The Basics: A Guide
Dutch taxation records rich source of genealogical data
What if I can't find my forebear in the pre-1800s church register? There are many reasons for this problem. Churches such as the Mennonite Church *) usually did not keep marriage records and very scanty birth/christening records. In some cases clerks/ministers may have neglected to write down the name, in other cases the parents just did not bother to have their child christened/registered.
Additionally, fires, floods and hostilities are responsible for many records having been lost over the centuries. You will usually find that the minister or clerk responsible for keeping the records will make a note in the register that certain years are missing due to floods, war, etc. Sometimes you will find that a clerk put the records in a safe place and then later couldn't remember where he had put them. Sometimes the records were stolen.
So what do I do if my forebear is not listed in the church register? For most municipalities there are other sources to look at. These include notarial records (legal records), tax records (taxes on burials, marriages, cattle, hearth stones, etc.) and court records (land registration, land transfers, orphan's court, civil marriages, etc.).
Let's look at the tax records first. The most useful source of these is the tax on burials and marriages. This tax started in most towns (except in the northern parts of the Netherlands) in 1695 and lasted until 1805. It didn't matter which church you belonged to, you had to pay the tax (or have the deacons pay for you). It was through this register that I was able to trace my Mennonite forebears in Aalsmeer, Noord-Holland. The Mennonite church register only included christenings from 1737 forward and no marriages. However, the tax register in Aalsmeer started in 1695. In the tax register I found all the information on marriages I needed. The taxes on deaths revealed a couple more generations. Not all the tax registers start in 1695. For example, the one in 's Gravendeel, Zuid-Holland, starts in the 1720's. This register is of great importance, however, since the baptismal and marriage records of the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk in 's Gravendeel are missing. In the next issue, more about tax registers.
*) In the Netherlands, the Mennonite Church is known as the Doopsgezinde Broederschap (translated back to English, Baptist Brotherhood). In the 16th and 17th century, this Protestant group was quite numerous in certain area's, notably Friesland where up to one half of the population belonged to it. Editor.