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!