Methodology

Ancestors in ‘cijnsregisters’

Yesterday I was talking with some members of the historical society in Loon op Zand, a small village in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. The five of us come together on a frequent basis to talk about our research, to look for new topics for articles or just to discuss interesting developments in the historical or genealogical field. They all know I do a One-Place Study on Loon op Zand, but they had no idea why I started this (crazy?) project, what I exactly do and what sources I use (and have on my computer). To explain my research, I also talked about the use of cijnsregisters. Coincidence or not but that same evening someone on Facebook asked about the meaning of the word cijnsregister. So I came to write about one of my sub-projects: transcribing the cijnsregister of Loon op Zand. It might help researchers to use this source for their genealogical research (in the Netherlands).

What is a cijnsregister?
The Dutch word cijns comes from the Latin word census and can be translated as tax. In this context a cijns is an annual payment for immovable property, for example a piece of land. The lord of the manor would be the legal owner of the land, but a resident would use the land as were it his own. In return the resident had to pay a fixed annual contribution, in cash or in kind. The cijns was hereditary, the value of the contribution could not be updated.
The lord of the manor – but more likely his steward or estate manager – administered the cijnsen in cijnsregisters . Each cijns would be written down in the register, with the following information: the name of the cijnsplichtige (who has to pay the cijns ), one or more of his predecessors, a description of the property and the annual contribution. The payment for each year was noted on the same page, often in the margin. When the payer sold the property or when he or she died, the name of the new payer(s) was written above or next to the name of the old payer. When parts of the paper were full, information about the payment and the payers were written on other pages or even in supplements. A page in a cijnsregister can be a real mess!

The cijnsregisters of Loon op Zand
Since 1269 Loon op Zand was privately owned. The first lords belonged to noble families who had their roots in the county of Holland, like the Van Haestrecht family. In the 17th century the Belgian Counts of Immerseel owned the large estate. After this family became extinct, the Princes of Salm-Salm from Germany became the new owners. Whereas the Van Immerseel family really lived on the castle of Loon op Zand, the Van Salm-Salm family hardly ever visited their Dutch properties. The administration was done by their estate managers.
The Regional Archives in Tilburg take care of the archives that were created by the local lords of Loon op Zand. Amongst all the documents there are four cijnsregisters . One register was used by the Van Haestrecht family at the end of the 14th century, three other registers were used by the Van Immerseel and Van Salm-Salm families between ca. 1680 and 1857. Each register is divided in books, with names of the neighborhoods. I transcribed two registers that were used between ca. 1680 and 1857. In the first register the land in the old hamlets are recorded, in the second register the ‘new grounds’. New grounds were pieces of land that for a long time belonged to the lord and later were cultivated by local farmers.
In 2001 I finished the transcription of the first register that was used between ca. 1680 and 1857, in 2009 I finished the second register. The transcriptions contain in total 465 pages in A-4 size, typed in Times New Roman with font size 11.

Help for genealogists
The information in the cijnsregisters can help you as a genealogist. The mentioning of your ancestor in one of these registers makes clear that he or she used a piece of land in Loon op Zand that legally belonged to the lord of the manor. It does not mean that this ancestor actually lived in this village! Because the cijns was either sold or inherited, you might find a lot of family members in a row.
Let me give you an example.
Maria de Cock once owned a house with a small garden, located at the north side of the main street, called Kerkstraat . The new owner became Jan van den Hove, no year mentioned. Annual cijns : two hens (or the equivalent in money). The following persons were registered as cijnsplichtige :
–       Jacob van de Graeff, by purchase, registered in 1699
–       his three children, by inheritance, registered in 1719
–       Jan van Beeck, by purchase, registered in 1722
–       his two children, by inheritance, registered in 1759
–       Willem Brands, by division, registered in 1760
–       Jan Willem Brands, by purchase, registered in 1797
–       his three children, by inheritance, registered in 1817
–       Hendrik van den Hoven, by division, registered in 1818
–       Thomas Beunis, by purchase, registered in 1857
This record tells you exactly who owned the house in a period between ca. 1680 and 1857. But it also tells you a lot about the Brands family. Compare the information from the cijnsregister with information from the church books:
Jan van Beeck was buried in 1759. Catharina van Beeck married Willem Brands in 1744. Willem Brands died in 1795. Jan Willem Brands died in 1817. Maria Christina Brands married Hendrik van den Hoven in 1799. Hendrik van den Hoven died in 1857.
It is a complete match!

Final thoughts
I wrote in this blogpost about cijnsregisters as I know them in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. In other Dutch areas or in other countries, similar registers might have been used for different types of land taxes. Take a look if you can find registers like this, they will tell you a lot about your ancestors. And maybe the information in these registers will help you demolish a brick wall in your research!