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Wheels that stopped churning centuries ago still leaving their marks

Dutch surnames Wiel, Weel and Waal

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

It should be no surprise to anyone that numerous Dutch surnames can be traced to the interaction of people with water or water-related events. Surnames derived from rivers and creeks perhaps are obvious to those with knowledge of Dutch geography and language but, in many cases, the small and obscure water bodies, that are well-represented in Dutch society, often leaving people guessing for their origin and meaning.

A case in point is the surname Van der Wiel(en). Most people would tend to point to the ‘wielen’ (note the resemblance to the English equivalent of wheels) on a vehicle. The first obstacles are the prefixes Van der of Van der Wielen, which suggest a topographical origin. A ‘wiel’ in the Dutch landscape? Oh, yes, there are plenty of them. But in many areas in the Netherlands they are not known as ‘wielen’ but perhaps as a ‘weel, a ‘waal’ or still other equivalents.

It is our plan to examine this range of surnames in an upcoming issue of the Windmill Herald / the Windmill Post, and hopefully unravel the history that hides behind these little understood Dutch nouns.

The installment on surname variation of ‘wiel, weel’ and ‘waal’ is the ninth in the series, preceded by those on Riet, Dekker, Veer, Tol, Spijker, Schout, Horst and Graaf and their numerous variations, over 700 different surname spellings in all.

The series compiled by Albert van der Heide is very much a work in progress, a Windmill Herald 50th anniversary project.