October 3, 2008

Reading 17th Century Dutch Handwriting - Introduction

If you have ancestors who settled in New Netherland (now New York) in the 1600s, you will undoubtably eventually find yourself struggling with Dutch words and handwriting. You may even venture into research from the Amsterdam Archives Church Records which have been microfilmed.

Amsterdam Doopregisters (Baptism Registers) follow a fairly consisent format. They show names (sometimes an occupation) of father, mother, child and sponsor(s).

You don't need to read Dutch, you only need to be able to pick out and read the names of the individuals you are interested in. But it is more difficult than it sounds. 17th century letter formations are very different than what we are used to. Dutch names and spellings are something new to many of us as well.

Example from a 17th Century Marriage record from Amsterdam

As I was struggling to learn how to read this early Dutch script, I made up a little booklet which I add to each time I figure out something new.

I use my little home-made guide to help me interpret what I am looking at in these early (1600s) records. Other researchers asked me to send them copies of my notes and examples, so I made up a mini-tutorial.

I am not an expert, I muddle along as best I can, but researchers I sent the tutorial to seemed to find it helpful, so here it is. I hope that if any of you are starting to dig into those distant records you will find this at least interesting if not helpful in some small way.

I'll add to these Blog notes as I get the pages of my little guide scanned. Remember, it's FUN and it's NEW and it can be intimidating but just keep on plowing through one step at a time.

Part One: Finding an entry on a page of records from 1621 will be published tomorrow

Source of Registers: Amsterdam Doop (Baptism) Registers on Microfilm

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