THE SURNAME ACT OF 1811
Extract from a decree of Emperor Napoleon dated 18 August 1811:
"Art 6. De familienaam, dien de vader, of, bij ontstentenis van dien, de grootvader van vaderszijde, verklaard heeft, te willen aannemen, of welke hem toegekend zal blijven, zal aan alle kinderen worden gegeven, die gehouden zullen zijn, denzelven te voeren en aan te nemen in de akten; ten dien einde zal de vader, of, bij gebreke van dien, de grootvader, de aanwezig zijnde kinderen en kleinkinderen in zijne opgave vermelden, alsmede derzelver woonplaats; en dezulke onzer onderdanen, die hunnen vader, of bij ontstentenis van denzelven, hunnen grootvader nog in leven hebben, behoeven slechts te verklaren, dat hij nog in leven is, benevens de plaats van zijn verblijf ."
Translation: The family name which the father (or in his absence the grandfather on the father's side) has declared to want to take, or which shall remain given to him [where a surname was already in use], shall be given to all children that are kept [recognized - legitimate?], to bear and to use in documents. To this end, in his declaration the father (or grandfather) must list the extant children and grandchildren, along with their place of residence. And such of our subjects whose father (or grandfather) is still alive need only state that he is still alive, with the name of the place of his residence. [translation by Dan Gamber]
There was thus no requirement for brothers, much less first cousins, to adopt the same surname - if their father and his father were dead. In fact where brothers lived some distance apart it would be probable that they would adopt different names, since communication over distances longer than a walk were unusual. An extreme example: Gerben Binnes huwde in 1753 Trijtje Sijes. Hun kinderen Binne, Sije, Ype en Hendrik kregen in 1812 ingevolge het decreet van Napoleon allen verschillende achternamen: resp Westra, Sikma, Pasma en De Vries . (email@example.com, 20 Jan 2000) (Translation: Gerben Binnes married in 1753 Trijtje Sijes. Their children Binne, Sije, Ype and Hendrik all acquired different surnames in 1812 in conformance with Napoleon's decree: Westra, Sikma, Pasma and de Vries.)
While not provided for in the act, there are reported cases where an unmarried woman (normally widow) made the declaration for herself and her children.
While not specifically stated, the transmission of the surname was through the father only. All children of Jan Roelofs Hemminga and Frouke Jaspers Smid are named Hemminga. The children of their daughter and Pieter de Vries are named de Vries. Thus the listing in a declaration of grandchildren will normally include only the children of sons.
But in fact some names were not registered. You will not find them in the name registration files, but they do appear in the population registers. You need to check both sources.
21 March 2000
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