Frequently Asked Questions - About the Nationaal Archief
- What do I need to know when I want to visit the reading room to do research?
- How do I order a reproduction of a record?
- Is it possible to borrow original records from the Nationaal Archief?
- Can I find acts in the Nationaal Archief?
- Can I find a Council of State ruling in the Nationaal Archief?
- Can I find my divorce decree in the Nationaal Archief?
- Why can’t I find my family in the Australian emigrants database? I know they emigrated to Australia.
- How can I view the Centraal Archief Bijzondere Rechtspleging (Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction)?
- Is there any more information about the VOC sea voyager I found in the index?
- Can I do research on ancestors who came from Suriname (Dutch Guiana) in the Nationaal Archief?
- Can I do research on an ancestor who was in the military?
- Are there any occasions when it is best not to come to the reading room?
- What is the procedure for doing archive research in the reading room?
- When will I need to come to the reading room?
- What archives or information are available in digital form?
- What archives are held at the Nationaal Archief?
About the Nationaal Archief
What you need to know for a (first) visit to the reading room is described in visiting the reading room.
If you don't know whether the information or documents you are looking for can be found at the Nationaal Archief, it is highly recommended to send an email or make a call in advance.
You can order a reproduction of a record by searching through the archive inventory. When you've found the inventory number you want, click on the ‘Add to shopping cart’ button. For more information on procedures and prices, see ‘Ordering reproductions’.
The Nationaal Archief regularly lends out original documents, drawings and maps for temporary exhibitions in museums and other cultural heritage organisations.
If your organisation is interested in borrowing items from the Nationaal Archief, please see the Nationaal Archief loan procedure (in Dutch).
Acts are published in the Staatsblad (Bulletin of Acts and Decrees). The Staatsblad is available for inspection in reference libraries such as university libraries and the National Library of the Netherlands. You can also find information on contemporary Dutch law and acts on the website overheid.nl.
If you want to know more about the background of a particular act, you can use the Nationaal Archief’s Ministerial archives. Here you will find documents leading up to the draft of the Act (the bill), like for example the archive of the Ministry of Justice: Wettendossiers 1850-1975, catalogue reference 2.09.47 (in Dutch).
The Nationaal Archief contains the rulings of the Council of State up to 1995. You can request a copy of a ruling if you can give us the file or case number. It is not possible to find a ruling without this number. For more information, please see the research guide ‘I’m looking for a ruling of the Council of State’ (in Dutch).
The Nationaal Archief holds the archives of the South Holland provincial courts up to about 1989. If a divorce was decreed by the district courts in The Hague, Rotterdam or Dordrecht before 1980, you will find a copy of the decree in the Nationaal Archief. The same applies to the Rotterdam and Dordrecht courts for the period 1980-1989. Information on how to request a copy can be found in the research guide ‘I’m looking for my divorce decree’ (in Dutch).
The Australian emigrants database was based on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ collection of emigration cards. However, not all immigrants were registred that way. A card was only drawn up if the family had contacted the Dutch embassy in Australia. In addition, the cards were registered under the name of the head of the family. The names of wives and children who emigrated with them were entered on these cards.
The Nationaal Archief does not add family names to the database, and the information is not changed or edited. Its contents is based on the original paper documents and therefore will not be altered.
The Nationaal Archief holds the files of post-war criminal jurisdiction, called the Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction. This archive is not open to the public and can only be viewed on request under specific conditions. You can find out how to submit a request in the research guide ‘I’m looking for someone in the Central Archives for Special Criminal Jurisdiction’.
In the index of VOC sea voyagers you will find all the known personal details of the person you are looking for. The original page of the ship’s pay ledger will contain more information about his career. You can order a scan of the ship’s pay ledger via the source link in the index.
There is also an index of the VOC letters and papers that were shipped back to the Netherlands. You will find this at www.tanap.nl. On this site you can search for the person you are looking for by name. You may or may not be lucky in your search!
You can search the Nationaal Archief for information on your Surinamese ancestors in many different ways. You can do a lot of the groundwork at home using the indexes, for example. For more information, please see the research guide ‘I’m looking for a resident of the former colonies’.
The Nationaal Archief has many sources that provide genealogical information about people who served in the military. Read the research guide ‘I’m looking for a serviceman’.
If you want us to help you with your research, you can contact us by using the contact form. Could you please enclose as much information on the ancestor as possible:
- Full name
- Place and date of birth
- Period of military service
- Location of military service, such as the Netherlands, the Dutch East Indies, Suriname or the Netherlands Antilles.
- The service: army, navy or air force
- Professional serviceman or conscript
- Officer or NCO/soldier
- What information you are looking for
It is not necessary to visit the reading room in the following cases:
- If you want to view a restricted public archive, such as war files and archives of judicial authorities. Other 20th century archives may also be restricted. In this case, you will have to submit a request in writing first. The Nationaal Archief will do some preliminary research for you and then invite you to make an appointment to visit the reading room. If you are not sure whether an archive has restricted public access, please feel free to ask us using the ‘Contact form’ button below.
- If your research covers a public archive but you do not want to do the research yourself. In this case the Nationaal Archief will be happy to provide you with a quote to do the research for you. You will find more information on commissioned research here.
- If you want to order a reproduction of a specific record. Look up the inventory number in the archive inventory and click on the shopping cart. You will receive the digital reproduction in you profile.
Everything you need to know about your first visit to the reading room can be found in ‘Visiting the reading room’.
If you don’t know whether what you are looking for is in the Nationaal Archief, take a good look round this website first. Under ‘Q and A’ you will find FAQs and research guides on many different subjects. If you are still not sure, please feel free to ask us a question using the ‘Contact form’ button at the bottom of the screen. This will save you a wasted trip.
The inventories of the Nationaal Archief archives are available in digital form and can be viewed on this website. But many of the records themselves are not available in digital form. This means that you can only consult the records in the Nationaal Archief reading room. You can request a record in advance of your visit using the archive inventory. The record will then be ready for you when you arrive here.
The descriptions in the archive inventories are often very general. If you do not know for sure that a record you are looking for is located in a particular inventory number, you will have to come to the reading room. It is not possible for the Nationaal Archief to do this preliminary research for you.
Information from the archives (more than 110 kilometres of documents) is available on different content levels. Every archive has a table of contents, which in archive terms is known as an ‘archive inventory’. In an archive inventory you will find a numbered description of the records held in that archive. These archive inventories are available in paper form and can be consulted in the reading room.
Many of the archive inventories have been digitised. This enables you to check what records the archive contains online. Use the search function to search the digitised archive inventories.
The description of the records in an archive inventory - generally a folder or box of documents - is a very rough guide. The vast majority of individual documents in these folders are not available in digital form (after all, they make up more than 110 kilometres of ‘paper’!).
Information from a small number of archives (often information about people) can be found in the indexes. Go to ‘Collection’ and select ‘Indexes’. Then you can search all the indexes or limit your search to just one.
Almost a thousand years of Dutch history is stored in the Nationaal Archief - contained in 110 kilometres of archives, including maps, drawings and photographs. The archives originate from:
- The central government
- The County of Holland and the regional and provincial administrations in South Holland
- Private institutions and individuals.
Want to know more about what archives the Nationaal Archief holds? Or are you wondering whether there is any information that may be relevant to you? Then go to the catalogue.
You can also use the general search function on the website.