The Basics: A Guide
Church council and deaconate records helpful with research
In this chapter, I want to discuss two special types of records - the Orphan's Court (Weeskamer) and church council (Kerkeraat handelingen). In the Netherlands guardians were appointed for orphaned children or for children who were soon to be orphaned (or so they thought). If one of the parents was seriously ill, they had a guardian (or guardians) appointed to make sure the other spouse looked after the child/children. In these records you often find the ages of the children. The other important thing about these records is that brothers, sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law and sometimes grandparents were named.
In the church accounts you can often find interesting details about your forebears and about the customs of the time. Church council records usually consist of two parts, those dealing with the elder's decisions (ouderling) and the other dealing with the deaconate (diaken). In the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk the church council consisted of the minister, the elders and the deacons. The elders assisted the minister in his work and took care of the church in the absence of a minister.
These men were also responsible for admitting people to the local church, either through transfer of membership from another church (with attestation) or through confession of faith (belijdenis). Upon profession of faith a male within the local church becomes a full member of that church (you could serve as elder or deacon, advisory vote, partake in the Holy Supper, etc.).
Often you will find lists of people admitted to the church among the church records. Within the church council records you can find some very juicy information about your forebears - especially if their lifestyle left something to be desired. Drunkenness and failure to attend church was sure to catch the attention of the elders. In the deacon's records you find out what money they paid out and for what.
In the Oudehorne / Nieuwehorne (Friesland) deaconate records I discovered that two of my wife's forebears were carpenters. They were paid to make repairs on houses which the church used for the poor people in the congregation.
In these same records I found the death date for two of her forebears as well. The church paid for the funeral expenses (the making of the coffin, the food consumed after the funeral, etc.). From these records I was also able to get samples of the writing of three of her forebears, they were deacons and kept their own written records.