Welcome to another interview! Firstly, I want to apologise for the fact that I am posting this on Saturday instead of Friday (You start to lose track of days when you're so busy!!!) Secondly, let's get into it, this is my interview with Dutch genealogist and #AncestryHour crew member - John Boeren!
I am John Boeren, a professional genealogist in Tilburg, the Netherlands. I have been involved in genealogy for more than 30 years now. As most genealogists I started with my own family (the Boeren line), but later got interested in the families of all four of my grandparents. In 2015 I started my own genealogy business, called Antecedentia. I offer all kinds of services to people who are looking for their Dutch ancestors. They majority of my clients are from the United States, Canada, England or Australia.
What got you into genealogy?
My grandfather’s youngest brother told me in 1988 he had been in touch with someone with the same family name. They did not find out whether they were related. This triggered my curiosity. I wanted to know more about my family history. About eight months later I visited the local archives for the first time. That same afternoon I found out that my family came from a different place. I was disappointed for two reasons: I really believed we were ‘authentic’ residents of Tilburg, plus now I had to visit other archives to find information about older generations. That all changed quickly; I started to like the different archives and became more and more interested in touring around through the archives to find new and interesting records.
What interesting things have you discovered about your ancestors?
One of the ancestors I really feel connected to is Maarten van Leeuwen. As a young man he decided to join the army. A couple of years later he was part of the Dutch/English troupes that fought against Napoleon’s soldiers at the Battle of Waterloo. The same man twice tried to save a church building after lightning had struck the tower. For his bravery actions he received three different medals. I have never found these medals and I am very curious if they were passed on to family members in one of the branches of the family.
Is there any source in your research that you've used that usually might be overlooked?
I specialise in Dutch research, so I can only name some Dutch records. One record type that I would like to name specifically, because it is not often used, is the mayor’s book with copies of sent letters. In the 19th century the mayor was the most important local official and he was in charge of the police, the fire brigade and other local government department. He often wrote letters to other officials, mainly about residents of his town. In these letters, I have found information about ancestors who were admitted in psychiatric hospitals, who deserted from the military, who were arrested for (petty) crimes or whose house burnt down. These records provide so much background information.
What are you currently focusing on in your research?
Since I started my own genealogy business, I do a lot of research for clients. There is not a lot of time left to research my own family history. Ah well, maybe when I am retired?
What difficulties have you come across in your research?
Every family has its own brick wall. My Boeren line abruptly stops in the 1660s when I do find three children being baptised in Belgium, but I have no idea in which place the parents married or where they came from. For years I have been looking for this family, but until now I was unsuccessful. Most DNA companies claim I have a considerable percentage of Scandinavian DNA, so I wonder if this ‘missing’ family might have come from – for example – Sweden to start a new life in Belgium. At this moment, that whole theory is more mythology than reality.
What advice would you give to people starting out in genealogy?
Be sure you know where to look for records. Many beginners start with the bigger websites. Especially in the Netherlands, it is wise to skip the big and commercial websites but start with local websites. These websites are often in Dutch and have no English interface. However, they might have so much information, for free, that it is worth looking for ancestors here.
And there you all have it! Another interview done, another one on Tuesday (and it will actually be posted on Tuesday!) Stay tuned everyone! (and most importantly - stay safe!!!)