Dutch marriage in 1949; the bridegroom and bride are leaving town hall.
Methodology Spotlight

Interesting occupations in marriage records

Dutch marriage records provide a lot of information. You can find names, dates and places for the bridegroom and the bride. You can find details about their parents, and sometimes even about their grandparents. Marriage records also mention two or four witnesses. A very interesting part of the description of all parties is their occupation.

This fragment of a marriage records mentions the bridegroom and bride. (1811)
Civil registration (Westerbork, Drenthe, Netherlands), marriage register 1811, page 3, record no. 4, marriage of Helprig Hendriks and Jantje Geerts, 29 August 1811; “Zoek een persoon,” database with digital images, AlleDrenten (http://alledrenten.nl/ : viewed 21 July 2020), search results for ‘Helprig Hendriks’. This image only shows the first part of the marriage record.


Let us take a look at the first part of this marriage record. We find the names of the bridegroom and bride:

  • Helprig Hendriks, 36 years old, farmer’s hand, born in Rolde, living in Gasselte
  • Jantje Geerts, 21 years old, farmer, born and living in Elp

The record also mentions the four parents, of which one is dead.

  • Hendrik Helprigs, clock cleaner
  • the late Aaltje Jans
  • Geert Hendriks Buiving, farmer
  • Hillechien Koops

This record is for several reasons very interesting. First, it is one of the earliest marriage records of Westerbork. Like in other Dutch municipalities, civil registration was introduced in 1811. Second, the first name Helprig is a not very common name. It is typical for the province of Drenthe. The bridegroom’s father used the name as a patronymic: Helprigs.

Woodcut of a clockmaker, in Hans Sachs and Jost Amman, Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden (Frankfurt am Main, 1568).

However, the real reason why we picked this record as an example is because of the interesting occupation that the father of the bridegroom had: uurwerk opschooner.

The Dutch word uurwerk means clock, and it refers either to a small clock used at home or to a bigger one, for example in a church tower. The Dutch word opschooner means cleaner. As a result, we understand that Hendrik Helprigs cleaned clocks for his living. Most likely, he specialized in the bigger clocks. A couple of times a year, he would climb into the tower and clean the clockwork. Some of these specialists also knew how to repair a clock.

Have you ever come across interesting and uncommon occupations? Let us know in the comments!


When you are reading Dutch records, you will find lots of unknown or uncommon occupations. Sometimes, it is difficult to come up with a proper translation in English. We often use these two websites:

We also like this list of ‘Obscure Old English Census Occupations‘.

You can find (free) images of old professions in the collection of Jan and Caspar Luyken.

We welcome suggestions for other websites with explanations or translations of old occupations!

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