The Caribbean part of The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten. Not all the genealogical sources for the Caribbean are lodged at a central location. This is a step-by-step plan that looks over the walls of the various archive locations.
When reseearching your Antillian family, you should realize that it is difficult to estimate how far back you will ultimately end up. It can be really difficult to deal with because of a lack of sources you quickly run into a brick wall. Begin from the present and work back to the past. The first step is to ask older family members what they can still remember, although this can be a bit sensitive. Write it down, not just the names and dates, but also their stories.
Civil registry: personal record cards
Did your Antillean grandparents or parents die in the Netherlands after 1939? You can then search the Dutch population register, and request their personal record card (or after 1994 its digital successor, personal record list) at the CBG | Centre for family history. The personal record card did not exist on the Dutch Antilles.
After ordering the personal record card/list of your grandparents and parents you are automatically a generation further. In some cases, you can see the names and dates of birth, but not the exact details of the date and place of birth of the parents of the deceased person.
- Tip: on the Netherlands Antilles (and in Surinam) the word family tree is often used in the meaning of a list of legatees, that can be requested at the government departments after someone’s death.
Civil registry: WieWasWie
With the information from your family, or from those personal record cards or lists you can go on searching in the civil registry via our database WieWasWie (WhoWasWho). Recent data falls under the privacy act. Thus, birth certificates are only made available to the public after 100 years, marriage certificates after 75 years and death certificates after 50 years.
In WieWasWie you can select at Collectiegebied (collection region) Nederlandse Antillen (Netherlands Antilles). This provides an overview of the available civil registry.
- Tip: the name index of the Curaçao National Archive is not always typed in the same way. For example, the first and last names are sometimes listed together in the last name box. Keep this in mind when searching and sorting the results!
- Tip: it is possible that someone was born out of wedlock. This is indicated in the birth certificate. In that case, the baby will be given the mother's surname. After marriage of the mother the childs surname may change in that of her spouse.
In the database Delpher you can consult not only historical newspapers of the Netherlands, but also those of the Netherlands Antilles.
It is possible that in your search you come across ancestors that were enslaved. These people had no family name and were not registered in the civil registry. The website of The Dutch National Archive has various databases with scans about this subject, from different and overlapping periods. The original sources are lodged overseas.
- The Curaçao slave registers begin in 1839 and continue until the abolition of slavery in Curaçao on 1 July 1863. In the emancipation registers you will find the registration of formerly enslaved people with their new family name in 1863. Both Curaçaoan registers can be researched via an index (Curaçao: Slavenregister en emancipatieregisters 1839-1863) (Curaçao: Slave register and emancipation registers 1839-1863) of the Dutch National Archive.
- Furthermore there is the joint database of emancipation registers (formally the Registers der vrijgemaakte slaven (Registers of the freed slaves) 1863 of both Surinam en Curaçao, which is supplemented with information about slave owners on the Netherlands Antilles.
- From 1722 slaves were set free on Curaçao. That process was not structural, but dependent on the plantation owner, and is known as manumission. These manumissions can be found in the index: Vrij van Slavernij (manumissies) 1722-1863 (Freed from Slavery (manumissies) 1722-1863).
Only when enslaved persons had been given an official surname (after 1833 in case of release and after emancipation in 1863 all former slaves), it is possible to search for birth, marriage and death certificates.Only when enslaved persons had been given an official surname (after 1833 in case of release and after emancipation in 1863 all former slaves), it is possible to search for birth, marriage and death certificates.
The Roman Catholic Church did register Curaçaoan slave children in baptismal registers between 1768-1819. Because mothers and children were registered with only their first name, this offers an insufficient basis on which to carry out research. This source is in Latin and can be viewed in the reading room of the National Archive in The Hague. The baptismal records for the years 1819 - 1832 can be found in the National Archive in Willemstad, on Curaçao.
Genealogical DNA Test
There are several companies that offer an autosomal DNA test, which is suitable for men and women.
The data will not indicate which country you come from, but where people live with whom you share DNA. At continental level, a DNA test is reliable for finding yout where your ancesors came from.