Name origin. The name Bustraan is probably a corruption of “bûcheron,” the French word for “woodsman” or “logger.” A reference to a book by F. Debrabandere (“Verklarend woordenboek van de familienamen in Belgie en Noord-Frankrijk”) at the Meertens Instituut website indicates that Bustraan morphed from Buts(e)raen and Butseroen. It further suggests that these Dutch names were derived from the French “bûcheron.” Through my research, I have found various spellings of the name.

Spelling. In the Netherlands, these spelling variations continued until the time the occupying French started the civil registry of surnames in 1811. During their seven year  occupation, the French established a census for tax collection purposes. At the time, only nobles had surnames. Commoners, like the Bustraans, had names such as “Maljaert the Woodcutter”. The census required everyone to be called to the stadhuis and pick a surname. Surnames for commoners–what a silly idea! Oftentimes names were just made up (den Beste: the Best, de Jonge: the Younger, or Zondervan: without a “name”). Whatever the name chosen, it and its spelling, stuck.

Geographic origin. So, if “Bustraan” was originally “bûcheron,” are Bustraans originally from France? Belgium? Or, more properly, Flanders? Meertens speculates that the Zeelandish name Maljaert (the given name of the first known Bustraan in the Netherlands) is from the French Mailart. Maljaert named a son Gillis, another French-derived name. Debrabandere references a Pierre (not the Dutch or Flemish Pieter) Botseraen, of Ieper (Ypres), West Flanders, Belgium in 1387. The Butstraen family can trace their Jacques Butstraen back to 1570 in the French Flanders town of Steenvoorde. There is a family of Bustraen’s who have documented their ancestry back to the 1700’s, all centered in the West Flanders village of Poperinge (adjacent to Ieper).

JeanbuchJohn the Woodcutter. Having just mentioned Steenvoorde above, this French town just a few kilometers from the Belgian border is the home of the mythical giant Jean le Bûcheron (or, Jan den Houtkapper). Giants, large figures carried in annual religious processions, are a colorful Flemish tradition dating back to the early 16th century, although Jean himself is of a more recent vintage. In neighboring Western Flanders there is a forested area called the Het Houtland (The Woodland). Not an unlikely place for a family of loggers originate, don’t you think? Steenvoorde. Poperinge. Ieper. All are close by one another. It’s all connected…

Spelling variations. So far I’ve found 20 spellings of the name in source documents. In these variations you can literally see Dutchmen struggling to phonetically spell the French word “bûcheron.” I have only recently realized that Bustraan is the second most common spelling. Butstraen (found mostly in Flanders) is the most frequent. Butseraen (still found in Flanders). Bustraen (found today in NL, BE, and FR). The rest are no longer used (I think). Busstraan. Butseraan. Butseran. Bestraan. Bestraans. Busstraen. Busraen. Busseraen. Busseraens. Busseraan. Busseraans. Buseraan. Butzeran. Butzeraan. Butzeram. Bastraan. This is all kind of hypnotic to look at. Are there others?