Friday, April 30, 2010

Genealogy in the Netherlands: Primary sources after 1811 part III- Burgerlijke Stand (BS) part 1: civil registration

Last time I discussed Persoonskaarten as a primary source, this time I will be talking about the Burgerlijke Stand (BS), which is the Dutch civil registration. Civil registration in the Netherlands was generally started in 1811, but in the South it was sometimes started as early as 1796. By 1812, every city and town in the Netherlands had started with the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. These certificates were kept in bound books, one book for every kind of certificate. So there is a book of births, a book of marriages and a book of deaths for every place. Registration occurred in the place where the event took place.

Civil registration of births

The civil registration of births is public after 100 years. So currently, all births before 1910 are public. A birth certificate will give the following data:

Name of the child
Names and residence of the parents
Profession of the father
Date and time of birth
Place of birth
Special notices, like whether the child was born out of wedlock.

Civil registration of marriages

The civil registration of marriages is public after 75 years. So currently, all births before 1935 are public. A marriage certificate will give the following data:

Place and date of the marriage
Names and ages of the bride and groom
Birthplaces of the bride and groom
Profession of the groom, and sometimes also of the bride (be aware, if the certificate notes no profession for the bride, this does not mean she didn’t work at all, she could very well have helped out her family in the family business, for instance)
Names, professions and places of residence for the parents of the bride and groom (often it is also noted if they are deceased at the time of the marriage)
Sometimes mention is made of permission for the marriage, recognition of a child born out of wedlock, and other special events surrounding the marriage
The names, professions and places of residence of the witnesses, sometimes the familial relationship is also noted.

Civil registration of deaths

The civil registration of deaths is public after 50 years. So currently, all deaths before 1960 are public. A death certificate will give the following data:

Name of the deceased
Place, date and time of death
Birthplace and date of the deceased
Profession and place of residence of the deceased
Name of partner, and sometimes of previous partners
Name, profession and places of residence for the parents of the deceased, sometimes it is also noted if the parents are alive or deceased

Finding the certificates

The first thing you need to do is figure out which archive contains the certificates of the town you’re interested in. If you search in Google on ‘archief and name of the town’ it’s easy enough to find. Most archives have a digital search engine that will search all if the civil registry certificates they have. Do always check to see which part of their collection isn’t available digital yet! The Genlias database is also a good idea to check, it contains civil registry certificates from a lot of town in the Netherlands.

When you have found the correct certificate through a digital database, you can usually click on it to get some more information. Sometimes, a digital scan is available. You can see a scan of the original and with that you can easily transcribe all the available data. However, if there is no digital scan, you will either have to order a copy (prizes vary from archive to archive) or go and see the certificate at the archive. If you do not do this, you will miss a lot of information, because only the bare basics of the certificate (name of person(s), name of his/her/their parents and date of event) are in the database. Don’t forget to see the original!

If the town you’re interested in does not have a digital database, you will have to go to the archive to look for the certificate. In this case, you will have to look in the index. The indexes are for every 10 years and give in alphabetical surname order all names of the people who were born, married, died or got divorced in that time period, together with the date the certificate was made. Then you can look for the certificate. Please, do not make the mistake of thinking the date the certificate was made (the date mentioned in the index) is the date of the event!

Some other, important notes

Although I’ve given the time periods after which certificates are considered public, this doesn’t always mean they can be found. There are often delays in handing over certificates to the archives, and especially in smaller towns certificates of multiple years are in the same book, which means the books are transferred every 5 or 10 years, instead of every year. This means that even though I should be able to find a birth certificate made in 1909, there is a good chance it is not at the archive yet. Generally, birth certificates of 1900 and before can be found, marriage certificates of 1925 and before and death certificates of 1950 and before.

There are two other registers that are a part of the Burgerlijke Stand, namely the Huwelijksbijlagen (Marriage Supplements) and the Registers van Naamsaanneming (Registers of Name Adoption). I will talk about them in part 2.

To cite a civil register certificate, use the following: BS [place] Certificate Year [enter year] Number [enter number]

Examples of birth, marriage and death certificates will appear in the series Looking For Lamboo. I will post a notice here when these posts are made.

For other posts in this series, see the How-to Guide to Genealogy in the Netherlands.


  1. Congratulations on an excellent series. If I had Dutch ancestors, I would be "on your doorstep," so to speak. Thanks for your work on this -- very useful.

  2. Such outstanding information! It is wonderful that details can be found about individuals at such an early date.