‘Yes, I do’: digitisation project about Amsterdam premarriage records


On February 3, the digitisation project ‘Ja, ik wil’ (‘Yes, I do’) started. With this large-scaled project, researchers from the Department of Economic and Social History of Utrecht University seek to digitalise the Amsterdam premarriage records (1581-1811) to make the data from these records available for scientific research.

Using the websourcing platform ‘Vele Handen’ (‘Many Hands’), the research team initiated a co-operation with the Amsterdam City Archives to attract volunteers to help with entering the information held in the source. More than 100 - and still increasing - volunteers, among whom history teachers, genealogists, and alumni of Utrecht University have already registered over the past two days to start entering the data.

In the first phase (2014) of this project, the team aims to digitalise about one-fifth of these records, which will already form a rich source of data for further historical research. The intention is to make the whole source digitally available by the end of 2015. The Amsterdam premarriage registers are a unique source, both in size as well as in content. Containing about 500,000 records, the registers do not only offer ample genealogical data, but also a lot of valuable socioeconomic information about the engaged couples, e.g. their age at marriage, their towns of origin, their places of residence, their occupations, the presence (or absence) of parents, et cetera.

A source containing this type of information over such a long period (1578-1811) in the early modern period is unique in the world. There have been several previous initiatives to distill the data registered in this source, but these initiatives only focused on specific parts of these data, whereas the current project aims to distill all the information, providing new research possibilities for both (academic) researchers and genealogists.

ERC Starting Grant

This project forms part of the ERC Starting Grant project ‘United we Stand'. The Dynamics and Consequences of Institutions for Collective Action in Pre-Industrial Europe’, led by Prof. Tine De Moor. Within the project ‘United we Stand’, researchers examine the connection between the so-called ‘European Marriage Pattern’ (EMP), the emergence of a variety of self-governed institutions (e.g. guilds, commons beguinages), and the remarkable economic position of the early modern Low Countries.

The Amsterdam premarriage registers, through their volume and content, will offer a vast amount of essential research data for this and other related projects.

More information
Website 'Ja ik wil' (Dutch)