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What exactly is the job description of a koster?

Next in surname series

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill Genealogy

The number of Dutch people named Koster and the variants Coster and Kuster on this surname run into the tens of thousands. They are found in nearly every region of the country. To many, a koster is a custodian of a church, which is the correct answer. However, since the answer is given in a time long after the age of specialization arrived, there is much more that could be added to the answer.

As part of the ongoing series on Dutch surnames, the Koster group of names will be more closely examined in the eleventh installment of the series. It is hoped that the series, a 50th anniversary project of the Windmill Herald, will boost interest in Dutch roots and identity and give those interested in researching family history, a sense of the context in which their own family surnames may have come about.

Anyone who finds this beroepsnaam or trade name surname in his or her family tree, can be reasonably certain that an ancestor (perhaps for a number of generations) carried on the work of caretaker. It is then also quite possible that church records may exist that deal with appointments and early job descriptions.

The story of the Coster/Koster/Kuster surname group is fascinating and will likely cause some modern day misconceptions about their role in society to tumble. The installment on this 'family' of surnames was preceded by those on Riet, Dekker, Veer, Tol, Spijker, Schout, Horst, Graaf, Wiel and Slager and their numerous variations, over 1100 different surname spellings in all which in the 1947 census in the Netherlands represented hundreds of thousands of households.

The series is compiled by Albert van der Heide.