Methodology Spotlight

Is Biden a common name in the Netherlands?

This 20th of January 2021 marks the day that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. There are a lot of articles on the internet that deal with his immediate family and his Irish ancestry. But it made us question whether this family name ever appeared in the Netherlands.

Surname Database

We often see questions from non-Dutch genealogists who wonder whether a specific surname is common in the Netherlands. To find out, we recommend to check the Database of Surnames in the Netherlands.

Once you have typed in a certain surname, you get two pieces of information. That is – of course – if the family name is in the database. The first thing you will see is to which other surnames this one is related. For example: Smith is related to Smit, but there is also a Smithjes family and a Van Hoeij Smith family. More about the meaning and etymology of the name can be found too by clicking on the tabs.

Search results for the surname Smith in the Database of Surnames in the Netherlands (photo credit: Netherlands Center for Family History)

Numbers

The other interesting part is that the database will tell you – with the help of a map – how many people in the Netherlands were using that family name in 2007, and how many in 1947. The surname Smith for example was used by 3,644 people in 2007 versus 1,618 in 1947. By default the map shows the situation in 2007. All municipalities are on the map: a white municipality means that nobody lived there with this name, but a very dark – al most black – color means there were more than 2,5000 persons with that family name in that municipality. Not only does this help to find out whether a family name is or was common. It also tells you where in the country you could look for the family or for relatives.

Biden in Leiden

A search for Biden learned us that the name is not in the database, hence there was no official registration of a person with this family name in 2007 or 1947. Disappointed as we were about this outcome, we checked the WieWasWie database to see if ‘ever in history’ there was a Biden living in the Netherlands.

And we found ONE!

Magdalena Biden mentioned as godmother of Magdalena, daughter of Johannes Romasse, in Leiden in 1724 (photo credits: Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken)

Magdalena Biden is in a baptismal register from 1724. She was the godmother of Magdalena, daughter of Johannes Romasse and Maria Titenburg. The little girl was baptized in Leiden (Pieterskerk, or Peter’s Church) on 2 August 1724. Her godparents were Isak Tomasse and Magdalena Biden.

Other entries tell us that the father’s name was actually Johannes Thomasse, which makes more sense than Romasse. And the mother’s name was Maria Ti(j)kenburg(h). This made us think that Biden maybe was not Magdalena’s real name. If not, then we have to give up on that one and only entry for the name Biden in the Netherlands.