I hit the mother lode of genealogical help when I posted a query to the Dutch Genealogy Group on Facebook. I was trying to find out the meaning of my ancestral surname, Dolstra, and so asked for help. I knew it was Frisian ("-stra" is a suffix that means "from the"), which is the language, culture, and ethnicity of a a group of people in the north of the Netherlands, especially in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen.
One of the very helpful administrators in the group told me about this free downloadable 477-page book, Friesche Naamlijst (Frisian Name List) which gives a great onomastology of Frisian first and last names. I was able to determine that Dolstra meant "-from the sand pit," as Dol means "to dig (sand)."
This book is written in Dutch, and not Frisian or English. It's not difficult to use, as you can open up Notepad on your computer, type in what you see, then copy and paste it into Google Translate to get the Dutch-to-English translation. A couple of helpful tips:
- Check out the abbreviations on page 17.
- You will see the diagraph IJ mixed with letter Y or come after letter I. Don't be thrown off!
- M. means the male version of the first name, while V. means the female version. One example would be M. Geert and V. Geertje. In English, these names would be Garret (male) and Gertie (female).
- G. is the surname that is derived from the root word. Geertsma would be an example of a last name derived from a first name, and essentially would mean "the clan of Geert."
- P. is a place name. This is especially helpful in determining where some of these names may have come from. For instance, we learn there is a place called Geertsweer in Dollart, East Friesland.
- Beginning on page 473, there are Additions and Improvements. Don't forget to check them out.
Finally, there is also a genealogy group on Facebook for those researching their roots from Friesland, Groningen, and Drenthe. And Cyndi's List has a category for Frisian and Ostfriesen research.