Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Preparing for a Visit to the National Archives

This Saturday I will be going to the National Archives in The Hague for some research. The National Archives houses national records, but is also the provincial archive for Zuid-Holland. There’s a lot of material there. As always when visiting
an archive, it’s a good idea to do some preparations at home to increase the chances of a successful day of research. Especially in such a massive (for Dutch standards) archive.

What Do I Want To Know?

The very first thing to do is to define what it is you want to know. Why am I going to this archive? The National Archive holds lots and lots of information, on all of my family lines, so narrowing my search is necessary. In this case, I am going to the National Archive for two things:

1. When did Lodewijk Wesselo have to draw lots to see if he would be conscripted in the military? I have conflicting evidence about this date, and the records I need to resolve this reside at the National Archives.

2. Where was the house Lodewijk Wesselo build located – and can I prove it’s the same house his children were born in? I might need more than the resources I find at the National Archives to answer this question, but the land records held there will be a good start.

So as you can see, I am clearly focusing on one particular ancestor: Lodewijk Wesselo. This will make things easy on me while there and prevent me from becoming overwhelmed.

What Information Do I Have Already?

The next step is to look at what I already have. This data will give me my starting point while searching the archives.

Both of my questions deal with Lodewijk Wesselo. It’s important to have some data about him to confirm his identity. He was born on 22 December 1875 in Voorschoten to Hendrik Wesselo and Alida Petronella van Grasstek. He married Elizabeth Lubach on 13 July 1899.

My first question deals with military archives, before he was married, and they will identify him by his name and birth date primarily, along with his parent’s name further in the record. The years I’m looking at are 1896 and 1898. The place will most likely be Voorschoten, although Leidschendam is also mentioned in a source I’ve got. This information will give me a great start in looking for the record I need.

My second question is a little bit more difficult. Two years before he got married (1897) he bought same land located in the former estate “Klein Langehorst” in Voorschoten (and I probably have to be careful not to confuse with the estate “Langehorst” in nearby Wassenaar). In the year of his marriage he built a house there. I do not know the exact location of the former estate, I haven’t been able to find it yet. By 23 April 1900, he’s living in Voorschoten in a house located in Neighborhood “A “ number nine. Street names were not always in use back then, and the neighborhood letter was precise enough back then.

Aditionally to that, I actually have one piece of information that while not directly about Lodewijk, will maybe get me over a brick wall when I’m in the archives. Lodewijk’s father, Hendrik Wesselo, also owned a piece of land with a house on it located in the same former estate. There’s an archival number known for it: nr. 126G (kadaster sectie B, nr. 1817). This is the number that plot of land with house on it is known as within the archive I will be searching.

That’s all the data I have. Especially for the second question, it’s a bit thin, but luckily there’s a book I borrowed my library which deals solely with researching houses – their locations and their owners. From what I’ve read, I stand a fair chance of finding what I’m looking for – at least as far as location of the house goes.

Where Can I Find My Information

The beauty of the internet today is that I can look at what records I need right here at home and be prepared to ask for the right records when I get there, without having to spend time searching for what records I need. This will give me more time to look for my ancestor within the relevant record while I’m at the archive.

For my first question I need the draft records, called ‘militie-registers’. From the index that’s on the site, I’ve discovered I need the records from the period 1881-1912. These records are divided by districts, which are then subdivided by ‘kantons’. Voorschoten (the most likely place I’ll find my ancestor) is in district 1, kanton 2. Leidschendam doesn’t appear in the registers of that period, only in later periods. With a bit of help from Google I found out that Leidschendam didn’t exist until 1938 – the source I took the name from was written in 1947 and the author probably used the new name of the old places. Leidschendam used to be Veur and Stompwijk. Both of them are also in district 1, kanton 2. So the same register should yield my ancestor no matter which source is right.

Then the registers are further subdivided by year. I will start by looking at the year 1896 (#422 of the register) and the year 1898 (#482). Hopefully I’ll find my ancestor in one of those two. If not, I’ll start looking at 1897 and 1899, and then spread out from there. I’ve reserved these registers on-line, so they’ll be ready for me to pick up when I get there.

For question 2, the matter of which archive to use is a bit more difficult. Thankfully, I know for a fact (albeit from just one source) that the land and the house were owned by Lodewijk and in which years he bought/built them. Sources about owners (of land and houses, mostly houses though) are roughly devided between before and after 1800. Clearly, I need the ‘after 1800’ records. And I need to search in the ‘kadastrale leggers’ which are a type of land records. Usually searches are done with the location as a starting point, while in my case I’m trying to start with an owner. There’s also an alphabetical list of names, which then gives me the registration number of the house – in theory, anyway. If I understood the information on the site correctly, there’s something called a ‘Digilegger’ – a computer program that connects with the Kadaster (the archive for land records) – which is accessible at the archive. So that’s my starting place. Otherwise, I’ll try to find the house in which Lodewijk lived in 1900 and then work my way backwards in the hope that my theory is right and it’s the house he built. However, for this method I might need information not present in the National Archives.

There’s one more thing I can do to try and find the house, and that’s looking at the house of his father. Locating that is locating the neighborhood where Lodewijk’s house is, and then I could canvas the entire neighborhood until I find Lodewijk’s name. If that doesn’t work, I will be ‘stuck’ for the moment. I’ve never done this type of research before, so we’ll see how it goes.

In Closing

Usually, when visiting an archive here in the Netherlands on a Saturday, you have to reserve records in advance. So you have to know exactly what you want to see, and if you’re there and find out you need some other records as well – though luck, you’ll have to wait until next time. The National Archives are different in that they offer almost full service on the Saturdays they are opened. This means that I will be able to request records on the day itself as well.

I’m very grateful for this, as that means that when I am done researching my two questions – no clue how long it’ll take – and I’ve got time left, I will be able to do some additional research. One thing I’d want to look at should I have the time are the military records of Salomon Mulder. Another thing is that I would like to look up the records of Lodewijk’s brothers in the ‘militie-registers’, especially the ones from Jan Jerphaas Wesselo, who will be my next subject for a biography. So in my bag there’ll be a little list of ‘extra research questions’. Let’s hope I have the time for them! If I don’t, it won’t be because of bad prep work!


  1. Hi,

    Did you know you can reserve the records online prior to your visit? Both online and in the reading room, you need to create an account on gahetNA to request the records. Doing this from home will save you some time in the reading room. The records will be waiting for you when you arrive.

    See the instructions for reserving records at gahetNA for more information.

    Good luck with your research!

    1. Yes, I did know that. They're already reserved and should be waiting for me when I get there. Let's hope they'll actually give me the answers that I seek!