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Over one million Dutch people have a pauper as an ancestor

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

VEENHUIZEN – Demographic statistician Carel Harmsen of the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics figures that over a million Dutch citizens have an ancestor who lived in one of the dedicated pauper colonies of Veenhuizen-based Maatschappij van Weldadigheid. The colonies aimed to re-educate people who for one reason or other had become destitute during Napoleon’s rule and could not look after themselves without panhandling or worse. Set up by a well-to-do former top official from the Dutch East Indies, General Van den Bosch, there were three ‘voluntary’ and two ‘mandatory’ colonies which together housed 60,000 men, woman and children. In the early 1800s, this number represented no less than two percent of the Dutch population. Harmsen made his calculations in connection with the release of a new family history, Het paupersparadijs, by author Suzanna Jansen. The discovery of an item in her family’s 'archive' prompted her to investigate her roots.