Remaining buildings of the former work colony and prison Veenhuizen
Methodology Spotlight

Pieter Eijgenhuizen’s pauper records

Today, we are looking at a card that was made for Pieter Paulus Cornelis Eijgenhuizen when he was admitted in the ‘Veenhuizen work colony’, a place (or prison) for paupers.

State Work Institution [Rijkswerkinrichting] (Veenhuizen, Drenthe, Netherlands), description cards [signalementskaarten] 1896-1901, no. 1273, Pieter Paulus Cornelis Eijgenhuizen; “Veenhuizen en Ommerschans,” database with images, AlleDrenten ( : viewed 27 June 2020).


The card consists of four pages. Page 1 gives personal data, for example names, date of birth, parents, occupation, previous convictions. Pages 1 and 2 both have descriptions of body parts, for example forehead, nose, right ear. There are also notes about scars and birth marks. Page 3 shows two photographs as well as prints of the right hand’s fingers.

Of course, page 3 is really interesting: it has photographs! But before we give an example of those, we first look at page 1. What kind of information do we find here?

  • No. 4603
  • Date of admission: 6 May 1896
  • Name/first names: Pieter Paulus Cornelis Eijgenhuizen
  • Nicknames: [blank]
  • Born: 28 January [changed to June] 1835 in Amsterdam, province of Noord-Holland
  • Son of: Cornelis [Eijgenhuizen] and Anna Dorethea Bruijning
  • Occupation: worker
  • Last residence: without
  • ID papers: [blank]
  • Relationships: widower
  • Militairy service: Dutch Navy
  • Previous convictions: 7x (begging and vagrancy on purpose)
  • Last conviction: vagrancy, convicted by the court in The Hague
  • Fact, currently suspected of: [blank]

As said before, this first page also gives some measurements (in millimeters) and descriptions. First the measurements:

  • length: 1 m. 567
  • spinal curve: 0
  • stretched arms: 1m. 67
  • upper body: 0 m. 836
  • length of the head: 193
  • width of the head: 154
  • maximum distance between the cheekbones: 141
  • length right ear: 66
  • lenght foot: 259
  • length middle finger: 114
  • length pink: 87
  • length forearm: 432
  • color of left eye: class 1-2, areola yellow color, periphery light blue, particularities [blank]

Next is the description of his forehead:

  • lower edge: medium
  • profile: moderately tilted
  • height: medium
  • width: medium
  • particularities: slightly wrinkled

Followed by the description of his nose:

  • root: short [or small]
  • back: [unclear what the abbrevation geg means]
  • base: [unclear what the abbrevation ben means]
  • length: medium
  • protruding: medium
  • width: wide
  • particularities: thick point

The director made this card in triplicate, in Veenhuizen [camp] no. 3. He placed his signature in the lower right corner.

Photograph of Pieter Eijgenhuizen, as found on his admission card for the Veenhuizen work colony, 1896 (photo credits: AlleDrenten)


As said before, page 3 contains two pictures of Pieter Eijgenhuizen. Both pictures show his number: 4603. The first picture shows a side view, his right side. The second pictures shows a front view.

The description of body parts is already valuable for genealogists, who want to know what their ancestor or relative looked like. However, a photograph – or even two photographs – is a real treasure! Especially when it is a picture from 1896. Thanks to this card we know exactly what a man who was born in 1835 looked like.


When your ancestors were not wealthy enough to have their photographs taken, you may want to look for criminal records. Some files have mug shots. The admission cards from the Veenhuizen and Ommerschans work colonies are one example. Another example of files with mug shots are the registers of released prisioners in the Amsterdam Archives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *