If we take every surname meaning at its face value, than the Van Polen clan ought to look for their origin somewhere in Poland. Since many Central and Eastern Europeans gravitated westwards over the centuries this sounds all very plausible.

Before we consider this idea, there are some Dutch roots’ alternatives to explore.

Near the northern Dutch town of Delfzijl there is a tiny hamlet Polen. Was it perhaps an outpost of Polish nobility?

Archives of the central Dutch municipality of Putten show that it had a farmstead called Polen.  Its owner, Geurt Hendriksen settled on Van Polen as his surname in 1812.

Geurt Hendriksen was not the first Van Polen in the Netherlands, however. In the late 1700s, a certain Obe Jacobs of Bolsward was known as Pool, Pooltje and Van Polen. His offspring was named Van Polen.

Why would Dutch people call a neighbour Van Polen, after a foreign country?

In this case, I do not think they did. Far more likely they named both the hamlet and the farm after a topographical feature in the Dutch landscape, which lays at the root of a much wider range of surnames. That Obe Jacobs during his life was known by three closely related surnames, as identified above, should tell us something about naming in earlier times.

I will end this post with linguistic teasers: Is Polen the plural of the far more frequent singular Pol surname? Or should the plural of Pol be Pollen? This then begs the question: what is a Pool or a Pol?


  1. Pim van der Salm
    Sun 20th Feb 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Hi, my mothers name is Van Polen, her family was from Harderwijk. Don’t know anything more about them, sorry.
    i think it’s more lickely that the people called themselfs Van Polen as it means in Dutch ‘From Poland’.
    The plural of Pol is pollen, Polen is the plural of Pool (one inhabitant of Poland or the plural of Pool as in North and South Pole

    • albert  –  Wed 09th Jan 2013 at 12:47 am

      Thanks for the explanation but when trying to deal with this type of question it helps to ask why the surname came into use hundreds of years ago. Relying on elementary school language courses does not help answer the question on origins.

      • Pim van der Salm  –  Wed 04th Jun 2014 at 10:24 pm

        Sorry, didn’t intend to be clever just tried to explain a bit more of the meaning of Polen in the Dutch language.
        The name Obe is by the way an often used name in my mothers family.

  2. Dries ten Hove
    Tue 20th Mar 2012 at 8:27 pm

    when people cultivated “wild”land into farmland they named that land often after strange country’s
    Engeland en Frankrijk were also used. It showed also that, in their eyes, it was far away from the old existing farms. sorry for my rotten English.

    • albert  –  Wed 09th Jan 2013 at 12:42 am

      Yes, I have read other similar type of comments. Frequently speculative. Thanks for your interest.


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