Monday, 27 January 2014

Explaining a Dutch genealogical database

The WWW logo
"Old" hands in the land of genealogy, and in particular those with Dutch roots, may remember Dutch data base GenLias. In that case I have some bad news for you, because that's what it is, a memory. It doesn't exist any more. And that is hardly news, it ceased to exist over a year ago. But the good news is that there is a successor. In Dutch it is called Wie Was Wie meaning Who Was Who and commonly abbreviated as WWW. It is operated by the Central Bureau for Genealogy.
For those not familiar with Dutch genealogy sources it may be good to know that the Netherlands have very permissive archives. Most of the primary genealogical data are available on the internet at no cost. That is certainly the case for the period from 1812 onwards when registration of these data became a government responsibility. But also church records written down prior to that date may be consulted from your easy chair. If they still exist that is. Under the WWW umbrella many regional archives and the National Archive make these data available to genealogists worldwide. At the moment some twenty archives show documents related to over 87 million persons. In an increasing number of cases also a scan of the original document can be consulted and downloaded. Eventually the site will be in English as well but for the time being it is in Dutch only. To overcome this problem I'll try to compose a simple user manual in English so that you can do some basic research yourself.

The url for WWW is The following screenshot is the most important part of the homepage. The translation is underneath each of the following screenshots.
Personen zoeken --> Search for individuals
Ruim 87 miljoen personen in de database! --> Over 87 million individuals in the database
Zoek op naam --> Enter surname
Zoek --> Search button
Uitgebreid zoeken --> Advanced search
You may use wildcards, * for more than one character and ? for a single character.
Assume you are looking for the surname Snyder but you don't know whether to write this as Snyder, Snijder or Sneider, you type Sn*der.
However, if you are looking for a common surname like this one it is likely that you get more hits than you can handle in a week. Hit the search button and you'll see this:
Found: 26,738 results for Sn*der
You'll agree with me that going through over 26,000 results is not very practical. Before using the advanced search button to possibly lower this large number, let's have a look at the (first) result page. Hope you can read it, otherwise click on it to enlarge.

You see 10 results on each of the 2,670 pages.
Pagina (--> page), any page number can be filled in there.
The headers translate as follows.
Achternaam --> Surname
Voornaam --> First name
Patroniem --> Patronymic
Akteplaats --> City where document is registered
Aktedatum --> Registration date (in the Netherlands the sequence is day-month-year!)
Documenttype --> Type of document
Clicking on each of the headers influences the numerical or alphabetical sequence.
Below the type of document you see certain expressions. They are:
BS (Burgerlijke Stand) --> Civil Registration (from 1812 onward)
DTB (Doop, Trouw, Begraaf) --> BMD (prior to 1812, during that period birth data hardly exist, baptismal dates do)
Huwelijk --> Marriage
Overlijden --> Death
Dopen --> Baptism
Clicking on an asterisk (not visible here) results in that particular document being stored elsewhere. Clicking on the symbol to the left of a surname (see Visser above) gives you access to a document scan. Both facilities are only available if you register.
Now, let's try to reduce the number of results. To do this click on the advanced search button (Uitgebreid zoeken). It is in the blue rectangle on top of the above results page. And this is what you get:
First some translations.
Achternaam --> Surname
Tussenvoegsel --> Insertion              Zonder --> Without
Voorna(a)m(en) --> First name(s)
Patroniem --> Patronymic
Beroep --> Profession
Rol --> Role This pull down menu shows All roles, bride, groom, registered person, witness, child, mother, mother of the bride, mother of the groom, deceased, partner, relation, father, father of the bride, father of the groom and previous partner. In most cases all roles will do.

Voeg een persoon toe --> Add a person. I'll come back to that.

Periode Bijv. 1800 t/m 1900 --> Period Example 1800 u/i 1900 If known you can insert dates here.
Land Alle landen --> Country All countries Leave unchanged
Regio --> Region Leave blank unless you know the name of the province.
Plaats --> City, village

If we make a small detour for a minute and apply this time period limitation to the Sn*der example the number of results is cut by 11,000.
Let's go back to the above Uitgebreid zoeken page.
Filling in most boxes is optional.

On the right hand side you see:
bevat --> includes
syn --> synonym
exact --> exact
If you are uncertain about the spelling of a name checking either one of the first two may be of use.

The screenshot below is part of the one shown above.
Zoeken in      Alle documenttypen --> Search in     All types of documents
It's best to leave this box unchanged.
Zoeken of Leeg alle velden --> Search or clear all boxes.

I promised to come back to the Voeg een persoon toe --> Add a person-button. If you click on that button the screen below is added to the one we discussed above.
Tweede persoon --> Second person
The next five boxes have been dealt with earlier.
Verwijder laatste persoon --> Remove last/2nd person Clicking this button removes this part of the screen.

The purpose of this second person screen is to eliminate a lot of pink noise. It enables you to look for documents showing e.g. a mother and her child or a bride and the groom rather than looking for a child or a bride alone.

Now let us apply this second person possibilty to the already reduced Sn*der data. Assuming there is a certain relationship with a person with surname Jong, the number of data is reduced dramatically.
179 is not a very small number to look at but it can be done. You also have to appreciate the fact that the surname de Jong is the number 1 name in the Netherlands.

Now that I have mentioned a surname preceded by an insertion (de Jong), it is time to tell you how those names are written in the Netherlands. In English speaking countries the Dutch name de Witt is often written as DeWitt. More examples: van Zandt and VanZandt, van der Pool and Vanderpool, ter Willigen and Terwilligen. So looking for DeJong will return a meager 342 results whereas Jong with insertion de shows over 422,000 hits. Obviously this difference in writing also influences the alphabetical order in which names appear.

Once you have a result it is possible to narrow it down further. In the left hand margin of each result page there are several possibilities.
From top to bottom it reads:
Verfijn resultaat: --> Narrow down result (by changing ...)
Periode --> Period
Verfijn --> Narrow down button
Collectiegebied --> Region where document was originally registered.
And not shown here:
Organisatie --> Name of archiving institution
Documenttype --> Type of document
Rol --> Role

Now that our quest has been narrowed down to the last 179 records, it is time to have a look at the record itself. I picked one at random.
BS Overlijden met --> Civil Registration of death of Yltje (first name) Hylkes (patronymic) Snijder (surname)
Overledene --> Deceased
Geslacht --> Sex    Vrouw --> Female
Leeftijd --> Age
Vader --> Father
Moeder --> Mother
Gebeurtenis --> Event    Overlijden --> Death
Datum --> Date    Zaterdag --> Saturday
Gebeurtenisplaats: --> City/village where event took place
Documenttype: --> Type of document
Erfgoedinstelling --> Archive name
Plaats instelling --> Archive location
Collectiegebied --> Region
Archief --> Archive number
Registratienummer --> Registration number
Aktenummer --> Document number
Registratiedatum --> Date of registration
Akteplaats --> Place where document has been drawn up

The image in the top right hand corner indicates that a scan of the original document is available for viewing and downloading. The above  mentioned document is shown below.
Civil Registration of the death of IJltje Hijlkes Snijder
in IJlst on January 5, 1839
So far consulting this data base is free but that may change. I expect that retrieving basic data (Civil registers and the older BMD data) will remain free. However, to look at document scans and to store document records for later investigation you need to register. Those facilities may become part of a subscription. Today they are still free of charge. In case you want to register and need assistance, please let me know. Or alternatively I can arrange the download of a scan for you. In any case I hope this post is of use to genealogists with Dutch roots. I'll be happy to answer any questions.

In conclusion I like mention that not everything that you find in this database is faultless. Human beings are known to err and so is software made by the same humans. To demonstrate what I mean I like to refer you to Yvette Hoitink's blog about some "funny" mistakes made by With her kind permission I copy her infographic here.

I am not saying that WWW makes this kind of mistakes but an additional check never harmed anyone! By the way WWW shows just 45,616 mentions of Reusel, the village mentioned in Yvette's infographic.

Update Jan 28, 2014
Today, one day after this post, WWW launched the first version of WhoWasWho in English. Coincidence? Curious? Here is the English site.

Update Jan 29, 2014
Yvette Hoitink, the author of the a.m. infographic, drew my attention to the fact that she did not say that caused the mistakes she revealed. She states "I did not say that these errors originated with, just that they can be viewed in their Member Trees. In fact, I think two of the errors originated with Familysearch and one with FamilyTreeMaker.
The truth shall prevail...

Update Apr. 29, 2014
For further explanation of WWW please see this video. It'll take approx. 7 minutes.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Photo albums looking for family

Possible owners looking for their albums
During the early years after the second world war many people had to leave the former Dutch East Indies in a big hurry. The period between 1945 and 1949 was unstable, to put it mildly. The prevailing political circumstances didn't allow families to carefully pack their personal belongings. Most of these people went (back) to Holland. But for many the European climate was not very attractive. Therefore, large numbers went to Australia, California and South Africa.
During this period also Dutch troops served in the former colony. One way or another a number of them bumped into left behind photo albums, all in all some 350. Eventually these albums have been transferred to the Royal Tropical Institute (RTI) in Amsterdam. And there they lay for decades collecting dust and waiting for ..., yes for what?
In 2013 the RTI/Museum for the Tropics decided to make an effort to return these albums to their rightful owners. They digitized the albums, set up a website (in Dutch) and displayed them there. So far 16 albums have been returned.

As I said, many people fled to other countries. They may not be aware of the RTI site and the albums displayed there. That in itself seems sufficient reason to display a number of photo's here. It is also possible to flip through the individual albums. All albums have been numbered. The relevant number is shown underneath each photo.
Below you see 20 photo's from the first 20 albums. In a few cases "text has been added". Obviously the chance that someone recognizes one of these persons is 0,00001% or thereabouts. Therefore, I would hope that people with a background in the former Dutch East Indies will have look at the RTI site. Or if you know someone with such a background... In case you recognise someone or a situation, please report it to the RTI. Alternatively you can email me at patmiebies at gmail dot com or even better, comment at the bottom of this post. On behalf of a few hundred orphaned albums, thank you!
0814 "Willy and Loutje 1929 Leeuwarden"

0818 "Huize Marijcke"
0820 "Kampong 29 Sep 1932"
0821 "24 May [or Dec] 1938"
0825 "dancing girl, 2nd writer and bakmandoer"
0828 "Physical education teacher Van der Linden"

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

In honour of Auntie Miriam

Auntie Miriam (1901-1987)
As Sepia Saturday adepts undoubtedly know the second Saturday of January has been proclaimed Auntie Miriam Saturday. For those unaware of this memorable day, it is in the Sepia Saturday Rule Book, the gospel for all Sepians. Now, there is a slight problem. I like to dedicate this post to her but I never belonged to her inner circle. So what can I write? I know she was related to Alan, I know she was fond of visiting the North Sea beach probably near Great Yarmouth and that she had a boarding house there. But that's about all. Obviously I can allow myself to be carried away on the waves of my fantasy. Subjects such as the quality of bathing suit fabrics or exhibitionism come to mind. But I feel that would not do her justice. 
Therefore, I decided to concentrate on a different lady who is also unknown to me. It is a lady who lived in The Hague near the seaside resort Scheveningen. If you look at the map, Scheveningen is on the eastern side of the North Sea wheres Great Yarmouth is directly opposite, on the western side of that same sea. So you see, there is a connection between the two ladies. But that is not the only tie.

Let me first tell you how I "met" this lady from The Hague.
While wandering over the internet, I ran into the Flickr account of one James Morley. Judging by the pictures he is showing I guess he is a countryman of Alan. He does have an interest in old pictures and he a.o. buys those in Amsterdam. Being interested in genealogy my curiosity was aroused. 
James provided his readers with the following information.

"I bought this [photograph] on a recent trip to Amsterdam. The antiques street by the newly reopened Rijks Museum was staggeringly over-priced. The indoor antiques market at De Looier is great, but there was not a huge wealth of quality images and still quite pricey. So it was a real surprise to find this - just about the only image for sale at the bookseller's market in De Pijp.

The seller told me that the image came from an estate linked with the Ritter family. The white sticker is apparently from the family and reads "Vermoedelijk Mevrouw Gowthorpe geb. Boer" which translates as "Presumably Mrs Gowthorpe nee Boer" (thanks to Stereomania for the first word - [...]). The pencil writing underneath is apparently from the dealer's own research, making connections to the Ritter family and what appears to be the names Godard Gowthorpe 1833-1879 and Maria Cornelia [?] Johanna Boer 1836-1865 and I think it suggests they were married in 1855.

Update Nov '13: I couldn't seem to find anything that matches this on Ancestry, but if you look at further information added to the image of the reverse (see thumbnail and link below) you'll see that I am increasingly confident that this is Maria Cornelia Johanna Boer who married Godert Alexander Francois Gowthorpe, whilst another member of the Gowthorpe family married a Ritter. 
It's an ambrotype ca 1850, the external dimensions are 130mm x 110mm with the internal oval measuring 78mm x 60mm. It's in need of a little restoration but this and the scan don't really do it justice - it's a lovely image with some delicate gilding."

James Morley's description relates to the images below.
Maria Cornelia Johanna Boer
Maria Cornelia Johanna Boer

Vermoedelijk Mevrouw Gowthorpe geb. Boer
Arch PH Ritter Godard Gowthorpe 1833-1879
+ + 1836 Maria Cornelia Johanna
Boer 1855 gehuwd 

After having read the above close to 2 months ago I had a look in Dutch genealogy database WieWasWie. There I found that when Godert Alexander Francois Gowthorpe died in Utrecht on 12-11-1879 he was 45 years old. At the time he was married to Alida Anna Maria Masteling. However, in that record it says he was the widower of Maria Cornelia Johanna Boer.
Obituary of Maria Cornelia Johanna Boer
published in the Opregte Haarlemse Courant
on August 21, 1865
Another member of the Gowthorpe family, Isaline Jeanne Francoise Marie Alexine Gowthorpe, was married to a P(ierre) H(enri) Ritter (born in approx. 1851). His father was also a P(eter) H(einrich) Ritter.
Just as a matter of interest I mentioned that Godert's father, Jean Francois Casimir Gowthorpe, was the steward of HRH Prince Hendrik of the Netherlands (1820-1879).

When I started writing this post I did some further investigation. That revealed that the a.m. Isaline was not just "another member of the Gowthorpe family" but the only daughter of Godert and Maria.

An internet source suggests that the Gowthorpe name is of Scottish origin. Whether that is true or not, many Gowthorpes lived in England*. In any case it certainly is not a surname with Dutch roots. The same internet source reveals that Godert and Maria got married on March 28, 1855. Isaline was born in The Hague on August 3, 1856.
Like his father, also Godert was serving the Dutch royals. He was under intendant to Queen Regent Emma.

Based on the fact that Godert's son from his second marriage (also named Godert) was a Roman Catholic priest, I assume that also his father was of that belief. I do not know whether that supports the suggestion that the Gowthorpes were of Scottish origin.

Daughter Isaline married one Pierre Henri Ritter. Mr. Ritter was providing extra lessons to children from wealthy families. And Isaline was one of his pupils. Much to the dislike of her father and uncle Dirk a relationship developed between the two. Eventually the couple eloped and got married on December 9, 1880. 
The reason to mention this marriage is a personal one. When I was a small boy living in the house of my grandparents during the 50's, every Sunday we had lunch together. Usually my grandfather around that time was listening to the radio. At 1 pm it was time for the news broadcast and we all better be silent. Following the news there always was the weekly book review by ... Dr. P.H. Ritter jr. I still remember his very typical tone of voice. And now I find out that he is the eldest son of Pierre and Isaline. It's a small world.

In conclusion I like to share a thought with you, be it that it is a thought without much foundation.
After the death of her mother Maria Isaline lived in the house of her uncle Dirk Boer and aunt Anna Maria Duncan. When Isaline celebrated her 15th birthday she wrote a letter to her father, saying that she received two medallions, one from him and one from her grandparents. Apparently that was one too many. So with the permission of her grandparents she exchanged theirs for a brooch. Now, if we have a closer look at the ladies neckline in the picture, we see something there. Is it a brooch? Or a medallion?
Mother Maria or daughter Isaline?
So can it be that we see here the picture of daughter Isaline rather than mother Maria?
In an effort to prove my case I have to say I am also not so sure whether the writing on the rear has been put there during Maria's life i.c. before 1865. It looks very much like the type of writing that was taught in the years after WW1 at the earliest. Certainly the writing on the decal would qualify for an even later period. The word Arch possibly means Archief (Dutch for Archive). And that suggests it has been written there by someone dealing with the archive of P.H. Ritter. Usually that is done after someone's death. So I agree with the assumption made by James Morley, that this writing possibly has been put there by the dealer where he bought this photograph. So all I want to say is that there is no definite proof of who is portrayed here.
The thing that is difficult for me to judge is whether this is an ambrotype yes or no. I am not much of an expert in these matters. Could it also be a (later) tintype? Also I don't know how the brooch, the neck lace and the earrings came to be gilded. Was that an already existing method of decoration during the ambrotype period (1855-1865)?

As you can see there are still many questions to be answered. I am hopeful that knowledgeable readers will be able to come up with further clues. In the meantime I will try to answer the question of the likelihood of these two ladies having seen each other on their respective North Sea beaches through the mists of time.

The presence of Auntie Miriam there has been documented, please see the first picture of this post. 
Visiting the beach was not uncommon for the middle classes in Holland during the 19th century. In Scheveningen this pass time started already in 1818 when the first bathhouse was set up. Later bathing machines on wheels moved their precious cargo into the sea. And hopefully out of it as well. The lower classes were banished to other beaches so their lustful looks would not embarrass the ladies. Peeping Toms ran the risk of being punished with three days in prison. In 1884 the municipal bathhouse was transformed into the still existing Kurhaus. 
The Kurhaus in the early 1930's

In view of the above mentioned developments I regard it more than likely that both Maria and/or her daughter Isaline visited the Scheveningen part of the North Sea beach. 

But there is yet another connection among these three ladies. 
At one time Auntie Miriam lived in Bradford, Yorkshire. If you drive from there to the east for less than 50 miles on the A647/A64, you are still in Yorkshire, in a hamlet called ... Gowthorpe! 
With three similarities between Auntie Miriam and the two Dutch ladies being determined, I think it is fair to say that highlighting Maria and her daughter is in fact a tribute to Auntie Miriam. Therefore, on this second Saturday in January I like to express my gratitude to her for the source of inspiration she still is. 
Thank you, Auntie Miriam!

In the genealogical chart below I have mentioned all Dutch people playing a part in the above story. Also those relevant to mother Maria and daughter Isaline have been shown. In the red lined rectangle is the P.H. Ritter Jr. whose voice I remember so well.

Update July 3, 2016:
Recently I stumbled upon the pictures of a.m. Pierre Henri Ritter Jr. and his wife Cornélie M. Landré. Here they are:


For more Sepia Saturday contributions from around the world please click here.

Photo credits
Bathing machine: Wikipedia
Kurhaus: Wikipedia, attribution: Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestad Photo via Nationaal Archief
Pierre Henri Ritter Jr.: CC Wikipedia
Cornélie M. Landré: Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht 

This website shows many Gowthorpes living in England during the 19th century. However, no known first names such as Godert. 


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