Although this Dutch surname is well recorded in The Netherlands, the USA, and South Africa, where it was one of the very first European settler surnames, it does not appear in any of the standard dictionaries of surnames. Recorded in the spellings of Van Merwe, Van de Merwe, Van der Merwe and occasionally in the foreshortened form of Merwe or Merwede, the name originates from the province of Zuid Holland, part of The Netherlands. It is a locational surname and describes a person who lived by a "meer or mere", an ancient word found in most of Northern Europe and describing a marshland or possibly a sea inlet. It is also recorded in a number of place names. Many, perhaps the majority of Dutch surnames, have a locational origin, it being the easiest form of identification to call a person by the name of the place from whence he or she came. Early examples of the surname recordings taken from authentic church registers of the period, include Jan Van de Merwe who married Pieter Jacobson, at Dubbeldam, Zuid Holland, on January 1st 1645, Willem Van der Merwe, born at Nootdorp, Zuid Holland, on June 22nd 1698, whilst in the same year on Decmeber 30th, Carl Van der Merwe was recorded at Paarl, Cape of Good Hope province, South Africa. The first known church register recording is believed to be that of Margaretha Van Merwe, on June 1st 1569, at Dubbledam, province of Zuid Holland, The Netherlands. This was during the reign of Prince William of Nassau, known as "The Great", 1544 - 1579.
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