Probably one of the best websites we have seen on cross-border genealogy betweeen France and Belgium is that run by a fellow from Roubaix named André Vanderlynden. His website, ghezibde.net, is a wiki, and his aim is to pursue the genealogies of all those of western Flanders and Ardennes. He has single-handedly gathered an enormous amount of information, garnering him a write-up in the local newspaper.
Among the best aspects of his website are to be found:
- Pages on the villages of Flanders and the villages of Ardennes, which have charts showing which are in France and which in Belgium.
- Lists of families from each region
- Studies of about a dozen families
- a few photographs of faire-parts
- a forum where people can exchange information
Mr. Vanderlynden was the key to one American's genealogical success story. Gene Spanneut of New York had been researching his family from the towns of Hondeghem, Hazebrouck and Lille. His ancestor, Charles Benoît Alexis Spanneut was born in France, went to the United States in about 1860 and fought in the American Civil War. Finding his roots proved very difficult, even though the name was relatively rare. The name appeared in the database of ghezibde.net and Mr. Spanneut wrote to Mr. Vanderlynden for help. He provided a great deal of assistance and research, finding out why Charles Spanneut left Flanders for America -- an illegitimate son who remained in France. The immigrant wrote to his son, whose descendants kept the letters. Some of those descendants welcomed Gene Spanneut and his sister on their visit to France and Belgium last August. "The experience was very rewarding and very emotional," Mr. Spanneut told me. "The family we met were so very good to use and made us feel so welcomed. I look forward to returning."
Mighty fine work, Monsieur Vanderlynden!
©2011 Anne Morddel