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Many people still living in ancestral regions

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT – Nearly one in four people in the Netherlands still reside in the area of their ancestors. That is the conclusion of researcher Gerrit Bloothooft of the University Utrecht and the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam. He particularly names Brabant, Limburg, Twente, the Achterhoek and fishing towns such as Katwijk, Volendam and Scheveningen as areas, which have seen relatively low migration rates. The northern regions of the country contributed significant migration numbers to the western region. Bloothooft has been studying this phenomena for the past twenty years. He also noted that the top five in Dutch surnames, De Jong, De Vries, Jansen, Van den Berg and Van Dijk, already have been leading this list for nearly a century. It may surprise many that the number of surnames has tripled over the past number of decades to 300,000. Bloothooft anticipates that anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 of these surnames will disappear again over time. The release of the study coincides with the bicentennial of Napoleon’s 1811 decree forcing the Dutch to adopt their surname. It was not the last time that unwilling Dutch people had to be reminded of this law. Fourteen years later, King Willem I gave holdouts six months to comply which still did not convince a decreasing minority of the benefit of such a move. The idea of a surname was not conceived by Napoleon. Over 250 years earlier, the Council of Trent decided on this already, which perhaps explains why fixed surnames were more widely accepted on other European countries. Germany’s record is altogether different. In many areas of Germany, authorities reverted to their former ways once Napoleon was routed. Following Germany unification of 1870, the government there decreed in 1875 its subjects required a fixed surname. Back to the Dutch with the question about fixed surnames. How can these become fixed when spelling rules remained lax? This point partially explains the wide range of spellings of some surname groups. The spelling of surnames was finally ‘frozen’ after linguists agreed to the necessity of firm spelling conventions, which is a process that started in the latter part of the 1800s.