When the Dutch government eventually granted independence to their former colony, the Dutch (Netherland) East Indies in 1949, a large community of some 200,000 Indos were forced to find a new homeland.  They were the offspring (descendants) of former Dutch and other European settlers, who often intermarried with women of Indonesian or other mixed ancestry.  For more than three centuries they primarily lived on Java, but some also were from other islands of the large archipelago.

Most of the approximately 15,000 families were somehow related to each other.  As an ethnic entity, they are bound together with a strong love for family and are characterized by a tremendous sense of hospitality.

After the Indonesia revolution, they were provided the option to change their nationality and opt for Indonesian citizenship.  More than 90 percent decided to remain Dutch.  This meant that their livelihood under the tropical sun would eventually come to an end. The new republic was very hostile at the time of President Soekarno’s reign and virtually all Dutch influence was banned.

Subsequently Indos left in droves and for the most part settled in the Netherlands, their “fatherland”, as refugees from a distant war.  The majority were successful in finding employment and, for the most part, were successful in starting new careers.  They were and still are loyal to the Dutch government and at the same time preserved their love for their own kind.

During the past decades, children were born and raised, youngsters got married and the second, third and fourth generation is now growing up.  It is evident that a new dawn is breaking for this ethnic group.  But what about the links to the good ol’ days,  Tempo Doeloe?  The Dutch government left just about all official family registers, old books and documents behind in the Indies when they departed and in the hands of the Indonesian government.

Fortunately these officials have kept these records in relatively good order and safekeeping.  However, in the final analysis, these are of no interest to them.  Indonesians in general do not have significant registration at all.  After a protracted Japanese occupation of the archipelago and the subsequent Indonesian revolution, the records suffered greatly and many registrations were lost or burned.  For the Indos this meant that free and easy access to them became virtually impossible.  The Arsip Nasional” (http://en.wikipedia/wiki/National_Archives_of_Indonesia in Jakarta will supply basic information, but this takes an inordinate amount of time and is costly to boot.  Hence, this makes every form of genealogical research practically impossible in that country.  What a dilemma!

This sorry state of affairs was recognized in Holland by a handful of dedicated, concerned citizens with great foresight.  They could foresee an even greater loss of valuable genealogical data in the future if nothing was undertaken now.  So they decided to take all necessary steps to collect as much information they could lay their hands on.

In 1972, they scoured as many sources in Holland which were still accessible and made attempts to accumulate all data in an orderly fashion.  They interviewed the older generation Indos, asking them to record what they remembered and forward their own family records to a data bank. In essence, this was the last generation who could supply this information first hand. The next generation was born outside Indonesia so their records are safe. This gap between the old folks and the new era was thus bridged.

As time went on, these amateur genealogical sleuths were increasingly concerned about the future of this newly developed collection, at that time called the Indisch Familie Archief.  There was no deliberate question of handing down this data to the younger generation but apparently they were not interested.  What would then be the fate of this collection?  Would the gathered material be simply thrown away or would it disappear in some government cellar or dusty, inaccessible archive?  This would be just as bad.

As a consequence, a formal request was sent to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City, Utah.  They were requested to have this data of family files microfilmed and they consented and filming was started in 1983.  This resulted in 15 microfilms containing all that was gathered up to that time.  Many hundreds of files have been compiled in the interim and these were microfilmed.  Besides these family files, there are about one dozen other sub collections in which patrons are permitted to search for information.  This collection effort was conducted by SIFA but were primarily accomplished by interested parties.

IFA (now SIFA) was originally established by Mr. Dirk Visker, a retired Dutch government official and personal friend with Indo wife who lived in The Hague.  He spent a considerable time in the Indies and was intimately acquainted with the pressing and fexing problem faced by later generations of Indos.  He and several colleagues did the major work without any official support or remuneration.  They did it out of the goodness of their heart and thus performed a valuable rescue mission to save the potential loss of genealogical information.

It was simple in its organization.  All data was arranged in alphabetical order in family files.  Each name had its own labeled file with a tag on the outside, containing numerous categories marked with the letters “a” through “n.” Data was eventually transferred to Stichting Indisch Familie Archief (SIFA) at   Another primary source is the Family History Library of the LDS Church in Salt Lake city, Utah.  In addition there is a private collection in possession of Jan Krancher, the author of this article. .

The author has had several occasions to assist fellow countrymen, dispersed via the infamous Indo Diaspora, now living in Countries like Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA.  It is anticipated that due to this tremendous effort in closing the genealogical gap, many more Indos worldwide will be afforded a unique opportunity to search their roots and/or climb their family tree and do so to their hearts’ content.

More sources:

Genealogie Start Pagina

Genealogie in en over Indonesia
Genealogie Nederlands Indie:
Familie Archieven
Genealogische verwijzingen
Stamboom Forum » Indische families

© Jan Krancher 2012


  1. I just found your site while trying to find resources to help a dear friend (now 91) who was a teen at the time her family moved back to the Netherlands, after several generations in the Dutch East Indies colony.
    She has been writing up the stories of her ancestors, and is wanting to find more information about her Muslim grandmother.
    Would her stories be of interest to you?
    Would you have suggestions on how she could track a Muslim immigrant who is believed to be from the Russian stans?

    • Erasmo Wadley, we are happy to read that this article is useful to you. Thank you for taking the time in letting us know!

  2. Thanks for your lovely straightforward explanation of the state of affairs. I am trying to trace any information about my antecedents Leendert Cornelis van de Ven and Jeanne Willemine Grimm who were in Pattie (today called Patti) in Indonesia around the late 1800s.They had a coffee plantation there, which went bad, and then he was a supervisor at a sugar mill there.They had two daughters- one was my grandmother. Can you please help me?Thank you.

    • Dear Simon,

      I can point you to the links already mentioned above, especially since the people who recommended the sites had personal experience with them. Please try the sites if you have not yet done so and let us know how it turned out, so that we can share that information with others.

  3. There is a website where everybody can start their own familytree and it’s FREE !
    I have a very large familytree with over 1,000 listings on Geni.
    I think that the most attractive feature of Geni is, that it links listings which are the same. That’s so efficient ! Now people don’t have to make the same trip to an archive twice, three times or more. Because someone else already did and the info can be shared.
    And anyone who is listed in the familytree with an e-mailaddress, can also add info to the tree.
    This makes the tree more accurate. One person cannot know all the info of his/hers family.
    Another very good genealogical research I can highly recommend is “Roosje Roos”.
    Maarten and Willy Etmans, who run Roosje Roos, specialise on Dutch-Indonesian genealogy and they already found out sooo much about my ancestors !!
    Commercial activity and you have to pay for it, but ver accurate too !

    • Jack, thanks for the link to! I had planned on starting my family tree on…do you know the differences between the two sites?

  4. Thanks so much for explaining some of the efforts (including yours) of compiling Indische family records. Your historical knowledge about our genealogy is valuable and I appreciate your sharing this with us. The 15 microfilms of the early 80’s, is a copy still to be found at the Family History Library of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City or has the only copy been returned to SIFA? And if a copy is still with the LDS Church, is it accessible online? I was at SIFA in The Hague last July and according to the spokesperson, (when moving to the government facilities SIFA is currently occupying), all the print historical family files were turned into a digital format that resulted into a computer glitch. The public has not been able to access these files online. I’m curious as to where we can access these files now? Thanks, Priscilla

    • A minor oversight has slipped into the ooriginal article and was not noticed until you alerted me. The number of 16 mm films is 36 instead of 15 and are in my possession. And yes, the content – data – is still accessible by way of the Mormon church or upon request at one of their local branches that has genealogical microfilm equipment avaiiable. The computer glitch you mentioned is one of those unfortunate incidences that occur during data transfer. Hopefully the more extended links provided at the end of the article will be able to lead you on the right path.

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