Roots & Branches: ‘Triangulation’ extends Dutch line into Germany

Last week’s “Roots & Branches” column profiled reader Niels Witkamp’s attempt to extend his Dutch surname line into Germany, based on a couple of entries in the Netherlands that pointed to either “Salm” or “Westphalia” as the origin of his Witkamp family.

The first entry was a marriage of the Roman Catholic Jan Hendrik Witkamp and Gougje Jans van Goudoever on Dec. 1, 1710, in Utrecht, Utrecht province, The Netherlands.

Civil registration of the intent to marry mentioned that Jan Hendrik was born in Salm.

“Unlike Protestant marriages, Catholic marriages were not lawful in and other themselves — they had to be either registered in a Protestant church or civil record to be lawful,” Witkamp noted. “Catholicism was tolerated but not encouraged by the government back then.”

The couple had several children baptized in Catholic churches in Utrecht and the village of Bunnik, including Anna in 1724, whose sponsor was noted in Latin as: “Matrina eius Anna amita eius ex Wesphalia” (which translated as “her godmother Anna her aunt from Westphalia.”

Because Jan Hendrik’s wife, Gougje, already had been found in Dutch records, Witkamp believed that the sponsor in question was Jan Hendrik’s sister and that if he could find them in the same town in the area of Salm and Westphalia that he would have an ancestral “bingo.”

My advice in last week’s column involved several resources, but after Witkamp struck out with those, he went to the Ger­man genealogy supersite and looked at its collection of village ancestral books called “Ortsfamilien­buecher.”

In the town of Coesfeld, he found a lot of Witkamp but no Jan Hendrik (or Johann Heinrich) Witkamp.

Witkamp then struck gold on by finding a baptism from the records of the Roman Catholic church in Coesfeld for a Joannes Henricus Weitkamp (the first and middle names being Latin versions of Jan Hendrik) in 1688, making him the prime marrying age of 22 in the Utrecht record. The baptism reported him to be the son of Ludger Weitkamp and Apollonia Weltmans.

“Also, I knew he should have a sister Anna and there was a baptism for one sister, and she was named Anna,” Witkamp wrote.

Witkamp searched Wikipedia pages for the history of this area.

“Salm is the name of a family of counts, who owned castles in the Ardennes region of what is now Belgium and the Alsace in what is now France,” he wrote. “The territory was first split in 1163 and later again, with the Salm-Kyrburg being nestled against the current eastern border of the Netherlands in what was in the early 1700s Westphalia.”

Coesfeld was within the region.

While Witkamp could have short-circuited the process and gone directly to FamilySearch. org, his extra effort to learn the historical background makes his “find” more credible.

Beidler is a freelance writer and lecturer on genealogy. Contact him either at Box 270, Lebanon, PA 17042 or by e-mail to