Methodology Spotlight

Churchwarden accounts as a source for burial details

The decrees of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) were the start of a formal and structural registration of life events in the Roman Catholic Church. Soon after, the Dutch Reformed Church and other denominations started recording births, marriages and deaths too. Other – and sometimes older – documents might also refer to life events, for example churchwarden accounts.

Dutch Reformed Church (Enkhuizen, Noord-Holland, Netherlands), record group 1702-09: registers of baptisms, marriages and burials in Enkhuizen 1581-1910, call no. 73, page 52 (penciled), November 1593; ‘Personen,’ database with digital images; westfries | archief ( : accessed 26 November 2020), image 53 of 75.

Text of the document

The first page of the document starts with the following words: “rekenyngen van alsulken legersteden als bij ons karckmeysteren ontfangen zyn”. In other words: it is an account of all payments for graves, as received by the churchwardens.

This image shows payments made on 28 November 1593.

  • for a stranger: 1 guilder 10 stuivers
  • Lesbet Jans’ child: 15 stuivers
  • Feyntte Freeckxzn’s child: 15 stuivers
  • Trin Heyndrickx’ child: 15 stuivers
  • Pieter Symenszn’s child: 15 stuivers
  • Bruin Wolszn’s child: 15 stuivers
  • Warnaer Gerritszn: 1 guilder 10 stuivers
  • Frans Folkerszn’s child

The amounts show that a grave for children costed 15 stuivers, double that for an adult.

Although accounts like this do not give an exact date for the death or the burial. Most likely, the money was paid shortly before or after the funeral. A more accurate date is perhaps available in a death or burial register.

Note: if you want to know more about guilders and stuivers, we recommend this article.

Zuiderhavendijk in Enkhuizen, painting by Cornelis Springen, 1868 (photo credits: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, object SK-A-2388)


The city of Enkhuizen played an important role in the development of overseas trade by Dutch merchants. In the 17th century it was one of the most important harbor cities, situated on the Zuiderzee.

Both the Dutch East India Company and the West India Company had offices in Enkhuizen. Thanks to trade with states around the Baltic Sea, England, West-Africa and the East Indies, the city flourished. Enkhuizen’s economy collapsed in the 18th century, causing many residents to move to other places. Foreign trade was mainly concentrated in Amsterdam. [source]

Enkhuizen is still a city worth seeing. There are canals, ramparts and many authentic buildings. Two churches date from the 15th and 16th century, the town hall from the 17th century and many houses from the 17th and 18th century. The history of Enkhuizen’s harbor and trade is well portrayed in the Zuiderzee Museum.