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Patronymics-Generational Name changes-18th Cent.

"Surnames From Patronymics", by Donna Speer Ristenbatt

    For those starting Dutch research, a study of patronymics is a must. To many, this word “patronymics” is a strange one.  I like to think of this word in two parts - “patro” = father, and “nymics” = naming.  It refers to the way the Dutch people gave ‘‘surnames’’ to their children in the 1600s when they came to America.  The Dutch did not have surnames per se, when they came to America.  Instead, they were using a naming system in which the father’s first name became the child’s last name.  When the father’s first name was used as a last name, many times a suffix was added to the father’s first name to indicate “son of” or “daughter of” (Ex. Jan, son of Hendrick would be written Jan Hendricks, Jan Hendrickse or Jan Hendricksen.).   Note the suffixes “s”, “se”, and “sen”.  Women many times had a feminine form of suffix such as “s”, “se”, “sd”, “sdr”, and even “sen” which implied the full suffix of “sdochter”, meaning “daughter of” (Ex. Jannetje Dirksdr would be Jane, daughter of Dirk [Richard]).

    Surnames started to gain prevalence during the 1600s.  Many times the person beginning the family surname or last name kept his own patronymic and used that patronymic as the surname for his children. Example: Jan, son of Hendrick would become Jan Hendricksen.  Instead of naming his son Cornelius Jansen, he might give him the name Cornelius Hendricksen.   Hendricksen would then become the family’s established surname.

   However, when surnames began to be used, there is one thing about which the researcher needs to be aware.  Continuing to use the example of Jan Hendricksen, let us say Jan had 10 children.  Within this one given family, there could be several surnames.  Cornelius might take the surname Hendricksen.  His brother, Pieter, might take the surname Jansen,  from his father’s first name, Jan.  Another son might decide to take a surname showing the family’s place of origin.  He might then be called Dirk Van Ness (from Ness.).  As can be seen, several generations down the line, 3 different surnames- Hendricksen, Jansen, and Van Ness - could all have the same origin.  I saw this happen with one of my Dutch lines.  One son took the surname Van Nuys.  Another son took the surname Auke, after his father’s first name.  A generation or so away, this Auke surname became Ouke.  All of these things become a veritable challenge for the researcher, but must be considered.

    Lastly, the order of names must be considered.  When a person’s name was given, it might be Pieter Jans Hendricksen De Lintweaver, to give an example.  In order, we have the person’s first name, his patronymic (Jans=first name of his father, Jan, with a suffix added), the new surname (Hendricksen = last name which the family has decided to use), and any term used to indicate an occupation.  Thus, we have Peter, who was the son of Jan Hendricksen, and who is a lint weaver.  Beware that in some records, he might be called Pieter Jansen, in other records, Pieter Jans Hendricksen, and in still others, Pieter Hendricksen.  Finally, he might also be referred to as Pieter De Lintweaver!  It is important to keep an open mind when doing Dutch research and to consider all possibilities, comparing documents with other documents.

    Fortunately, under the Dutch system, the woman did not change her name upon marriage.  This practice is a great help to the researcher. Since a result of the patronymic system is that many unrelated men had the same “surname”, many times the only means of identification can be made through the wife’s use of her maiden name.

              NOTE: the German and Dutch patronymics system are virtually the same.

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