Dutch naming traditions in the Van den Bosch family

I’m a little late with my first “52 ancestors in 52 weeks” posting.  Last week’s prompt was “same name,” and it took me a while to wrap it up. In response to the prompt, I looked at a Dutch naming tradition I learned about only in recent years and how it may have been used by my Van den Bosch ancestors.

I have tons of families in my tree who used the same names generation after generation. The Case family favored Obadiah, Separate, and Keziah. The Kreykes family liked Jan (or some version thereof). The Hendricksons often used Lars and Oliver (Haldor).

I only recently realized, however, that my Van den Bosch family in the early 20th century closely mirrored a Dutch tradition in which the eldest son is named after the father’s father (Hendrik became Henry); the eldest daughter is named after the mother’s mother (Lubbigje became Lucy); the second son is named after the mother’s father (Harman became Herman); and the second daughter is named after the father’s mother (Hendrijke became Henrietta).

Because in this case all of the grandparents were born in the Netherlands and their grandchildren born in America, the Dutch names became Americanized, even as they passed them on. Some of the grandchildren received American names and others a Dutch name that later became Americanized.

When I heard about this tradition and applied it to this family, I was interested to see that it fit so well for the first two boys and first two girls. It’s a little more complicated to figure out how the later children received their names. The third daughter was named Hermina. I don’t find that name in the family tree, though I wonder whether it was a feminized version of her maternal grandfather’s name, Harmen/Herman. When Hermina was born, it was the maternal grandfather’s turn to pass on his name, but a second boy had not yet been born who could be named Herman. A couple years after Hermina’s birth, a boy was born who was indeed named Herman. It took me a while to consider this connection for Hermina because she was always called “Mina” by everyone I knew.

The source of names for the younger children remains somewhat of a mystery, although one could certainly speculate that “Gertie” may have received a form of her father’s name Gerrit or perhaps the name of two of her great-grandmothers who were named Gerritje. Margaret, who died at age 5, may have received a form of her mother’s name Merrigje, although her mother’s own name was Americanized to “Mary.” Daughter Stella may have received an Americanized form of the name of her great-grandmother “Stintje.” The biggest mystery is the name of the daughter Winifred, for which I am unable to find a source in the family tree, although it certainly is a pretty name. It almost seems they ran out of ancestors with names that had not yet been passed on to their children. Perhaps there is a namesake I’ve yet to discover.

Unfortunately, this is all speculation because I never really discussed this with my grandmother. I’d love to know. The Van den Bosch siblings appear below in adulthood. Henrietta, second from right in the back row, was my grandmother. It seems likely that she was named after her paternal grandmother, Hendrikje Top Van den Bosch, who died in the Netherlands in 1901.


Two of my sources for the Dutch naming tradition were FamilySearch and Dutch genealogist Yvette Hoitink via Dutch Genealogy.

Here in February, I’m late to the party in blogging about “52 ancestors in 52 weeks.” Still, I’m giving it a try, even though I can’t promise to respond to every weekly prompt (in fact, it is unlikely I will carve out the time to do so). It will be a helpful tool, though, in filling those gaps between ancestral birthdays and exciting new research discoveries. 🙂

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2 Responses to Dutch naming traditions in the Van den Bosch family

  1. Amy says:

    I love reading about naming traditions. They are fascinating, and they are a genealogist’s dream!

    • Laura says:

      When I first started this venture, I was so overwhelmed by the number of names that I didn’t pay much attention to patterns. Now that I do, though, yes, I agree … it can be very revealing.

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