Visiting the Rijksarchief in Friesland

Ryksargyf - Rijksarchief in Friesland
Bezoekadres: Boterhoek 3, Leeuwarden
Postadres: Postbus 97, 8900 AB Leeuwarden
telefoon: 058-2127103 fax: 058-2136854

I had heard there was a place where records were kept -- records all the way back to the 1600's. In my mind I thought there would be book stacks floor to ceiling. I would have to spend hours poring over large ledger type books. The books would have leather bindings tattered at the corners. They would be very difficult to handle. Attendants would stand guard watching every move I made.

We arrived in Leeuwarden, Friesland tired from a long flight from Baltimore to Schiphol airport just outside Amsterdam, Netherlands. We picked up our car at the airport and drove North over the 18 1/2 mile Afsluitdijk. There was a rest stop on the dike with a small eatery. It was a place we were introduced to the overwhelming engineering feat of keeping the North Sea and Lake Ijsselmeer (below sea level) separated. Lunch was eaten. After adding layers of cloths - it was overcast, the wind was blowing 40 mph, and it was about 40 degrees. We continued on to the west coast of Friesland and into Leeuwarden.

Kathy wanted to walk around the town. I wanted to locate the Rijksarchief. We found the hotel, registered, unloaded the luggage into our room, and were off for a walk around the central part of the city.

Streets were busy with people walking. The bicycles impressed me the most. Older folks, young people, families, and friends were riding around town on their bicycles. There were more bicycles than cars. We walked over canals, down narrow streets, stopped to window shop, shared some French fries served with Mayo, and finally discovered what I thought was the Archive library I thought would reveal all those records I knew were waiting for me about my family.

The modern building I thought was the Rijksarchief was the public library and I was directed to the building next door.

I asked the receptionist if she spoke English. "Of course!" she responded. I explained that I was new in town. I wanted to do research on my family. I didn't know the Dutch or Fries language. It was my first time here. Could she introduce me to their system in the Ryksargyf?

She asked my name and started to prepare my library card. I paid my Half Guilder for the card. She directed me through the locked door and asked me to hang up my coat and put my back pack in one of the lockers. I stumbled through this procedure. My biggest problem was getting the guilder coin I needed to secure the locker. The receptionist loaned me the coin and said I could return it when my stay at the library had ended.

The archive library, found at the top of the stairs, was very busy with researchers working on ancestries. The main desk was to the left. It was here I was told to ask for someone who would introduce me to the tools available and where things were to be located. The archives are indexed by civil records dating back to 1813 according to regions -- what we would call counties. Indexes beyond the date of 1813 were organized as church records from those same counties. A computer workstation has a search program that allows for a query on a family surname. Once a "hit" is made on a name, one can do a lookup on a numbered roll of microfilm threaded on one of the dozen or so microfiche machines.

This was my first experience at using microfilm to look at records. I needed help finding the right roll of micro film. Then I needed help loading the roll into the machine. Then I discovered my biggest problem. I was looking at records that were written in Friesian. The words were even hard for the modern day Friesian to read and understand. I was very discouraged. I believe the young lady helping me knew what I was feeling.

Rescue was at hand

Figure 1

The archive has a limited paid staff. But there are a number of volunteer staff who help assisting those like myself and others doing research. They rotate on some kind of schedule and I was introduced to a Mr. Snook. He was a researcher doing his own work there in the library. He also was available to help others if there was a need.

He asked me on whom I was interested in doing research. He wanted to know if I was going further back or forward in time from that person.

I had decided to research the Faber's on my grandfathers side of the family. I had very little hard information much past his father. The name I gave Mr. Snook was Gerben D. Faber. We did a lookup on Gerben Faber and had 3 "hits" -- Doede Gerbens Faber, Gerben Sijbes Faber, and Sijbe Gerbens Faber. To my amazement, we had gone from 1853 and Gerben D. Faber back three generations to 1775 and Sijbe Gerbens Faber. (Figure 2)

Figure 2

Gerben Sijbes Faber was married to Trijntje Doedes Dijkstra. There was more information on her family. It is important to note that today the "ij" letters are combined to make a "y" and we have Dykstra. Trijntje became Trynie. See Figure 2.

We see from Mr. Snook's notes Gerben Faber's wife's mother Rinske Joekes died and Mr. Dykstra remarried. (Figure 3)

Figure 3

I did not realize Mr. Snook was joined by his wife in this interest of tracing family histories. She joined our research with something she found (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Kathy, my wife, had been exploring the sites in Leeuawarden and just came to join me at the library. All four of us now spread our maps, papers, and books over two tables and were discovering more information about my grandfathers side of the family.

Dokkum Is Geographic Center

Most of the family on my grandfathers side came from the area North and East of Leeuwarden. The city of Dokkum is the geographic center for his family. The counties seen in the records were:

  • Ferwerderadeel
  • Dantumadeel
  • Kollumerland En
  • Westdongeradeel
  • Oostdongeradeel

The cities or more appropriately towns were:

  • Rinsemageest (town where Gerbens Sijbes Faber married)
  • Driesum
  • Kollumerzwaag
  • Dokkum (location of the regional archive -- second floor over fire station)
  • Niawier
  • Ternaard (Doede Gerbens Faber's birthplace)
  • Holwerd (Sijbe Gerbens Faber's birthplace)
  • Ferwerd
  • Stiens (Doris Faber's birthplace)
  • Wierum

I want to give you a feel for the distances between these towns. It took us about twenty five minutes to drive from Leeuwarden to Dokkum. It is eight miles from Dokkum to Holwerd.

We traveled to each of these towns on an excursion starting around 10:00AM. We first went to Driesum then Rinsemageest to take a picture of the church. Next we visited Dokkum to spend some time at the regional archive. We drove north to the coast and the towns of Ternaard, Holwerd, and Ferwerd. We stopped for lunch and yet another trek through a grave yard in Stiens. It was about 1:00PM. We got back into Leeuwarden and my second time in the Ryksargyf about 4:00PM in the afternoon (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Second Time At The Ryksargyf

The second time in the Ryksargyf followed our day trip walking grave yards looking for Faber's on my grandfathers side of the family. I had the confidence I could now explore the Faber's on my grandmothers side of the family. I had gathered a lot of information from which I could launch my research.

I flashed my library card and walked upstairs to begin.

I did a search on the computer for Job Ulbes Faber. There were 6 "hits". "Wow!" I thought. It was next that I ran into some trouble. I found the microfilm that contained the references to the one I was looking up but I could not load the film into the machine.

Starting to get discouraged, I sought help from the information desk. The staff member was very professional. I felt, however, he had no time for me and the problems I faced. I was more discouraged.

Kathy was outside in the car listening to one of her books on tape. She was waiting for me. I left the library to let her know what was happening. I told her it wouldn't be long before I would be joining her. I wouldn't be able to continue my research because there didn't seem to be the help I got the day before from Mr. and Mrs. Snook.

I returned to the library. There was a new staff person at the information desk. There had been a shift change.

I asked this new person for assistance in my research. He introduced me to someone who was doing some work for someone else that night. He also did volunteer work. From that time forward things began to fall in place.

He interviewed me asking who I was researching. Did I want to go further back in history or trace the ancestry forward from that person. He said it really didn't matter because in order to go back in history one needed to gather as much information from the birth, marriage, and church records for one family and work from there. Information gathered would provide names of parents on both sides, the location (town and county), and the date from which a time line could be established.

The following three figures (Figures 6, 7, 8) are the notes written during the remaining time I spent at the Ryksargyf. I was able to locate documents for several family members dating back to 1756. Figures 9, 10, 11 are examples of the records from which I was able to make copies. (These copies are being scanned and soon will be available here.)

Figure 6

These are the notes taken. We concentrated our work be continued.

Figure 7

Figure 8

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