LINKS. A System for Historical Family Reconstruction in the Netherlands


  • Kees Mandemakers International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam & Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Gerrit Bloothooft Utrecht University & Meertens Institute
  • Fons Laan International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam
  • Joe Raad LISN, CNRS (UMR 9015), University of Paris-Saclay
  • Rick J. Mourits International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam
  • Richard L. Zijdeman International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam & University of Stirling



Nominal record linkage, Historical population data, Civil certificates, Historical demography, Family reconstitution, Genealogical data


LINKS stands for 'LINKing System for historical family reconstruction' and is a software system to link nominal data from the Dutch archives and ultimately reconstruct historical individuals and families. We present the background and philosophy of this matching system and explain its data structure and functioning. Currently the core data of the LINKS system consists of indexed civil certificates. These certificates are available from 1812 — the start of the Dutch Vital Registration — until the year they are confidential based on privacy laws. For more than 20 years, thousands of volunteers have been working to build this index, which contains not only the names of newborn, married and deceased persons, but also the names of their parents, places of birth, ages and sometimes their occupational titles. The software system LINKS includes the standardization of all input before linking, nominal record linkage procedures and identification of all unique persons involved in the system. All processes are repeatable and a strict distinction is maintained between source data, standardized, linked and enriched data and released data. Moreover, LINKS also informs archives about all kinds of errors and inconsistencies found during the cleaning and matching process. We will discuss two matching systems, the first is the original querying system that runs within a MySQL database environment and the second is a newly developed system, called burgerLinker, which is based on knowledge graphs and which is designed as a system that can be used independently from LINKS and is made available as open source software. Finally, we present the most important releases of LINKS data so far: two national releases that link birth and parental marriage certificates, creating families and pedigrees and an integrated dataset of persons, families and family trees in four provinces.


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How to Cite

LINKS. A System for Historical Family Reconstruction in the Netherlands. (2023). Historical Life Course Studies, 13, 148-185.