Census records are a big help when reconstructing families. In the Netherlands we often use population registers for tracing people in the 19th century. In some towns we find precursors to the censuses. For example, this list of inhabitants of Sluipwijk, dated 1807.
[number of the house] B.45
Willem van Leeuwen
children: Klaas, Jan, Marrigje, Teunis
foster child: Jan Slappendel
housemaid: Hubertje van Neek
rent for house and land: f 374 – : – : [430 crossed out]
sheep: 1 and 5 young ones
quantity of rented land: 22 morgen
poll tax: 37 – 8 –
— stamp money: 2 – 5 –
housemaid money: 3 – : –
— stamp money: : – 4 –
bovine money: 12 – 10 –
— stamp money: : – 15 –
horse money: 1 – 10 –
— stamp money: : – 2 –
This list of inhitants is a perfect replacement for census records. It provides a lot of details, and is especially helpful for those who want to trace families that lived before and after the commence of civil registration and the start of census records.
Not only do we get information about the family Willem and Grietje and their four children. We also know now that they had a foster child and a housemaid. Even better: their names are also in the list! Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Thanks to the other details we get an idea of Willem’s financial status: he is a farmer with some cattle, but he does not own a farm. He rents a house and 20 morgen land. A morgen is an old area measure, roughly 9,000 m2.
When studying old documents, we find words and expressions that we do not use anymore or that had a different meaning then. We also find old measures, like morgen, and old coins.
Today’s record shows some amounts, either for rent or for taxes. These amounts are in guldens and stuivers. For example, Willem paid 1 gulden and 10 stuivers for his horses.
Dashes separate the different values. A colon indicates a blank position. For example: 3 – : – means 3 guldens and no stuivers. A critical observer will notice that there are two dashes, one between the guldens and stuivers and then another one. The third value often used in amounts, was for penningen.
The value of a gulden, or a stuiver, differed from region to region. In general, one gulden had the value of 20 stuivers and one stuiver was worth 16 penningen. Old texts also mention a duit (2 penningen) or an oort (4 penningen).
In 1816 the Netherlands no longer used the gulden–stuiver–penning system, but switched to the decimal system, using gulden and cent.
This wikipedia page lists the names of several old coins in the Low Countries.
Population register or census
If you want to read more about the differences between population registers and censuses in the Netherlands, we recommend you read the following articles.