Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Red Star Line Museum

A couple of weeks ago I received the following information from Charlotte Op de Beeck who works for the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, Belgium.

In 2006 the South Street Seaport Museum in New York held a 6 months exhibit Antwerp-America:
The Red Star Line and
the Paintings of Eugeen Van Mieghem, 1870-1935
(see Belgian Laces #107 and also the Van Mieghem Museum)
It is about that time that word reached us of the plan to turn an old warehouse into an immigration museum in Antwerp and we had hoped to do a follow up but never really had the chance. Maybe this message will provide a renewed opportunity to learn about the museum but also about its website. Here is the message from Mrs. Charlotte Op de Beeck:

"Belgian Red Star Line Museum looking for emigrant photographs, memorabilia and stories (1873-1934, Antwerp to New York) Between 1873 and 1934 the legendary shipping company Red Star Line transported more than two million passengers to America. Poor European emigrants in search of the American Dream, but also affluent passengers traveling for business or pleasure left for New York. They departed from the city of Antwerp (Belgium), where the port warehouses of the Red Star Line were situated. To this day those Red Star Line warehouses are preserved. For many passengers they represented the last stop on the European mainland. It was there that, just before their departure, the emigrants traveling in third class underwent a medical examination and were disinfected, while clerks scrutinized their documents. The Red Star Line buildings are protected monuments. They are part of the communal memory of innumerable new Americans. They had long been standing empty and were pleading for a new purpose. In the spring of 2012 the new Red Star Line Museum/People on the Move will open its doors at this historic location. It will be a place of remembrance, experience, debate and research into international mobility, both past and present. The story of Red Star Line and its passengers will be brought to life once more. Do you have any old Red Star Line items such as postcards, luggage, diaries or photos? Are there travel stories or objects preserved in the family archive? Maybe you too can contribute to the new museum collection. Send an e-mail to or call (+32)3 206 03 50. Perhaps your family item will find its way into the future museum... All information welcome! More information at"

Charlotte Op de Beeck | vrijwilliger
Stad Antwerpen | Red Star Line Museum
Falconrui 53 | 2000 Antwerpen
tel + 32 3 206 03 50 | fax +32 3 206 03 60 |

The company's main ports of call in the United States were New York and Philadelphia, and in Belgium, Antwerp. The Wikipedia article on the Red Star Line offers some beautiful pictures as well as a short history of the line.

The Red Star Line Museum website is available in Dutch, French and English and offers a section solely on the Belgian emigrants, although no searchable database of passengers.

A short movie by Mario de Munck, Red Star Line - People on the Move, will no doubt interest the researcher, by providing the unique texture only a video can give.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Memorial sites

Annette Biazot was so kind as to refer me to two other Memorial sites you will want to check out.
The first is the Memorial Genweb linked with FranceGenWeb.

On this site you will find a database of monuments to the dead, soldiers and civilians, French and of various nationalities, who were killed or disappeared during war time.
As of 23 Nov 2009, the site numbers 2,755,906 entries.

You might be uncomfortable exploring a site in French, but it usually becomes rather self-explanatory once you see what the different buttons open up to your view.
Under "Base Memorial", you will find a Map of France, divided into Departements, of varied shades of blue. A quick look at the legend will tell you that the darker the blue the closer to being complete the database is.
On the left side of the screen, you will find three types of search
1. The "Recherche par nom" require that you give at least a name and nationality or cemetery location:
Nom - Last Name
Prenom - Given Name
You can check the box located beneath these fields if you are unsure of the spelling
Pick which war or leave the search on the default setting - which is Tous = All
Pick the location (Situation du monument) you want to check out or simply look for the person according to his/her nationality (Nationalite de la victime).
Then click "Chercher" = Search
2. If you have specific information about the soldier's unit, use "Recherche par unite" and type in the unit nunber
3. "Recherche par Conflit" will allow a search specific to the war, beginning as far back as the Hundred Year War and as close as the war in Afghanistan, including the American Civil War and the American Revolutionary War.

The complete listing of databases can be browsed as well by clicking under "Voir Aussi" at the bottom of the column. Your second option is by file number

You can narrow your browsing by selecting a Country under "Par Pays"
As of today there were 121 entries in a total of 100 villages
Click on a letter at the top of the page and pick a town where you want to look further.

Pick a monument to look at closer and see what names were listed on it then pick a name for detailed information on the individual.

Let's go back to the main page and take a look at the other buttons. Here again, some trial and error is likely to be the easiest way for you to learn to handle the site.

- "Base 1914-1918": under construction; already counts 394, 524 soldiers out of 1,300,000 along with 4,603 individuals pictures.

- "Lieux 1914-1918": 16,129 locationsas of 24 September 2009.

- "Deportes 1939-1945": Individuals deported between 1939 and 1945 - still under construction, so be preapred not to find what you are looking four.

- "Monuments regimentaires": 870 photos from 516 communes.

- "Cartes postales anciennes": 3,087 old cards from 2,491 communes along with 2,380 recent photos ( ie 77.1 %) - The images are categorized by Departement/country and by commune and a link redirects you to the corresponding abstract.

- "Galerie photos": slideshow of soldiers
- "Fiches a Verifier" invites you to check out data and submit supplemental information

The other Memorial site is more specifically designed to find deportees who died in concentration camps: Les Deportes Decedes en Deportation

The Ministère des Anciens Combattants (Ministry of Old Soldiers) estimates that 115,500 people died while having been deported. It is plain that this research is a long and tedious process.

You will be most interested in clicking on the buttons that follow:
- Les Deportes nes dans le reste du monde: Foreign born
- Les Deportes tries par ordre alphabetique: sorted by alphabetical order

Dinesman née Léwy (Alice)
le 12 mai 1892 à Anvers (Belgique)
décédée le 2 novembre 1943 à Auschwitz (Pologne)
et non le 28 octobre 1943 à Drancy (Seine)..

As you can see by the maps below, there are many entries for Belgium.

Hope this can prove useful information.
Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Are you looking for Belgians who were killed during WWI or WWII?
Not sure exactly where they might have died?
Try this web page: Bel-Memorial
This bilingual site (Dutch - French) is dedicated to the memory of those who died during these conflicts.

A total of 1012 monuments are listed in the database to date.

You can browse through a province, or you can search through a complete alphabetical listing of all the towns in Belgium that are available.
To do this, just click on "Toute la Belgique" (French) or "Heel Belgie" (Dutch)

But you are not limited to Belgian memorials, you might also like to check out some that are located in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. Click on "Etranger" or Buitenland"

The sad story of Camille Coquette whose mother died wondering where her son was buried seems to have stirred conflicting emotions over why it took 93 years for them to solve this mystery, but as researchers we know that sometimes these things happen and what a treat to have a place to look now!
Camille Coquette's grave was found in Colchester, England, along side of 3 other Belgians

An easier way might be to search the Name database: Tous les noms - Alle namen
for a complete alphabetical listing of all the dead found so far.

I want to thank Jean-Paul Leburton for pointing me to this web page. It is really well done, complete with personal stories and an impressive list of participants and links to more similar sites.

Those who paid the ultimate price to keep their fellow man free deserve to be remembered.

The next few weeks will also be filled with events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

You will also want to visit the official website of tourist information for the Belgian Luxemburg

Let us never forget...
and may our hearts be always full of gratitude for the sacrifice made by these brave men!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Are you looking for a short cut?

This new site GenWalBru will give it to you!

It covers the southern part of Belgium and Brussels
An alphabetical listing of localities will redirect you to the site where that town's particular records can be found online.

This is a brand new site announced this morning by Michel Toussaint who has done extensive indexing for the Bouillon area.
Its creation stems in the wish to create a place where people could find easy access to FREE records online

In the column to the left you will have a choice of selections.

You will find the locality listing under "Depouillements"

Under "Bibliotheque, they have placed downloadable books the researchers should find interesting, including two on witch hunts by Abbé C.G Roland
- Sorcellerie dans le comté de Namur: Début de l'époque moderne (1509-1646)
- Sorcellerie à Noville-les Bois: Epidémie de sorcellerie au début du 17ième siècle

Look-ups are available for other books, concentrating on particular surnames: ROBIN, ANCIAUX, NICOLAS, BROGNIET.

"Fichiers Utiles" will contain a growing number of items you should find helpful too.

and do you remember talking about paleography?
They have a page dedicated to it and invite you to submit your questions to their mailing list: GenWalBru Yahoogroup

On that same mailing list they welcome requests for help with translations as well.

Sounds like this was well worth sharing with everyone.
Thank You Michel Toussaint!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tackling OLD records.

As I was looking through my Favorite links to share with you I saw one many English speaker probably don't know about but which leads to an amazing site, that of Andre Comeliau's Genealogies au Pays de Herve.
It is not a fancy site by any means but does it ever contain amazing things!
I don't know how good you are at using notarial records, but those are the records you need to use once you have run out of parish records. They should probably be used in combination with these parish (church) records to help confirm what is guessed from them as they can be filled with names and not necessarily relationships.
They can be almost impossible to use if you already have a hard reading the newer records' handwriting.
A Paleography course would probably be useful and there are several available for free online.
Paleography is the art of analyzing and reading handwriting. Some have called it a science but it is better described as 'an art with some scientific props'.
It boils down to decoding texts for which the handwriting is no longer familiar.
Someone who has indexed records will know exactly what I'm talking about as even more recent handwritings are difficult to decipher. So we look for familiar words and determine what each letter looks like and thus learn to read these old texts.
Most researchers don't take this much further but some do and what luck it is for the rest of us!
One such person is Andre Comeliau. Others have followed in his footsteps and the results of their work is available online FOR FREE.
The original records are, for the most part, available at your local Family History Center, through the use of the FamilySearch catalog. The centers can order the microfilms for you, which you can then view there for a period of time.
Handwriting also changes with the language spoken.
One wonderful site you will want to try is "Medieval Writings" where you will have your choice between English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish tutorials.

I have ancestors in Petit Rechain and will show you here that these church records dating back to the 1700s are already hard to read although the letters are easier to make out.

All this to try and explain how valuable these internet pages are to the researcher who has little or no experience reading these old records.

Andre Comeliau's page starts with a complete listing of all the surnames found on his site, which contains about 18,000 couples from the Herve region (Herve, Charneux, Thimister, Battice, Clermont etc) from 1500 to 1730.
Select the surname that interests you and click on it
This will take you to a more detailed listing from which you will choose the family that has your attention.
By clicking on the family you will be able to access a complete extraction of the record(s) found on them on the site

Here is an example

Notice that the husband is on the left and the wife on the right
The asterisk in the back of each spouses's name will redirect you to the respective individual alphabetical listing.
Notice that the wife's parents are listed under her name. If one or both parents are in blue, you will be able to click to go up a generation.
Children born to the couple are listed further down.
In this case, you see that Marguerite Joseph Largefeuille was christened on 20/09/1759 - or the 20th of September 1759 - her parents' names follow and her godparents are listed as well (Susceptores)
A notarial record is also completely transcribed here along with references.

Notice too the "21" on the right.. If you click on it you will be redirected to the complete source listing and more precisely to the one pertaining to the record you are looking at.

More of these notarial records can be found at Source et Archives dans les anciens Duche du Limbourg et Comte de Dalhem.

The records there are used following a similar pattern.
Click on the name of the locality that interests you, then on the right, notice you have a choice between different types of documents.

I clicked on Mortier and only have one type of documents available, the "Cour de Justice, Oeuvres". The left side tells you how many volumes have been transcribed but if you try clicking on there nothing happens
Click on "Cour de justice" on the right
At the top of the next page you will have to click on the pull-down menu to select which register you want to look at

and the whole book will be revealed before you, all typewritten!

That site will take you to several others that are similar in their contents:
- My Barthelemy Ancestors (click on Entrez to enter the site)
- Samuel Defauwes' Geneadef which also contains valuable transcriptions

including a link that can trace this lineage back to Adam, yes Adam!
(As you know anyone who can trace their ancestry back to Charlemagne should be able to link to this line)

His transcriptions are found under "Copie d'actes" and represent several volumes of notarial records from Aubel (1568 to 1644), Charneux, Clermont-sur-Berwinne (1435-1711), Herve (1523-1549), for an impressive total number of extracted records of 12124!

Another link takes you to the Netherlands: the Digital Bronbewerkingen Nederland in Belgie
which contains Belgian records as well (and is accessible in English)

Just click in the left column on "internet" under the province of your choice, then look on the right for things you can use.
There is also a link to a WONDERFUL mailing list - mostly in French but there are English and Dutch speakers there too - HerveGeneNet, where members have also uploaded records they have shared freely. You only have to subscribe to the group (free).

I hope this has given you a new idea of where you can find records.
Don't be afraid of exploring and use these resources to help you tackle your own notarial records if none have been transcribed which can help you in your research.
And once you have found them, help someone else by sharing your knowledge!
Happy Hunting!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Online History Books

This morning my attention was redirected to a very interesting site.
Granted its content may make it difficult for the non-French speaker but it is worth a look if you have family in the provinces of West Flanders and of Hainaut.
The borders between Belgium and France were often crossed back and forth and you may find the information of great value: NordNum.

This site holds the work of a regional cooperative effort of digitization.
1. the Bibliotheque Centrale brings collections of rare local histories while
2. the Bibliotheque of the Centre de Recherche en Histoire de l'Europe du Nord-Ouest (CRHENO) specializes in regional history and collects all works published on the Nord/Pas-de-Calais, Picardy, Belgium and the Netherlands. This includes rare technical books on the mining industry, the textile industry, gas, electricity and transportation.
There is a dual purpose in creating this site. The local educators had requested access to these texts but since many of them are brittle, it was therefore unwise to handle them manually. The digitization process will enable access to them by a greater number of people.
This project is connected with the Libris project, database of local historical images
Their aim is to make 100 titles a year available online while maintaining high standards.
Since 2003, when they began this work, they have been able to digitize over 250 publications. At present they offer 370 searchable books.

Now, you ask, HOW do we see what's on there???
On the left side of the page, you have the choice between browsing through the catalog or doing a search.
Click on "Recherche" to do a search or even an "Advanced search" (Boolean) by clicking on "avancee". I never recommend a narrow search unless you know exactly what you are looking for. I always cast a wide net with a computer search then narrow down the search a little at a time. The buttons "Titres" (titles), "Auteurs" (authors) and "Sujets" (subjects) will enable you to narrow down your search.
Click "Rechercher" to start the search or "Reinitialiser" to clear it.

Click on "Catalogue" to browse and whether you browse or search, when you get a title you want to look at closer, just click on the results and either read the book online or download it (telecharger) completely at no charge.

Click in the left margin to go to a specific chapter or page or simply turn the page by clicking on the arrow at the top of the page.

The christening records of Ypres are shown here

If you want to explore a little more click under "Partenaires".
I was particularly taken with the IRHiS site which offers the download of their newsletters, "Cahiers de l'IRHiS"
Click in the middle of the page to enter the site, then scroll down and find the icon to continue. and you will will all the issues (2006-current) they have published, downloadable into pdf files.
I have downloaded several issues and intend to read them as soon as I get off here.
Till next week!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Family Histories and Index on a Variety of Personal sites

In my early internet days I had the opportunity to meet a great many interesting people thanks to the Belgium-Roots mailing list that Georges Picavet created.
One such person was Jozef Smits.  He was a scientist besides having a great interest in history and genealogy and we more or less locked horns on a technical word I had used in a post on Belgium Roots.
Luckily we made it past this silliness and were able to forge a good relationship.

Jos had a "sidekick" with a real knack for getting into trouble with his English translation: Jose Schoovaert, a comic book artist, painter, historian.
Jos Smits left us suddenly in 2007 but his son recently reopened his webpage, translated into English for the most part:
Jos wrote several histories on his family:
* - "De Familie SMITS in 't Land van Rijen", Edegem 1977.
* - "De Familie FAES uit 't Land van Rijen", I, Berchem-Edegem 1983.
* - "De Familie FAES uit 't Land van Rijen", II, Berchem-Edegem 1984.
* - "De Familie VAN DER KE(I)LEN", I, Edegem 1992.
* - "De Familie VAN DER KE(I)LEN", II, Edegem 1997.
* - "De Familie OLIVIERS, Edegem 2001.
* - “De Familie LIPPENS, Edegem 2006.* - "De aloude Heerlijkheid Wommelgem", Wommelgem 1989.
They are all made available at his web site - under "Boeken" - in Dutch for the most part but these are being translated into English.

Guy just created a new page on our site to accommodate the upload of such histories.
On the right side, just click on Family Histories.
We have just uploaded the first one:
The story of Fons DeRoeck and Josephine Debot (Letters from Wausaukee to Antwerp 1887 - 1937) :
written for the Gazette van Detroit
by Dominique Van Rentergem, Antwerp, Belgium

I hope we can also link Andre Bodart's site (in French) shortly.
His tree can be found on Geneanet at

If you too want to share your stories, please contact us and we will make room for your text or a link to your personal page, whichever is most agreeable with you.

Jose Schoovaert built some sites where to share his knowledge, his art and his love for the Walloon language, which was still spoken fluently by our friends in Wisconsin and in Pennsylvania.

We partner with several genealogical associations in Belgium, and this one, the Association Genealogique du Hainaut Belge, also provides links to its members' personal pages or to their online genealogies:
- You can email the members if you click in the first box.
- You can be redirected to private pages by chosing a name from the second pull-down menu, like "Debaudrenghien", where you will find an extensive history of the Hainaut Province and 8 centuries of the family's history, with coats of arms etc. - Only drawback is that it's not in English but don't let this deter you.  Just make use of the online translation software.  even though you won't get a perfect translation, it will at least give you the main idea.
- Or you can click on a name from the third pull-down box to access genealogies.
Don't dismiss the "News" section on that site either as they give you links to their new projects. One such project is Philippe Capron's, on Paturages: //
This site not only contains local history information but also genealogical data about famous people who have lived in Paturages as well as many other families for whom research data is available: Abrassart, Attenelle, Audin, Ballez, Bertiaux, Blairon, Bouillon, Capiau, Dangre, Delattre, Delhaye, Demarez, Demoustier, Denis, Ducobu, Francois, Gerot, Grandmont, Juste, Lan, Lenglois, Louis, Masse, Maton, Prouveur, Robert, Simon, Tillier, Warenghien.
There are comments on how some names change from one town to another although the families are the same.  Good insight to have into the research.

This is also where I found Daniel Duprez' "Ancestralement Votre" site
with further information on the Berlemont, Capron, Duprez, Grumiaux families as well as a Search option through indexes for the towns of Dour, Quaregnon and Wasmuel.

Total of indexed records -combined births, marriages and deaths:
Dour: 11,982; Quaregnon: 9,038; Wasmuel: 10,495
and a call to help there as well.

Clicking on the links I also found a searchable index of 262, 353 17th and 18th Liege Province marriages and 70,720 Luxemburg Province marriages. The actual content of this site requires membership in the society that offers it: The Service de Centralisation des Etudes Genealogiques de Demographiques de Belgique

I never tire of finding new sites but find the process tedious when confronted with languages I don't speak or understand inadequately.  Wouldn't it be nice to gather them all in one place?

I'm sure I have barely scratched the surface, please feel free to contact us to add more such wonderful places.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It occurred to me that

I have not really taken the time to talk much about how to use our website on Rootsweb. It has really grown since we started it a few years ago.
There you will find
- the complete index to ALL the Belgian Laces issues
- a volume by volume listing of the back issues
- a history of The Belgian Researchers
- the purpose of our organization and how to join
- The Latest News will list the new items posted to the site as well as links to the previous ones posted
- a listing of events happening in Belgium in case you are traveling there or just want to know
- a link to this page, our blog "What's New in Belgian Genealogy?"
and last but by far NOT LEAST...
- free access to a growing number of indexed names thank to the hard work of good will of several of our members, such as:
1. the Belgians in both WW US draft cards
2. the Belgians in a variety of census (we could sure use more help with this)
3. the Belgians in ship lists from 1820 all the way to 1920 (incomplete)
4. the Belgians found in obituaries in several states and Canada
5. the Belgians found in the different Canadian census
6. the Belgians found in other countries (we could sure use your help)
7. Belgian records, either extracted by our members or linked to other sites
The Links also contain access to a variety of websites where to further your research.

We are striving to create a place where you can come and find answers, but we are well aware that the site is only as good as the material sent by those who are willing to share.
If you are aware of new places that we have not listed, please contact me or Guy Gallez so the site can better serve its purpose.

Thanks go to ALL those who are making this website a reality.
Keep up the good work!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Mercator Reveals its Secret

When Yves Heraly sent word that records had been found on the Mercator, I immediately tried to find out more. I will always remember the excursion to Ostend to see the Mercator with my father, back in 1969. We later took our own kids to see that beautiful ship when we returned to Belgium some 20 years later.
The old training ship of the Belgian merchant marine sailed from 1932 to 1960 before being turned into a museum docked in Ostend. His name is, among other things, linked with the return of Father Damiens' remains on May 3, 1936.
During recent restoration work, a cache of archives (4 linear meters) was uncovered from behind the side pocket. The documents will be housed at the Rijksarchief te Bruge (Kingdom Archives at Bruges) along with more uncatalogued records (8 linear meters) on the Mercator - previously held at the Rijksarchief te Beveren (Kingdom Archives at Beveren).
Maurice Vandermaessen hopes to have a first cataloguing of the records done before the end of 2009 but much will depend on the nature of the Beveren Archives and unexpected discoveries.

On May 13, 2009 Maurice Vandermaesen, head of the Flemish Flanders Department followed the transfer in the company of Kris Peeters, Minister-President of Flanders and of Karel Velle, General Archivist of Belgium.

The archives cover the 1928-1960 period:
- books on its building
- technical reports on its 41 cruises
- documents on supplies
- the crew
- the formation of cadets
- weather reports
- medical information

As a side note, the Catholic church announced in February 2009 that Damien de Veuster, (January 3, 1840, Tremelo, Belgium – April 15, 1889, Kalaupapa, Molokai, Hawaii), born Jozef de Veuster and also known as Blessed Damien of Molokai, Apostle to the Lepers would be canonized a saint on October 11, 2009.

The fact that his remains were returned to Belgium on the Mercator and that he was first brought to Doel had a great impact on things.
You might also take a look at this site on the Waasland available for free at

Watch the video below for more details on the discovery - in Dutch
found at
Just click on the "Video" tab

Monday, May 25, 2009

Finding Your Ancestors Using Netradyle

Netradyle began in 1993. Its name comes from the combination of the names of three local streams: Nethen, Train and Dyle.

Some similar sites (like GeneaDinant - require that you become a member of their organization and that you index 20 to 30 pages before giving access to the records but this is NOT the case with NetraDyle.

If you speak French you should have no trouble finding your way using the site. If you don't speak French, you can download basic word lists from
At the top of the page, last line under Document Types, you will see Word List. Some of these are dowloadable in pdf format but it's not the case for French. Just click on the link and you will be redirected to the online version. You can either scroll down the page to the word you want to translate or just click on the alphabet on the top to be taken directly to the first letter of that word.

Once you are familiar with basic words, it will be a piece of cake. If you wish to access the records, you should send an email to, keeping in mind to limit your request to no more than 5 per person, per week.
At, you will be able to search through

  • 598,513 birth/christening records
  • 148, 167 marriage records
  • 303,485 death/burial records

from Liege, Namur, Hainaut, Walloon Brabant and Vlaams Brabant.

You can also narrow your search to a specific locality in the alphabetical listing.

this is not a complete listing)
Once you have clicked on the town of your choice, you will be able to narrow your choice incrementally in the surnames' alphabetical listing until you find the last name you are looking for and choose the person you want to look at.

This is the birth / christening record of Francois Joseph GENICOT, born in Acosse, province of Liege, on 11 October 1698, son of Dieudonne GENICOT and Catherine FRIZON. Note that the date is not laid out the way it is in the US. The first number represents the day, then the month and the year.
Of course if you have no idea where about the person you are seeking was born, got married or died, Why not try a basic search or even an advanced one:

You can choose whether you are looking for the person or anyone else listed on the record AND you should pick a document type:

Naissances = Births

Mariages = Marriages

Deces= Deaths

Type in a name and see the results.

The Advanced research feature helps you filter out many things more.

The top part notes that you are looking for a first person concerned by this record

The second row asks the same question about a second person interested in this record.

And the third category offers to look for text.

You can truncate the surname you are looking for simply by picking between:

  • Exact spelling
  • Letters found at the beginning
  • Letters found at the end
  • Letters contained within the surname
  • Or Soundex.
  • The fourth category

And you can even narrow the time frame by time in from when to when the program should look.

You can also pick a locality or leave it "Toutes" (ALL) – same with the record type "Tous"

There are many other sites that offer free indexes. I will try and let you know where to find them next time.

Thank You Netradyle for making these records available to all, without asking for anything in return.





Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Virtual Tour of Waterloo

When I was a little girl, my father decided to take us to Waterloo. It was a dreary day and the only memory I have of the place is that it was raining and I didn't want to be there.
How I wish I had better understood where I was!
Now that I no longer live in Belgium, I can't just decide to go to Waterloo like my father had done. BUT... modern technology is making miracles happen.
If you have had the same wish to visit Waterloo but just can't make the trip right now... Here is the next best thing.
The site gives you a choice between Dutch, English and French. Just click on the little flag in the upper right corner.

The only glitch I have found is in the Videos section. I could not get any to pull up in the English version of the site. So if that happens to you to, just click on the French or Dutch flag and the choice between a tour of the Battle Field or a video of the 2008 reenactement show up.
The pictures are wonderful. I was impressed with the number of actors participating in this event.

I didn't realize there was a wax museum there as well.
It seems that things have really grown since I was there with my father.

If you had ancestors who lived through that period, I have no doubt you will want to take a look.

You might also want to check out this site:

There is also a blog dedicated to the Battle of Waterloo reenactment:

Watch another video at

By the way... did you know there were Belgians in both armies?

Here is the monument dedicated to the Belgians who fell.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are you Looking for Belgian Funeral Notices Online?

So far this year The Belgian Researchers have lost 2 good friends in Belgium:
- Jean-Jacques Hallaux, in January 2009, founder of Netradyle,, who made so much information available to researchers online and whose kindness and generosity with his time was well known.

- Willem Bevernage, who passed away just days ago, at the age of 71. He too made abundant records available online with great deal of kindness to everyone.
UPDATE: The Belgian Archives now host these indexes - To do a search visit their page at:
A tutorial was written by Damien DESQUEPER and made available at for the Association Généalogique du Hainaut Belge

They both were of the rare breed of those who believed records should be available to all without cost.

Researchers have lost two great allies with their departure. Our hearts go out to their families who feel their loss in a more personal way.

As I was looking for more information on them I tracked down the site I had referred to several months ago. We have since changed our web page and I failed to archive all postings so… it took me a while to find it again.
As I ventured on the different sites, I came across several well worth mentioning here.
The only one I had kept in my links was the international one:

This site is in English and simple to use and does have an “Advanced Search” option.
You have the option to set a Default search location by entering your country of residence. This can be changed any time you want. Just be aware that not all families post obituaries for their loved ones.
You should also check out

It seems less encompassing as it was when I first found it as you can only narrow your search to locations in Wallonia and the site is in French only. There is an option to choose a Province, but I can’t see how to use the function properly. Maybe I’m not doing something right…
Of course newspapers will also contain obituaries. You can download editions in their pdf format from different sites. will give you links to Belgian newspaper sites. Some give you access to their online version but the obituaries are usually not accessible without a subscription to their pdf version. These papers can also be purchased by the day.
In “La Libre Belgique” the obituaries (necrologies) are found under “Carnet” in “La Meuse” under “Services” or “Necrologies”.

The newspaper "La Meuse" gives a special access:

Also try

Another place you can look is at
The Association Genealogique du Hainaut Belge has a database with 15,310 deaths. You have to do a search or you can contact one of their members to place a query.
Other Belgian genealogical societies have similar databases too. boasts 303,485 deaths/burials (along with Births and marriages – 1,050,165 records in all). This was Jean-Jacques Hallaux’ baby.

I found the old link I was missing by checking the archived "Latest News" on this site and found yet another treasure I had forgotten about:
Belgian Funeral Cards:

The link will direct you to a place where many people who help gather obituaries/funeral cards have made their work accessible to all.

For example:

found on Andre Verlinden's site Documents mortuaires en Flandres et en Ardennes at

or even Freddy De Ghouy's work at

Other sites are found many places, like the following for Burials in Courcelles between 1779 and 1793.

I will continue to add them to this post as I find them.
For more, try checking out our Links page. Contacting someone in Belgium who knows the historical background as well as the geographical landscape can give you invaluable help. Just remember to acknowledge the service they are willing to give you, even if it’s not exactly what you had hoped and make sure to make yourself available for others. You may not help someone with Belgian research right away but you have access to records only people living in your area do. So check and see what you can do to help with different projects.
The USGenweb has several obituaries and cemeteries projects.
Go to
Choose a state, then look for either an alphabetical listing of all the counties found in that state or a map – this is valuable in as much as the county boundaries often changed and it pays off to look into neighboring counties –
Browse through the site for more records. If you live in one of those areas where Belgians have settled, or even if it’s not the case, contact the site’s webmaster and ask how you can help.

There is plenty to do out there. You may not be able to help the person who helped you but you can pass it on. Return the favor by helping someone else.
Hope these links can be of help to you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Treasure Trove for Grand-Leez researchers

Our member Rick F was looking for family in Grand-Leez, Belgium. Several families from Grand-Leez ended up in Wisconsin between 1855 -1856, but the people he was looking for left in 1871. He had found a connection in Belgium and their family names compared well but they could not find a common link to tie their family trees together.
One of our members suggested he visit Netradyle, a site containing a lot of extracted records:
Another sent a link to Ron Flemalle’s site: PenBelGen: 19th Century Belgian Residents of Door Peninsula, Wisconsin
I forwarded the query to and received a most interesting answer redirecting me to Philippe Josis’ webpage at

Another member went further and must have contacted the page owner as this morning I found a reply to the query in my mailbox. And what reply this was!
Mr. Josis had sent a link to an image from the Population register of Grand-Leez, showing Rick’s family.
Population registers in Belgium are maintained by decades and follow families over that time span: births, marriages, emigrations etc.
Allow me to extract the image for you:

As Head of household: DAVISTER, Louis Joseph, day laborer, born in Ernage, 17 July 1792, illegitimate son of DAVISTER, Marie Joseph, who is the daughter of DAVISTER, Pierre and BERGER, Marie Barbe
His Wife: LEGROS, Marie Thérèse, born in Sauvenière in 1788, daughter of LEGROS, Philippe (who is the son of LEGROS, Laurent and BRABANT, Magdelaine) and JOSET, Marie Josephe.
Their children:
- Marie Catherine, born in Sauveniere in 1815, married to DESSART, Amand, resides at Grand lez
- Ghislain Joseph, born in Sauveniere in 1818, married 1 BERNARD, Antoinette and 2. (blank)
- Hubert Joseph, born in Sauveniere in 1821, married to BEQUEVORT, Anne Julienne, resides at GrandLez
- Clement Joseph, born in Sauveniere in 1823, married to LOOSEN, Albertine, resides in Sauveniere
- Marie Françoise, born in sauveniere in 1829, married to Philippe LANGELE, resides in Incourt

Philippe Josis has spent the greater part of the last 10 years extracting the Grand-Leez records and as of now, he has photographed the all of the Grand-Leez parish registers from 1613 to 1796 (He is also working on the 11 other parishes of Gembloux).
He is working on the French period records (1796-1803) of the cantons of Gembloux and Spy.
For the new régime (1803 – abt. 2000), he has photographed the original records found in the Parish registers as well as in the Civil registers.

On his site’s Home Page - -, under the tab “Population”, you can find 5 lists:
- The 1693 enumeration of Mont-Saint-Guibert (Grand-Leez was a part of that location in those days): it’s one of the first enumerations!
- The 1709 enumeration of Mont-Saint-Guibert: 16 years later, with more details
- A list of Heads of Families taken around 1830 by the Abbot Surlectiaux: contains both spouses, house numbers, according to villages/hamlets
- A more recent population listing of Grand-Leez, first published in "Chez Nous" around 1990: includes street names, house numbers, names/surnames of both spouses or companions as well as telephone numbers
- A 2006 list of households of Grand-Leez, according to house number and street

Back to the main page, under “Histoire” you will find a local history (in French), a time line and the coat of arms along with pictures of 2 books dedicated to local history:
- Le Pays de Gembloux: Des Origines a L’An Mille: Jean Martin’s superb summary of 1000 years of History of Grand-Leez and its surrounding: The triangle Gembloux (Baudecet) – Walhain – Grand-Leez
- Notes d’Histoire sur Grand-Leez, also by Jean Martin covers 20 centuries of history and is available through the Cercle Royal d'Art et Histoire de Gembloux .

Let’s return again to the main page and this time click on “Généalogies”.
On this page Philippe Josis explains how so far 26,000 have been extracted from the Grand-Leez records and this has enabled the reconstruction of many old family trees.
If you have family in Grand-Leez, you will want to contact Philippe Josis to see if he can help you find your ancestor.

Be aware though that only specific questions will receive answers. There will be no reply to queries seeking “All information on any surname” so as not to deprive the researcher from experiencing the fun in personal discovery.
On that page, just click on the highlighted “en annexe” where many answers to archived queries can be found.
At the top of the page you will find tabs in alphabetical order.
Since we are looking for DAVISTER, let’s click on the one that says “de A à D”, then select D. This leads us to more alphabetical tabs at the top of the page.

In Internet Explorer, when you hover over “Recherches D”,

a menu comes down giving you some names. Move to the person you are interested in and click. A picture of a record or a family tree will be displayed.

Back to the main page again, this time click on “Tranche de vie” to discover two articles dedicated to personalities who made their mark on Grand-Leez and who deserve to be remembered.
- Henry II de Leez, Bishop of Liège, related to the Grand-Leez nobles
- Mathieu PORTIER, notaire at Petit Leez.

Under the “Evénements” tabs of the Main page, you will find lists of people who participated in events that marked the village history:
- List of young men enlisted in Napoleon’s armies
- List of those who emigrated to America between 1855-1856
- List of those who died or were deported during WWI
- List of those of were captured or/and died during WWII

Under “Liens”, you will find links to further sites to help you discover the region and if you have family in Gembloux, to help you further your research.
Under “Contact” you will find a form to fill out to make your request for research.
Just remember… it must be specific and show that you have given serious thought to your personal research before asking.

Philippe Josis enjoys making this information available to all freely but his work is copyrighted and should not be used for any other purpose than personal research. He juggles many hats besides and wishes for many more years with 32-48 hour days.
Please visit his wonderful site.
You will rave about it as I am, and I don’t have any relatives in Grand-Leez… I searched my database to verify as I would have LOVED finding one and tying into this Gargantuan work. He yet plans to take photographs of the cemetery to add to the information already available.
THANK YOU, Philippe for an amazing site!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Last minute addition and it's not an April's Fool

Just received news that a third project is also available:
Belgie, Mechelen - Overlijden Registers 1851-1900

I was amazed to see this was more than just an announcement. The projects are already available for download to the software used to index these batches.
I actually worked on several batches yesterday,
It didn't take long at all since there were only 12 recoreds to index in each batch:
3 images with 4 records each.

One thing you need to know is that the default setting does not always match the number of records found in the images you end up with, so, make sure to insert the additional rows necessary to finish the work. For example, in these Charleroi batches, the default is 1 record per page. Since there are 4, you can either wait until youn have indexed the first one and a pop-up window asks you whether you want to add records. the default on that pop-up is "0" so, in the case of Charleroi records right now, you need to change the "0" to a "3".
3 more rows will appear under the one you just indexed, giving you the space needed to finish indexing the page completely.

Before you start indexing, check out the number of records per page and click on "Tools" at the top of the page and then "Records per page" and change the number there and put a check mark in the bottom box so that this change will be made to all the pages in this batch.

There is a field-by-field set of instructions to index these records but the project manager also sends special reminders for cases not mentioned. I will add these here.
1. Age: If the age is not written, please leave the field blank! Don’t try to calculate the age, based on the difference between the birth date and the death date.
2. Place name: If the place is in Belgium, please list just the name of the town! If the place is outside of Belgium, and if the record mentions the country, you enter “the name of the town and the country name as written in the record” without punctuation. (Leyden Hollande)
3. Mother’s given and maiden name: The greatest number of arbitrations occurs in these fields. Please, take the time to enter the mother’s given and maiden name as it is written.
4. Numbers: Use single digits when you subscribe a day between 1 and 9. It is “1 Jan 1852”, and NOT “01 Jan 1852”!

When in doubt, please contact Jean Huysmans via email

Last month, the Belgian project indexed 35,168 records and arbitrated 33,371.
That's awesome!
L'Union fait la Force - Unity makes Us Strong...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FamilySearch indexing Projects

I received news today that might liven things up for the Belgian indexing project started by FamilySearch indexing a couple of years ago.

Jean Huysmans is the Belgian project manager. Every month he sends the indexers a report on the project's progress.
Up to now, the project has only released images of towns in Flanders and, even though there is work for both Dutch and French speakers, that has hindered a more active participation from many who might otherwise have added their efforts to the current indexers'.

The wonderful news came this morning that 2 test-case projects are about to be added:
one for Belgie, Kalmhout - Overlijdens Registers 1851-1900
one for Belgique, Charleroi - Deces 1851-1900

Similar projects have been released in the past and they usually get done faster than the current general projects. If this happens with the two above mentioned projects, FamilySearch will consider releasing more such smaller projects.

If anyone is interested in participating, they should contact Jean Huysman right away at
Then download the indexing software from

A fluency in Dutch or French is not required to work on these records but it definitely helps as the highlighter available for projects like the census, will not be available as the information is found by reading the text of the record.
There is an added difficulty with the handwriting which may make reading the record impossible for those who are not acquainted with the language.

I hope this reaches someone and maybe lots of someones who will sign up and help us get these records indexed and the images available through FamilySearch (free access to qualified indexers, FHCs and members of the church in an intranet type setting)

For a quick idea at how these records will be accessible, go to and click on "Record Search"
or directly from the FamilySearch homepage at
Click on "Search" and pick 'Record Search" from the pulldown menu.

I am really looking forward to working on this!
I hope many others will too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trying something new...

Over the past few years, I have subscribed to a growing number of forums and mailing lists in an effort to uncover new resources for my friends at The Belgian Researchers.

Some people will tell you they hate clutter in their email box... My thought on this is, I don't want to miss the one message containing key information to my work. I don't read everything. I weed through as well as wade through mail that comes in English, in French and in Dutch, from different US states as well as from Belgium and France.
I am sure most of those in charge of helping produce genealogical newsletters do the same.

I have researched my Belgian ancestors for a long time and have gained a form of expertise in the records I have used but am far from being an expert in all research matters.
Not long ago I received a phone call from someone trying to locate information on his Belgian ancestors who arrived in the US before it was a country. I have little experience with those records but I know people who do and so I referred him back to them.
I'm not sure he thought this was helpful but I preferred that to giving him wrong information.
So I am very grateful other more experienced researchers have been willing to share their knowledge so generously.

These individuals who participate on these mailing lists have helped me find marvelous information and more importantly, they have helped me make friends with people all over.
Note on mailing list etiquette: although those helping don't usually ask for anything in return, it is important to not be a 'taker' only but to offer your own help.

One such email arrived today that I would like to share with you... it's in French but it's easy to understand.

I credit Bernard Counen, member of the Liege yahoogroup - who alerted the group to a site about Wallonia's clock towers and chapels.

On the Home page, you can pick a letter to access the list of towns and then you can click on the small pictures to enlarge them.
On the left, under "Sites amis", you will find a link to the "Churches in Flanders" - "Kerken in Vlaanderen" (site in Dutch - so there is for everyone)

Going back to the left side, under "Description" you can find pictures of road side chapels with background explanations on the differences between them.

Chapels are religious buildings with a roof, doors, windows and in which one can expect to find an altar and chairs. Some are almost like little churches and can hold enough people to have a mass.
However, many are much smaller. They are found along the road all over the countryside and while their size prevents holding religious ceremonies, they provide a place for the passersby who want to stop to pray.

The “bornes-potales” are small edifices made of stone, metal or cement composed of several elements: a base, a body, a niche and a cross.
They can be found leaning against a wall and sometimes inside the wall itself or simply on the side of the road.
Their purpose is to protect the fields and the crops or simply serve as a reminder of a tragic event.
They can be used in religious processions, mark the presence of something sacred in the middle of an evil environment, or exist just because someone has wished to build one there.

The word “potale” in "Borne potale" finds its roots in the Walloon dialect. According to the area, it means hole or crease in a wall purposely made above a door or on the corner of a building, in plain sight, in which a religious statuette is displayed.

The Belgian emigrants brought this tradition with them when they came here and similar roadside chapels can be found in Wisconsin for one. I hope you make time to visit these sites and discover another side of Belgian culture.

Happy Hunting!