Sources of information

Registers of births, deaths, and marriages (Bevolkingsregisters)

The Registers of births, deaths, and marriages started with census, that have been held in the Netherlands since the 18th century. These took place initially with a certain goal: the government needed information on the number of inhabitants, e.g. for the raise of taxes or the organization of a vote.

From 1829 onward periodical census were held each decade. In some Frisian municipalities the Registers of census, and sometimes even the registration forms still exist. The census weren’t continually updated, soon causing the Registers to lose their actuality.

By Royal Decree of September 22nd 1849 the Registers of births, deaths, and marriages were made obligatory for Dutch municipalities, starting 1850. The new Registers weren’t random indications, like the earlier Registers of census. Inhabitants were obliged to further their changes of address, enabling the local authorities to be acquainted exactly at all times of the size of the population and of the exact place of residence of the inhabitants.

Because the Registers were filled after a couple of years, they were renewed periodically. At the same time of renewal, the lay-out of the columns was sometimes altered. The first Registers of births, deaths, and marriages of 1850 were mainly divided by address, while in later times an alphabetical order was used more often. After 1860 new Registers were added for servants and farm workers, for sailors and for mental institutions.

The outward appearance of the Registers changed in the course of time. Until the beginning of the 20th century the Registers of the Frisian municipalities were bound. From about 1910 onward the municipalities slowly introduced a system of loose family cards. The National introduction of personal cards at the end of the 1930’s marked the end of registration on a family level that had existed since 1850.

Since the introduction of the Registers of births, deaths, and marriages, the names, dates of birth (sometimes only the year of birth) and address were named of each inhabitant. Furthermore information was included on the state of marriage, death, religious denomination, occupation, and changes of address. All of this making the Registers of births, deaths, and marriages a rich source for historical research.

Registers of births, deaths, and marriages (Burgerlijke Stand)

In the Netherlands, a specific kind of Registers of births, deaths, and marriages is maintained under the name ‘Burgerlijke Stand’. These Registers represent the actual state of marriage and the dates of birth and death. The Registers are formed by certificates of birth, marriage, divorce, and death. Since 1998 certificates of registrated partnership were added. The certificates are formed and kept in the municipality where the act happened

The ‘Burgerlijke Stand’ was introduced in the Netherlands in 1811. The actual beginning differs per kind and place. This explains how the first marriage certificates in Amsterdam were recorded on March 3rd 1811, while the death- and birth certificates were first recorded there on July 23rd of that same year. Certain Frisian municipalities didn’t use the certificates until 1812.

During the introduction of the ‘Burgerlijke Stand’ a lot of surnames were already in use in the southern parts of the Netherlands (Flanders and Brabant). As this was not so in the more northern parts, more civilians there were forced, by decree of Napoleon of August 18th 1811, to choose a surname.

Nevertheless, some people in the north didn’t use a surname for quite a long time. A new decree was passed on May 17th 1813, forcing people to really choose a surname, but that decree wasn’t always followed either. Much later, when the United Kingdom of the Netherlands had been established for some time, King William I issued a Royal Decree on November 8th 1825, stating that anyone without a surname had only six more months to choose one.

Information from the ‘Burgerlijke Stand’ is restricted by laws of privacy, mainly protecting the privacy of living people. Birth certificates aren’t public till they are 100 years old, marriage certificates 75 years, and death certificates 50 years.