What’s in a name?

Genealogy Recapitulates Etymology: Personal Musings

If there ever was a forest you couldn’t see for the trees, it’s genealogy. It is even appropriate we use the phrase “family tree,” for if we ever tried to reconstruct the family forest we’d be lost before we could hack our way out. Each of us has two parents (from two different families), four grandparents (ditto), eight grands, etc., etc. Not counting the other siblings in the family, by the time we go back ten generations (say, 300 years) we have 1024 ancestor families; 20 generations, over a million. I don’t think there were a million families in Europe in the 14th century. Obviously, these are theoretical numbers, assuming cousins never married – which we know they did. But they suggest that I am related, however distantly, to probably everyone who lived in Europe in the Middle Ages. Just going back to my grandparents I am only 1/4 Bouterse and I would have to research the Hargis, Lee, and Rijskamp families, in addition to Bouterse. But we have to pick our fights in this world and patrilineality is a place to begin. Eventually, I suppose, I can look for the families of the women who married the long list of Bouterse men we have collected. Let’s see: Hargis, Rijskamp, Van Beveren, Voorbeijtel, Letzer, Brouwer, Andriesen, Wecksteen, Goossen, and that’s just one branch back to 1650. And choosing matrilineal ancestors just shifts the direction, not the problem.

Son of a Bouter

There are those who have done yeoman genealogical research on the Bouterse family but their work is elsewhere. I have taken a different tack and approach the name itself. Some have suggested, perhaps based on the appearance of the name, that the family originated from French Huguenot emigrees and that would account for our independent, some would say stubborn, streak.

Many Huguenots came to the Netherlands and other Protestant countries and there are collections of typical Huguenot surnames which are available to scholars but the closest are Bouton, or Buton, and Boudoin, or Bowdoin, which don’t appear all that similar to me.

There are also certain French names that bear a similarity to Bouterse. But though they have become assimilated into French culture and, undoubtedly, pronounced in the French manner, I have found that in every case they are derived from Germanic roots. The root of the French names spelled ’bout,’ is in each case the Germanic ‘bod, bodo, boto,’ which means messenger.
Thus: Boutard, Boudard, Botard, Bodard [bod+hard (hard)], found in the Loir et Cher and the west.
Boutault, Boutau, Boutaud, Boutaut, Bouteau, Bouteaud, Bouteaux, and diminutives, Boutaudon, Boutaudou [bod+walden (govern, command)] in Vienne, Nièvre.
Bout, and diminutives, Boutet, Botet [bod] Indre-et-Loire.
Bouther, Bouthier, Boutier, Bouttier, Bouterin, Boutheron, Boutheyraud, and diminutive Boutherin [bod+hari (armed)] especially Doubs.

To Dutch speakers, Bouterse is a typical Zeeland name. The dialectical suffix ‘-se’ is clearly a marker meaning ‘son (of)’ and is found attached to other family names. It follows the form of ‘-son’ and ‘-sen’ in Germanic languages in general, including English. This is, perhaps, the place to remind us all that Dutch (to be precise, Frisian) is the language closest to English. Not being a Dutch speaker and only an amateur linguist, this is one of the facts that has led (or, perhaps, misled) me in my musings in this field. So, all my conclusions are to be taken with a grain of salt and are subject to review by experts.

To approach the name from a broader perspective I decided, just as an experiment, to remove the dialectical suffix and procede with Bouters or even Bouter, both of which are still found. It seems to me the root of the name is ’bout,’ which means ‘bolt, deadbolt, or flatiron.’ And that ’bouter’ would mean ‘one who makes or works with bolts, etc,’ which would put it in the extensive category of occupational surnames. (There is even a Bouterman.) Having gone this far, I realized that there are other Dutch words which are identical except for the initial consonant. That is, there are many ‘-out’ words in Dutch, as there are ‘-olt’ words in English. (There is also the possibility that the root could be ‘boud,’ meaning ‘bold, brave, or valiant,’ but that would require a linguist to accept the likelihood of such consonant shifts, which are not always as simple as they look at first glance.)
There is a Boudens in Zeeland in 1451, a Boutens from Zeeland, 1589 (on the Mayflower!), and a Boutense from around 1790.

I decided to look up (I must confess to Googling) other forms of the word ‘X-outers’ where X is another consonant. I was flabbergasted. Leaving out the vowels (after all, even I could see that ‘Aouterse’ looked unlikely) there are 19 consonants in Dutch, excluding Q and X which are used mostly for foreign words. In all but one case the word produced was a surname; in the other it was, at least, a word. The results, with comments, are below.

B. Bouters. Also Bouwterse, from ca.1790.(See above. Also see OED under bout.)

C. Couters, from 1419. Couter, or cowter, is also an ancient English word for a type of elbow armor.

D. Douters. Douters is a coffeehouse chain: no origin known. Douter is also an antique English word for a type of candle quencher.

F. Fouters. Fouters Bistro is a famous Ayrshire pub. ‘Fout’ is Dutch for ‘error, mistake.’

G. Gouters, from 1668. (See also OED under gout, meaning watercourse.) [‘Goud’ is Dutch for ‘gold.’]

H. Houters, from 1685. Also Houtters, Van Houters. ‘Hout’ is Dutch for ‘timber, wood.’

J. Jouters. Jouters were also travelling fishmongers in old Cornwall.

K. Kouters. (Especially in North Brabant.) ‘Kout’ is Dutch for ‘chat, chatter.’

L. Louters. (But perhaps from French.) Also archaic English verb, ‘lout,’ ‘to bend, bow, or stoop,’ so perhaps ‘one who…’

M. Mouters. Dutch: ‘malters,’ as in ‘mouters en brouwers,’ ‘malters and brewers.’ From ‘mout,’ meaning ‘malt.’

N. Nouters. (Especially in Belgium?)

P. Pouters. A Scots and English name. Also, ‘one who pouts,’ thus a type of pigeon, the frequency of references making it impossible to find anything else on the internet.

R. (Routers.) Another word, the frequency of which in English, both in the workshop and in computers, obscured all other references. But the English ‘router,’ meaning ‘robber, ruffian, bully’ is 16th century. See OED for other archaic meanings of ‘rout.’ And the Dutch word ‘route,’ means road, way, class, plan.’

S. Souters, from 1425. Scots dialect: souters are cobblers (Burns).

T. Touters. Dutch, ‘touter,’ is a ‘see-saw.’ Also an English word.

V. Vouters, from 1606. Also De Vouters.

W. Wouters. [Also Dutch ‘woud,’ meaning ‘forest, wood.’]

Y/IJ. Youters. One of the earliest settlers of Schnectady, NY. Also, became Yoder.

Z. Zouters. Dutch ‘zout,’ means ‘salt, salty.’ ‘Zouten,’ means to add salt or salt to preserve (something).

In addition to the form ‘X-outers,’ there is also the name ‘Outters,’ or its variants, Houters, Wouters, which dates from at least 1661. It seems clear, therefore, that the form ‘Bouters’ is so integrated into the general style of Dutch names that looking for its origin elsewhere seems contrarian, and certainly would require more concrete evidence than we are likely to find at this late date.
There is also a small town in Belgium, just 45 miles from Zeeland, named Boutersem. I wonder what that means?…

The Earliest Bouterses?

Op den IIII Augsti 1584 …
Schepenen: Albrecht de Graft, Echbert de Poel, Bouwen Janssen, Adrian Cornelis Huyghen en Pieter Cornelisssen [sic] Bouterse.

XVII en april 1585
Allert Gerritss, Christiaen Boesschot en Jan Heyndricxen Bouterse willen tofficie van “poortierscap.”

XXIX en octobris XVcLXXXV
Requeste by Pieter Cornelis Bouterse om consent te hebben om een oliemoelen achter op zijn erve te mogen stellen/ is voor alsnoch by Wet ende Raedt opgehouden om redene sonder daerop te disponeren//

(These from a webpage entitled “Resoluties van het bestuur van Arnemuiden, 1574-1585.”)

[The former municipality of Arnemuiden (now part of the capital of Zeeland, Middleburg) received city rights in 1574. The two men were neither brothers nor father and son, since one was Pieter son-of-Cornelis Bouterse and the other Jan son-of-Heyndric Bouterse. So there were at least two Bouterse families in town.]

Wikipedia Article

There is an important introduction to Dutch names in Wikipedia. It is helpful in reminding us that many family names only date back to 1811. Thus, rather than feeling sorry that we can’t find relatives going back to Charlemagne, we are very fortunate to have a history of Bouterse as early as we do.

Another Great Source

The Meertens Institute has a great site with distributions and some historical data on Dutch family (and given) names. I found Bouterse, of course, but also an archaic spelling (Buijterse), Bouter (and de Bouter, den Bouter), Bouters, Boeter, Boeters, Boeder, Beuter, and Butter (and varieties Booter, Boter, Boterman, Botter, etc,). Interestingly, there were 141 “de Bouter” and 731 “Butter” (and vars.) but zero found in Zeeland. Happy hunting!

ZEELAND, with emphasis on Colijnsplaat

Holland & Belgium. Deutecum, 1566.

This is an old map of the Low Countries (Deutecum, 1566) looking westward from Germany. Boutersem, Belgium, spelled with a long “s” (which looks like Bouterfem), is at the small arrow just above the horizontal line across the middle. The home center of the Bouterse clan, the (former) island of North Beveland, is at the upper right arrow just inside the word “Seeland.” Groningen, here spelled Groeningen, the home of my paternal grandmother: Reina Rijskamp, lies at the far right arrow, just inland from the Frisian Islands, but that’s another story. [Calling all Rijskamps…]

This is a page from the Dutch version of the (London) Times World Atlas: Oosthoek-Times Wereldatlas. [I love and collect atlases.] Consequently the Netherlands, and surroundings, gets great closeups. Boutersem is at the bottom of the page on the direct road between Leuven (just left of the fold) and Tienen, to the southeast. Many of the surrounding towns from the 1566 map don’t appear on the modern version. Did they change names, merge, or vanish?

Here is a closeup of Zeeland, showing the inexorable progress the Dutch have made from “zee” to “land.” The (former) islands of Walcheren and North and South Beveland have been joined together and to the mainland. Judging by the genealogical entries, Colijnsplaat seems to have been the historical center of affairs Bouterse.

The Wikipedia article on Colijnsplaat is a stub but a starting place. (Replace the “en” with “nl” to see the Dutch version.)

Here is a beautiful aerial view of Colijnsplaat from the north. (It makes me feel homesick – and I’ve never even been there.)

Here is a great map of Zeeland you can use to modify, zoom, or otherwise explore the area.

The 19th Century Gemeente Atlas van Nederland by J. Kuiper has town maps of Colijnsplaat, et alia. (One great historical insight of these maps is the delineation of the various polders with their dates: you can see the growth of the land.)
Just an interesting footnote for Bouterses in the U.S. There is a Bouterse Street in Park Ridge, Illinois. (Go to Google Earth.) It’s only one block long so, I suspect, it wouldn’t take much effort to assemble enough Bouterses to stand, hand in hand, along the entire length of the street. What a picture That would make.