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Reed just one of several types of material

Dutch entrepreneurs Dekker often thatched roofs as a summertime sideline

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

Most people have wondered about the significance of their surname at one time or other, and why a distant ancestor would have adopted it. A satisfactory answer to such a question can elude people for decades. Just as often, the answer can be fairly obvious if a serious effort is made to check what the meaning of the name or word was two hundred or more years ago. In some cases, antiquated Dutch or an obscure dialect might make it difficult to trace the meaning. The surname could be one as common as Dekker and still raise plenty of questions as to its origin.

The surname Dekker, categorized as a trade name, translates into English as slater, tiler or thatcher, but in the Dutch speaking world it is largely assumed to be a contraction from the longer word rietdekker. As an unshortened surname it seems there were no takers, as no Dutch family was registered with it in the national enumeration of 1947. In contrast, the string name Leijendekker, although spelled in different ways, lives on in Dutch society and in various immigrant countries where the Dutch have settled.

The absence of rietdekker in Dutch surname registries likely is due to the nature of rietdekker’s which unlike the more specialized Leijendekker (slater or tiler) was considered to be a seasonal trade. Additionally, the latter is more of a craft which was in demand in towns where they helped finish castles, cathedrals, manors and other higher priced structures. Over the centuries, towns banned thatch as being a potential fire hazard while thatch remained a popular roof covering for farmsteads, barns, hay storage and detached houses. The thatcher (dekker) in the Netherlands was a handymen who used grasses, sods, straw or reed and in an age that preceded specialization, earned his livelihood from various sources.


Today, a dekker or rietdekker is in high demand in the Netherlands. Thatched roofs are a popular choice for upscale low density housing, rate high as an all-weather insulator, is aesthetically pleasing, can be made fire-retardant and has a long life expectancy while it withstands the windy coastal weather quite well…..

The number of surnames in the (Den) Dekker range that were researched for this survey totaled over 30.

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.