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Genealogy of the families van Dort


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The Srilankan families

Background of the Sri Lankan families van Dort and Van Dort

Sri Lanka was a colony of The Netherlands from 1658 till 1776. They held the maritime area. The Dutch surrendered to the British in 1776.

During this era Cornelis Jansz Van Dort who was born (parents Jan Cornelissen van Dort and Haesje Gysberts) in Utrecht arrived in Sri Lanka on the ship "Bellois" in 1700. He lived in Galle in Sri Lanka. Cornelis had problems with his employer the VOC, because his mother still tries to receive his long due payment through a notary in Utrecht in 1720. His descendants have mostly spelt their name with a capital V. One of his descendants was Leonhard Kalenberg Van Dort, born in 1831. He was a famous artist. His watercolours of 19th century Sri Lanka can be found in Leiden in the Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Reuvensplaats 2. In 1951 a book was published about his art work: "Ceylon: the near past". It was Leonhard Kalenberg van Dort who painted the family coat of arms. Liz Van Dort origines from this family. She is a singer. If you would like to know more about this family, please contact Nina van Dort through us. She's doing an extensive research into this family.

The coat of arms of the Sri Lankan Van Dort's The coat of arms of the Sri Lankan Van Dort's

The family coat of the Van Dort's from Sri Lanka. A tree standing in the sea with a star in the sky. 'Spero Melior' means 'We hope for better'. After a picture of the Dutch Burgher Union in Sri Lanka.

But there were two separate Dutch families of V/van Dorts that founded the Sri Lankan chapter of V/van Dorts. Anthonius van Dort sailed from 's Gravenhage on board of the "Erfprins" to Cape Good Hope. Then he sailed further to Sri Lanka on board of "De admiraal de Ruiter" in 1767. He was a drummer (tamboer) and later a soldier. Descendants of this family sign with van Dort .

And then there was another van Dort in 17th century Sri Lanka, probably unrelated to the previous. His name was Leopold Immanuel Jacob van Dort and he was a converted Jew. He was appointed professor of Hebrew at the Christian Theological Seminary at Colombo in 1758 (he studied at the University of Leipzig in 1744 Hebrew and oriental languages) and although he was converted, he was still interested in his Jewish background. He had contact with the Jewish comunity of Cochin in India and copied some scrolls from the patriarch there, unknown to European Jews. He translated them and gave them in 1757 to Marcellus Bless who worked as a clerk for the VOC in Sri Lanka. He left the seminary in 1760 and nothing is known about his activities since. There must be more info on Leopold or Marcellus in the VOC archives in The Hague. Essay by Fiona Kumari Campbell

Short about Galle and Dutch Church

The Dutch Burghers

The families were part of a small (25000) community in Sri Lanka called 'Dutch Burghers'. The Dutch Burgers were descendants of Dutch people serving the VOC in Sri Lanka. They were a distinct community who were English speaking, Christian (Dutch Reformed Church mainly) and kept most of the customs like Sinterklaas on 5 December (Santa Claus comes and gives presents) and they started New Year and Christmas Day with Dutch bread (Breudher, broeder, traditional Zaans sweet bread), IJzerkoekjes (a desert between spiced bread and waffles) and poffertjes (very small pancakes).

Births, marriages and deaths were recorded in the official genealogies of the Dutch Burgher Union in Sri Lanka. People needed to register their births and mariages: full citizenship and the ability to work for the VOC was only given to people, who could prove they had at least three European grandparents. In addition most of the Van Dorts were registered at the Dutch Reformed Churches in Galle and Colombo. Only 900 families of the VOC people elected to stay in Ceylon when the British took over in 1796 after bribing the commandant of the mercenaries hired by the VOC. Most Dutch colonist went back to The Netherlands. The Dutch Burghers were very active in government, business and professions in the Dutch and British colonial periods.

The Dutch Chruch at Wolvendaal

The Dutch Church in Wolvendaal is built in 1749 and first used in 1757. In this church lot of people of both families van Dort were baptised and married. There are two explanations of the name Wolvendaal (valley of wolves): the area used to be crowded with jakhals called ago de luphe (valley of wolves) by the Portugese or the previous church on this spot was dedicated to the Madonna of Guadaloupe and this became Agoa de Luphe. The church in Wolvendaal Colombo was built because the old church in the fortress of Galle was getting dangerously old. It is built on a hill and once overlooked the sea and city. Today it's in the middle of Colombo 6).

The Dutch church of Wolvendaal Colombo

The Dutch Church of Wolvendaal, Colombo, by

Dutch and Sinhales influences

Parts of the Dutch language are still to be found in Sri Lanka. Colombo has neighbourhoods as Wolvendaal, there is a Dutch canal between Colombo and Negombo, and an island near Jaffna is called Delft. Patatoe is aartappel (aardappel), stoepie is a garden near the streat (see stoep), zolderuwe is attic (zolder), boontjie are beans ((princesse) boon). The other way around is also true: the Dutch slang for to eat: kanen could come from the Sinhalese khanneva (to eat) and Salie from "Jan Salie" could be a reference to the Sinhalese word for money sali. Reference to Han Heijnen


Changing to singhales as an offivial language from the 1948 onwards meant that most of the english speaking Sri Lankan Van Dorts emigrated to Australia, England and the US. The Dutch Burgher Union still exists but is now virtually a charitable organisation, who looks after the few older Burgher in Sri Lanka. Probably a 1000 remained in Sri Lanka. The generation that left Sri Lanka were probably the last of the Dutch Burgher, that looked somewhat Dutch, were married with Dutch and went to the Dutch reformed Church. The next generation is now Australian, English or American and married to Australian, English or American. However the genealogies and Burger Association in Melbourne keep the heritage alive.

Owner/SourceMascha van Dort
AlbumsOverview of the families van Dort

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