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Tollgates left their many marks on a wide range of Dutch surnames

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Topography, history and family identity are all subjects that come to mind when considering the origin of Lowlander surnames and place names. Many of these names, such as Tol, Tollenaar, Van Tol, Tolstra and their many variations, tell an interesting story. While some of these surnames may only have become permanent since about 1811 as a result of Napoleon’s surname decree, others such as the Van Tol ‘brand’ have very old currency. The Tol with the ‘stra’ ending is easily identified as Frisian by most Dutch people but that the Van Tols also have a very local origin is likely news to many people. As well, the story of the Tol-surnames is tied to a thousand year long Dutch history.

The Tol-range of surnames has its origins in emerging jurisdictions of the Lowlands (or Netherlands) searching for ways to raise funds to cover the costs of government in general and certain services in particular. Levying tolls at waterways and roads at toll houses and gates was an effective method of raising money even in medieval times, although the concept had by been around already for thousands of years in Egypt, Israel and Rome, and other places as well.

Social strata

It can be reasonably assumed that authorities set up tollgates (tolhek or tolboom), tollhouses or stations (tolhuis or tolkamer) in strategic locations, near or at places where the tolkeepers (tolgaarder or tollenaar, tolenaar, tulenaar) could supplement their income with other endeavours. Some of those locations became known simply as Tol, and there are a number of places so named in the Netherlands. A short list accompanies this article. Someone from such a place easily could be nicknamed Van Tol, which already was the case in the 13th century with a man named Florijs who owned a ‘versterkt huis’ (a more secure home or manor, perhaps indicating its use as tollhouse since tollers operated as a concession granted by the count) at the South Holland hamlet of Tol, near Voorburg. It earned him the surname Van Tol. In the mid 1400s, a relative of Florijs, an official in Leiden, purchased a nobility owned manor Tol (a toll concession?) at Koudekerke. Rotterdam-born ‘zakkendrager’ (possibly a stevedore or dockworker) Jacob Jorisse van Tol married in 1697 in Delft a Neeltgen Claes (Tol), a daughter of well-to-do Claes Hendricks van Thol of Benthuizen. Could this information point to a marriage within the family’s social strata of tollkeepers?

The ‘reluctant’ toll-system disappearance

The phasing out of the toll system in the Netherlands occurred in stages. In 1795, tolls on the rivers were the first to go. The national road system followed in 1888 but tolls elsewhere were still a political issue in 1926 when a national road tax was to replace most of the remaining 300 tolls in the country. In 1928 the number had dropped to 180 and in 1932 to 103. In 1953 there were still 7, 5 in South Holland alone of which there is still one private toll located at Nieuwerbrug aan de Rijn (Bodegraven). The ‘reluctant’ disappearance of the tolls was largely the result of the abundance private toll-rights holders. At one time there were literally thousands of them.

Variations on Tol

Fifteenth century records also refer to these taxmen as tolgaarders, tolners, toleneres, tollenaars and a range of titles in which the o has been exchanged for a u, as in tulgaarders and tulners. Other variations use regionally influenced spelling such as tholen or even teule. Various sources suggest that the name of the Zeeland town and island of Tholen may have derived from a tollhouse as well.

Although the surnames Tol and Van Tol are more common, third largest is the group which uses the prefixes Van der or Van den in additition to Tol. It is sometimes assumed that the surname group with these prefixes date from the Napoleonic era. If so, this needs not be the case with the Tol group since the Dordrecht city accounts of 1283-1287 already refer to an entry of Janne van den Tolle.

Tollgates in history live on place names such as: Ouden Tol (Bernisse, ZH), Tweede Tol (Dordrecht, ZH), Tolberg (Roosendaal, NB), Tolbert (Leek, GR), Toldijk (Steenderen, GL), Tolhuis (aan het IJ, Amsterdam, NH), Tolhuis (Nijmegen, GL), Tolhuis, aan het (Uithoorn, NH), Tolkamer (Rijnwaarden, GL), Tolke (Schagen, NH), Tollebeek (Noordoostpolder, FL), Tolsduin (Velsen, NH), Tolsteeg (Utrecht, UT), Tolzum (Franekeradeel, FR), as well as Ammerstol (Bergambacht, ZH), Exel-Tol (Lochem, GL), Medemblikker Tolhek (Medemblik, NH), Medemertolhek (Menterwolde, GR), and Noordhornertolhek (Zuidhorn, GR),

The following information dates from the 1947 census in the Netherlands: surname: Tol, Van den/der Tol, Tolboom, Tolenaar, Tolkamp, Tollenaar, Tolman, Tolsma, Tolstra, Tholen, Van Tholen and dozens of other variations and spellings.

The above is a much digested version of the original article. Copies of the original, fully illustrated article, which is the fourth in a series, can be ordered by contacting the Windmill Herald / the Windmill Post office, see also contact information.

The earlier illustrated articles were on the surname ranges of (van’t) Riet, Dekker and Veer(man), covering about 200 surname variations and spellings.