News Articles

Family followed Dutch emigrants to check out their new abode

Travel bugs unintended consequence

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

The Dutch are known for traveling far and wide, exploring and mapping far away exotic places where they frequently left noticeable footprints and other evidence still visible centuries later. As a rule, much can be discovered about these journeys in antique journals, published upon the return from these travels. A search in archives is likely to turn up still more information, confirming significant benefit of keeping detailed travelogues and diaries.

It is also fairly certain that many Dutch ship captains who explored and mapped unknown territories abroad and charted trade routes to other continents in earlier centuries had done little, if any, significant local traveling beyond going from port to port in their own country. This also applies to many Dutch immigrant families: for many their departure preparation to the embassies in The Hague involved their first travel across the country.

Exploring their country of birth first was for many emigrants an activity either not considered or a thing to do at an opportune time in the future. Emigration, however, gave many people a travel bug, even if it was just for paying visits to family left behind.

Since the Dutch emigration wave subsided in the late 1950s, another wave developed: charter planes filled with family headed for emigration countries to check on the health and welfare of those who had left the Netherlands. It is telling that charter travel organizations such as WereldContact, to name just one, broadened their travel schedules significantly beyond the list of emigration countries. They soon included a wide range of holiday destinations (an emigration-related subject that merits in dept research, one that seems to have escaped attention so far.).

Home regions

In recent decades, Netherlands-bound travelers have also widened their itineraries. For years now, it has not been simply family visits but also about exploring less known parts of the country. Increasingly, these itineraries also included other European destinations as well.

It is undisputed that Vienna, Rome, Berlin and Paris are interesting and very worthwhile destinations. Far more interesting ought to be a different approach to exploring the Netherlands: focus on the places where ancestors were born, lived and died. Many people may well think they do not have specifics on the farms or houses ancestors lived near or in. However, even a barebones family tree offers all sorts clues about the times and sufficient clues about what forebears may have seen and experienced. Visitors should check for remaining evidence of their ancestors’ times.

For those who do not have a family tree, there are plenty of outdoor options to explore in these ‘home’ regions. Thanks to many local history-conscious groups and regional tourism promotion bureaus, there is now an abundance of historically significant trails for visitors to explore: on foot, on bicycles, by boat, and, if they insist, by car or motorcycle.

There are other ways to explore geographical jewels in the Dutch landscape. As an example, explore the home region of numerous Dutch emigrants, the eastern Dutch Vechtdal (dal the Dutch noun for valley, glen or dale).

To obtain this well illustrated Vechtdal article free of charge, ordera copy of the August 25, 2011 issue.