Recent (2008) research by René van Dijk of the Gorinchem Regional Archive has established that Van Der Neer was born in Gorinchem. According to Arnold Houbraken, Van Der Neer lived in Gorinchem as a steward to the lords of Arkel, which would account for the absence of any pictures dating from his early years.
He became an amateur painter possibly upon contact with the Amsterdam painters Rafael and Jochem Govertsz Camphuysen, whose sister Lysbeth he married in 1629. They had six children: Grietje (1629), Eglon(~1635), Cornelia (1642), Elisabeth (1645), Pieter (1648), and Alida (1650). Five of the children were baptized in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, not far from where he lived. His son Eglon later became a portrait painter himself.