Find your ancestors

About a million (!) Belgians and Dutch people are descended from people who lived in the Colonies of Benevolence. You too, perhaps? Did one of your ancestors live in a Colony? Dive into the archives and find out for yourself!

 In the Dutch Colonies of Benevolence

Search for your ancestors

The Drents Archief placed tens of thousands of names from the registration records online. You can search the database on this page.

It didn't work out? Do you want to know more? The archive of the Society of Benevolence, which is good for about four hundred metres of material, are located in the Drents Archief in Assen. It is accessible to everyone. We would be happy to help you with your search:

Identification note cards

In the Drents Archief there are around 5,000 identification note cards for people from the Rijkswerkinrichtingen Veenhuizen. The detailed registration of the 'patients' - thousands of beggars and vagrants from throughout the entire country – began in 1896 and ended in 1901.

In addition to personal information and the reason for and place of judgment, an identification note card contains a photo from the front and in profile, fingerprints, a description of special identifying marks, and measurements of the individual's height and limbs.

Do you want to know whether your ancestors resided in Veenhuizen? Search in

Household history mapped

Many descendants of the many settlers wonder which houses their ancestors actually inhabited. The Drents Archief has investigated and by using the app Household history mapped you can see which house they lived in, during which period and in what capacity. As a family? With another family?

The app is easiest to see on the large touch tables in the Drents Archief in Assen and at the Museum Kolonienhof in Frederiksoord. But in an adapted form, you can also look up the cottages and their inhabitants on the site of the Drents Archief.

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In the Belgian Colonies of Benevolence / Rijksweldadigheidskolonies

In the Rijksarchief Beveren, you can consult the personal files of vagrants. You can do so via the archive entrance M36, RWK 1996-1997. ('RWK' stands for Rijksweldadigheidskolonie.)

In the inventory, you can check which folder contains the family name you are looking for. The archivist of the reading room will help you request the folder and examine its contents.

You can download the inventory as a pdf file.

If you're not familiar with archives, go to the reading room and ask the archivist for help. More information.