Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Yvette Hoitink, the Dutch Genealogist

As this is my first post, I will start by introducing myself. My name is Yvette Hoitink and I'm a professional genealogist from the Netherlands. I'll be blogging every fifth day of the month.

I decided to become a professional genealogist because I love solving complex family puzzles and don't care whether they are my own family or not. By charging for my services, I can afford to do genealogy several days per week instead of just in my spare time. Besides my genealogy business, I also work as a project manager in the IT department at the National Archives in The Hague and am a wife and mother of a three-year-old son.

I've been doing genealogy since I was 14 years old (I'll tell you how it all started in a future blog post). I've been researching a group of 6,000 emigrants from my father's home town of Winterswijk in Gelderland and the surrounding area, most of them distant cousins of mine one way or another. They left between 1840 and 1920 and settled mostly in the US, primarily in upstate New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. I've been able to find over 4,000 of them in US records and have been able to help many of their descendants make the connection between their immigrant ancestor and records in Europe. Several of them asked me if I took on paying clients. And one day, about two years ago, I decided to do just that. It's been an amazing adventure that allowed me to do research on Dutch ancestors of people from all over the world: United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Sweden and South Africa.

Graves of Winterswijk people in Clymer, New York
My main platform is my website, Dutch Genealogy. It started out over 20 years ago, as "Yvette's Dutch Genealogy Homepage," a collection of links to other websites that had information relevant to people researching their Dutch heritage. There weren't many websites out there at all so mine was the first genealogical website in the country. Soon afterwards, I was asked to give lectures about internet genealogy. Since I was just 18 years old at the time, this was pretty daunting but a great opportunity. It was funny too, to be a young girl in a scene dominated by retired men. "What do you mean you're the speaker? We invited an expert!" I also wrote a book about internet genealogy together with a friend, that has been reprinted several times. So you could say I've been a genealogy hustler for about 20 years, but now I've finally gone pro.

Groninger Archieven
There are not that many professional genealogists in the Netherlands. The other day, when I introduced myself as a professional genealogist to a staff member at an archive, he asked "people actually pay for that?" with genuine surprise in his voice. I can see where he came from, as most people in the Netherlands live pretty close to where their ancestors are from. If they are interested enough to hire someone, they are usually interested enough to do the research themselves. But my specialty is doing research for people who don't live in the Netherlands and don't speak Dutch. As there are way more non-Dutch speaking people looking for a genealogist to help them find their Dutch ancestors than Dutch genealogists willing and able to report in English, I've definitely found my niche.

I provide a range of services. Besides the 'classic' services like research, translation, lecturing and writing, I also help prepare clients' trips to the Netherlands. This usually involves researching the families to see where they lived and worshiped. I will then use that information to create an itinerary. The client can either visit all those places himself, or he can hire me as a tour guide. I've also accompanied clients to the archives, to present them with the original documents that include information about their ancestors. That is always a very special moment. I love all the information that is available online, but nothing beats the historical sensation of original manuscripts.

As one of the few professional genealogists in the country, it can get lonely sometimes. That's why I love meeting genealogists from other countries and sharing ideas. I am proud to be a member of this new worldwide community and hope to learn a lot from you. I also look forward to meeting some of you later this month at Who Do You Think You Are Live in London. If you see a woman that looks like that picture in the first paragraph, and who is carrying a "Dutch Genealogy" tote bag, please introduce yourself!

Who Do You Think You Are Live 2013


  1. Hi, Yvette, it is great to have someone from the Netherlands on Worldwide Geneaalogy to get such a different aspect on famiy history research. I look forward to future posts.

  2. Yvette, your Web site is great, and you provided a big breakthrough with my friend Fiona's Dutch genealogy research. I'm sorry that I can't be at WDYTYA, but hopefully you will meet some of the other members of our 'Genealogists for Families' Kiva team.

  3. @ ScotSue: Thank you for your welcome! I hope to add a different flavor to the mix :-)
    @Judy: That is so great to hear :-) I'm really looking forward to going to WDYTYA and meeting some of the "Genealogists for Families"-family IRL.

  4. Welcome to the community here and I am sure you will have a great time at WDYTYALive - I live vicariously through the photos posted online - it sounds like w terrific time.

  5. Yvette, I am encouraged by your boldness to stand in front of a group of men at the age you were to share with them. This is the kind of stories I need to hear! We are the experts in the research we do, and it is lonely being the trailblazer...but when we look back, there will be many behind us that we are helping to find their way. I look forward to more of your posts. From one Yvette to another. ;-)

  6. Yvette,

    Welcome to the community.

    Two of my daughters-in-law have Dutch fathers so of course I am trying to follow their lines for my grandchildren. I look forward to exploring your website for tips and resources.

    Cheers, Jill

  7. Welcome Yvette! I can't wait to read more. The Hague that must be so AWESOME to just walk up and be in there all the time. WoW. I look forward to all the information you have to share. Your Blog is neat too. I have Netherland DNA Cousins and I can't figure it out? I'll have to put some info together. Very Interesting.

  8. I only just saw all these nice comments! Thanks for the welcome guys :-)

    @True Lewis Isn't it fascinating to see where our DNA matches are from? While in London, I attended a great lecture about how to interpret the results. I wrote a blog post about it. I don't know how long the segments are that you share with your Netherlands DNA cousins but it could be that they are so small that it is just a coincidence rather than evidence for a common ancestor. Alternatively, there were many Dutch people in the Americas since the 1600s. Some of them were heavily involved in the slave trade so I wouldn't be surprised if there are many people of African-American descent who have Dutch ancestors :-(


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