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Origin of the name Waterlander

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We are very curious for the origin of our family name. Within the family there have been a number of theories, like: we would descent from crying people (Waterlander(s) is an old Dutch word for tear(s)), or from dredgers who make land from water, ore that our family originally came from the region/place (Broek in)Waterland, an area above the city of Amsterdam in the province North Holland, before they went to Friesland. For this last theory we have not been able to find any proof in our genealogy data up to 1600. Although we have some dredgers in our family, they are more recent than the name Waterlander.

In the year 1811 al Dutch people had to pick a last name. From that moment on the name “Waterlander” has been taken as family name. In some Fries achieves there has been recorded why people had chosen their last name. Unfortunately that is not the case for the name Waterlander, so it will remain speculation.

Water and land

It is possible that the choice for the name “waterland” is related to the peat district where most of the people on those days were working. These area’s existed in both North Holland (in the area of Waterland) as in area of Terband, where the oldest descanted we have found came from.

If the name really comes from North Holland, than the question rises how this name could have been transferred from North Holland to Friesland. I have not been able to find anything that could explain this and one should keep in mind that the “afsluitdijk” (a bank/seadike between Den Oever (North Holland) and Zurich (Friesland), lenght 32.5 km (longest bank/seadike in the world) or the “Wieringemeer” did mot exist in those day’s, so the distance (over water) was quite large. I was able to find a reference to a “Waterlandse vloot” (fleet), witch guarded against the “Zuiderzee” against the Spanish from the “Beemster”. Of course it is possible that they have transferred the name or are the origin of the name “Waterlander”.


More likely is the suggestion of Ynze van de Honing, who is a descendent of the Waterlander family himself. Ynze has the impression that the name is taken from a religion. As far as Yntze was able to verify the Waterlander family was “doopsgezind” (Mennonite) and will probably have been a member from the Waterlander congregation. Additional information that I received from S. Koorn in February 2003, confirms this theory to agreater extent.

By research on the Internet these Waterlandse Mennonites are located in the area of Maassluis, Rotterdam, Leiden, Aalsmeer, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Surhuisterveen, Hindeloopen and Leeuwarden. Also the term “Waterlandse Vermaning” (Waterlandse Congregation) appears a lot. The Dutch word“Vermaning” is an old word for “Mennonite communion”

For the origin of this congregation, we have to go back to the 16th century. In 1530-1534 the “New Jeruzalem” is founded in the place Munster. Eventually the Bishops army besieged Munster and many of the people in Munster were killed. The people that had come together in Munster fell apart in four groups:

  1. Melchiorieten, those who hoped for the realization of the ideas of Melchior Hoffman;
  2. Obbenieten, followers of Obbe Philips from Leeuwarden, they didn’t go to Munster;
  3. David Joristen, followers of David Joris – pretend to be a Catholic from the outside, but in your hart you can be different;
  4. Batenburgers, followers of Jan Batenburg, Overijsels noble, who in spite of Munster defended the belief with the sword.

The Obbenieten formed a renewing baptising movement. The rejected the use of violence, forced the future expectations back to the second plan and put the original ideals of a holy and pious life up front. The Obbernieten asked in 1537 the abandoned priest Menno Simons van Witmarsum to become the leader of their movement. Menno, however, brought with him the organisational structure of the church he had abandoned. The term bishop wasavoided and replaced in accordance to the biblical example by first-born.

They also wanted to return to the biblical example of the first congregation. “The congregation without any spot ore wrinkle”. In 1544 a discussion rose regarding the way of living of man and wife in the congregation. If one of then did not obey the congregational terms, than the excommunication should be applied. This would even mean that man and wife would have to divorce.

A schism arose at the moment that Swaen Rutgers in the city Emden refused to do this en therefore was excommunicated from this congregation. The first-born Jan Jans Schedemaker agreed with her and also refused to use the excommunication in this severe way (shutting out). Subsequently the entire group of the Emder congregation was excluded in 1555.

Jan Jans Schedemaker went to Broek in Waterland. Also in other Dutch area’s there appear people how agree with the ideas of Jan Jans Schedemaker. As a result there appear new congregations of dissenting congregations of Baptist people. They are being named “WATERLANDERS” shortly hereafter.

In 1567, 1587, 1591, 1598 new schism arose among the remaining group. New names as Friezen and Vlamingen, Oude – and Jonge Vlamingen, Oude- and Jonge Friezen, Jan Jacobsgezinden have found their origin from this. Attempts for reunification were taken. In 1632 the Jonge and Oude Vlamingen went reunified into Vlamingen. A part did not participate in these reunifications: Danzigter Oude Vlamingen. In 1637 the oude Vlamingen in Groningen refused to reunify with the Vlamingen that originated in 1632. From then on they are called Groninger Oude Vlamingen.

About the structure and tendency of the congregation in Friesland is not much known. Especially the Waterlandse- and Vlaamse congregations did not write much down. The conservatives, like Jan Jacobsgezinden, Danziger and Groninger Oude Vlamingen wrote down much more. Therefore there is relatively not much known about them.

In the judicial parts of Friesland from before 1811, appears a “Bonne Jacobs” [coming from Terhorne], G. 9 date February 23th 1723, regarding a matter of guardianship: Bonne Jacobs complied to a proper vow being a Mennonite

[Being a Mennonite one did not swear an oath, but ones Yes would be yes and No would be no.]

Furthermore, in the name list of first-born, teachers in the position of elder, preacher and admonishers in 1731, there is listed a preacher “Bonne Jacobs”. Further investigations will have to make clear whether this could be an ancestor. The combination of the names “Bonne” and “Jacobs” did not occur much.


© 2000 – 2022 Rob Waterlander & Mariska de Rijke