Family history

Who are your (distant) relatives? Who are you descended from? What kind of people were they? What did their lives look like? Where did they dwell? And what did they experience in life?

Family tree research is uncovering family relations from long ago. Family tree research, or genealogical research, is the base for writing family histories. Every family history is special and unique. But at the same time, they are not, because they are part of the “bigger historical narrative”. Historical developments and events were experienced by your ancestors, whether they were aware of it or not. The Zeeuws Archives offer everything you need to do research into your Zeeuws ancestors or ancestors who stayed in Zeeland at any point in time.

Those who look for their ancestors will make a journey through time

— Roosanne Goudbeek, employee Zeeland Archives (Zeeuws Archief)

Where do I start?

Research usually starts close to home, in your own family circle. It is important to collect as many facts as possible from your direct surroundings (names, dates, places); the availability from recent sources is often limited due to privacy-concerns. The Zeeuws Archives are only allowed to publish public documents.

Starting points for research are:

  • First and last names,
  • Places and dates of birth, marriages, and deaths,
  • Data about professions from for example parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles.

This primary data is obtained by asking family members or asking if they possess any relevant documents. They can come in the form of obituaries, mourning cards, in memoriam cards, wedding books or birth announcements.

For family ads you can search these websites:

  • Krantenbank Zeeland – newspaper database
  • Delpher – newspaper and other media database
  • Mensenlinq

Sometimes tombstones can offer helpful information:


You can add to the aforementioned facts with other information, like education, profession, ownership, character and hobbies. This is usually called secondary data.

The primary and secondary data are the building blocks for creating a biography. First and foremost, it is important to know what exactly you want to find out.

Determine your goal!

Before you start, determine the goal and therefore the structure or form of your research:

Family name origins

If you are interested in the origins of your family name, you could limit your research – going back in time- to the male line: with yourself as a starting point you gather information about your parents, your father’s parents, your grandfather’s parents on your father’s side, and so on. This is called an ancestry list, and it’s how most people start.

Ahnentafel / Ancestor table

Ahnentafel is an originally German word, meaning ancestor table. With the ahnentafel you also take yourself as a starting point. Going back in time, you gather information about your parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents and so on.  With every generation the amount of ancestors double.

The first few generations are easily displayed in a simple table, but when the number of ancestors increase it becomes more difficult to do this. By giving the people in your ahnentafel numbers you can keep a list without it taking up too much space.


When you are looking for all people who share the same last name, you can start a genealogy from your family. You try to go back in time via the male line as far as possible. Your oldest ancestor is the starting point for your genealogy. You collect information about his family and start working on his sons. If these sons started a family, you could follow that line and find more sons. You go through this form generation to generation until you arrive at the present. The result is an overview of all descendants of the male line of your ancestor.

Family Tree

Creating a complete family tree is the most extensive kind of research. With this kind of research, you do not just investigate the male line, but the female line as well. In the parentage of your grandparents you do not just investigate the sons of the family, but also the daughters. From these children (your aunts and uncles) you can also work out their sons and daughters, and so on.

Tip Start small, with for example an ancestry list or a limited ahnentafel. When you become more familiar with archive research you will start developing an interest in a certain direction. The result can be an extensive genealogy, but it can also be a biography of one particularly interesting person in your ancestry. Very important: try to find out of someone else already did (part of) the same research as you are doing.

Has research into your ancestors already been done?

Before you start archival research, it pays off to check if someone already did research into your ancestors. It is possible that a book has been published about your ancestors or someone published family tree research on the internet. The easiest way to search is through the internet, but be aware that not all sources are available online or even mentioned.

Collection Zeeland Genealogies

An important entry with (partially) published genealogies is the Collection Zeeuws Genealogies (entry 166). A collection of more than 1200 files with genealogical information about Zeeuws families, families related to Zeeuws families and families who lived in the province for a few generations. It concerns finished and published genealogies as well as ahnentafels and genealogical notes. These notes can vary from a few pages to a big file. The Collection Zeeuws Genealogies is present in the database Zeeland Ancestors.

Publications via the internet

Search for publications of genealogical books and articles:

  • with the Zeeuws Archive library
  •, website of the Zeeuws Libraries
  •, website of Dutch libraries
  •, network of libraries worldwide
  •, the magazine library of the Zeeland Library
  •, de krantenbanken van de Zeeuwse Bibliotheek
  •, search engine for books, newspapers and magazines from the Royal Library and others
  •, website of the Central Bureau for Genealogy in the Hague
  •, Dutch Genealogical Society

Publications by (local) historical societies

(Local) history societies in Zeeland publish magazines and yearbooks, in which genealogical information is published. Recent editions are often also published online, however, it might not be possible to find older editions online.

Publications by individuals

Many individuals publish the results of their family research on their own webpage, so others can see this as well. This can be about ahnentafels, genealogies, or even complete family histories.

Biographical reference books on the internet

Frederik Nagtglas (1821-1902) compiled the biographical reference books “Levensberichten van Zeeuwen” (biographies from people from Zeeland). The work was published in four parts between 1888 and 1893.

  • Levensberichten van Zeeuwen, deel 1,
  • Levensberichten van Zeeuwen, deel 2,
  • Levensberichten van Zeeuwen, deel 3 [en deel 4?],

Through the website of the Huygens ING, research institute of history and culture, you can search in various biographical reference books. These also contain biographies of Zeeuws people.

  • Biographical Lexicon for the history of Dutch Protestantism,
  • Biographical Portal Netherlands,
  • Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands: 1780-1830,
  • Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands: 1880-2000,
  • Biographical Dictionary of the Netherlands (Van der Aa),

Non-internet publications

An increasing amount of older publications are being digitalized and published online. While there is an increase, there are many interesting publications found offline. For example:

  • The Genealogical Centre Zeeland (GCZ) possess publications as well as manages hundreds of files with notes about Zeeuws families. You can visit the GCZ in the reading room of the Zeeuws Archives. For an inventory of their files you can check
  • Specifically genealogical is E. A. van Beresteyn, Genealogisch Repertorium tot 1970 (The Hague, 1972) met Supplementen over de jaren 1970-1999. (Genealogical Directory until 1970, with supplements about the years 1970-1999.) This directory provides a list in alphabetical order on all Dutch family names you can find information about in books and magazine articles, with the titles of those publications. Every book or magazine article which includes at least three generations of a family, are mentioned.
  • A brief overview of the origins and spread of a few hundred most common family names from Zuid-Beveland: P.A. Harthoorn, Honderd Zeeuwse Families (Naarden 1967).

The most important Dutch genealogical magazines and year books are:

  • De Nederlandsche Leeuw (from 1883)
  • Gens Nostra (from 1946)
  • Ons Erfgoed (from 1993)
  • Genealogie. Quarterly magazine from the CBG (from 1995). The CBG also published a Yearbook (from 1947 until xxxx).
  • Nederland’s Adelsboek (since 1903), yearbook with all Dutch noble families.
  • Nederland’s Patriciaat (since 1910), yearbook which includes important non-noble Dutch families.

Genealogical publications from Zeeland:

  • Wij van Zeeland, publication from the department Zeeland from the Dutch Genealogical Society (NGV), accessible online here:
  • Van Zeeuwse Stam en Zeeuwse Kwartierstaten, magazines, and the Zeeuws Ahnentafelbook were published by the department Zeeland from the NGV and later by the Foundation Genealogical Publications Zeeland. The later was abolished on November 30th 2016.

Finding ancestors through online resources

Even when the history of your family has not been published, there is a big possibility that information about your family can be found online. After all, more and more genealogical sources are published online. 

  •, website with archive inventories from Dutch archives, including the Zeeuws Archives. You can also search the library catalogue of the Zeeuws Archives through
  •, the person search engine from the Zeeuws Archives with over 8 million pieces of personal data.
  •, the Dutch website with public Zeeuws birth, marriage and death certificates. The website is a collaboration between a number of heritage institutions and is managed by the Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG).
  •, portal with open data from archives. Because heritage institutions make their data available to the public, it might be reused, by for example generating family trees.
  •, the biggest database in the world is that of the Mormons of Latter-Day Saints.
  •, portal of hundreds of genealogical websites, sorted by province, alphabetical by family name or subject.
  •, a website with an overview of links to various different websites with Zeeuws family names.
  •, website with digital source adaptations from the Netherlands and Belgium, such as population data from church archives, passenger lists and information from judicial archives. This website provides an overview of various Zeeuws genealogical sources that can be consulted on websites of archive services and private individuals. The aim is to give an almost complete picture of the available edits of archive sources that contain many personal names and that can be consulted digitally at home.
  • On his website, Huib Plankeel from Leiden has published a large number of source adaptations of mainly member-lists and censuses of villages and towns in West-Zeeuws Flanders before 1796.
  • The Historical Society Arnemuiden created transcripts from various sources from the former municipality Arnemuiden and from the member-lists from the archives of the Reformed Church of Arnemuiden.
  • In 2015, Huib Uil published his thesis on the education in Zeeland and State-Flanders in 1578-1801. Data about teachers was collected: their names, birth and death dates, places of residence, profession, additional positions, job applications, information about their spouse, names of their parents and profession of the father, information about their children if they also became a teacher, or married one. The works cited list was also added.
  • Central Bureau for Genealogy
  • Dutch Genealogical Society


  • Jac Pouwelse from Westkapelle has made a document with over 10.000 names that show up in the civil status documents from the municipality of Weskapelle (19- begin 20th century). The link to this document is sadly outdated, however, you can still view it using the Wayback Machine, an internet archive.

Tip Checking the original sources is necessary if you want to make sure they are reliable.