Social Welfare Managers

Then, as now, the Dutch provided a strong social safety net. They didn't eliminate poverty, a relative condition. They had control of their gates and walls, however. They knew who was in their city and they were ready to punish or banish, or both, anyone who deviated. With the same set of values, they made sure that no one was without a place to sleep and something to eat and preferably work to do. They cared for the sick, both in body and in spirit.


Given the infant mortality, the maternal mortality, the occasional plague, and the one-way trips on ships to faraway lands, Delft was full of people who had lost one or both parents.

Marriages could be registered (banns issued) at a church or with the city. Many people registered at both places. Many were second and third marriages due to death, not divorce. This process was organized by the Commissaris van Huwelikse Zaken, the Commisser for Marriage Affairs. Boitet's list begins in 1581 and has 53 names up to 1723 of men who served in this office. It is unclear how many there were at a time. They appear to be lifetime appointments because Boitet lists almost everyone's year of death.

When someone died with children, even adult children, the estate had to be registered with the Weeskamer, Orphans Chamber. It had a large room in the Stadhuis devoted to its activities and records. The Delft Weeskamer was regulated at the provincial level by the Reglement van de Staten van Holland voor de Weeskamer (Rules and Regulations of the State of Holland for the Orphans Office).

The Veertigraad appointed the weesmeesters, always three at a time. The secretary was chosen by the burgemeesters in consultation with the weesmeesters.

secretaris weeskamer - 10 from 1544 - 1715

regent weeshuis 119 from 1536 - 1724

rentmeester weeshuis 11 from 1534 to 1722

moeder van het nieuwe weeshuis 60 from 1575 - 1717
vader van het meisjeshuis 49 from 1537 - 1724
moeder van het meisjeshuis 31 from 1580 - 1718
rentmeester meisjeshuis 2 in 1687, 1691

The office had to account for the children, especially the underage children. It kept records of all of the city's orphans and half-orphans, with the names of their parents and guardians as well as people under supervision and any funds placed in trust for their care. These records were severely damaged during the 1618 fire, so those records have gaps and fragments. The records after 1618 are complete.

People at the time, even young children, made more than one will (testament) with a notary. The partial notary archives at Digital Arena list as many wills during Leeuwenhoek's lifetime as the Weeskamer archives have estates (boedels).

In addition, prenuptial agreements (huwelijksvoorwaarden) were common. Among other things, they set out the parent's instructions for their children.

The final document often considered by the Weeskamer were the estate inventories. The inventory of the Weeskamer's archive lists 6,290 items during Leeuwenhoek's lifetime. Some complex estates had multiple items, but that's still an average of more than one per week.

These records of the Weescamer were stored separately from the rest of the city's records. They are also inventoried separately.

The Poor

Kamer van Charitate (Chamber of Charity), founded in 1567, took care of the poor as government itself. In 1614 the Kamer was merged with the religious social welfare efforts. Then the Chamber settled in a part of the St. Agatha Convent, located in the Schoolstraat. You can still see the old entrance gate surmounted by the image of Charitas.

The Kamer provided the poor with bread, soup, and peat tokens in winter. In order to be eligible, they first had to register as 'poor'. Delft was divided into six districts, each with its own regent and deacon. When resident were in financial distress, they first turned to their district's regent or diacoon. If he was convinced, it was discussed in the Kamer and that person had to again register with the the regents. The regents and deacon then sat behind the 'complaints table', a table higher than normal, where the level of support was determined. If a request was granted, the person got a poor stamp and could then periodically contact the Chamber for money (special coins printed by the Chamber). The bread which he purchased was baked by its own bakery on the Schoolstraat in a square shape with a stamp of the Chamber, so that it could not be resold. In winter the poor were given peat tokens three times a month.

The same year Leeuwenhoek bought the house on the Hippolutusbuurt, 1655, Jan Steen painted one of his neighbors, Adolf Croeser, with his daughter and a woman who was not from a regent family (right; click to enlarge).

The revenues of the Chamber came from donations, rents, and additional tax on, among other things, trade, marriage, or burial. There was also a tradition called "the supreme garment". Deceased people had to pass on their best clothing to the Kamen, and it was then sold at the flea market on the Vrouwjuttenland .

meester of regent charitaten - 139 from 1597 to 1723 for life?
moeder van de charitaten - 37 from 1597 - 1723

regent oude mannen- en vrouwenhuis 58 from 1536 - 1723
moeder oude mannen- en vrouwenhuis 46 from 1580 - 1723
rentmeester oude mannen- en vrouwenhuis 6 from 1538 to 1690

The Sick

regent Oude Gasthuis 1510 - 1624
moeder Oude Gasthuis 54 from 1537 - 1623

regent Nieuwe Gasthuis 24 from 1557 - 1613
moeder Nieuwe Gasthuis 25 from 1557 - 1623

regent Oude en Nieuwe Gasthuis 55 from 1630 - 1724
moeder Oude en Nieuwe Gasthuis 30 from 1625 - 1716
rentmeester Oude en Nieuwe Gasthuis 6 from 1677 - 1724


The Churches

kerkmeester Oude Kerk - 36 from 1445 - 1565
kerkmeester Nieuwe Kerk - 53 from 1458 - 1572
kerkmeester Oude en Nieuwe Kerk - 80 from 1573 - 1724
rentmeester Oude en Nieuwe Kerk - 2 in 1681, 1718
begijnenpater - 3 in 1530, 1535, 1559

predikant (also in het Gasthuis) 74 (incl 14 in Ghuis) from 1558 - 1724



bewaarder fraterhuis - 40 from 1536 - 1629
meester van de fraters - 25 from 1639 - 1720
moeder van de fraters - 25 from 1578 - 1708
rentmeester fraters - 1 in 1719

regent tuchthuis 31 from 1667 - 1717
rentmeester tuchthuis 4 from 1687 - 1711

toeziender grote school 32 from 1542 - 1629