Roots in Low Places
10/1/2003
Get the lowdown on your ancestors from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg: Our step-by step guide to starting research in the Benelux regionwill show you how.

Tulips. Windmills. Wooden clogs. Some things are patently Dutch — including the many Americans who can claim Dutch ancestry. Millions of US residents can trace their lineage back to the Netherlands, and even more have roots in the Benelux region of Europe. The area — which comprises the Netherlands, Belgium and the duchy of Luxembourg — gets its name from a 1948 customs union between the three governments. These countries may be more recognizable as the northern part of what was commonly known as the Low Countries, a small cluster situated along the coast of northwest Europe.

Don't let the size of these countries fool you, though — finding your Benelux ancestors can be tricky. With records scattered throughout towns and parishes, a number of multilingual provinces and a history of shifting borders, the tiny Benelux countries can throw plenty of wrenches in your research. But don't count them out: Finding your family tree in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg is all a matter of knowing where to look and what, specifically, to look for.