The 17th Century Dutch Naming System
and its subsequent development
Illustrated by Examples from Domine Selyns' LIST OF 1686.
After the introduction of Christianity in the Netherlands, and perhaps still earlier, a foreign class of names grew up by the side of the native Dutch names. During the middle ages these foreign names increased so rapidly that they soon outnumbered the native names, except in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, and in the province of the same name in Germany, and along the Danish borders. The foreign names in the Netherlands, however, developed peculiar Dutch forms, so as to be hardly recognized as the same as their originals, and became, as it were, a second native class of names. In the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, the period in which Domine Selyns made out his list, the proportion of the native and foreign names was about equal, as it is at the present day, and few of the native names have been lost since then. The native element is, of course, Germanic, but modified by peculiar Dutch forms.
We offer a few remarks on the development of both classes of names, and will use, as examples, only such names as are found in our list of 1686.
I. Names of Men.
1. Class of native names.
These are the survivors of the old heraldic system of names. Each name consists of two inseparable parts, one part being common to a whole class of names. For example:
Evert=Ever-hard=Strong as a boar.
Barent=Bern-hard=Strong as a bear.
Wolfert=Wolf-hard=Strong as a wolf.
Olfert is the Frisian form of Wolfert; Ulf, being in old Frisian, as well as in Scandinavian, a wolf.
Gerrit} or Guert =Ger-hard=Strong as a spear.
Other Germanic men's names in this list are : Arent; Coenraed; Leendert; Huyg=Hugo=tall; Walter=ruler; Otto; Lodewyck; Carel; Bruyn; Wessel; Rut-ger; Reyer; Warner; and a few special Frisian names, such as, Olfert; Siurt; Boele; Wyd; Rip; Wybrant=Wige-brand=sword of war. Compare Sige-brand; Wilde-brand, etc.
2. Class of foreign names.
From the Hebrew of the Old Testament and from the Apocrypha: — Abraham; Isaac; Jacob; Benjamin; Jonathan; David; Solomon; Adam; Assuerus (an Assyrian name); Elias; Daniel; Jeremias; Zacharias; Tobias.
From the Greek of the New Testament: — Simon; Petrus (or Pieter); Johannes (or Jan); Philippus Thomas; Andreas (Andries); Stephanus; Lucas; Nicolaus (Claes); Nicasius; Christophorus (Stoffel); Christian(us), (Christian).
From the Latin: — Antonius (Theunis); Cornelius; Clement; Vincent; Victor; Laurens; Justus (Joost); Jurrian(us); Adrian(us)=Adrian, Arie; Martinus (Maerten); Paulus.
II. Names of Women.
1. Class of native names.
A less number of women's names have survived, in Holland, than of men's names. Examples:
and the diminutives:
Hilletje=Heyltje, from Hilda.
Vrouwtje, from Trowa=Mistress of the house.
Femmetje, from Femma=Maiden.
Wal-burg; Wy-burg, from the last syllable of which, Brechtje is a diminutive.
The native names of women have been enlarged in number, by adding to the native names of men, the end-ings -je; -tje; and -ken. Examples:
Willemtje; Metje, from Metten, a Frisian name; Wyntje, from the first syllable of Wynant; Egbertje; Engeltje; Albertje; Baetje, from Bato, a Frisian name; Baertje, from Bart; Hendrickje; Geertje, from Geert=Gerhard; Gerritje, from Gerrit=Gerhard; Gysbertje, from Gysbert; Geesje, from Gys=Gysbert; Wiesken, from Wietse, a Frisian name; and Ytje, from Ide, a Frisian man's name.
2. Class of foreign names.
This class is much larger for the names of women than for the names of men. Many have been borrowed from the Hebrew. For example: From the wives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and even of Assuerus; as Sara; Rebecca; Rachel; Hester; also Deborah has not been forgotten; while from the New Testament, there are the Hebrew names of Anna, Elizabeth, Magdalena, Lydia; and from the Hebrew of the Apocrypha, Susanna and Judith.
From the Greek names of saints have been derived the names of Catharina; Agatha; Margaretha; Sophia; Helena; Apollonia; and from Latin names, those of Maria; Cornelia; Agneta; Christina; Celia; Caneva; Emerentia; Ursula.
Numerous derivatives and diminutives have been derived from these foreign names. For example:
From Anna came Annetje and Anneke.
From Elizabeth came Elsje, Lysbeth and Betje.
From Magdalena came Magdaleentje.
From Helena came Leentje.
From Catharina came Tryntje.
From Agatha came Aechtje.
From Margaretha came Margrietje and Grietje.
From Sophia came Fytje.
From Apollonia came Pleuntje.
From Maria came Marritje and Mayken.
From Cornelia came Neeltje.
From Antonia came Theuntje.
From Celia came Celitje.
From Agneta came Agnietje.
From Emerentia came Emmerentje.
From Cunera came Kniertje.
From Ursula came Urseltje. Etc., etc.
Also many Dutch names of women have been derived from men's names of foreign origin, by adding the Dutch diminutive endings, as
From Adrianus=Ariaen, came Ariaentje.
From Jacob=Jaep, came Jaepje.
From Nicolaes=Claes, came Claesje.
A Dutch patronymic is a man's name with its genitive ending, added as a surname, to the given name of a person who stands under his "patria potestate" (who belongs to his household). Such person may be his son or his daughter, his wife or his grandchild.
The genitive endings which make these patronymics from the names of men, whether native names or foreign names, are:
I. The Frankish genitive, ending in "-en." This ending is old and becoming very rare, and occurs almost exclusively as a suffix to native names. Examples in our list are:
Boelen; Bonen; Corren; Fokken.
The Saxon genitive "s" or "se." Patronymics formed by genitive endings only, could be utilized by women as well as men.
The patronymics formed by the Saxon genitive, however, sometimes added "sen" or "zen," standing for "soon" or "zoon," meaning son. This kind of patronymic became very common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it could, of course, be used only by men. At first, women had the ending "dochter," daughter, as an equivalent, but this did not continue. The patronymics of men, ending in "-ssen" or "-szen" became permanent as family names in the latter part of the seventeenth century. Before that time they were only sporadic, but at the end of the eighteenth century had become common. Then also women began to use such family names, derived from patronymics ending in ssen or szen. Domine Selyns' list, however, shows only one example of such usage, namely. No. 375 : Lysbeth Jacobzen.
As for the rest, the old patronymic system was so much in use among the Dutch in 1686, that such forms existed as Abrahams, Andries, Arents, Barents, Claes, Cornelis, Dirx (x="ks"), Frans, Frederics, Gerrits, Hendricks, Jacobs, Jacobus, Jans, Laurens, Lucas, Pieters, Thomas, Wessels, Willems. To these forms, as being pure genitives, both men and women were en-titled; but for the sake of distinction they were borne only by females.
Men used almost exclusively such patronymics as Abrahamszen, Andrieszen, Arentszen, etc. But one must remember that the name which forms the essential part of a patronymic must be that of a person's father. In case a patronymic belongs to a woman, it may, perhaps, express not her father's, but her husband's name; but sometimes, in cases of both men and women, it may express the grandfather's name. Everything depends upon the residence; in whose "patria potestate" the person resides. For, although the Roman institution of "patria potestas" never found its way among the Dutch, a similar legal arrangement, which subsequently became a custom, existed among them. And even long after this custom of patria potestas had died out, the Dutch kept up the patronymic system which originated from it.
It had become a matter of convention, as well as a necessity for convenience, to distinguish persons of the same given name from one another by giving them surnames. Now the patronymic was one form of surname. But in certain respects the mere patronymic was not satisfactory, for it left members of the same general family without a common and distinctive family name. But permanent family names grew up gradually out of these patronymics; so that by the end of the eighteenth century most families were provided with definite and permanent family names. Then patronymics of the immediate paternal ancestry only survived as middle names, and their further development into family names came largely to an end. This process reached its development almost completely, in the Dutch speaking world, by the close of the eight-eenth century. It was totally finished in the Netherlands in 1810 by a Napoleonic law ordering everyone yet without a family name to assume such a name. In the course of another generation, this process of development of surnames was absolutely completed not only in the Netherlands, but in America, South Africa and Ceylon. The Paulison name is one of the latest examples in America of a patronymic becoming a permanent family name.
Many other family names had their origin from the locality where some prominent member of the family once lived. In such cases prepositions frequently adhered to the family name, indicating the locality from which they sprung; the definite article often remaining in combination with the preposition. For example:
"Van," as in Van Winkle.
"Van der," sometimes contracted to "ver."
"Te der," contracted to "ter."
"Te den," contracted to "ten."
"Voor," as in Voor-Hees; van Voor-Hees.
"Onder," as in Onder-donk.
"Op," as in Op-dyck.
"Op den," contracted into "oppen," as in Oppendyck.
Many Dutch family names have also been formed from occupations of one of its members, in most cases
of the auctor generis, or founder of the family. Such family names stand sometimes by thcmselyes, sometimes with the prefixed definite articles "de" and "den."
Many of the patronymics occurring in the list of Domine Selyns of 1686 were not yet family names at that time and many never became such.
Domine Selyns seems to have used the names by which his church-members were more popularly known and in many cases he gives a patronymic only where a family name of another nature was possessed already by the same person, as appears from wills and other legal documents of the times, in which the persons had to be mentioned not with their popular but with their legal names...
Source: Yearbook of the Holland Society of New-York. New York: The Holland Society of New York, 1916, pp. 14-20.