Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Picture this! Brussels, Belgium… 1812…

All you ever dreamed to know about who was who in Brussels that year can be discovered thanks to Antoine and Jacques MASSIN who set out to make available the Brussels 1812 Almanach. 

In 1812, Brussels was the county seat of the French Département de la Dyle, after the Austrian Low Lands were annexed by the First French Republic on October 1st, 1795.   

The Département de la Dyle corresponded to the old Brabant Province which is now divided into 3 parts: Walloon Brabant, Flemish Brabant and the Brussels Region.

They divided the work into 5 parts:
- Dénombrement de la population de 1812:  a population census («Who is Who in 1812»), accessible by alphabetical order, lists every person residing in Brussels in 1812.  Saved as separate pdf files, the text is in French but being typed should be easy to copy and paste into a translating software if you don’t read French.
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

- Alphabetical List of all the towns and main hamlets of Belgium during Year VII.
Example: Achene, Sambre-et-Meuse, with a post office in Namur.
- Alphabetical directory of occupations, merchants and professions and the names of those who are actively engaged in these activities.
Example:  under “Banquiers” (Bankers): you will find 4 places of business, one of which is
-        DANOOS, Daniel and son, Rue d’Aremberg, Son, 5, #806.
     Some of the occupations you will find in this directory will likely surprise you:
-    - sellers of Geographic maps.
     - sellers of Carnival costumes
-    - carriage makers
     They list 4 dentists, and also 4 florists, along with a lot of different occupations that have since disappeared such as "fumiste": a craftsman who installed or repaired chimneys
I had to look that up and I recommend this website to discover the professions that our ancestors practiced:
Les Metiers de Nos Ancetres

- Compilation of the 367 Decrees made at the courthouse during the Year XII (141pages) – adds sometimes lively details to the last census taken by the French in 1812.  - book published in 1997 under the title “Bruxelles Qui est Qui en 1812” (Brussels who is Who in 1812) -
These decrees, signed by the Mayor of Brussels, Charles d’Ursel, Count of the Empire, Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and his substitutes, give us an insight in what it must have been like for a citizen of Brussels to live under the Empire.

Once again in French, but easily copied and pasted into Google Translate:
Arrêté n° 31, du 31 janvier.
Représentation au théâtre du Parc.
Le Maire, etc.
Autorise les membres de la Société dite de Thalie à donner au théâtre du Parc, du samedi 1er février prochain, une représentation des pièces intitulées: La femme a deux maris, la tapisserie et monsieur Vautour.
Charles d'Ursel.

Decree No. 31 of 31 January.
Representation in the Park Theatre.
The Mayor, etc.
Allows the members of the Society called de Thalia to give at the Park Theatre, Saturday February 1st, a representation of the play titled “The woman has two husbands, the tapestry and Mr. Vautour.”
Charles d'Ursel.

Some have a more personal touch:
Arrêté n° 35, du 1er février.
Certificat de notoriété.
Le Maire, etc.
Déclare que les nommés Gaspar Bouillon et Marie Dupret, son épouse, sont très peu fortunés; vivent en partie du travail de leur fils Pierre et méritent des égards en raison de la position malheureuse dans laquelle ils se trouvent.
Charles d'Ursel.

Decree No. 35 of 1 February.
Certificate of notoriety
The Mayor, etc.
States that the named Gaspar Bouillon and Marie Dupret, his wife, are not very fortunate; partly depend on the work of their son Peter and deserve respect because of the unfortunate position in which they find themselves.
Charles d'Ursel.

-  Almanach for the Département de la Dyle for Leap Year 1812: complete transcription of the book found here –

includes calendars and feast days, sunrises, sunsets, names of all the political leaders in place at the time, and who did what in everyday life: doctors, pharmacists, drivers, firemen, midwives, opera singers…  even a list of how many players played what instruments in the orchestra.

So take a look if you have family who lived in Brussels in 1812 or if you just want background information.  The file is searchable so if you are looking for a specific name, you can find it faster that way.

Jumping back to our day, you can find what is happening in Brussels today by checking out the “Brusseleir” online newslette.

Till next time!