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Family Names - "van der Gracht"


Earliest information obtained to date suggests the name was in use in the 1090s and earlier – yes, over 900 years ago. The “van der Gracht” family tree lists an Eggewaard van der Gracht marrying an unknown person and providing a son Idesbaldes (Isabaldes) van der Gracht in 1090 in the town or village of Steenkerke.

Idesbaldes became a monk and was highly respected, today his coffin being located in the Potterkierk in the City of Brugges.  This is in the modern province of West Vlaanderen in Belguim.  He was canonised in the late 1800s.

To have possessed a surname at that early time would suggest someone of importance. An examination of the early “van der Gracht” family tree offers some possible clues as early family members were “Knights” (the French word “Chevalier” often being used). Other indications arise as the use of surnames only seemed to gain prevelance in the 1600s, with patronymics in use prior to this (

So then, the name. It is likely derived from a place or mansion.


An early reference to a mansion was located at (which is actually devoted to the “van der Meeren” family but contains some points of interest).

This family name appears in documents as early as 1247. What is also of interest is names being associated with locations and also the use of aliases, or the term of “aka” which means “also known as”. The Castle and Estate “van der Meeren” still exist to this day. The castle’s website (previously) offered an extensive review of the centuries from the Eleventh to the Twenty-First, but now just details and illustrations on the castle itself.

A mansion “ter Gracht” is the oldest reference and first appears against a “Jan III : van der Meeren, Knight” who died in Sterrebeek before 1313. He possessed enormous estates in the town of Sterrebeek and Wezenbeek, and also the mansions “ter Gracht” and “ter Borcht” in the towns of Neerijse and Zaventem. He was married in 1310 to Ida, daughter of Hendrick van den Berghe.

A few generations later, another reference appears to “ter Gracht” against a “Goossen : van der Meeren”, aka “van der Borch” who inherited half the mansion “ter Gracht” and purchased the other half from his nephews. He was a freeman of the City of Brussells in 1444.

The next reference though is of possibly more interest in “Jan : van der Meeren”, aka “van der Gracht”, married Barbara Mommaerts aka de Cupere in 1506.

This is the first major reference to multiple surnames in which “van der Gracht” appears.

In this case though, we become associated with the town of Sterrebeek.  It is in Flanders in the province of Flemish Brabant.  Sterrebeek is eleven kilometres east of the Brussels Grand Palace, five minutes from the Zaventam International Airport, fourteen kilometres from Mechelen, and twelve kilomtres from the fast train station of Brussels-Midi.


This website then offers a conclusion upon how their name was derived:

Ψ in the early middle ages, there was an estate / mansion called “ter Gracht”

Ψ descendants of that were called ... van “ter Gracht” ... meaning: those from the estate “ter Gracht”

Ψ over time, this became “van der Gracht”.

The site then concludes by noting the towns mentioned still exist today. Further, and quite possible due to the hand writing styles of the time as well as the variations in language, that the Steenkerke mentioned above could have later been Sterrebeek. Furthmore, earlier references mention Stertbeke. There is sufficient simlarity when typed, and in those days, it was hand written on less than ideal paper with ink.


Whilst not an indication of the origin of the name “van der Gracht”, a reference to the family name was identified with the Domain of Vremde. Of additional interest is its links to abbeys of the early days as Idesbaldes (son of Eggewaard) became a monk and later abbot, as well as brigning prosperity to that particular abbey. In the 1800s, Idesbaldes was canonized (refer “Family Members of Interest” link).

Vremde was likely founded by the Abbey of St. Baafs at Ghent. There exists a donation record from Emperor Hendrik II, dated 1003, in which “Frimethe” (oldest known spelling of Vremde) was restituted to the abbey. To the Jurisdiction of Vremde also belonged an important part of the former Parish of Millegem, now part of Ranst. It was after the French Revolution that the parish and town limits were fixed to their present day location.

An important occassion in the history of Vremde is the donation in 1236 by Gilles Berthout, Lord of Berlaar to the Abbot of Villers, of several pieces of land at Vremde and its surroundings in order to build an abbey as the central place to operate a farming business. Whereas the monks soon abandoned the project and moved to Hemiksem, where an abbet “St.-Bernards-on-Schelt” was founded, an important part of the land and farms of Vremde stayed in the possession of the abbey.

The Domain of Vremde has successively been in the possession of the families: Berthout, van Ranst, Bau, Cortenbach, van Rommerswael, and van der Gracht. In 1660, it became a barony.

In 1977, the Domain of Vremde was merged with the Domain of Boechout (oldest reference dates to 974ad, when it was referred to as Boucholt).

Additional information can be obtained at:

Intriguingly, references to the family name “van der Gracht de Rommersvael” appear in the 1600s.


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Compiled by:  John van Waterschoot  Version: 4.0  Created: 02-January-2011
John van Waterschoot (Canberra, Australia) 2002-2017