In Belgium and The Netherlands – now two neighbour states sharing the same language (Dutch-Flemish) but originally the Northern and the Southern Netherlands (until 1830 when Belgium was declared an independent state) there are only a few hundred people bearing the surname Elen or Eelen. The two variants are homophonous (phonatically identical), but the latter with the double ‘e’ (Eelen) is actually better suited to pronounce the name correctly, as the former (Elen) is often mistakenly pronounced as Ellen, the girl’s first name.

The family names originate from the Southern Netherlands, the old duchies of Brabant and Limburg and the diocese of Luik (Liège), to be precisely. Where exactly the name derives from has not been established yet: it may stem from the little village Elen (formerly spelled Eelen) located below Maaseik on the river Maas (Meuse) or from the ‘haystack’ Eel between Turnhout and Tilburg just below the present Belgian-Dutch border. The family name is found in old documents in this region since the twelfth century.

The families Elen and Eelen(s) that are the subject of this website are not related to the Dutch families Van Elen and Van Eelen, which probably originate from the hamlet Eelen (Elen) near the village Hellendoorn in the Dutch province of Overijssel. In fact, it has not yet been established that even the families Elen and Eelen are related, except for the family Elen now living in the western part of The Netherlands (Provinces Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht), which actually belongs to the genus Eelen but mistakenly lost the second letter ‘e’ in the early 19th century. The family Elen in Tilburg and surroundings is not related to the other Dutch family of this name. Anyhow, somewhere far back in time these two low-profile ‘dynasties’ will probably have had a common ancestor, yet to be established.

The families Aelen and Ehlen, concentrated in the province of Limburg, are, as far as we know now, not related to the Elen & Eelen families. They probably stem from the cities of Ahlen and Ehlen in Germany (in resp. Westphalia and Hessen), ancestors having migrated west in the seventeenth century.