- 2009/06/01 Dutch descendant honoured for work in genealogy

Local Dutch descendant Dennis De Witt became the first foreigner to be recognised for his work entitled 'The History of the Dutch in Malaysia' by a group of genealogists in The Hague recently.

De Witt, 42, a fifth generation Dutch descendant, was awarded the prestigious 'Nederlandse Aanmoedigingsprijs voor Genealogie' or 'Dutch Incentive Prize for Genealogy' during a ceremony at the Central Bureau of Genealogy.

It is the only award for genealogy given in The Netherlands.

"I was surprised upon receiving an invitation to attend the ceremony. It shows that Malaysian-Dutch heritage is recognised by others around the world. As a Dutch descendant from Malacca, I am proud to help preserve our country's unique heritage," he said here after his return from Holland recently.

De Witt, who is married to a local lass of Portuguese descent, said he spent 15 years researching his roots and local Dutch history before his work was published in 2007. "I have always been interested in my roots and local Dutch history. My passion led to my involvement in tracing the geneaology of Dutch descendants through local records and archives overseas," he added.

Prior to publishing his book, De Witt helped organise reunions here for Dutch descendants from the Neubronners and Westerhout families in 2003 and 2004 that saw a gathering of the respective family members from around the world.

During the event, Chairman of the Prize Jury, Lon van der Hoeven, said that the prize was awarded to De Witt because his book chronicled the history of The Netherlands and Malaysia during the 160 years of Dutch rule in Malacca. He said the publication gave a good description of forgotten Dutch descendants left in Malaysia and provided genealogical sources for the community. He added it was the first time the jury presented the award to a foreigner.

De Witt said he was working on another book which he hoped to launch in conjunction with Malacca's first anniversary as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony in The Hague were Malaysia's Ambassador to The Netherlands Datuk Dr Fauziah Mohd Taib, Central Bureau of Genealogy director Dr Bert Lever, Netherlands-Malaysia Association secretary Pim ten Hoorn and Malaysian Dutch Business Council executive director Marco Winter.

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