Saturday, January 30, 2010


This morning I opened a promising email from the Archives in Belgium.
It seemed to promise the reader access to online parish record images, and since I have been working with FamilySearch Indexing's Belgian project, and have been aware that the Archives had not wanted to release the images online, I was really anxious to see exactly what was happening.

Registres paroissiaux numérisés
Province de Flandre orientale
> Arrondissement d’Audenarde.
Province du Brabant wallon
> Province du Brabant wallon.
Province de Luxembourg
> Arrondissement de Marche-en-Famenne et canton de Saint-Hubert.
Province de Namur
> Province de Namur A-L.
> Province de Namur M-Z.
> Ville de Namur.
NOUVEAU: Province d'Anvers
> Province d'Anvers.
> Première partie: 493 registres issus de 47 paroisses.
> Un aperçu général des registres est consultable sur notre site. Pour la consultation des images, rendez-vous dans une des salles de lecture des Archives de l'État.

I followed the link to the Brabant Province with high expectations.
There was a LOT of villages that would be of great interest to the descendants of Belgian emigrants:
Archennes (Grez-Doiceau), Autre-Eglise (Ramillies), Baisy-Thy (Genappe), Baulers, Beauvechain, Bomal, Bossut, Dongelberg, Folx-les-Caves, Jodoigne, Marilles, Melin, Neerheylissem, to name but a few...
Now, that was impressive.

I have ancestors in Jauche, so I clicked on the link to check out those registers.
A new page opened showing me that they had digitized the St Martin Parish registers and these were listed under sub folders links:

Jauche (Orp-Jauche), paroisse Saint Martin
+ Registres Paroissiaux. Actes
+ Registres Paroissiaux. Actes de baptêmes
+ Registres Paroissiaux. Actes de décès / sépultures
+ Registres Paroissiaux. Actes de mariages
+ Registres Paroissiaux. Extra

Since I was just exploring and not really researching, I just picked one of the sub-links to see where it would lead me and a folder opened with yet another link, so I clicked too and this time was given a new series of sub-folders obviously grouping several series of records.
I hurried up further and I waited and waited and waited... nothing...
The link just opened but nothing came up...

I was using Firefox, so I thought maybe I needed Internet Explorer for it to work so I opened explorer and followed the same steps and...
Now that was a huge let down!

But anyone who knows me knows I can be quite tenacious and so I started clicking on different sub folders. Maybe it was just a fluke... Maybe the folder I was looking at had a bad link...
The same thing happened with all the folders, for all the areas, except for one: Archennes (Brabant), the very first one...
So... forgive me for teasing you by showing you what apparently none of us out here in cyberspace will be able to use since these will only be accessible in the Belgian Archives buildings... What a shame... This sure could have been a tremendous help for many people who do not have a way to go to Belgium or hire someone to go to the Archives for us.

So... back to me teasing you,
The Archennes Parish records contain 4 sub folders:
- Christenings
- Deaths/Burials
- Marriages
- Miscellaneous (communions, etc)

When I clicked on the first link, the folder opened and I clicked it again and had a choice between 4 more folders:
- n° 3/1_C-0001-r - 19/02/1597 - 20/10/1745
- n° 3/2_A-0001-r - 11/10/1745 - 28/09/1796
- n° 3/3_A-0001-r - 15/01/1794 - 02/11/1795
- n° 3/3_A-0005-r - 24/01/1795 - 02/11/1795
I clicked on the first one and was redirected to the actual register... Very nice...

Unfortunately, even though they let you turn the pages, to some extent, and it looked for a minute like they may have disabled the features that would enable you to read the record better, but on the retry the features worked and you can enlarge the image so as to be able to read it.

This really bummed me out so I wrote them an email to ask them how to use the site and tell them how disappointed I was going to be if it turned out to be just a preview of what is available in their buildings, in Belgium... as I had looked forward to preparing an article for the blog to help English-speaking researchers learn to use their site.

They are asking for volunteers too, to help create an index of all these images, through the Demogen project. I for one will stick with FamilySearch Indexing. At least those of us who are indexing will be able at some point to access even the records held by archives who do not want to release them to the public at large. And you know... that's only fair...
Not that people, especially volunteers, ever help in the hope to get something in return but where is the incentive for those of us who can not go to Belgium to the Archives buildings?

I will continue to hope the Belgian Archives will see the need to open their records to the world.
This would defuse the networks of people and societies who are generating outrageous profits from hogging their resources or selling them to the highest bidder.
Records should not be held hostage in that manner!
They should be accessible to all those who are seeking out their ancestors.

So... Here it is... The proverbial carrot that should bring people to the Archives buildings...
Won't be me any time soon... Traveling to Belgium is enticing but not within my budget...
Too bad... This would have been a wonderful tool to work with.

I look forward to the results of the work done for FamilySearch Indexing on the Belgian records. To think they had the records already online and were asked to remove them... So many hopes were dashed that day!
If you have not used the Record Search option on FamilySearch, let me encourage you to check it out. The database is growing and contains amazingly diverse records from a variety of countries and ALL FREE.

If you want to help with the Belgian projects, you will have to contact Jean Huysmans, the project manager, directly as it has not yet been released to the bigger pool of indexers.
Each project has its own set of directions available online with tutorials, as well as direct access to the director who can help you understand what to do.
Be aware that a fluent knowledge of Dutch and/or French is required to help with these projects.
If this does not make a good fit for you, consider the many other projects available through the main program. For that all you need to do is to sign up at and download the software right from the site.

Anyone going to Belgium... let us know what you think of this new tool they have in their Archives building, would you?

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