The Basics: A Guide
Church records often add flesh to dry genealogical bones
What can be found in the deaconate records of a church? I think that you would be surprised at all the information that is contained in these records. I am going to use the deaconate records of the Nederlands Hervormde Kerk in Oudehorne, gemeente (municipality of) Schoterland, Friesland. These records date from before 1770. Several of my wife's forebears show up as deacons and there are samples of their handwriting.
These records also indicate that the church had several houses in which they placed widows or poor people. My wife's forebear Reinder Jochems Neef was paid in 1770 'seven gulden ses stuivers' (seven guilders, six nickels) for carpentry work on the diaconate houses. In that same month and year Pyter van Nes was paid one guilder and two nickels for glass work on the house on the heath at Oudehorne (the house belonged to the deacons). In November of 1770 Geert Pyters was paid two guilders fifteen nickels for nails and iron work for the diaconate houses. In 1771 Reinder Jochems was paid six guilders for renting a house to Hiltje Beenes. In December 1771 Reinder Jochems was paid two guilders fifteen nickels for carpenters work on the old miller's house in Hoornsterzwaag. In November 1771 Roel Jentjes was paid two guilders for church service at the door (kerkdienst bij de deur). I am not sure what this meant. In June of 1771 the diaconate paid out three guilders and fifteen nickels for 'turf' (peat) for use by Eltjen Hendriks and Baukjen Freerks. In April of 1773 Roel Wybes was paid 12 stuivers for poles and 10 stuivers for putting them in. In May of 1773 Molle Wobbes, baker, was paid 29 gulden and 1 stuiver for roggenbroot delivered to Harmen Jacobs.
Death dates can also be found in these records. On 3 December 1777 Theunis Roels (another of my wife's forebears) died and 2 guilders was paid out for a sheet in which to put him for burial. On December 14 Aukje Jans was paid for cleaning the deceased's house. Evert Theunis (son of Theunis Roels) was paid on the same day for being auctioneer at the sale of the goods of Theunis Roels. Evert's wife was paid for the sewing of several pieces of clothing and for butter at the funeral. On December 20, 1777 Lammert Edes was paid 1 gulden 18 stuivers for beer at the funeral. In 1795 Jan Meuwes and Saake Feitzes were paid for delivering four baskets of potatoes to Willem Uilkes.
Many times the diaconate paid for housewares that were obviously used by people in the care of the deacons. In January of 1798 G.H. Hommema was paid for medicine (obviously he was a doctor) and on 18 January 1798 Berent Reinders (another of my wife's forebears) was paid 10 stuivers for the Jenever (gin) used for the preparation of the body of Jan Karsten for burial. Janke Andries was paid at the same time for butter and coffee beans at the burial. Reinder Jochems was paid for making the coffin. Sytske Jans was paid for the cloth in which Jan Karsten was to be buried.
In April of the same year Anne Martens was paid for a shirt, Willem Jans for a pair of socks and also for two buttons for his shirt. In November 1799 Heine Geeles was paid for 6 cans of Spanish wine. When Jacob Jans died in 1800 people were paid for tea and sugar cubes, jenever, turf, funeral cloth, and ringing of the bell. And on it goes.
If you can find your forebear in one of these diaconate records you can get a pretty interesting picture of him or her. Even more interesting are the church consistory records. These records sometimes paint a pretty grim picture of the church members, especially of those that are refused the right to partake of the Holy Supper. Usually this refusal was a result of poor church attendance, alcoholism, foul language or fighting with the neighbours. The minister or the clerk usually didn't hold back in their condemnation. These old records are a pretty good scandal sheet. Don't ignore to research these sources.