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Zoe I don't know for sure what it was named for, but I think the name was already around for that part of the estuary and it may actually go back to the godess Nehalennia that had a temple nearby in Roman days.
Thanks for replying. It sounds like a common Dutch name from the colonial period -- 1600s or so. Neeltje being a woman's name and Jans her patronymic. -- Zoe
On the official website of the Waterpark Neeltje Jans, it says they are not totally sure where the name Neeltje Jans comes from, but it is thought that it is a local name for Nehalennia, the Women (Woman?) of the Northsea. It is also said that a ship named the Neeltje Jans stranded in the 18th century on a sandbank is the Oosterschelde, but there is no evidence of that. And then there are those who say the name Nehalennia comes from the Hebrew word 'nahal' that means to lead and 'aniah' that means ship. Therefore it means those who lead (guide?) ships. - marga