Lourens Alma Tadema was born on January 8, 1836, in the village of Dronrijp, province of Friesland. The surname Tadema is an old Frisian patronymic, meaning son of Tade. He was the sixth son of Pieter Jiltes Tadema, the village notary, and Hinke Dirks Brouwer. His father was from a family of five. His father's three other children were from a first marriage. The couple's firstborn died in infancy, and their second daughter, Atje, was adored by her brother Lawrence.