Dutch Naming Convention

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Dutch Naming Convention

This page explains the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) naming convention for profiles that are in the Netherlands Project, as well as ones that are closely related collaterally to that project. These profiles are of ancestors who most commonly descend from the northwestern European region of the Netherlands, also formerly known as the Seventeen Provinces, the Spanish Netherlands, and other designations.

Dutch born New Netherland Settlers: As such, Dutch Ancestors typically do not have single-word surnames consistently down a male line, many of them were born with and used patronymics or last names like van Rens(s)(e)l(a)er, de Wit, van der Berg, etc. So they present a particular challenge on the LNAB decision for each person. Here is thus a challenge for the unambiguous use of the LNAB field. The New Netherland Naming Convention was intended to resolve disputes from the transitional period between the old Dutch immigrants and the later American-American names of descendants.
It's of great Historical importance the most original and earliest forms of the patronymics or last names are preserved because they can lead us to the even deeper ancestors and farms or places where they originally were from, so it's very important these names and patronymics are preserved and protected and we all need to make sure they are not removed or merged away.

Soccer and Hunebed builders ....

WikiTree has a general style naming guide for LNAB, which covers the issue of Surname prepositions, particles, and prefixes. We will examine that in detail in a later section, because its blanket application for this group of old Dutch ancestors often leads to absurdities. So as a general guideline, it should be largely discounted here.

Likewise, there are various G2G discussions, which also lead to LNAB absurdities, or to a seeming consensus in G2G, but which does not do justice to this group of ancestors. So this Netherlands Project Naming Convention page guideline should take precedence over any of those faulty G2G conclusions, on this group of ancestors. Exceptions are some very specific cases, where particular expertise and / or source documentation is provided for the ancestor being discussed in the G2G. So it is important to balance this guideline against what the G2G concludes in each case.

As an organizational guide, this discussion will start with the most general bad cases of LNAB to be avoided first, and then move on down to the specific better choices lower down, more or less in increasing order of preference.

See also: Dutch and Flemish Name Fields and Glossary Netherlands

Last Name at Birth or LNAB

You often will come across the abbreviation LNAB around here, which means Last name at Birth. To keep things easy for everyone, we all decided that for Dutch Profiles to determine the most correct LNAB, we will use the Birth or Baptism record of a person, if this record shows the parent(s) only used a patronymic, the LNAB of this person is a patronymic as well, and if parent(s) used or were known by multiple generation patronymics according the record, the child also will receive a multiple generation patronymic for LNAB. If parent(s) used a last name already, that last name is the LNAB, etc.

Patronymics are in fact really easy, and you are not assuming one if you have found a Birth or Baptism record, because a patronymic always just is the first name of father + ending (the ending often depends on time and place), so if father in the Birth/Baptism record is named Pieter Jansz, the LNAB of the child is Pietersz, is father named Pieter Janszen in the record, the LNAB of the child is Pieterszen. (See here for more explaining about multiple generation patronymics.)

All later versions, and this can be many, because of the inconsistency in writing due to the fact they all wrote phonetically (so how they heard or understood things, that's how they would write), are added to the other last name field and the most current one (last found or taken from Death Record etc.) is added to the current last name field.

The inconsistency in writing also can result in different LNAB for children of one and the same parent, in one record fathers first name perhaps was written as Pytter Jans and in the record for the next child as Pyter and for the third child it might have been Pieter, so the first child would have Pytters for LNAB, the second Pyters and the third Pieters, for every child the other versions can be added to the other last name field though.

If there's no birth or baptism record we can compare earlier records of the parents, for example their marriage or other records, to see how their first names or last names (if they used one already) were written, to determine the most correct LNAB for the children.

Or if there are none for the parents, we can of course also look at the earliest record(s) of the person him or herself, so for example his or her marriage record. But keep in mind that if this record is from around or after 1811 (the time when people had to officially adopt a last name !), he or she might have been born with just a patronymic, so if that's the case, early records for the parents are extra important to see if the parent(s) before 1811 also used a last name already or if parents only were known by patronymics. See also: patroniemen met een later toegevoegde achternaam

Also note that women in the past did not automatically adopt the last name of their husbands, so unless there are records showing the wife with her husbands last name we will not add it to the current last name field. See also: Patronymics vs spousal names

If there are no records at all showing a persons LNAB (or last name) the LNAB is Unknown.

No ALL CAPS surnames

This WikiTree Name Fields style guide section makes it clear - It is never appropriate to use ALL CAPS. Unfortunately this practice has become a convention throughout the Internet and wherever family trees are found. It dates back to an early era of Internet bulletin boards, when query posts needed to make the surnames stand out, in order for researchers to quickly scan the lists for their one-name studies of surnames of interest. But laziness and bad practice meant that people made a habit of simply copying the names, caps and all, directly into their trees. And then those computerized trees were propagated, and uploaded into GEDCOMs, and from those into all sorts of Internet tree sites.

But on a proper tree site like WikiTree, they are an eyesore, and a falsehood, and so they are rightly banned. Any profile that has a LNAB in all caps should be changed, or merged away.

However, on a rare occasion, other matching profiles may be in even worse form, or the manager is not readily available to make the change. So a few of these all caps profiles may persist for a time.

No backwards projection

This is a very common error, and one that is a bit more difficult to spot. Researchers often make bad assumptions. For instance, many ancestors down the male line into old Europe have been presumed to have the same surname as a modern descendant. In cases where the projection is an obvious falsehood, the profile should be changed or merged away.

For example, a modern surname might be an American word, like Brewer, or Smith. Careless researchers will have extended that surname back into Europe, where the surname, if it existed, would have been instead the Dutch language equivalent word. So where we find such Americanisms projected backwards in obvious error, they should be merged away, into profiles with the more appropriate native language equivalent, if they exist.

No concatenation

These errors are very common among profiles, and in the oldest generations they are always wrong. Examples are VanCouwenhoven and Vancouwenhoven. These might be later Americanisms, projected backwards in time in error, like the Brewer name above. But more often than not, they are the result of lazy propagation, either intentionally or inadvertently. They might be an intentional falsehood in most cases, because older desktop tree software often does not handle a space properly between parts of a name, especially if an underscore ( _ ) character was not entered between the parts.

So propagators tend to make a habit of simply omitting the space, thus creating a falsehood. Comparably, we will encounter numerous profiles where the researcher did it properly, and included the space, but the desktop software blindly ignored it, and thus made the preposition, Van, a middle name, and used only the back half of the name, Couwenhoven, for the surname.

So to avoid this software fault, the name was often intentionally concatenated by the propagator, which is also a falsehood, in the oldest generations. In general, concatenated LNAB profiles should be merged away, when better options are available.

No middle name

The concept of a middle name does not and has never existed in the Netherlands. All first names should go into one of the first name fields. When any name is entered in the middle name field, suggestion 749 is raised.

No preposition as middle name

The WikiTree name guideline for prepositions in the middle name field is a good guideline to follow on this point for Dutch ancestors - At no time should these prefixes be included as a middle name nor abbreviated. In the example given, the Middle Name should not be "van den" and Last Name "Berg" from what should have been properly a full LNAB "van den Berg."

On a bad profile with either the "van" or "van den" or some such in the Middle Name, its presence is a good clue that the name should definitely not be accepted as simply "Berg." The prepositions were placed in the wrong field, but more importantly, their presence in the profile indicates that they did in fact exist, in the original intent of the researcher to provide the name.

This same guideline example compares these latest two cases, one with the misplaced prepositions, and one concatenated, as "Vandenberg". Neither form is correct for Dutch ancestors, and so both should be merged away. But the profile with the misplaced spaces indicates to us that the proper target profile needs to be a LNAB which includes both the spaces, and which puts all three parts of the name into the same field: Thus, "van den Berg" is the only correct choice, and it should be created for the purpose, if not found.

No abbreviation of prepositions

The same example from the WikiTree general guideline should also be followed in all Dutch ancestor cases to disallow any preposition abbreviation, such as "v. d. Berg". These abbreviated notations are merely modern shortcuts, and are thus falsehoods to be merged away. An exception for acceptable LNAB abbreviations is discussed for patronymics, below.

No exclusion of prepositions

The WikiTree general guideline noted above state that care must be exercised to ensure surnames that use a particle, prefix, or preposition, such as le, la, de, du, van, van der, den, ten, zum, etc. correctly reflect the spacing used in the individual's name when they were alive. This part is precisely appropriate and relevant for Dutch ancestors.

BUT, the guideline then states that for medieval and earlier profiles (stated as birth dates earlier than 1600) [sic], the standard for 'le', 'la, 'de' and 'du' is to NOT include them in the Last Name at Birth (LNAB) field, but to rather include them in the Current Last Name field. This part is precisely WRONG for Dutch ancestors.

First, a bit of historic rationale here. That guideline was intended as a purposeful falsehood in order to assist the EuroAristo Project with finding and merging the countless duplicates of mostly English royalty and nobility. So it required changing numerous profiles' LNAB with the form "of Wessex" for example, into simply Wessex. It is a falsehood, but otherwise, the muddle of aristocrat name variants made locating and rationalizing all the duplicates an impossible task. And consequently, even when matches were found, reaching any consistent consensus on a LNAB in each case was untenable. So the resulting royals convention became the one-word LNAB requirement, organized into specific agreed-upon Houses, such as Plantagenet.

However, the problem arises in continental Renaissance Europe, and with family branches that are not Medieval, but are rather much later, nor are they even remotely aristocratic. So the one-word guideline has been mis-applied in many of these cases as well. But it is very bad practice for the Netherlands, where multipart names are proper.

It further is problematic because it demanded change of numerous profiles that were really created or imported correctly to begin with, preposition included. Stripping out the preposition for display purposes at a particular time in the existence of WikiTree as a platform is nonsensical. Given time, technology and search improvements are bound to adjust for the current platform deficiencies. But in the interim, countless profiles will have been altered in a misguided attempt to satisfy a temporary technology limitation of the platform. So on its face, this alteration of LNAB is just bad form.

The stated pre-1600 time frame of this general guideline is particularly grating, for profiles in the Netherlands project. Most Dutch ancestors were born in the pre-1600 time frame.

In general, we wish to minimize the amount of back-and-forth LNAB changes. In part because it forces resource-consuming redirects each time. And also because it wipes out the previous Changes page. So any blanket LNAB change to conform to a questionable guideline should be carefully reconsidered.


No capitalization of prepositions

Capitalizing the preposition, as in "Van" rather than "van", is an Americanism which is commonly applied in error to old Dutch residents, as well as to many modern Dutch people. Understandably, the living Dutch take offense at the practice when it is done unwittingly by others to their names. The ancestors who lived before there was an America would simply be perplexed to see it in their time.

The words "van" and "van den", "van der", etc. are descriptors of origin, meaning "from," or "from the." Even in modern English it does not make sense to capitalize such words, if describing a person, as in "John from the Bronx." So for the Netherlands, Dutch preposition parts of the LNAB should always be lower case. The place name remains upper case, as in a town name. And always use discretion when assessing the prepositional LNAB of a later or modern Dutch person's name. Exceptions are some descendant Americans, who commonly capitalize. But not always.

Note: Belgian surnames are written as recorded in the population register. Prepositions can thus be written in capital letters. Since a part of Belgium belongs to the Dutch speaking area, the mistake has been made quickly to apply the small letter rule here too. We will always apply the Use their convention not ours Wt guideline.

Caution with chains of prepositional ancestors

Chains of old Dutch ancestors going back hundreds of years are often imported with the same prepositional presumed name, in error. These may in some cases be correct, but in most cases are a misapplied backwards projection.

For example, "van Couwenhoven" is the presumed name for multiple generations of old Dutch ancestors, who lived and stayed in the same area of origin over the centuries. The "van" preposition would typically be recorded by authorities for an emigrant who was moving from a certain place. But the emigrant's ancestors who stayed behind would not have had that place designation among themselves, since they were all living as a family group.

So a distinction of two men named Andries from the same town is no distinction at all, if they are both designated as from the same town in which they are both living. Instead, each might be designated by an occupation he held, or by a farm estate at most. But most commonly, they would simply be known by their patronym. So view old generational chains of prepositional LNAB with caution. Exceptions may be some wealthy long-standing ancestral estates. And a few surname chains such as "Hegeman" have indeed found to be documented. So in such cases, go to the original sources.


Many scribes were trained in Latin, and so Latinized forms, such as a trailing "us", were used for recording of names. So a baptismal record might be recorded as Jacobus for a boy who is known the rest of his life as Jacob. Latinization of LNAB was also sometimes practiced. One well-known example of LNAB Latinization occured with members of a certain branch formerly named as Boomgaert, Bogaert, etc., which were Latinized as Bogardus.

Dutch Patronymics and naming pattern

Until the early 19th century, for many families in the Netherlands using a last name was no habit, often they didn't have one and people continued using the patronymic system, there also were people who did have a last name, but just occasionally used it, these people sometimes in archives were registered with this last name, but also sometimes with just the patronym, this caused (still causes) many misunderstandings. When the Netherlands was governed from Paris ( French time), Napoleon said in 1811 the country required an administration of civil status. In some areas in the south of our country this had already happened much earlier, for example, in Noord-Brabant, Limburg (1796) and in parts of Zeeland (1798).

The year 1811, everyone was obliged to always use a solid family/last name and the people who did not already have such a last name, had to adopt one and officially register with the municipality. Some people thought this whole idea would be short-lived so out of protest and assuming the idea would blow over, chose names like 'Naaktgeboren' (Born naked), 'Aardappel' (Potato), 'Zondergeld' (Nomoney), etc., not knowing they and all future generations would now forever be stuck with it.

So From the early Middle Ages until the introduction of the civil status in the 19th century patronymics were used in person registration.The patronymic could be the only name, and from generation to generation change, but the patronymic could also be followed by a surname: Jan Hendriksz Bakker or Anna Pouwelsdr van Amerongen.

Patronymics, as a system of naming children, existed in New Netherlands in the 1600s as well, it was outlawed sometime after the British took control of New Netherlands in 1664 and then again in 1674.

If a man named Jacob Hendricks had a son Hendrick who had a son Samuel who had a son Dirck, the full names of these men were based on the first names of their fathers. They were Hendrick Jacobsz (Jacobs, Jacobse or Jacobsen), Samuel Hendricksz (Hendricks, Hendrickse or Hendricksen) and Dirck Samuelsz (Samuels, Samuelse or Samuelsen). So the ending of the name could vary in the written record.Daughters took the name of their father also, but with a different ending Jacobsdr or also just Jacobs, Jacobse or Jacobsen.

This patronymic naming system worked fine in rural areas in Europe. However, this system presented problems in the cities, where it became very confusing just who you meant. There were too many people with exactly the same name. Cities in some western European countries required surnames, while at the same time patronymics were allowed to flourish in the countryside.

When the European immigrants from various countries arrived in New Netherlands in the 1600s, there was a mix of naming systems. Some immigrants already had a surname, but a great number did not. As the population grew, as a practical matter surnames would have eventually been needed by everyone. The British just speeded up the process by requiring them.

When people were required to take a surname, they had to invent it. Many of them decided that they were from a certain European village so they would call themselves something like 'from Buren'. The Dutch word for 'from' is 'van'. And so now you know the origin of the name Van Buren, in the Netherlands this of course is written as 'van Buren' so no capital V(!). Other people might decide that they were from the mountains or from a wooded region, etc. and create a surname from those Dutch terms.

A child born aboard ship in a storm got the name of Storm Bradt. Later he was known as Storm van der Zee, giving rise to that surname. 'van der Zee' means 'from the sea'. There are a lot of Dutch names beginning with Van (in the Netherlands 'van' (!) ), as you know.

Many surnames referred to what profession a person may have had. And sometimes the last patronymic might have been converted into a surname such as Jacobsen or Jansen.

Dutch parents in New Netherlands/New York or other countries, generally named their first two sons and first two daughters after their own parents (the grandparents of the children). If one of those children died, very often the next child born of that sex was given the same name. The idea was that the fathers and mothers of the married couple needed to be honored. If two children have the same name in a Dutch family, it is almost always true that the first one died (Germans, on the other hand, not uncommonly had more than one child by the same name in a family.).

There was a tendency for the first Dutch son to be named after its paternal grandfather and the first daughter after its maternal grandmother, but there was no reliable consistency in the pattern of which grandparent got honored first. Sometimes, using baptism records we can assemble an entire family unit, but we have no idea who the parents of the married couple were. To help find those parents, look at the names of the first two sons in the family (let's say Cornelis and Gerrit were sons of Albert), and then look in the index of the records of the same church (or each church, if the children were baptized in more than one church). If a Cornelis or Gerrit is listed, check all baptisms for the man. If one of the baptisms is for an Albert, there is a good chance that you have found the father of the Albert that interests you. If the mother of Albert in the baptism has the same name as one of Albert's first two daughters, there is much less doubt that you have the right baptism record for Albert. If the records from that church don't help, expand you search to nearby churches, primarily of the same religion. Using the names of the children in this manner is one of the best methods of finding the parents of a person in the early days of the state.

If you get stuck and cannot find the parents of this Albert, look for the parents of his wife instead. If you can find them, and if their names match two of the children of Albert, then you know the family is using the Dutch pattern of naming. That makes it highly likely that two other children will have the names of Albert's parents. But, if the wife's parents' names were not among the children, either you don't have all of the children, or they were not using the naming pattern. If the latter is true, determining the parents of Albert will not be easy.


Patronyms vs. spousal names

A patronym is the first name of the father, followed by a trailing group of letters. It designates the person as the child of the father. Patronyms are the most likely names by which old Dutch ancestors were known.

A common difficulty to watch out for is with adult married or widowed women, who are sometimes known not by the name of their father, but instead by the name of their husband. So for example, a daughter Annetje, born of Andries, but who married Jan, might be called Annetje Jans in her adulthood records. The Jans name looks like a patronym, but is not a proper LNAB in this case for Jannetje. Because she was never born daughter of Jan. So be careful to check that the woman's patronym/name is actually a LNAB and not a name reference as her husband's wife.

A similar example may be when the woman has a name that appears to be the same patronym as her mother has. It is difficult to sort out if such casses are researcher error, or scribe error, or perhaps a more rare archaic practice that was sometimes acceptable, for an obsucre reason. So these cases need particular careful study.

Patronymic trailing abbreviations

Abbreviations on the end of a patronym are very common in records, and so they are proper to be used in LNAB, as the exception to the above rule against abreviations. These abbreviations are mostly gender specific.

For boys, the Dutch word zoon (ín old Dutch soon or soen) means son or son of. In Dutch, a son of a man named Albert would be Albertszoon (soon/soen), or Albertzoon (soon/soen). For convenience in Dutch record-keeping, this name would often be written by the scribe in an abbreviated form, as Albertsz. So the recorded name with a trailing z is a proper LNAB, especially for boys. There are some cases in which the z was also applied to daughters. See: patronym forms multigeneration patronym

For girls, the Dutch word dochter means daughter. Dutch scribes would abbreviate this in two forms: either a trailing d or dr. So a girl would be recorded as, for example, Andriesdr So a trailing d or dr is a good LNAB form for girls.

Patronymic forms

The earliest patronymic forms are a trailing soon or soen, later zoon or simply sz or z for boys , for girls a trailing dogter, dohter later dochter or simply sdr or dr

Other patronymic forms commonly used are a trailing zen, sen , se or simply s These may be applied to either boys or girls, and practice seems to vary. There are differing theories about which is more appropriate, or which forms transitioned from others. More discussion of these theories and rules follows below. Also see links on the project page.

A trailing patronymic son is also sometimes seen in LNAB, perhaps in error, since it is a more Scandinavian form, rather than Dutch (or maybe remaining from the old Dutch word for son: soon/soen) It would probably be more likely presumed to be an error in interpretation of Dutch records. Although the region was highly transitional, with people of different origins and varying methods of training.

  • Different patronymic form(s) :
1. Multiple generation patronymic (most seen in Brabant en Limburg, but sometimes in other regions as well, although rare)
example: Pieter Jan Lievensz. Patronymic for Pieter and his brothers is totally different from the normally and commonly used and by most already known patronymic :
Pieter is son of Jan (Jan is a son of Lieven, his correct names are: name: Jan LNAB: Lievensz) Normally Pieter would just receive his fathers first name Jan for patronymic ( so: Jansz ), but in these multiple generation patronymics children received their fathers name as well as their fathers patronymic and that gives their patronymic, so patronymic for son Pieter is = Jan Lievensz so correct name is name: Pieter LNAB: Jan Lievensz
In this patronymic = first name of father (Jan) as well as patronymic of father (Lievensz) becomes the patronymic for the child ( Jan Lievensz ), girls also could recieve the same patronymic, the z has nothing to do with the gender, so if Pieter was Pieternelle, she also could be named Pieternelle Jan Lievensz, because it just says Pieter(nelle) is a son/ daughter of Jan who's a son of Lieven .
Pieter has a son as wel, his son was named Anthonis (Thonis)
Son Anthonis gets the Last name of his father including the patronymic of his father for patronymic = Pieter Jan Lievensz , so his correct name now is:
name: Anthonis with patronym LNAB: Pieter Jan Lievensz
So in patronymics like this the z sometimes also was added to a daughter, because in this case the patronymic has nothing to do with if the child was a son or a daughter, it's just a multiple generations patronymic But this has to be reviewed for each individual profile, because girls/daughters could also could get the trailing dr
2. Matronymic or Metronymic same as patronymic but now the child or children get the name of mother for patronymic, this is called a Matronymic. Example: Fetje Martjes Scholte

Project New Netherland Settlers Dutch Roots Project Nederlands Dutch Roots Project English Cape of Good Hope - Kaap de Goede Hoop (1652-1806) Project Nederlandse Naamconventie
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