March 4, 2003

Understanding Patronymics

DUTCH PATRONYMICS OF THE 1600s
© Lorine McGinnis Schulze

The Dutch were much slower than the English in adopting surnames as we know them. Patronymics ended theoretically under English rule in 1687 with the advent of surnames, but not everyone followed the new guidelines. In the Netherlands, patron ymics ended mostly (especially Friesland) during the Napoleantic period around 1811 when everyone had to register and select a family name.

The most common Dutch naming custom was that of patronymics, or identification of an individual based on the father's name. For example, Jan Albertszen is named after his father, Albert. Albertszen means son of a man named Albert. The patronymic was formed by adding -se, -sen, or -szen. Daughters would very often have the ending -x or -dr. added. For example, Geesjie Barentsdr. (Barentsdochter) is named after her father Barent.

An individual could also be known by his place of origin. For example, Cornelis Antoniszen, my 9th great- grandfather, was known in some records as 'van Breuckelen', meaning 'from Breuckelen' (Breuckelen being a town in the Netherlands). The place-origin name could be a nationality, as in the case of Albert Andriessen from Norway and my 9th great-grandpa, originator of the Bradt and Vanderzee families - he is entered in many records as Albert Andriessen de Noorman, meaning the Norseman.

Thus we see naming differences over the generations: Albert's sons and daughters took the surname BRADT except for his son Storm, born on the Atlantic Ocean during the family's sailing to the New World. Storm adopted the surname Van Der Zee (from the sea) and this is the name his descendants carry.

An individual might be known by a personal characteristic: e.g. Vrooman means a pious or wise man;Krom means bent or crippled; De Witt means the white one. The most fascinating one I've seen is that of Pieter Adrianszen (Peter, s/o Adrian) who was giv en the nickname of Soo Gemackelyck (so easy-going) but was also known as Pieter Van Waggelen/Van Woggelum - his children adopted the surnames Mackelyck and Woglom.

Sometimes an occupation became the surname. Smit=Smith; Schenck= cupbearer, Metsalaer= mason. An individual might be known by many different 'surnames' and entered in official records under these different names, making research difficult unless you're aware of the names in use. For example, my Cornelis Antoniszen Van Slyke mentioned above, was known and written of under the following names:

Cornelis Antoniszen
Cornelis Teuniszen (Teunis being the diminuitive of Antony)
Cornelis Antoniszen/Teuniszen van Breuckelen
Cornelis Antoniszen/Teuniszen Van Slicht (this is how he signed his name and might have been a hereditary family name based on an old place of origin)
Broer Cornelis (name given him by Mohawks)

Remember that there are tremendous variations in spelling of these names, and changes from Dutch to to English record keeping in the New World affected the spelling even more.

Another thing to look for in searching the early records is to be aware of the different ways names might be pronounced in different areas, or how clerks might write them down. For example, a boy might be registered as Jan "Kiek in 't Veld", and his father would sign with "Kijk in het Veld". "Kiek in't Veld" is how it is said in the eastern dialect, "Kijk in het Veld" is how it is said in proper Dutch. The father could write down it properly, but he couldn't say it properly. The clerk at that time may have come from the West and just wrote down what he heard without translating it. If you were searching such a family, you would have to look for both lines.

You also have to be aware of the diminuitives of regular first names, because the patronymic might be formed from the normal name or its diminuitive. For example:

Antonis=Theunis/Teunis (patronymic of Antonisz or Theunisz)
Matthys=Thys/Tice (patronymic of Thyssen)
Harmanus=Harman or Manus
Jacobus=Cobus
Nicolas=Claes (patronymic of Claessen)
Denys=Nys (patronymic of Dennysen or Nyssen)
Bartolomeus=Bartol or Meese/Meus (patronymic of Meesen)
Cornelis=Krelis

For more help with Dutch words, church records and patronymics see http://olivetreegenealogy.com/nn/ This also includes records for New York State in the 1600s

There's more to Dutch naming systems of the 1600s than this, and two articles that are excellent are:

Dutch Systems in Family Naming New York-New Jersey by Rosalie Fellows Bailey in Genealogical Publications of the NGS May 1954 No. 12,
New Netherland Naming Systems and Customs, by Kenn Stryker-Rodda, published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, volume 126, number 1, January 1995, pages 35-45.

NOTE: A footnote states that the text is a talk that Dr. Stryker-Rodda gave at the World Conference on Records and Genealogical Seminar held in Salt Lake City 5-8 August 1969, and it was originally published in the papers of that Conference, Area 1-27. The original talk was copyrighted in 1969 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Permission granted to distribute this article as long as nothing is changed, and all identifying information and URLs remain. Be sure to include the following footer:

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Article by Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy at http://olivetreegenealogy.com/

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