The Dutch influence in West Michigan traces its roots back to Albertus Van Raalte's quest to settle a colony of like minded Calvinists.

Since then, they've hugely impacted our area, paving the way for the famed saying "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much."

Here are the eight most common Dutch surnames in Kent County.

Originally bound for Wisconsin, Van Raalte and the Dutch wound up in West Michigan when Lake Michigan froze over and gave Michigan leaders time to convince Van Raalte that the English and Scots of Michigan were way more tolerant of religious freedom than the German Catholics in Wisconsin.

According to the 2014 census information, compiled by the ancestry site, these are the top 8 Dutch surnames in the greater Grand Rapids area.

8. Visser -- the name traces its roots to the Vriesland and North Holland areas of the Netherlands. It is an occupation name meaning lierally 'Fisher' for fisherman and it is is occasionally spelled Visscher.

7. DeBoer -- means 'farmer' in Dutch, which makes a great deal of sense, as most of the early Dutch settlers farmed the fertile land west between Grand Rapids and Holland.

6. DeYoung -- originally spelled DeJong or DeJonge, this literally means 'the young' and was often used when two people had the same last name. The youngest one would be called De Jong, similar to somebody who is called “junior”.

5. Vandenberg -- the name derives from 'van de berg' or 'from the mountains'. Although there are no mountains to speak of in the Netherlands, there are highlands which had towns refereed to as 'Berg'. More commonly found in the South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland area of the Netherlands.

4. Mulder -- this is the Dutch version of the name 'Miller', after those who milled wooden bowls. The German equivlent would be Mueller. Michigan has the most people with this last name in the United States.

3. VanDyke -- originally spelled 'Van Dijk' it literally means 'from the dyke', or the lowlands of the Netherlands where dikes, or small walls, were built as early as the 1000s to keep sea water off the fertile land.

2. Dykstra -- originally Dijkstra, it is similar to the above, as this name someone who lived by the dike. The suffix "-stra" is derived from old Germanic -sater, meaning sitter or dweller.

1. DeVries -- de Vries means 'the Frisian' or someone from Friesland, a province in the Northwest corner of the Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, the entire coastal region of the Netherlands was known as Friesland, not just the province we know today, amkeing the name much more common.

Thanks to the web site for the background on some of the names.

Dutch Dancers/
Dutch Dancers/

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