(to bottom of this page)
(back to chapter Genealogy)
Han van der Voort's Homepage

Genealogy

Introduction

My "reasons", Disclaimer, Why no simple "family tree"?, Conventions, Sources, Acknowledgements and Links

My "reasons"

A straight, unbroken line of descendancy from illustrious figures who lived long ago has a great appeal to many people, and I am no exception. I am quite thrilled by having discovered that my family tree goes way back into a distant past, where it becomes impossible to distinguish between facts and legends. It appears that among my ancestors are medieval Emperors an Kings such as Charlemagne and William the Conqueror, Saints like Begga of Landen and Margaret of Scotland, and the first known leaders of the Frankish tribe, who's ancestry could clearly be traced back to Adam and Eve, or so it was believed in the Middle Ages. But what is the significance of this? One may like to think that being descended from royalty is something special and gives you a higher status than "ordinary" people.

Given human nature, this may be understandable. A more interesting question is why during most of human history so many people have allowed themselves to be branded as "ordinary", and have allowed hereditary elites to become their rulers, not primarily on the basis of their merits, but on the basis of their pedigrees. Is was perhaps inevitable that at some moment in time a social distance began to develop between a ruling elite and their subjects, but it is not immediately clear why the idea of noble descent became the leading principle. Even in Biblical times, virtually everyone was considered to be a descendant of Adam and Eve, so how could anyone claim exclusive status on the basis of that?

The latest scientific research on the characteristics of DNA in the human X-chromosome has shown that most Europeans are descended from only seven founding mothers who settled in Europe in prehistoric times, over a thousand generations ago. Similar reseach is continuing into the Y-chromosome, and it is likely that it will lead to the conclusion that there were also very few "founding fathers" from whom practically all Europeans have descended. Going back in time further and further, it becomes clear that there can ultimately be no justification for anyone claiming to have ancestors who were inherently nobler than the ancestors of other people. And there is also no exclusivity to be found when going forward in time. By now, at the dawn of the 21st century, most West-Europeans are descended from Charlemagne, who had at least 25 children. And when the great genetical melting pot keeps working for another 100 years, the majority of the world population will have become Charlemagne's offspring, whether they are aware of it or not.

There is clearly nothing exclusive about ancient family relationships, and one could even say that they are totally meaningless. What does it actually mean when I seem to have a possible blood-relationship with Tonantius Ferreolus who was born about 480 AD? I do not know anything about him, and if there really is a blood-relationship, it may be no more than 0,00000000019 %, in other words: negligable. Even in noble families there cannot be much blood-relationship left after fifty generations. Assuming that there are members of noble families who can claim a blood-relationship to their early medieval ancestors which is a million times higher, it would still amount to almost nothing, and it would be proof of inbreeding rather than of possessing nobler blood. The social distance between noble lords and commoners must in view of al this be seen as a purely man-made, which can be made undone... or can it?

The French Revolution swept away the old feudal system all over continental Western Europe, seemingly a total victory for rationality. The year 1789 may seem distant to us, but it is only seven generations ago, very recent in the perspective of a thousand generations. Even today, in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, more than 150 years after abolishing the the monarchy's real political powers, people still attribute great symbolic powers to it. This is all the more remarkable, considering that the Dutch have always been especially proud of their independent-mindedness and their democratic traditions, and have always resisted autocratic governments which attempted to limit the freedoms of ordinary citizens. We now have a highly secularised and individualised, some would even say fragmented multicultural society, which is at the same time becoming ever more integrated in the larger European and global networks (this very website is also an indication of this process). The traditional authority of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches have declined considerably over the past 50 years, and it may look as if there is no longer a "market" for traditional, binding symbols. But we do apparently still need something which fulfills the desire of us ordinary people to have some sort of supreme mother or father figure whom we can look up to and who is somehow supposed to take care of us all. Perhaps this desire for a stable background is stronger than ever just because of the bewildering speed of technological and social changes in modern society. No-one, except for a small group of fundamentalist (but non-violent) republicans would want to depose Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and replace her with an elected president as Head of State. A monarch may therefore still be the most effective form of living symbol ever invented. It is quite interesting to see that even in an old republic like the United States there seems to be a need for "pseudo-royalty" like the Kennedy family (and now perhaps even the Bush family).

To maintain its symbolic value as well as its worldly possessions, a monarchy should be hereditary. For ensuring an orderly succession, a hereditary system is of course the simplest one available, but one might ask why such simplicity was needed long after governments became modern, complex bureaucratic organisations. The explanation would be that such a system is founded on the eternal cycle of life and death, which has a much greater symbolic value than man-made products like a democratic constitution or an election procedure. Traditionally, a ruler's crown was passed on from father to son, and the son's bride was carefully selected on the basis of her pedrigree, (which should be at least as impressive as the groom's) as well as her father's power and possessions. Through this system, the greatest possible social distance was created between the rulers and their subjects, which was seen as essential. In our times, these rules do no longer seem to apply. The Dutch Royal House of Oranje-Nassau is a good example. Queen Beatrix's father is a Prince of Lippe-Biesterfeld and neither one of her grandfathers was a member of the House of Oranje-Nassau by birth. The Queen's consort, the late Prince Claus was born a "von Amsberg" without a title, and the heir-apparent, the "Prins van Oranje" has married a commoner from Argentina. The "royal blood" has been diluted to a degree that would have been unthinkable three or four generations ago. Furthermore, in feudal times, "Oranje-Nassau" would have indicated the family's actual fiefdoms, but our Royal family does neither have any authority over the former small Principality of Orange, which was annexed by King Louis XIV of France in 1713, nor over the former County of Nassau in Germany. Oranje-Nassau has in fact become a surname without any intrinsical meaning. But in spite of all this, our Royals are doing a great job at being symbols. They are in any case much more successful than Kings Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France who lost their thrones as well as their heads, in spite of their most noble status. For the first time in European history, we may now witness the emergence of a modern, effective monarchy which is still hereditary, but needs no legitimation any more on the basis of pedigree.

Our Royal family is undoubtedly becoming more "ordinary", and the reverse is also true: more and more people like myself are finding out that they, too, are descended from Emperors, Kings and Saints. These efforts are however self-defeating if one were looking for exclusivity. Nothing equalises better than the great genetical melting pot. But the effort is still worth while, for other reasons. The chapter Genealogy in my website currently contains references to 3085 people from 395 family-groups that we now know (or assume) to be part of our family tree, and though our knowledge will continue to grow as we keep on finding more data, it will never be complete. It is of course practically impossible to find all links leading up to the first European settlers and further back to the first humans. Still, even this small part of the total picture presents an interesting perspective. In many cases we know just the names of our ancestors, but sometimes we get glimpses of their lives and times. I found that bringing all this information together in one framework not only brought history much closer, but it also gave me a much wider perspective than the one I grew up with. Instead of having a certain well-defined social background, I now know that my ancestors are quite a diverse collection of people. Often they are to be found on either side of Europe's historical struggles and conflicts. In my tree you will find not only nobility but also common people; saints as well as killers; white landowners and (former) black slaves, wealthy capitalists and poor labourers, highly educated people in medieval times as well as nineteenth century illiterates, Protestants and Roman Catholics, royalist "Prinsgezinden" and revolutionary "Patriotten", and people not only from almost every country in Europe, but also from Africa / the West-Indies and - perhaps - even from Brazil.

If there is a lesson, it would be that - in spite of their very different backgrounds - my ancestors together are proof that in the end it is possible to form bridges across great historical divides. Through their marriages, they all helped to make possible the development of European society as a whole until the present day, which could otherwise well have remained stuck in the same conflicts for centuries, as we still see in some other places in the world. There will of course always be conflicts, but there can never be justification for demonising our opponents. Some of them may well become our future partners, and it may help to realise that they all are our cousins. Personally, I'm glad that the idea of everyone belonging first and foremost to a certain well-defined social class or category, which was predominant when I grew up, is disappearing in modern Dutch society, thanks to the melting pot. Even the concept of being a member of a certain family may now be questioned. What does it actually mean when I say "I am a Van der Voort"? It is really an over-simplification. Everyone is as much a descendant of their paternal grandfather's paternal grandfather as of their maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother's, who's family name is often forgotten and lost forever, unless someone has taken the trouble to preserve it, enabling us to see ourselves in a wider, more true and meaningful perspective.

After having said all this, you may think that genealogy must be one of my main hobbies, and that I have spent a lot of time in archives. In fact, I have hardly ever set foot in one. My sister Sonja is the one who has put by far the most time and energy in researching the archives. To me, it just seemed a waste if her findings would remain inaccessible to amateur genealogists who are also interested in the Van der Voort or any of the other families in our tree. Apart from constantly searching the Internet for additional knowledge, my contribution has been to create (hopefully) a user-friendly design for accessing all information in this website; to write all commentary; to exchange information and views with other amateur-geneaologists; to ask official archives to find out certain things. In this chapter Genealogy I have included all basic data available to us at this moment - names, times and places of birth, marriage, death, occupation, and whenever possible more information which sheds light on the life and times of these people. Additional information will be added frequently. Please note: all contents of this website are made available on the Internet for non-commercial personal use exclusively, and should not be redistributed in any way.

Disclaimer

This website will be expanded all the time, see "Under construction", but it will of course never include all available genealogical data on all families to which we are related because this information would take up too much time and space. A lot more genealogical and historical information is already available elsewhere on the Internet.

We do not claim any scientific status for this chapter. Although we have tried to be as accurate as possible, the data available to us at the time of uploading this chapter are partly from the archives, and partly from secondary sources such as the work of our great-grandfather who may have had basic information unknown to us now, and from many other websites which do not always agree among themselves on the genealogical facts. The data presented here could not all be checked by us personally. Whenever we have doubts ourselves about some information, we mention this. Anyone who would like to have scientific proof of some data or would like to have further information is advised to contact the official archives in the city or province concerned, or study the available historical literature.

It is not our aim to present complete genealogies on all families in our tree up until the present generation. We are only interested in our direct ancestors in successive generations and their brothers and sisters. We will not be doing research into the families of their brothers and sisters, or the families of husbands and wives who are not our ancestors. We would however like to go much further up our own family tree. We hope that visitors of this site are willing to share additional information that they may have on some of our ancestors who are still unknown to us. In the meantime, my sister and I will continue our own research.

Why no simple "family tree"?

This genealogical chapter of my website does not focus on one particular family, but on all families from which we are descended, going as far back in time as the available information will allow (and the available time to process all this information will permit). In my basic design there are two types of pages: family-group pages and generation pages:

The family-group pages contain all available genealogical information on the individuals and on the family-group to which they belong, as well as historical information on the times and places in which they lived, see for instance the page on the Koridon family.

The generation pages (when they are completed) are each a complete list of ancestors who belong to that same generation, counting back from ourselves. For example, our second-great-grandparents (four generations back, by definition) are all together in generation page "4", and our 28th known great-grandparents (thirty generations back, by definition) are all in page "30".

Page "4" looks much more straightforward than page "30". You might ask why I have not presented a traditional family tree instead of these "generation pages". The reason is that a simple family tree structure may be useful for showing the family relationships for a small number of ancestors in successive generations, but it is totally inadequate when larger numbers of ancestors and generations and more complex relationships are involved.
This can be illustrated when we follow the standard system where each ancestor is given a unique number. My sister, my brother and I myself have # 1 (or more precisely: # 1b, 1c and 1a). Our father has # 2 and our mother # 3. In this system, the numbers double with every older generation. Our father's father has # 4. All our male ancestors have even numbers and their wives have the same number plus 1. This system accommodates all ancestors that one could theoretically have, no matter how many generations back.
So far, so good, but going back 50 generations you would have to allow for 1,125,899,906,842,620 different ancestors who all belong to that same generation. Theoretically, you could still present this huge number of names in a tree structure, but the paper on which you would place all names of these ancestors next to each other would have to be 56,294,995,342 kilometers wide, and I do not know of anyone big enough to handle such a piece of paper.

This is of course only theory, there have never been that many people around. There were in fact "only" about 2,500,000,000 people in the world when I was born, and there were far, far fewer in the early Middle Ages. But this still does not make it possible to use a simple family tree for our early ancestors. As a statistical inevitability, everyone alive in the early Middle Ages would have to be our ancestor thousands of times over. When using the standard genealogical numbering system, these ancestors would each get as many unique numbers, each number precisely indicating a single specific line of descent. This multiplication effect clearly appears in our family tree, starting at seven generations back, counting from ourselves, and becoming ever more striking when you go further back. For instance, Dirck ten Hage (born about 1510) has four numbers # 9756 = # 9760 = # 9840 = # 4904, because his offspring have intermarried and have become our ancestors. As you can see, Dirck ten Hage belongs to two different generations at the same time, counting back from us: 13 generations counting one way, and 12 counting another way, through another of his descendants who is also our ancestor.

The fact that we have far fewer early ancestors than the theoretical maximum does therefore not make a traditional family tree more feasable: instead of an unmanageable amount of names, we get an unmanageable amount of numbers, complicated by the phenomenon that our ancestors get to belong to more and more different generations at the same time. The page on the "Etichonids" family of Alsace, the present recordholders, is a good illustration. Each of the oldest members of this family now appears to be our ancestor in at least 267 ways and belongs to ten different generations at the same, counting back from ourselves. And there is yet another complication: some of our early ancestors had children with a number of spouses, who all became our ancestors because their offspring intermarried and produced some of our later ancestors. For instance, Robert I, "Capet" had two wives: Aelis of Alsace and Béatrice of Vermandois. This gives two different lines of descent, which both include Robert, but in each one is a different wife.

Family relationships become ever more complex when we go further back in time, there is no way around it. Thanks to the computer, the mass and complexity of information has become a bit less unmanageable, but deep in my heart, I would not want to include all our ancestors in all generations up to Adam and Eve / "the missing link" in this chapter!

Conventions

Symbols:
* born (or christened) on a certain date in a certain town
x married (or registered to be married) to a certain person in a certain town on a certain date
I. first marriage II. second marriage, etc.
+ died (or buried) on a certain date in a certain town

Dates:
day-month-year
21-3-1696 means: the 21st of March, 1696.

Places in Holland:
The names of places in Holland are usually given in Dutch:
"Den Haag" or "'s-Gravenhage", instead of "The Hague".

Job-titles and social functions:
Usually not translated into English but given in Dutch, between quotation marks:
"drossaard". Within the scope of this homepage it is practically impossible to give descriptions of the responsibilities that were involved in jobs like these at that particular time and place.

Medieval nobility:
Titles and nicknames in English; names of Kingdoms, Duchies and Counties in English or in the appropriate modern language:
Reginar (Reinier) III "Longneck", Count in Hainaut.

Dutch nobility:
Titles in Dutch only, italics:
jonkvrouwe Jacoba van Drongelen.

Dutch Royal honours:
In Dutch only, between quotation marks:
"Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau".

Sources, acknowledgements and links

In many cases, a compilation has been made of information all sorts of data from different sources, and it is practically impossible to include references for each seperate piece of information. Whenever a single main source has been used, this is mentioned and whenever this source is another website, a link has been provided. I would like to extend special thanks to all who who have kindly permitted me to use information from their websites:

Leo Akershoek,
Marie-Claire Bauche,
Jan Willem Boezeman,
Brigitte Gastel Lloyd,
Gary Green,
Piet Groeneweg,
Kees Klootwijk,
Dave Pol,
Daniel de Rauglaudre,
Wanda Vriese,
Jérôme Wery,
Randy Winch,
Donald Wyatt

and many others who have contributed information or pointed the way to interesting sources. These are links to some other very interesting and useful websites:

Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie
Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging
NedGen
Geneanet
Gendex
LDS (Mormons)
Genlias
Genealogisch Centrum Goeree-Overflakkee
Info about Pernambuco (Brazil)
Freed slaves in Curaçao
"Smokykin"
Homepage Timothy McKinney
Böljer Göran Djurhuus Wennerström (in Danish!)

Homepage Ed Burton
Homepage Fred Tiedeman Croese
The Hall-Smith database
Database University of Hull
Homepage Mark Humphrys
Homepage Luke Stevens
Homepage Rob van Willigen
Homepage Herman de Wit
Homepage Fokke Zwaan

These books (in Dutch) have a lot of interesting information on medieval history and on the ruling families in those days:
"Middeleeuwse geschiedenis der Nederlanden" by dr. H.P.H. Jansen, published by Het Spectrum, Utrecht/Antwerpen 1965-1974;
"Algemene geschiedenis der middeleeuwen" by dr. H.P.H. Jansen, published by Het Spectrum, Utrecht/Antwerpen 1967;
"Oorlog om Holland 1000-1375" by Ronald P. de Graaf, published by Verloren, Hilversum 1996, ISBN 90-6550-278-5
"Nijhoffs Geschiedenis-lexicon" by H.W.J. Volmuller, published by Martinus Nijhoff, 's-Gravenhage-Antwerpen 1981, ISBN 90-247-90786

A 17th century atlas of the Netherlands in those days, also containing portraits of the Karolingians, the Counts of Leuven / Dukes of Brabant, the Counts of Flanders and of Holland was republished in 1993: "De Vyerige Colom, Atlas verthonende de 17 Nederlandsche Provintien" by Jacob Aertsz. Colom, 1635; Facsimile 1993, Robas BV Weesp, ISBN 90-72770-52-8

Han's Homepage
(back home)
(back to chapter Genealogy)
(back to top of this page)


I would like to hear your comments, so please send e-mail