Methodology Spotlight

Looking for Dutch grandparents

In the last few months we have received requests from clients in Australia, Canada and the United States who were looking for more information about their Dutch grandparents. Each of them had a very specific reason why they did not know much (or even anything) about their ‘oma’ or ‘opa’. Let us take a look at two of these stories and see what we could find out about their family in the Netherlands. For privacy reasons we do not give the original names and have limited the amount of private details.


Yvette lives in Canada. Her Dutch grandfather was born in 1912. He emigrated with his wife and children to Canada in 1954. Yvette wanted to know where in the Netherlands her grandfather lived, and what he did for a living. She already knew that he worked on several flour mills.

We made a timeline, from his birth in 1912 to his emigration in 1954. We checked several population registers and we found him in nine places. He lived in the provinces of Drenthe, Gelderland, Noord-Brabant, and Zuid-Holland. Because Yvette suggested that her grandfather worked on flour mills, we crossreferenced the addresses (like A-140) with other families in the population registers. In many cases we were lucky and we found a miller at said location. Thus we could tell Yvette not only when her grandfather lived in a specific place but also for which flour mill he worked, some of the mills still exist and others no longer.

The mill in Waardenburg, 2009 (photo credits: Gelders Archief, object 6266)

The databases Nederlandse Molendatabase and Database Verdwenen Molens provide details of the mills, even old photographs. Through one of these websites, we contacted a decendant of one of the millers. He was able to confirm that Yvette’s grandfather worked for his grandfather in the 1930s. He even had a photograph of Yvette’s grandfather! In this picture he leans on a truck, together with his boss – who owned the flour mill – and probably a co-worker.

We also found the marriage record for Yvette’s grandfather. Bit by bit we could fill the timeline with names, places and dates and illustrate the facts with beautiful mills and documents. Happy client!


Valerie lives in the United States. An American family adopted her father. His New York birth certificate from 1945 only shows the names and ages of his biological parents. Valerie had already found a few ship records on the internet, which most likely referred to the same man. She asked us to find the real identity of her Dutch grandfather.

Again we created a timeline: on which ships did he work, and from when to when? We found him ten times, the first entry was for his trip from Amsterdam to New York in 1942. The last entry told us that he left Port Arthur, Texas in 1952. Destination: South America. The timeline and the ship records showed that this man – with the same name – was in New York City in 1944 and 1945. He could be the father!

When we studied one of the ship records we found a date from the 1920s. It looked like that could be the sailor’s birth date. Birth records from the 1920s in the Netherlands are not public yet. So, we used the population registers (family cards) to trace this person. Bingo: all details matched! Valerie’s grandfather lived in Rotterdam, while working for international shipping companies.

MS Doros in the port of New York, 1939 (photo credits: Stichting Maritiem-Historische Databank, ship id 1780)

With the details we now had, we ordered a copy of his person card. The card confirmed all the details of Valerie’s grandparents and the name of her own father was on the back. It also made clear that Valerie’s Dutch grandfather divorced, remarried and died more than 45 years ago. Case closed? Well, the identity of Valerie’s grandmother is still a mysterie. No trace of her in the United States, so far.

Your family

These two stories show that even with very little details available, we can find your Dutch grandparents. It depends on what you want to know, but we can help you find their identity, create a timeline for their life in the Netherlands, look for addresses and occupations, help you write their story. Let us know if you need some assistance!