Origin of the Name Janmaat


In  today's  society  many  surnames  are  patronymic  in  origin,  i.e.  they  are  derived  from  the  name  of  its  bearer's  father.

English  surnames  such  as  Robinson,  Richardson,  Paterson,  etc.  are  good  examples  of  this,  indicating  e.g.  son  of  Robin,  son  of  Richard,  etc..

In  the  Netherlands,  prior  to  surnames becoming  compulsory  in  1811  under  Napoleon,  patronymic  names  (called  patroniemen  in  Dutch)  were  in  widespread  use.

In  my  research  of  the  various  Janmaat  groups,  the  earliest  records   that  I  have  come  across  date  from  the  16th  Century.

The  use  and  development  of  patronymic  names  is  immediately  evident  from  these  early records,  right  up  to  the  start  of  the  19th  Century.

In  those  early  days,  if  a  person  with  the  name  of  Jan  had  a  son  who  was  called  Pieter  then  the  son  would  be  called   Pieter  Jansz,  meaning  Pieter  son  of  Jan  (Jansz  is  an  abbreviation  for  Janszoon,  where  'zoon'  means  'son').

If  Pieter  Jansz  had  a  son  who  was  called  Cornelis  then  the  son's  full  name  would  be  Cornelis  Pietersz !

In  some  cases  names  such  Pietersz  or  Jansz  have  become  surnames  of  the  form  Pieters  (Pietersen)  or  Jansen,  which  exist  today  (the  suffix  'sen'  is  like  the  English  'son').

In  other  cases  there  is  a  twist  to  the  story.

For  instance,  the  use,  or  rather  the  addition,  of  a  nickname  (bijnaam)  was  quite  common  practice.

Such  nicknames  could  be  based  on  the  name  of  a  village  or  on  the  profession  of  the  son,  father,  or  an  ancestor.

So,  if  Pieter  Jansz  was  a  baker  (bakker)  or  a  miller  (molenaar)  or  had  a  father  or  an  ancestor  who  was  a  baker  then  his  full  name  would  be  Pieter  Jansz  Bakker  or  Pieter  Jansz  Molenaar.

In  the  old records  both  forms  of  naming  were  used  interchangeably !!

Just like in those days 'Bakker' and 'Molenaar' were used as nicknames, similarly 'Janmaat' was used as a nickname. E.g. we would have a Pieter Jansz Janmaat or a Cornelis Pietersz Janmaat.

The early records show that the name Janmaat was often written as 'jan maat', so it can well be argued that the name Janmaat itself is patronymic in origin in that it is derived from Jan Maat.

An intuitive explanation of 'Jan Maat' is that it refers to 'Maat of Jan', where Maat means mate or friend (makker, vriend). I have found some justification for this explanation in the various Names Books.

Another explanation that I have come across is that the word 'maat' (mate) was very popular amongst sailors, and that 'Janmaat could, therefore, be equate to 'seaman'.
Although I do not want to dismiss this explanation I must admit that I find the connection rather tenuous !

Another interesting explanation that has been given to me is that in the central part of the Netherlands the word 'maat or mate' means 'land' and that, therefore, Janmaat means 'a piece of land in the possession of Jan'.

As a result you get a situation where Janmaat becomes the name of a farm.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries it was customary in these parts to name yourself after the farm where you lived.

So, if a person called Pieter lived on a farm called Janmaat, then he would be called "Pieter van 't Janmaat", literally meaning "Pieter, coming from the farm called Janmaat".

Over time "Pieter van 't Janmaat" became "Pieter Janmaat".

Variations on the above themes are possible. Mr. Jan Sluys from Rotterdam has advised me of an entry in the "transportboeken van Bloemendaal (near Waddinxveen) 1630-1638 that refers to a Jacob Ariens Keijser nicknamed (gebijnaempt) Janmaet.

Not much more is known about this person. Are his descendants called Keijser or are they Janmaat ?

With the exception of one group (see Janmaats from Almelo), which origin of the name Janmaat belongs to what group is largely a matter of conjecture.



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