After a previous discussion on naming customs and surnames, another focus for Netherlands research is the naming patterns used to name children after close relatives. The traditional system in the Netherlands is as follows:
First son: named for his paternal grandfather
Second son: named for his maternal grandfather
Third son: named for his father’s paternal grandfather
Fourth son: mother’s paternal grandfather
Fifth son: father’s maternal grandfather
Sixth son: mother’s maternal grandfather
This same system was used for the daughters using the grandmother’s names in place of the grandfather. The feminine version of male names was formed using such suffixes as –je/n, -ke/n, -pje/n, -tie/n, -tje/n. Examples in my family include: Grytje and variations such as Gertje, Geertje, Geesjen and Annechje or Annechien.
It is uncanny how rigidly many Dutch families stuck to this traditional pattern so that one can look at the children and tell the names of the previous generations with surprising accuracy. This system was often abandoned by Dutch immigrants to America perhaps in an effort to assimilate into the majority culture.
Even though she was a third-generation Dutch American, my mother, as the firstborn daughter, was named for her maternal grandmother, but with a bit of variation. It seems that my grandmother was not fond of the name Henrietta, her mother’s Americanized name, so she named my mother Helen, using the same first initial at least.
I went on to give one of my daughters the name Leah. Little did I know at the time that it is a Dutch equivalent of the name Helen. In a way then, this ties Leah back to her maternal ancestors:
maternal grandmother Helen; then
Helen’s maternal grandmother Henrietta/Hendrika; then
Henrietta’s paternal grandmother Hendericka; then
Hendericka’s paternal grandmother Hinderika who was born in the 1700s.