Flemish Naming Conventions

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Flemish Naming Convention

This project subpage is inspired by the Dutch Naming convention - page (so some parts might be reproduced from that source, this reference acknowledges the CC copyright of that page), this Flemish Naming Convention explains naming en spelling conventions for the Last Name at Birth (LNAB), other surnames, first- and middle-names of profiles that are in the Belgian Roots Project, as well as ones that are closely related collaterally to that project.

Regional and historical situation

These profiles are ancestors who most commonly descend from Flanders, the northern region of the country that is currently known as ‘‘‘Belgium’’’ (since its independence in 1830), and was formerly

  • 1815-1830: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden* a part of “The kingdom of the Netherlands” (1841-1830), without a specific designation,
  • 1804-1814: Zuidelijke of Nederlanden, Franse Keizerrijk, the "Southern Netherlands" during the Napoleontic “French Empire” (1804-1814),
  • 1795-1804: Zuidelijke Nederlanden, Franse Republiek, during the French first republic (1795-1804),
  • 1715-1795: Oostenrijkse Nederlanden the "Austrian Netherlands" during occupation of the Habsburg Empire of Austria and Hungary (1715-1797)
  • 1585-1714: Spaanse Nederlanden, the “Spanish Netherlands” (1556-1714), under Spanish Habsburg occupation,
  • 1482-1585: Habsburgse Nederlanden the "Habsburg Netherlands" (1482-1585) under the reign of the Habsburg Maximilian and Emperor Charles V,
  • and during that period from 1543-1585 the “The United provinces of the Netherlands”
  • and various other designations before 1485, split in several feudal counties and duchies with denominations referring to :
  • the County of Flanders , west of the river Scheldt, the Count of Flanders had allegiance to the King of France;
  • the Duchy of Brabant , east of the river Scheldt and in the north all the way up to the Waal and Lek rivers in the contemporary Netherlands, the Duke of Brabant had allegiance to the Dukes of Burgundy and were linked to the Habsburgs;
  • the Prince-Bishopric of Liege in the east around the Meuse river.

See the proposal page for Belgium Topological naming convention for an historical overview.

Belgium : Map of linguistic territories

Contemporary Belgium is astride on a linguistic border with Flemish-speakers in the north and Walloon- or French speakers in the south and a Germanophone minority in the region of Eupen-Malmedy in the east, Brussels is a bi-lingual (Dutch-French) region.

Flemish is a group of dialects of Dutch, spoken in Flanders, i.e. the area between the Northsea and to the south and the west of the Rhine river. Dutch is used as official language for official documents in the Flemish region, such as for the Civil Registry documents, however note that during some periods in the Flemish history those documents were written in French and before even in Latin.

This page is about the Flemish names, names used in the Dutch speaking area of Flanders. Separate pages will be dedicated to the Walloon and French naming conventions.

This page is also for names of New Netherland Settlers, that originate in Flanders. Not all New Netherland Settlers came from The Netherlands, among them were a substantial number of Flemish born settlers, and other who originated the Walloon regions, this area includes some – currently – French regions such as French Flanders(Artois) and Hainaut in the northwest or the Ardennes in the north east and even the German Eifel.


Like their counterparts of Dutch ancestry, Flemish ancestors and New Netherlands Settlers from the Flanders region typically do not have single-word surnames consistently down a male line. Many of them were born with and used patronymics or composed last names like De Cuyper, De Meulder, Van Den Heuvel, Van Der Berg etc.

The conventions for spelling and capitalisation of these names differs from the conventions and capitalisations used in The Netherlands – The Dutch Naming Convention, also over generations the same compounded surname might change in spelling or can be concatenated to a single word. The use of French during certain periods ( e.g. between 1790 and 1814) also influences spelling shifts especially when French speaking civil servants, who were unfamiliar with Dutch or with the local dialect pronunciation, were assigned a position in a Flemish village or city, the Latinisation of names by the Catholic church also influences registered and given names, so someone could be known as “Frans” or “Çois” but would be registered as “François” (at birth) during the French occupation and mentioned as “Franciscus” 20 years later when registering his marriage after the independence of Belgium.

So these surnames present a particular challenge to the unambiguous use of the LNAB field and when entering the other names fields for each person.

For the profiles born in the Belgium, and those of settlers that emigrated or spend time in New Netherland, we still will use the speling and capitalisation as used on the ‘‘‘Baptism or Birth records’’’ to determine the correct patronymic :

  • if this was the only LNAB they were born with (or for the exact spelling (as is) of the last name if they had one, registered first and middle names, and nicknames),
  • in case of the patronymics, these of course can be compared to and if needed proven by one of the earliest versions mentioned in church or other records after these people emigrated, which in general, and if the parents were proven correct, will show a similar patronymic as the one that could be expected and based on the baptism or birth record.
  • if there are no early records and only the baptism/Birth record available where they were mentioned with the patronymic, so if perhaps someone after emigration and real early decided to adopt a last name, that last name should go the current name field for the earliest ancestors born in the Netherlands .
  • if any distinguishing names were added these names will go in current names
if a person was born In the city of Kortrijk (then spelled Cortrycke) and was called at birth (Sebastiaen) or Bastiaaen Hendrickszoon, then "Hendrickszoon' would be his patronymic name in LNAB, now when he moved to another city say Utrecht, he might be registered there as "Hendrickszoon van Kortryck", this should be in his current name, because that was what he was known as in Utrecht, the "Hendrickszoon" would be repeated because also in uthrecht that was his original patronimyc and the "van Kortryck" part is appended. If he had children in Utrecht their birth record might show "Bastiaensen van Kortryck" ( the whole of that name is their patronymic name).

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, and we all need to make sure they are not removed or merged away.

Use their convention instead of ours.

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 Flemish ancestors often leads to absurdities. So as a general guideline, the Wikitree guideline should be largely discounted here.

Likewise, there are various G2G discussions that conclude a pseudo-consensus in G2G, but which leads to LNAB absurdities which in turn don’t do justice to this group of ancestors. So this Flemish Roots 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.

No ALL CAPS surnames

The WikiTree Name Fields style guide section makes it clear - It is never appropriate to use ALL CAPS. Unfortunately the practice of using ALL CAPS Surnames has become a work around throughout the Internet genealogy and wherever family trees are found. The practise dates back to an early era of Internet bulletin boards, when query posts needed to make sure 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 genealogical 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 / Caution with chains of prepositional ancestors

This is a very common error, and one that is a bit more difficult to spot. Researchers often make bad assumptions, and consequently the software developers make the same mistake : when creating a descendant the user is presented with that father family name by default, this coding has been repeated when creating an ancestor profile and this the software presents the user with an incorrect default name for the ancestor profile. 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, the English phonetical equivalent of a patronymic or worse approximation. For instance someone might be called “Brewer” now, whereas his forefathers might have been born with the name “Brouwers” or "De Brouwer" (patronymic for the "Brewer’s son” or for his proffession "The Brewer"). It would be careless for researchers to assume that this surname "Brewer" can be extended back into Europe, where the surname didn’t exist, and if it existed, would have been instead the Dutch/Flemish language equivalent word ( translated name), or even a word that sounds similar, or in the worst case got a totally different name because the immigrant didn't understand the immigration officer and gave an answer to what he assumed to be the question from the officer.

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 (de) Cauwenbergh’’ could be the surname for multiple generations of Flemish ancestors, who lived and stayed in the same area of origin over many centuries. The ‘‘van’’ preposition would typically be recorded by authorities for a migrant who had moved from another place: the “Cauwenberg”. But the migrant's ancestors who had stayed behind at the ‘‘Cauwenberg’’ would not have had that place designation among themselves, since they were all living as a family group, at the ‘‘Cauwenberg’’, and they might have names referring to their fathers like “Hendrik’s zoon” (Hendrik’s son), or a distinctive feature held by a forefather like “den bochel”(the hunchback) or indicating buidlings in the village “van de waetermolen” (who lived at the watermill), of having a specific profession like “de beul”(the hangman) or “den houtkapper”(the lumberjack).

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 or his ancestors held (millers, smiths, coopers), 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.

No concatenation

These errors are very common among profiles, and in the oldest generations they are always wrong. Examples are VanCauwenbergh and Vancauwenbergh. The first might be a later Americanism, projected backwards in time in error. The second might be caused by the French occupation or by the aural declaration to the registrar. ‘‘Imagine the situation when a birth or death was registered: it all starts because a father or another family member presented himself to the Registrar’s office usually the town hall (the Mairie or Gemeentehuis) sometimes alone, sometimes supported by a co-worker, a friend, an in-law or a family member to declare the happy birth or sad death. For the birth that person would present himself with a newborn infant to show the Registrar, for a death with a medical certificate. Then the declarant (as he was formally referred to) would tell the Registrar, sometimes in a very festive and often an alcohol slurred voice, who de newborn or deceased was, and provide details as requested by the Registrar. This aural exchange of data was entirely due to people lacking paperwork about their identity, about their civil status, their spouse and family and because of widespread illiteracy. The Civil Registrar had to search for the data and the correct spelling of names in his registers, of course sometime the name and its correct spelling would be known to the registrar, from earlier registrations, some educated guesswork could result in a more hap-hazardous result, but sometimes Registrar’s didn’t do their job correctly and omitted researching spelling in other/earlier registers, or didn’t have/take the time to request copies from another communal Civil registry for people who were born or married elsewhere, and then the chances of getting it wrong dramatically increased. While LNAB spelling changes over generations in official registers, the errors are often visible in the registers for registrations of the same person in his lifespan (BMD records).

But more often than not, they are the result of erroneous propagation, either intentionally or inadvertently. Copying, indexing and digitising documents, could induce faulty concatenations that might be due to misinterpreted or illegible handwriting.

They might also be an unintentional falsehood in most cases, because older 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 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 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 Belgian Roots ancestors - At no time should these prefixes be included as a middle name nor abbreviated. In the example of "Van Den Berg" , 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-field, 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 Belgian Roots, 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 Roots and Belgian Roots 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, Den, Der, Van, Van Der, Van den, Ten, 't, Zum, etc. correctly reflect the spacing and capitalisation used in the individual's name when they were alive. This part is precisely appropriate and relevant for surnames in Dutch Roots and Belgian Roots.

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 of the guideline is precisely WRONG for Dutch Roots and Belgian Roots 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, first of all the Low Countries have a lot of common history and (pseudo-)aristocratic bloodlines are strangely interrelated. So the one-word guideline is very bad practice for the Netherlands, Belgium and (the north of) France where multi-part names are proper in all layers of the population.

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.

Capitalization of prepositions

Capitalising the first letter of the preposition(s), as in “Van Der Werft” rather than “van der Werft”, is a classic difference between Dutch and Belgian surnames, and a frequent source of errors and confusion among researchers.

Note: Belgian surnames are written as recorded in the population register. Prepositions in Flanders are most often written with the first letter capitalised, as in “Van Der Werft” , the lower case prepositions as in “van der Werft” are - in Belgium - most commonly used in aristocratic family names and/or an indication of the names origine in the Netherlands. Here lies the source of a common misunderstanding among the Flemish people to assume that those all lowercase prepositions in Dutch names are snobbery (false claims of aristocracy), but they ignore the linguistic reasons behind this.

Capitalising prepositions is an all too common error to old Dutch residents, as well as to many modern Dutch people. For the Dutch the prepositions in names such as "van" and "van den", "van der", etc. are descriptors of origin, meaning "from," or "from the" the significant part of the name might be a geographical or topological reference or refer to an occupation or to another person. Even in modern language it does not make sense to capitalize such prepositions, if describing a person, as in "John from Boston" or “Bartholomew the Cooper”. So for the people from the Netherlands, Dutch preposition parts of the surname should always be lower case. The significant part (place name or occupation) starts with a capital. And always use discretion when assessing the prepositional parts of LNAB of a later or modern Dutch person's name.

Moreover this difference influences alphabetical list making, such as in archives and phonebooks. The Dutch order their surnames according to the most significant part of the last name, the Belgians to the full surname

Dutch alfabetical list Belgian alfabetical list
Adriaanse, Frans Adriaensen, Frans
Berg, Johan van de Brouwers, Adriaan
Brouwers, Adriaan De Witte, Pascale
Donkers, Paul Donckers, Paul
Witte, Pascale de Van Den Berg, Johan

We will always apply the ’’’Use their convention not ours’’’ Wikitree guideline.


As the civil registration in Belgium was a direct result of historical the (baptism) records held by the church, and the laws by Jozef II (the Austrian Emperor) about removing lay civil functions from the church (such as burial, birth-, marriage and death registration) and to make compulsory civil registration by sworn civil servants. The priests and the lay scribes were trained in Latin, and would keep records in Latin. They would use latinised names, often limiting the choice to the names of Saints with the suffixes "-us" and ‘‘-a’’ , for recording of first names. So a baptismal record might be recorded as Jacobus for a boy who is called habitually Jacob and Jacoba for a girl . Latinisation of LNAB was also sometimes practised especially before the French occupation. One well-known example of LNAB latinisation occured with members of a certain branch formerly named as Boomgaert, Bogaert, etc, which were Latinized as Bogardus. During the French occupation in the early 19th century many registries were kept by French/French-speaking civil servants nominated by the French. These people abhorred the latinised names and used the French equivalent, as a consequence that a “Petrus” born before 1790, would be registered to have married and fathered children as “Pierre” under the French occupation and could die in the independant Belgium registered as “Pieter” or “Petrus”.

Flemish Patronymics and naming pattern

Until the early 19th century, for most common folk in the Low Countries using a last name was no habit, especially not in rural areas. In de early medieval era royalty was known by their nicknames like Karel Martel (founder of the merovingian dynasty), the local feudal lords were named after their fiefs.

Common (rural) folk continued using the patronymic system : you would be identified by your first name and a reference to a parent (or an earlier very renowned ancestor), which could be identified by his occupation/profession (blacksmith, cooper, miller, hurder etc), a particular building, location or topographic landmark, or any other distinguishing characteristic. If your father had a big nose or was a hunchback his nickname would be the patronymic.

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 patronymic, this caused (still causes) many misunderstandings.

In Belgium the Austrian Habsburg Emperor decided in the late 18th century among other things that Civil records should no longer be held by the church (Parochial, Baptism Marriage and Death records) but this function should be done by the public authorities.

In the Netherlands, in 1811, a familyname became mandatory 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. This lastname decree became mandatory in 1814 in Belgium too, and was maintained after the independence in 1830.

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. Patronymics still exist in Iceland, on islands like Faroer or Shetland and in some parts of Norway and Sweden.

While in rural areas patronymic naming remained common, in the medieval cities family names were used in birth registration, even if they were etymologically patronymics, at least from the late 15th century onward. Example : in the city the children (descendants) of a father (or unmarried mother) called "Molenaers", would also be called "Molenaers".

Patronymics work like this say that a man named Jacob Hendricksz had a son Hendrick who had a son Samuel who had a son Dirck, the full names of these men were based on the names of their father : the sequence would be Jacob Hendricksz and his son would be Hendrick Jacobsz (Jacobszoon, Jacobs, Jacobse, Jacobsen or Jacobson) then Samuel Hendricksz (Hendrickszoon, Hendricks, Hendrickse, Hendricksen or Hendrickson) and Dirck Samuelsz (Samuelszoon ,Samuels, Samuelse, Samuelsen or Samuelson). 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 (in Iceland it would be Jacobsdottir).

Matronymics : If a child was born to a single mother in Flanders her mother’s name would be prefixed with “ver-”: say that Maria Meulders (the (grand-)daugther of a miller) gave birth to a child, while being a single mother, her child might be called “Vermeulders or Vermeulen”.

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 like Hoboken, Lier or Mechelen so they would call themselves something like 'Van Hoboken”, “Van Lier” or “Van Mechelen”.

Children born on a ship were registered by the ships captain, and might be called “Van Der Zee” which means 'from the sea'.

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.

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.

A common difficulty to watch out for is with adult married or widowed women in marriage, birth or death registrations, who are sometimes known not by their maidenname (name of their father), but instead by the name of their (previous) husband. So for example, a daughter Anne, born of Andries, who later married Jan Mulders, might be called Anne Mulders in her adulthood records. 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 clear if the LNAB starts with “Ver-” the daughter was born out of wedlock (if the father died early in the pregnancy she would be named after her father). With the same patronym, it either is a daughter born to a single mother and raised in the family, of more difficult to sort out if such cases are researcher error, or scribe error.

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(e) or soen; meaning son or son of) in Flanders the son of a man named Jan would be Janszoon (soon(e)/soen), (Dutch record-keeping, this name would often be written by the scribe in an abbreviated form, as Albertsz.) In Flanders the trailing z is not a proper LNAB, contrary to the Dutch tradition)

For girls, the Dutch word dochter means daughter. in older documents the Dutch scribes would abbreviate this to a suffix d or dr.

Using these abbreviations is not common in Flanders.

Patronymic forms

The earliest patronymic forms are a trailing soon(e) or soen, later zoon(e). These form later evolved to sen or simply s and for daugthers se. These may be applied to either boys or girls, and practice seems to vary.

A trailing patronymic son is also sometimes seen in LNAB, perhaps in error, since it is a more Scandinavian form, rather than Dutch or Flemish suffix (or maybe evolved form soon/soen) It would probably be more likely presumed to be an error in interpretation of Dutch records.

  • Different patronymic form(s) :
1. Multiple generation patronymic (most seen in Brabant en Limburg),
if Petrus is son of Johannes then Petrus would just be named after his fathers roepnaam (common name) Jan for patronymic ( so: Janssoone )
girls also could be named after her father like a son ( so: Jansse ) .
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.

Moreover in Belgium it would often occur that someone’s LNAB is his mother’s name to begin with, later ( and by means of a marginal notice on the birth certificate) the last name of the child changes to the father’s name, when the parents get married (due to legalization and name change by parental marriage), sometimes the spouse is not the biological father of the child.

Mulitple first names

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 honoured. If two children have the same name in a Dutch or Flemish 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.) in France common first names like Marie, Jean or Pierre would have a second name appended like Marie-Jeanne, Jean-Pierre or Pierre-Paul. Such French double names should have been written hyphenated because they are used as a single name, however some registrars omited the hyphen as they considered it illegitimate to use the hyphen ; the double name is not a middle name.

In some parts of Flanders the Dutch tradition was upheld for the first 2 male borns (who remained alive) to be named after their grandfathers and the first daughters the grandmothers, but there was no reliable consistency in the pattern of which grandparent got honoured first. In other areas the tradition was to give the 2 first born children 2 middle names : the first using the names of his paternal grandfather and his maternal grandmother and the second of his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother. This latter tradition evolved in using the godparents first names ( because they were alive). In catholic Flanders baptism records did mention parent and godparents (full)names this makes it sometimes easier to follow the family line

The concept of middle name is not known in Belgium, like it' s not in the Netherlands, Germany or France. The advice is not to use the middle name field, and to put all the names in the first name field (interpreting it as given names), the preferred name field would be used for the name the person uses in daily life. (cfr suggestion 749 ) That common first name could be a double name like Marie Jeanne or Jean Pierre ( obviously when hyphenated it would be one name) but it would be a de-latinised or Dutch name, in most cases "Franciscus" or “François” would use “Frans” or “Çois” as preferred name.

Double first names : There are several cases that would apply to double first names and it's very difficult to establish what name should be used and how it was used without first hand knowledge. if you have access tot official documents such as a person's birth or death certificate, marriage act or births certificates of children apply always the principle "Names are spelled as they are written on the birth certificate" first

Case 1 Multiple names Many modern Belgians (speaking about Flemish born people) have multiple first names at birth, and use another name in daily life . The multiple birth names often are names given based on the names of the godfather and godmother.

i.e. "Carl Elisabeth Constant " born in 1960s there are 2 ways of entering these names:

  • option 1 (according to suggestion 749) : all names in the first name field and "Carl" in the preferred name field
  • option 2 "Carl" in the first name field and the latter two would go into middle names , nevertheless it might be advisable to put and "Carl" in the preferred name field too ; in case there are 3 names: most commonly the 2nd and third names are those referring to the godparents of the child and they could go into middle names , because they are officially and semi-officially used in that way ( in the sense that they can be omitted and/or sometimes have to be mentioned as abbreviated initials)
  • the first name of multiple given names on a personś birth certificate is the proper first name ( except in composed names ( see next case)

However people might be born with 2 names only i.e. "Constantinus Ferdinandus" this could be interpreted as a composed first name ( see case2 ) or a multiple name with only one godparent, often this person would have an abbriviated call name like "Stan" as his preferred name ( that he was called by in real everyday life)

Case 2 Composed first names Very frequently used first names like Marie, jean would be registered in composed form either with or without a "-" hyphen like "Marie-Jeanne" or "Marie Jeanne". Sometimes the deduction of the compounded name is made easy because the child has been given 4 names  : if Marie(-)Jeanne was followed by two more first names (from her godparents) then "Marie-Jeanne" or "Marie Jeanne" would go into the first name field (ignore the warning message) This would occur if the civil registry registrar noticed that too many women named "Marie" had been born and alive within the same family name and in order to prevent mixups, or if a older child with the same name had died.

Case 3 Preferred names if someone was born with a name like Adrianus Ernestus, he might have been called "Nest" or "Joanna Victorina" might be called "Victorine" in everyday life. "Nest", and "Victorine" would be their preferred name. Based on other documents such as marriage acte, birth declarations of children and censusdocuments the preferred names can determined e.g. Adrianus Ernestus, and went by the name of Nest ( his preferred name) on some other formal document he was mentioned as "Ernest" which confirms his preferred name.

Case 4 Nick names could go into the "Other names" field People might go by nick names or Aliasses that might not even be related to their given names, but might be derived from a physical caracteristic like "den bult" (the hump), "neus" ( the nose), "kopere/bronze" (ginger), a profession "meester" (teacher) or even his character "abjaar" (bad character, unreliable, bully) spiced up with double entendre (hidden meaning) form local dialects. their children and even wives might be referred to, as "jeanne van den Abjaar" ( jeanne wife of the guy nicknamed "Abjaar") ; or children might be "jan van den bult" ( jan son of the hunchback)

By Derek Giroulle

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Here are the Guidelines for Name Fields of the French project. If there is no difference with Belgian francophone conventions, I will modify the title and add a Belgian flag, so that the space can be used for both projects.
Please make your comments/ suggestions and additions for the flemish naming convention knows in the comment of this page

I there any one that would feel this is worth doing for french/walloon names and german names

posted by Derek Giroulle