Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bibliotheca Andana

On March 28, 2012, a new site was officially announced which enables researchers to access at present about 75,000 beautifully digitized records for the most part presented for the fist time, from private collections, from the Museum, the Library or the Archives of the city of Andenne.

The site is the product of many years of hard work supported by the Echevinat de la Culture and the city of Andenne, Belgium.  I introduce to you Bibliotheca Andana

Among the images you will find
post cards,  books, old local newspapers, funeral cards and notices, and last but by far not least, the images of Civil Registers for the towns of
Andenne, Bonneville, Coutisse, Landenne, Maizeret, Namêche, Sclayn, Seilles (work still in progress), Thon-Samson, Vezin

Also Passports of two kinds: some used for travel within the country, some used to travel abroad.  These  also provide a physical description of the bearer, like the WWI Draft Registration Cards in the US.

I will attempt to translate pertinent information here below:

Civil Register Records
Today the Civil Registry is now made up of records of birth, marriage and death kept pursuant to the "Civil Code".
It is into the hands of the College of Aldermen that section 125 of the New Law expressly commends the duty of keeping such records.  The Mayor acts as the officer of the Civil Register and is "specifically instructed to observe all that concerns the records and record keeping."
The New Municipal Act succeeded the Municipal Law of March 30, 1836, from which Article 93 derived similar provisions.  Article 131 ordered the city council to account annually for the cost of maintaining the Civil Registry, as outlined in Article L 01/01/1321 ° of the code of local democracy and decentralization.
The Municipal Law of 30 March 1836 confirmed, with respect to the registrar of civil status, a principle enshrined in Article 109 of the Belgian Constitution of February 7, 1831 as currently in section 164 of the revised Constitution February 17, 1994: "The drafting of civil register records and record keeping are exclusively within the competence of municipal authorities."
The Belgian Constitution and Municipal Law of 30 March 1836 thus secularized the Civil Registry born out of the French decree of 20 September 1792, applied in Belgium by the Executive Directory decree of 29 Prairial, Year IV (17 June 1796), Belgium having been annexed to France by the decree of 9 Vendémiaire IV (October 1, 1795).
This marks the moment when local secular authorities really began to take charge of the Civil Registry.
The decree of September 20, 1792 is basic: it determines the mode of recognition of the civil status of citizens, mode of observation which was previously in the hands of ecclesiastics.
The separation of Belgium from France, brought by the treaty of May 31, 1814, did not significantly change things except for changing the words for Mayor to Burgmeister and the Deputy Mayor became known as the alderman or the assessor.  The matter was settled, during the short lived Dutch period, by Article 59 of Regulation of 19 January 1824 for the administration of cities and by Articles 77 and 95 of the Regulation of 23 July 1825 for the administration of "low country" (rural municipalities).

To access the images of the available registers, go to
In the black Menu Bar, hover over "Etat Civil" then choose a town among those available:

Click on the town's name of your choice. I picked Maizeret:

Choose between the type of record you want to examine:
Naissances = Births
Mariages = Marriages
Décès = Deaths
Tables annuelles = annual indexes
Tables décennales = 10y tables = indexes of names

Let's say I want to look at the births
I click on "Naissances" and a list of years available comes up on the next page, like this:
Click on the year of your choice and you will come to the record images which you will have to open one at a time.  They are in pdf format so make sure your computer has Adobe Reader.  If you need to download it, go to and download the free Adobe Reader.

 To view the record image, click on the red link "Telechargez ..."

At the bottom of the page the zoom in and out option that come in pdf format will enable you to better look at the record and save it too.

Under the other headings you will find local postcards, photos as the titles indicate.
Under "Documents" you will find
- posters of different types, advertisements, etc
- business cards, and other business letterhead items
- bills issued from a variety of businesses for various items
- promotional items, catalogs
- maps and blueprints
- envelopes
- funeral announcements/cards

Under "Livres" you will find a variety of local history books in review.  They are not downloadable unfortunately.

Under "Journaux" you will find 9 old local newspapers that you can read online or save.

Under "Registres" hides a series of decisions and minutes from local authorities' meetings.

Under "Dossiers" expect an amalgam of papers pertaining to a particular topic.

More explanations on how records were kept:

Parish Registers
The decree of September 20, 1792 provides that "municipalities will receive and retain from here on, records intended to witness births, marriages and deaths"; it treats, under Title VI, the fate of the old parish registers:
"... Within a week after the publication of this decree, the mayor or a municipal officer ... shall be required ... to go to clerks of the Parish churches, presbyteries and deposit records of all religions, where they will develop an inventory of all existing records in the hands of priests and other stakeholders. Current records will be closed and approved by the mayor or municipal officer ";
    under Article 2, "all books, both old and new, will be taken to and deposited at the town hall";
    Finally, under section 4: "... Within two months from the publication of this decree, an inventory of all registers of baptisms, marriages and burials existing in the court registries will be created.  Within one month after that, records and inventory will be entrusted to the  attorney generals ...for transport and deposit in the department’s archives "
While the Civil Registry (Births, Marriages, Deaths) has been kept by the secular administration since 1792, Parish Registers were kept by clergymen who recorded baptisms, marriages and burials. These church records, at the time, carried as much legal weight as the Civil Registry, which is no longer the case.
The keeping of these church records originated with legislation in part secular and in part religious in origin, which can easily be traced back to the Ordinance of Villers-Coterets, and is actually older.
The order, which was enacted by Francois I, King of France, on August 25, 1539, is the work of Chancellor William POYET, hence the name of Guillelmine or Guillemine that it was sometimes given. it covers the registrers of burials (Article 50) and baptisms (Article 51). Section 53 requires the Chapters, convents and cures to file annually with the registry records of the headquarters of "bailiff" or "royal seneschal" for preservation and to use it when needed.

Other texts of interest
-    The proceedings of the Council of Trent (24th session of November 11, 1563), by which Parish priests were ordered to record the names of godparents in the baptismal register. These annotations were based on purely religious grounds, indeed, at the time, the spiritual relationship created at baptism, translated into marriage impediments.  The Council of Trent circumscribed it so as to avoid the disadvantages arising from the multiplicity of spiritual alliances, contracted only by godparents.
-    The order called "of Blois", work of Chancellor Hurault Cheverny, which dated back to May 1579. Under Article 40, we can not marry without "prior proclamations made by three different holidays, with appropriate intervals" and, in order to show that proper form was observed for these weddings, at least four trustworthy people will, attend, which will be written into the record.
 -   The order called "Saint-Germain-en-Laye" also called "Code Louis," of April 1667. This ordinance standardizes the preparation of records. It requires signature of the godparents on baptismal records; of spouses and witnesses on marriage records; of both parents, or friends present on burial records, confirming what was already done in many areas.
-    A royal decree of Louis XV dated April 9, 1736: there will be kept in every Parish in the kingdom two copies of registers, both considered authentic before the courts, to record baptisms, marriages and burials which would be used through the course of year.  These registers would be provided at the expense of the Fabrique. All records of baptism, marriage and burial would be kept in these registers, chronologically with no blanks, and would be signed by those who must.  Both registers would have to be signed by the officiator, contracting parties and witnesses.
-    The order and perpetual edict of sovereign princes and archdukes of July 12, 1611: given the frequent difficulty in proving one’s age "when getting married or at someone’s death, magistrates and other legal representatives, for towns as well as villages, are directed to collect an authentic copy of the registers of baptism, marriages, and burials that every priest has held in his parish. This duplicate register should be sent to the clerks of the City Registry… for preservation.

What a wonderful site for  us to use!
If you have a minute, click on "remerciements" to discover those who made the site possible for us!
And share with your friends on Facebook!  And at the bottom right of the page, sign up for updates. ("S'inscrire au flux RSS")

Have fun!