Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are you Looking in Hoogstraten?

I can't remember when I discovered this site but I rediscovered it this morning

I still don't speak Dutch and so I struggle with the contents of this site, therefore, the only way for me to learn what is behind each tab, is to just click...

Under Beeldbank, I discovered pictures: postcards of streets, church, nuns, people of all sorts.
You can even do a search if you prefer to not browse through the different pages.
Just type in a word in the box above the list of selections then press "zoeken".

Under Filmbank, I found old video clips. The quality of the video isn't great but we have all gotten spoiled with HD, let's face it.

Under Erfgoedbibliotheek you can do a search through a series of publications.

The Geluidsbank contains interviews relating to events listed chronologically.

The next tab tells you about the Stedelijk Museum Hoogstraten - of course in Dutch, so if you don't know the language and really want to know what is being said, you might want to do a quick "Free Text" translation at
There is a tab for the museum collections under Collectie.
and the Educatief tab tells about programs offered by the museum.

The Forum is not very active but you can always leave a call for help.

The most valuable tab for the researcher is the one I have kept for last: Genealogie

There you will find 28 links to pdf files containing images of actual birth, marriage and death records from 1797 to 1812.
You can search through them as you see the search menu above:
- by name
- by birth place
- by birth year
- by year of death
- by place of death
or you can save these files to your pc and read through them one page at a time.

Remember that this information is made available to you free of charge and should remain such.
These records may be hard to read so be ready to refer back to the blog article on tackling old records or take this paleography course online to help you extract the information from these original records. This course is for English records but it will help you build confidence in your ability to decipher the old handwriting.

Remember too that the Hoogstraten site is a growing site, so go back periodically to see what has been added.

Happy Hunting!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Belgian Archives Update

Don't get your hopes up, access is still limited to the Archives buildings in Belgium BUT
the article they posted to announce the latest released registers is well worth becoming acquainted with. You should be able to apply the same concept to other villages and make use of your local Family History Centers, even if the staff is not up to par with Belgian research.

These latest records are the 1784 census of the Saint Catherine Parish in Bonlez (Brabant). Census records served to figure how much tax each individual should pay. (view example)
It symbolizes Austrian emperor Joseph II's political outlook (enlightened despotism). An earlier local census was taken in Brussels in 1783, but the 1784 census was held in all the Austrian Netherlands.

Contrary to other census, this one did not have any fiscal purpose. The government simply wanted to get a basic idea of the population: an exact count was not necessary. They asked parish priests, through the bishops, to make lists of all those who resided within their parishes, thus given the priests an increased administrative role and holding them responsible for the correctness of the statistical data sent back to Brussels and Vienna. It is important to note that not all priests took this task seriously. The 1784 census must be considered more carefully than previous ones as there was no constraint to give correct answers (no penalty in case of errors).
The Bonlez census is a good example.
When comparing the Bonlez Parish register with the one Private Counsel's official record (Kept at the Archives de l’État in Bruxelles, Conseil Privé, Période autrichienne, c.1340 (19 June 1784)), we notice a difference in the final count of parishers. In the second part, there were 13 people too many. Where is the error? in the numbers sent to Brussels or in the infomration recorded byt the Private Counsel?
For more information on the 1784 census, you can check the works of BRUNEEL (C.), DELPORTE (L.) et PETITJEAN (B.), "Le dénombrement général de la population des Pays-Bas autrichiens en 1784", Centre de services et réseau de recherche. Statistiques historiques en Belgique. Heuristique, inventoriage rédaction et interprétation, Archives de l’Etat, Brussels, 1996.
For the Duchy of Brabant Demography, check COSEMANS (A.)'s work: "De bevolking van Brabant in de 17de en 18de eeuw", Commission Royale d’Histoire, Brussels, 1939.

As I was checking further into this, I also discovered some really nice online literature that can add to your research, unfortunately not in English.

I also discovered a couple of historical sites you may enjoy if you read French:
One on the history of the Ban de Meefe,
and another on the Ban d'Olne

Hope this stirs up your interest as much as it did mine.
For access to the links, visit the Blog's home page at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A New Decree shortens Cemetery Leases in the Walloon Region

A few years ago, we presented an article in Belgian Laces (BL102) that dealt with the preservation of funeral patrimony. At the time (2005), Xavier Deflorennes, Mr. Cemetery was documenting these Walloon Region cemeteries.

To the horror of many American researchers, used to visiting cemeteries to find information about their departed loved ones, in Belgium, graveyards are not enduring as they are here.
Granted there are many graves here that can no longer be deciphered due the weather but the sexton usually has a record of everyone buried in the cemetery, even where there are no stones.

That is the case for our family's Adeline Cattin who is said to have taught French to Cole Porter, a Peru (IN) native. After taking photographs of every tombstone in the cemetery where she is buried I still never found her and so I contacted the cemetery's office and sure enough, they knew exactly where she was. This gives our family the option to either repair or replace the stone over the grave.

In Belgium, due to lack of space - not lack of heart - graves are leased not purchased.
If, or rather when, the lease expires, the graves are reused.
This can be very disheartening, even disturbing, to the descendants of emigrants who may travel to Belgium hoping to find their ancestors' grave.
Leases can be renewed but when the family leaves the area, they may not have any idea that the lease is due for renewal... And thus, without wanting to sound calloused, new 'occupants' soon fill these graves.

Up until yesterday the lease was up to 50 years. The new rule sets a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 30. However, should the grave fall into disrepair or show signs of being abandoned, the local administration has the right to advise the families that their loved ones have a year before being 'evicted'. These warnings would go out on All Saints Day, providing a whole year before taking any action. As Xavier Deflorennes remarked when interviewed on the matter, before WWII, people visited cemeteries daily and maintained their loved ones' graves. But times have changed and most graves are only visited once a year on November 1st, All Saints Day. Posting the notices at that time will ensure that the occasional grave site visitor will find the notice and take action. Notices would only go out however if a site has not be maintained for a period of 10 years and is declared 'abandoned'.

The purpose of this decree is to enable towns to better manage their cemeteries, whether it be past (Preservation of funeral patrimony), present (space management) or future (expanding cemetery and crematory sites), while taking into account the needs of the living.

Preservation work will continue: graves dating to before 1945 will be better protected by putting in place a procedure to determine the historic value of a particular monument (former mayors, architectural features, local artists...)

In an effort to help parents grieve the loss of a child during pregnancy (between the 106th and 180th day), the decree gives them the option to bury the foetus.
A special section is also to be dedicated for the burial of infants.
Part of this decree will also address the need for the indigent to have a decent burial (no cost) and for all recognized religious beliefs to be honored, regardless of origins or status.

3,500 cemeteries in the Walloon Region are affected by this decree, of which 5% of these are in bad shape. The decree also fosters the development of ossuaries.

Many people have dedicated their time to helping preserve the special grave sites in Belgium:
My favorite one is (not limited to Belgium)

After you click on "Entrez" you will see the option to -
look at the "Les Photos"
That section gives you access to different types of pictures, including two tours, one of which is the Simenon Tour (Parcours Simenon) that takes you to the grave sites of people who were part of famous author Georges Simenon's life

At the top in the middle however, you will see "Paris", "Nice" and "Ailleurs", which means "Other places", where you will have 4 choices:
- France
- Belgium
- Europe
- the rest of the world

Obviously this site is far from complete but it really contains some beautiful pictures of beautiful graves.

You can also read the History of different cemeteries. The Belgian ones are in:
Robermont, Laeken, Sainte-Walburge, Aubel, Neuville-en-Condroz and Bruxelles

My grandmother's ashes were scattered in a lawn at the Robermont Cemetery.
I am grateful that Joseph Beaujean took the time to take a picture of that lawn.
I had not known until I saw the picture how powerful an effect it would have on me, but it did.

It is interesting to note that between 1979 and 2008, the number of cremation in Belgium has risen from 5,287 to 48,418 according to a statistics study
I guess I won't have to worry about my grandmother's remains being moved.

Another site with funeral monuments is on a Blog "Images de Belgique"

Food for thought anyway...

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Funeral Cards

Try this link for new funeral cards.