Marriage banns – ondertrouwregisters

About a decade ago I started researching Black Amsterdam in the 17th century. In the marriage registers I discovered a small but significant Black community. 

Yesterday ’the Mirror Room’ of the Old Church was reopened after restauration. Until 27 October 1656 everyone – rich or poor – who wanted to marry in the city of Amsterdam had to pass the ‘roodeur’ to the Mirror room to register their intend with the ‘commissioners of marital affairs’. (From 28 October 1656 onwards the registers were kept at the new city hall at ‘de Dam’ – Damsquare)

The first African couple – not the first Africans – to register their marriage there, were Bastiaan (27) and Lijsbeth (28) from Angola in 1616. In the decades afterwards tens of Black couples registered there marriages in the city. They came from Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Portugal, Congo and other places across the Atlantic.

The Amsterdam marriage banns – that have been used widely for population and migration research – prove the intimate ties between the various Black families in Amsterdam in the mid 17th century. The lines on the fifth image show how they were related, as witnesses at marriage and baptisms.


Mark Ponte, ‘Black in Amsterdam around 1650‘ in: Kolfin and Runia ed., Black in Rembrandt’s Time (W Books/Museum Rembrandthuis 2020) 44-61.

Mark Ponte, ‘Al de swarten die hier ter stede comen’ Een Afro-Atlantische gemeenschap in zeventiende-eeuws Amsterdam’, TSEG/ Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 15(4), pp.33–62. DOI:

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