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                             Volume 18, Issue 45 -- 2016-12-18                     

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Patronymics, Naming of Dutch Children In New Netherland

In searching through genealogy information we came across this interesting little tidbit of the naming of Dutch children in New Netherland. In the 1600s and 1700s, if you were looking for the parent of a person, the patronymic would tell you the father's given name, but not the last name being used. It was in the 1700, surnames became fairly firmly established so things got easier.

Spelling of names changed greatly as time passed. What you see in print may not be the spelling that the person used for their own named, if they could spell. The spelling that was recorded was mainly the result of the education, experiences, and language spoken by the person recording the information.

Let us begin with "Patronymics," which was a system of naming children, existed in New Netherland (later known as New York State) in the 1600s. This system was outlawed sometime after the British took control of New Netherland in 1664 and then again in 1674. Patronymics was a system of naming used before surnames were used. Each succeeding generation had a new 'surname,' so to speak.

Have you ever run into to following in searching your Dutch ancestors? If a man named Jacob had a son Hendrick who had a son Samuel who had a son Dirck, the full names of these men were based not he names of their fathers. We might not know the full name of Jacob, but the rest we can know. They were Hendrick Jacobse, Samuel Hendricks and Dirck Samuelse. The ending of the name could vary in the written record. Sometimes Jacobse appeared as Jacobsen or Jacobsz. Daughters took the name of their father also, but supposedly with a different ending (dr), but mostly with the same endings that the sons had.

This patronymic naming system worked fine in rural areas in Europe. There was probably only one "Samuel, son of Hendrick" in a surrounding area of farms. But 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 Netherland 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.

As to surnames, 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 Beuren.' The Dutch word for 'from' is 'Van.' And so now we know the origin of the name 'Van Buren' (from Beuren). Other people might decide that they were from the mountains or from a wooded region, 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 were a lot of Dutch names beginning with Van, as you know. Denmark didn't require surnames until about 1850-1860.

Naming of Dutch Children In New Netherland
Dutch parents in New Netherland/New York generally named their first two sons and first two daughters after their own parents (the grandparents of the children). If on 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 had the same name in a Dutch family, it was 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 (for example 'Cornelius' and 'Garrett' 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 Cornelius or Garrett was listed, check all baptisms for the man. If one of the baptisms is for an Albert, there was 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 was one of the best methods of finding the parents of a person i the early days of the state.

And 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 was true, determining the parents of Albert would not be easy. Although in some Dutch lines this pattern of naming children may not have been used.
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