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