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!