veenstra&nfd_naam=Veenstra&operator=eq&taal=

There is a Dutch town called Schoonhoven. So perhaps your ancestors' surnames are derived from 'Van Schoonhoven'?

Fill in 'schoonhoven' on the Meertens Institute web site!

I cannot tell you for sure of course. But perhaps...? :-)

Good luck!

Thank you Marit. I appreciate the info and I looked at the link you gave me. I will have to do a bit of research to figure this one out. smiley

+2 votes

Please also see http://www.wikitree.com/g2g/74599/van_schoonhoven-surnames just posted for a discussion to agree on a convention for this family.

by Jeremy Kidd G2G2 (2.5k points)
Actually, the van / of / de / du / den etc. only started becoming part of surnames (formally) when people started to migrate across oceans. Before someone would be called for example Gerrit Andriesz (as in son of Andries), and as an addendum was added for example van Couwenhoven - as in meaning 'from the farm Couwenhoven, near Amersfoort'. When people migrated he /she had to register, either as a passenger, or sailor or both. So in the new colonies they were registered for example as Gerrit Andriesz van Couwehoven. Often for practical reasons they would adopt a new name (sometimes their occupation). Children being born in the New colonies would get the 'van der  / van de / van den' etc. as LNAB. In the Netherlands (and Belgium) the custom was in general as described above. In South Africa this custom became the standard. However in New Amsterdam (and the rest of New Netherland) it was a different story. 'Van' with a capital quickly became the standard, with a lot of deviations. The Dutch had to Anglicise their surnames after the English takeover. So one would get all sorts of surnames originaly Dutch in their origin but completely non-conformng with the Dutch traditions. The Vanderbilt-family being a very famous example.

The first expats amongst each other (even more in these times of mass migration) ask one another in the new adopted country (even after many, many years) - is - Where are you from? Meaning - what part of the country / region do you come from? Which city?

Thanks for your comment, Philip. Point of fact, the first 2 generations of 'Schoonovers' appear in records usually just as "Claes Hendrickse" and "Hendrick Claessen." Even though there is a desire to "use what they used" on wikitree, I think it's a valuable for genealogists to use "van" surnames that became adopted as family names along with the patronyms. It really helps to tie relatives together and avoid confusion while researching.

To try and explain how confusing names of Dutch settlers can be, I once compared it to a well known hobbit...

If Hobbits were Dutch settlers, Frodo Baggins, who himself was sometimes introduced by JRR Tolkien as "Frodo son of Drogo," may have also been referred to in New Netherlands as Frodo Drogossen Baggins, Frodo Baggins Van Hobbiton, Frodo Drogossen Van Hobbiton, Frodo Baggins Van Shire, Frodo Drogosz, or a number of other permutations.


You should than use the patronym for last name at Birth and the last name van Schoonhoven or whatever for current last name ,in this way they always are easy to find(for the Dutch genealogists using patronyms and for any other genealogist using the van Schoonhoven) , this is the most accurate way and the easiest one .


I agree with Bea (when appropriate - sometimes the toponymic was adopted before migration and at times the first generation got the toponymic after migration).
As my family came down the tree we first dropped the Van and just had the Schoonhoven then it jumped to the Schoonover variation - now when you look back and try to document these name evolutions you find that on some documents backsliding occurs adding to the confusion.  Schoonover is my mother's maiden name so I have had it attached to me that way all my life - and I see in relatives that had changes in their last name a generation or more before them have this tendency to revert to the previous spelling so when searching for sources be open to the variants - this was how I found my lines back - had to guess what the name was changed from
It may be enlightening to compare the U.S. history of  the name (van) Schoonhoven with (van) Couwenhoven, mentioned above. Both "Couwen" and "hoven" were difficult to anglicize, and that name became quickly "Crownover" and later branched into "Conover" in N. America.

The original name Schoonhoven would, in my opinion, have meant "Pretty Estate". Schoen in German means beautiful, schoon in contemporary Dutch means clean. Can't give you the meaning 300 or more years back. Hoven is the plural of "hof", a place of status or tranquility as in: royal "hof" = court, or retirement home (Begijnen Hof).
This is one of the things I love about Wikitree - instead of standardizing a name across generations for consistency (our instinct when we first get started) here it is valued to honor the name used by the person in their time and the evolution of the name as time goes on - adds interest and that human factor to the names and dates we enter here - people do not fit into neat little boxes - and that makes genealogy difficult to do right - but adds to the pride of getting it done

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