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.