The Botbijl Name

The current translations of Botbijl (Botbyl) is "dull hatchet" and Bodbijl is "offer hatchet". Why Cornelis Botbijl adopted the surname in the late 16th century is a mystery and subject of speculation.

Here is my scenario:

Cornelis Botbijl (b. 1550) was originally from the area near Antwerp, Belgium (Flanders). This area was under Spanish rule and surnames were a requirement of the govenment. (The Netherlands did not do this until it was mandated under Napoleon's rule, about 1810.) The name may have been a lark, something just to appease the authorities. It could have meant that he was a pacifist. He was a Reformation Protestant and persecuted by the Spanish Catholic rule. One of the earlier rulers of Flanders was Baldwin of the Hatchet. Maybe he was trying to assert a connection to royalty. In Flanders of that era, there may have been a translation that is currently lost. A linguistics researcher from Antwerp that I contacted was of no help.

The most likely is an alternative meaning of "bot", flounder. The name would then have the meaning of "fish axe". Perhaps this refered to his trade. My preference is an ax shaped like a flounder. The double bladed hatchet. The flounder was on the coat of arms of Botland in the 17th century.

In 1585, many of the Reformationist fled the bloody Catholic persecution and moved to Nassau-Brabant. It was under Hapsberp rule and the nearest Protestant land. The area had been devastated by the Saint Elisabeth flood the previous century and had room for the refugees. On the edge of the Biesbosch, in the area of Lage and Hoge Zwaluwe, is where Cornelis and his family settled (based on church records). Since use of the surname continued, it seems like it had a prideful connotation.

Several generations later, some of the Botbijls migrated to Zeeland and the name made occasional transformations to Bodbijl. Some of this can be blamed on the dialect interpretation of the record keepers. At least one instance is known that the children of a Botbijl and his first wife all carried the surname Botbijl but the children of his second wife were Bodbijl. In census records Botbijl and Bodbijl were listed as cousins. At times, the "d" and the "t" seemed to be interchangeable. In English, we would consider the pronunciation of the "t" as a hard "t" which could easily cause the confusion. Two Bodbijls that emigrated to English speaking countries changed their name to the anglicized spelling, Botbyl.

The American Budbills ancestors were the first to emigrate to the US in 1850. They came on a ship that had mostly Russian passengers that were destined for Cleveland, Ohio. Because of low literacy rates and dealing with Russian/Engish interpretors and Immigration officials, Adriaan Bodbijl and his family had their name listed as Budbill.

In doing my research, I found that some of the Botbijl and Bodbijl cousins felt there was no connection between them. "We are not related to Bo*bijl" was a common responce. I was told of a Bodbijl man that would refuse his mail, if his name was spelled Botbijl. Mr. Berrevoets research has proven that we are all related.

All rebuttal is welcomed.