Map of the Netherlands and it's 11 historical provinces.
In the second half of the 20th century land was won in the southern part of the IJsselmeer which became the 12th province. It is called Flevoland.
Before the enclosure dike was build (finished in 1932), the IJsselmeer was an open sea and it was called the Zuiderzee.




In the last ten years our database has grown to over 90,000 personrecords. We learned more about how our family has spread and where our ancestors originally came from. Ninety thousand sounds a lot, but it is likely that tens of thousands of forgotten names and people still ly waiting in the archives to be discovered. They will possibly make new connections between up to now not connected families.
In this article I will try to explain the meaning of our surname and I will try to name some places where our ancestors derived their name from.

Long time ago when Europe's population was small, people where known by just one name: what we now call "first name". Population grew it became necessary for people with the same name to distinguis themselves from one another. People added a second name which referred to their occupation, place of origin, a nickname or refering to another person (a close relative).
For example: John Carpenter, David London, Edward Tall and Henry Jacobson (=son of Jacob). Once such a name went over from father to son it became a surname as we know today. Of course this happened sooner in high density populations like in cities and much later in rural areas.
In the Netherlands it became common to have names that consisted of two or three parts: a first name, a patronymic and a surname. For example: Jacob Evertsen (son of Evert) Vermeer or Cornelia Peters (daughter of Peter) Vermeer. In rural areas people only occasionally use their surname which makes research much more difficult.

What does our name mean (1)?

In Dutch 'meer' means lake, so it will not surprise you that our ancestors once live near water or a town that was called after a lake. These people settled elsewhere and called themselves after their place of origin. The prefix 'Van' or 'Van der' or 'Ver-' all mean from or of.
A lake can be described as sweet and stagnant waters surrounded by land. In the Dutch language there are more names for stagnant water like vijver, laak, ven, poel, plas and put, although these terms are not always replaceble. Meer is dirived from mari in German and goes back to the Latin word mare. In the Dutch language in the Middle Ages it meant both lake and sea. Not all meanings of the word meer in the Middle Ages can be used today. It was also the word for all kinds of puddles, pools and swamps.
From these meers several familynames were dirived: Meer(e), Van der Meer(en), Meir(en), Van Meer, Ter Meer, VERMEER, Vermehr, Vermeir, Vermer(en), Vermeer(s)(ch), Meer-, Merre-, Meir(e)man(s) and even more variations. Interesting to know is that Vermeers(ch) means 'son of Vermeer'.

An important question is if we can discover the exact place where our ancestors once lived and took their name from. A complete and balanced answer that applies for all families can not be given. Not every person with the Vermeer name in the same region will share the same ancestors but we do have strong leads for some of the largest familes. Our records show there are at least three or four places that likely have been the places of origin.

Where did our ancestors come from?

Places of origin and the first spreadings of the family name.


In Gelderland the name of Vermeer has been found in the 13th and 14th century in the eastern parts between Arnhem and Nijmegen (2). Parts of this region have been both Dutch and German ground alternately. Today just over the border in Germany, south of Millingen is the town of Mehr, which is the first plausible place of origin.
The second possible place of origin is a tiny stream simply called 'Het Meer' close to the town of Beek within the municipality of Ubbergen. This is the most likely because the oldest records show that a lot of Vermeer's owned land in this area. These Vermeer's are the oldest ancestors of the Vermeer of the Betuwe who occupied executive functions like bailiffs, judges, dike-reeves, church masters and so on. Because in these days it was common that these functions passed on from father to son it is possible other families in Gelderland who occupied simular functions also descent from this same family.


The oldest records of Vermeers in this province come from the city and the area south of Tilburg. In Noord-Brabant we have found the most manners of writing, even within the same family!
Unfortunately we hardly have seen records in Vlaanderen (Flanders, Belgium) just below the Dutch border where also Vermeers have lived and still live. It is very well possible most Vermeer's in Noord-Brabant thank their family name from the Flanders town of Meer also written as Meir just at the other side of the border.
In Brabant there are families from Raamsdonk, Udenhout, Loon op Zand, Haaren, Waalwijk, Woensdrecht and five families of Tilburg.

Noord- & Zuid-Holland.

In the western provinces there is not one particular place that stood at the beginning of our familyname. The coastal area has always been a region with lots of greater and smaller rivers, lakes and swamps. According to the Meertens Institute the 'Van der Meer' name in Zuid-Holland originates from the Zoetermeer Lake. It is striking to see that the olderst generations of Vermeers in Bleiswijk, Zevenhuizen, Pijnacker and surroundings, also came from around Zoetermeer and it's lake. It seems that also the Vermeer name was named after this lake. The source of Vermeers in Rotterdam seems to be located more to the north too, and maybe from the same area.
A second place of origin is the town of Meerkerk where a large family has grown with branches in Hillegom, Leiden, Haarlem and Uitgeest.

Other provinces.
Maybe you have already missed some areas in the Netherlands. There are Vermeer families living in Friesland: the Vermeers of Haskerland and the Vermeers of Bolsward. Both families came from elsewhere, respectively from Haarlem at the beginning of the 19th century; and likely from the Betuwe (3) area in the 18th century.
The city and province of Utrecht has always been the home of Vermeers. Numbered together it is a reasonable group but unrelated to each other and likely originated from elsewhere. In the town of Maarssen near the Vecht river a family named Ter Meer was founded.
Other provinces like Zeeland, Limburg, Drenthe and Groningen did not play a significant role or no role at all in the history of our familyname.

About the Losecaat Vermeer surname
In 1811 Isaak Weijer Vermeer married Geertruida Helena Losecaat. In 1846 he and his children were given permission to add Losecaat to their familyname. The Losecaat Vermeer family is a branch of the Vermeer family of the Betuwe.

About the Rhemrev surname.
Rhemrev is Vermehr written backwards. A few centuries ago in the region between Arnhem and Nijmegen in the province of Gelderland and close to the German border Vermeer was also written as Vermehr. One member of this family went to the Dutch East-Indies (now Indonesia) with the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC = [Dutch] United East-Indian [Trading] Company.
In the Dutch East-Indies there was a lack of European women. Men often had a 'njai', a native housekeeper, who often was more then a servant only. It was a completely accepted phenomenon for a long time and even recommended for civil servants to be, because it was better than flee into alcohol or visiting prostitutes.
Children born from these relationships grew up with their father also if he later got married to an European woman. The child was given the name surname of his natural European father but written backwards. This became officially when they were recognized by their fathers by civil registrars which became possible in 1828. This is how Vermehr became Rhemrev.
Leendert Hendrik Vermehr (aprox.1737-1790) had a son with his Javanese njai. This son, Leendert, was born in about 1758 and later got married and he had six children: four sons and two daughters. He and his four sons together are the ancestors of all Rhemrev's that live around the world.
The earlier mentioned Leendert Hendrik Vermeer was a son of Lubertus Vermehr (1696-1749) and Cornelia van Westhoven. You can find them in the survey of the Vermeer family of the Betuwe which starts in the early 15th century.


The map displays the number of Vermeers in each province according to the 1947 census. It is clear that the regions where most families originate from still have the highest concentrations of Vermeers. What can not be seen is that Vermeers from Brabant have spread out to Zuid-Holland, especially to Rotterdam and Vlaardingen. In Noord-Holland -at De Rijp and surroundings- there is a large stake of Vermeers that originates from Wageningen.
In the 19th century, between 1840 and 1910, many Vermeers emigrated to the USA and Canada. After the WWII a second wave of emigrants moved to North-America, Australia, New Zealand and South-Africa.
See also our page about imigrants.

At the time of the 1947 census there were 4,626 Vermeers, 8 Losecaat Vermeers and 30 Rhemrevs living in the Netherlands. The number of namesakes at this moment must be almost 8,000 (4). This is an estimate calculated on the basis of the 1947 census and growth of the Dutch population between 1947 and 2006, which was 69%.
The variation of 'Vermehr' does no longer exist in the Netherlands and only a handful lives in central Germany. We do not know if they originated from the Netherlands.
A large number of Rhemrev came to the Netherlands in 1949 after Indonesia (the former Dutch East Indies) claimed independence. Some went to Australia and the USA, only a few remained in Indonesia.


by Rendert Vermeer, database manager
this article is also published in Alweer een Vermeer, no.20

References and accounts.
AeV = Alweer een Vermeer, our magazine

1) Meaning. Most of this text was written by the Meertens Instituut, ; see explanation of the names Vermeer and Van der Meer.
2) Old records from Maas and Waal: in AeV 14, p.16.
3) Earliest ancestor of the Vermeers of Bolsward: in AeV 15, p.8.
4) Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek,
Population 1947: 9.669.000; Population 2005: 16.306.000
Calculation growth 1947-2005:
16.306.000 / 9.669.000 = 1,69
(1,69 - 1) x 100 = 69 %

Number of Vermeer's in 1947: 4.626
Expected number of Vermeer's in 2005 on base of growth of total population in the Netherlands: 4.626 + 69% = 7.818

The map at the right gives an impression of the concentrations of Vermeers living in the Netherlands according to the 1993 telephone directories.
Blue = none, yellow = lowest, dark brown = highest concentrations.