I'm looking for a VOC sea voyager
The Dutch East India Company (VOC) was established in 1602. The States-General granted the VOC a trade monopoly for the area from the east of the Cape of Good Hope to the Strait of Magellan. The organisation of the VOC in the Dutch Republic was decentralised. There were six governmental and administrative units known as Chambers: these were located in Amsterdam, Middelburg, Delft, Rotterdam, Hoorn and Enkhuizen. The governing body of the VOC was the Heeren XVII, or 'Lords Seventeen', who were chosen by the six Chambers.
Each Chamber of the VOC kept its own personnel records, though following centrally predefined rules. The basis of the salary records was the ship’s pay ledger, in which were noted all personal particulars and salary information for all paid crew members of every VOC ship. Each crew member’s particulars were logged, and the accounts start on the date on which the ship sailed. The accounts close upon termination of employment, with payment of the amount owed by the VOC to the crew member or his claimants. The VOC was disbanded in 1795.
For more information about our archives of the VOC, see this introduction.
How do I proceed?
You can start your search in the index that lists VOC sea voyagers. Here you can fill in the name of the person you are looking for. If you click on the name of the person found, you will be given information about the ships on which this person sailed, his occupation on board and the dates of his employment. You will also find the inventory number and folio number of the entry in the payroll records. This record can be reserved and viewed in the Nationaal Archief reading room.
You are searching the database for VOC crew member Cornelis Hoogeveen from Delft.
The records show that he entered service in 1702 as a seaman and sailed on the ship The Wateringen. You will also find that he died in Asia in 1704. This information comes from inventory number 13879 of the VOC archives and the folio number given is 81.
To see the original entry you can now do the following computer request:
Catalogue reference 1.04.02
Inventory number 13879
When you are given the record you can look for folio (page) number 81, where you will find the entry for Cornelis Hoogeveen in the salary records.
If you would rather not use the index but do your own research in the salary records of the VOC, you can use the notes below under Searching the salary records in the VOC archives.
For further information about the VOC please refer to the following books and websites:
- Beschryvinge van de Oostindische compagnie by the VOC lawyer Pieter van Dam. Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën (RGP) large series, numbers 63, 68, 74, 76, 83, 87, 96.
- Dutch-Asiatic Shipping. RGP large series numbers 166 and 167. Overview of the sea voyages made by the VOC and its predecessors between the Netherlands and Asia and the Cape, and vice versa, 1595-1795. This reference work provides no information on the use of VOC ships on inter-Asian trade routes. For an introduction to these overviews see RGP number 165.
- General Missives from GG&R to Heeren XVII 1610-1737 RGP large series numbers 104, 112, 125, 134, 150, 159, 164, 193, 205. Detailed overviews usually sent twice a year, on the company’s operations in the Dutch East Indies.
The publications named above are indexed according to the names of persons and ships.
- Lequin, F. Het personeel van de Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie in Azië in de achttiende eeuw, meer in het bijzonder in de vesting Bengalen, 1982. S12 D 21C
- Schouwenburg, K.L. van. Het personeel op de schepen van de Kamer Delft der VOC in de eerste helft der 18e eeuw, Tijdschrift voor zeegeschiedenis, volume 7, 1988, 76-93. Call number V1032
- Schouwenburg, K.L. van. Het personeel op de schepen van de Kamer Delft der VOC in de eerste helft der 18e eeuw, Tijdschrift voor zeegeschiedenis, volume 8, 1989, 179-186. Call number V1032
- Huygens ING
On the website of the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands you can find ING publications about the VOC. A link on this site takes you to an online glossary of VOC terms (in Dutch).
- VOC Expertise Centre
A website created by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) with detailed information on different aspects of the VOC.
'Towards A New Age of Partnership' (TANAP). This is a project whose objective is to improve the preservation and accessibility of the VOC archives worldwide. This site includes detailed information about the various VOC archives and references to literature.
When doing a search for a VOC employee you will come across three related sections of the VOC archives (1.04.02):
- The general land and sea muster rolls
- The ships’ pay ledgers
- The rolls of the qualified civil and military servants
The vital link to the ships’ pay ledgers is the reference in the muster rolls to the name of the ship on which the employee arrived in the Dutch East Indies; the reference to the place of work (a VOC outpost or a VOC ship on the inter-Asian trade route) is the vital link to the rolls of qualified employees.
The general land and sea muster rolls (1691-1791)
A VOC muster roll is the written annual (end of June) report of the entire list of land and sea employees in the Dutch East Indies. Each employee was mentioned in them by name. All outposts in Asia, but also the Cape, sent their own muster roll to Batavia. In Batavia these rolls were rewritten to form a single general muster roll, which served as the so-called 'sleeper' and remained in the VOC archives in Batavia. Six copies were made of this sleeper, one for each of the six Chambers in the Republic. Only the rolls of the Zeeland and Amsterdam Chambers have been preserved.
Muster rolls of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers
For searches before 1720 you will need to look at the rolls of the Zeeland Chamber; after 1720 you can use those of both Chambers (the contents are identical). However, we recommend that you use those of Amsterdam (the volumes of those in Zeeland are less manageable and Zeeland kept the land muster rolls and the sea muster rolls separate until 1779). The muster rolls for the years 1790 and 1791 are far from complete and for the years 1792-1795 no muster rolls have been preserved.
The muster rolls contain the following information on a voyager:
- First name and family name
- Birthplace or place of origin
- The person's rank in the year of registration in the roll concerned (presente qualiteyt)
- Year of arrival in the East
- Name of the ship on which the employee arrived in the East (sometimes you will see 'in service' noted here instead of a ship's name. This means that the employee was either born in the East Indies or arrived there outside of VOC employment).
- The person's rank upon entering VOC employment
- Chamber upon employment
Ships’ pay ledgers (1633-1795)
You can use the muster rolls to find out the name of the VOC ship on which the person arrived in the Dutch East Indies. This information will take you to the ships’ pay ledgers. The crew members of each VOC ship that sailed from the Netherlands to the East were logged in a separate ledger, called the ship's pay ledger, which belonged to a single ship and bore the name of the ship. Two identical copies were made. The first was deposited in the VOC archives in Batavia upon the ship's arrival there; the second was sent to the relevant Chamber in the Republic. During the journey the ship's pay ledger assumed the role of a ship's muster roll; however, after arrival any updates to an employee's situation were also entered (i.e. their transfer from one outpost to another, or from one inter-Asian ship to another). The central personnel records department in Batavia informed the different Chambers of these updates annually. At the beginning of the ship's pay ledger there is what is known as an 'alphabet' or register of first names (but not in fact always alphabetical and not always reliable). The collection of ships’ pay ledgers of all six Chambers consists of 2991 volumes; only 198 of these concern the 17th century, with most of them covering the final 30 years. The ships’ pay ledgers of more than 90% of the ships that sailed in the 18th century have been preserved.
The archive inventory with catalogue reference 1.04.13 contains a list of the ships’ pay ledgers of all the Chambers.
The archive inventory of the VOC archives has an index in the back (from page 529) with the ships' names listed as entries.
The ships’ pay ledgers from Delft (inventory numbers 13876-14080), Rotterdam (inventory numbers 14101-14296) and Zeeland (inventory numbers 12672-12928) are available on microfilm. The microfiches are in stack D16 of the microfiche repository in the reading room.
The ship's pay ledger has separate pages for each employee for debit and credit which include the following information:
- First name and family name
- Place of origin
- Rank upon entering service
- Duration of voyage to the Dutch East Indies
- Any mention of the making of a will or of the monthly wage ticket (maandceel).
- Any costs incurred for outfitting, or any amounts paid by the VOC in the Dutch Republic to family members, the final payment to the crew member, date of death, or date of departure from the East Indies.
You can find an example of the layout of a page from a ship's pay ledger, with an explanation of the contents of each column, on page 113 of the archive inventory (catalogue reference 1.04.02).
Rolls of qualified civil and military servants
The ship's pay ledger or the muster roll can be used to find out the names of places where land employees were posted. This information will take you to the rolls of the qualified civil and military servants (a qualified civil servant has the rank of 'young assistant' or higher; a qualified military servant has the rank of sergeant or higher). Each year (usually dated end of June) all outposts in Asia sent their statement of qualified civil and military servants to Batavia. In Batavia all these reports were rewritten to form two separate reports, one for the civil qualified and one for the military qualified, which were then sent to the Chambers in the Dutch Republic. Only the rolls of the Amsterdam and Zeeland Chambers have been preserved.
Rolls of the qualified civil and military servants
Just as with the general muster rolls, the volumes of the Amsterdam Chamber are more manageable than those in the archives of the Zeeland Chamber. As well as containing the information already entered in the muster rolls, such as rank and wage in the year of entering service, the rolls of the qualified also mention previous qualified ranks, wages and years of promotion within the VOC, including the names of those who promoted them.
Pay rolls of crew members on board ships that sailed on behalf of the Zeeland Chamber (1703-1794), inventory numbers 11959 -12109. The rolls are arranged by ship; they list the payment of two months wages, known as 'hand money', to soldiers and sailors who signed for receipt of payment.
Sailors' and soldiers' 'request books', intended for Zeeland Chamber ships (1671-1794), inventory numbers 12227-12321. The request books contain the official requests by sailors and soldiers to the Directors of the Zeeland Chamber to make payments to named third parties in their absence. These requests were signed by the applicants.
Collection of wills from the Dutch East Indies (1698-1807), inventory numbers 6847-6897
This collection contains copies of wills that were drawn up in Asia and also registered in the VOC's Orphan Chamber in Batavia (even if the will was actually executed elsewhere).
This collection has an index of family names (catalogue reference 1.04.14)
Finally, you can also refer to an index that lists VOC employees in the first half of the 17th century (catalogue reference 1.04.23). This is a card index containing handwritten cards, in alphabetical order of name/patronym with references to entries and/or information concerning these employees. It mainly contains higher-ranking employees.