The world of French genealogy is abuzz with the news that Belgium has begun to put its genealogical records online. If you have had trouble tracing your ancestors from the north of France, chances are that they slipped over into Belgium or came from there in the first place. If so, this news will please you, indeed.
It is early days yet, and the Belgian archives, the State Archives of Belgium , are calling it a test phase and are adding document images gradually (so, if you do not find your people, try again in a few weeks). However, the plan is to include all of the country's ten provinces and all of the nineteen communes of the Brussels region.
Before beginning there, we suggest you exhaust other resources first, including the work of André Vanderlynden, in order to make a more focused search. This will be particularly useful if your ancestors had family members on both sides of that somewhat mobile border between France and Belgium. You may also want to use this handy little Belgian towns site to be sure of the town's correct name.
Having completed your preparation, you may then try the search page of the Belgian State Archives. Though it purports to be multi-lingual, the English page is not yet set up, so you will have to work in French or Flemish. The site is free, though it is necessary to register. Then ..... chargez! Jump in and start hunting among the parish and civil registrations. They are arranged first by province, then by arrondissement. The map site above will help with this.
You may also want to try the search page of names, based on the enormous amount of extracts made by volunteers. This is quite useful as it includes many types of documents, not only the parish and civil registrations (of which there are hundreds extracted) but:
- militia records
- military tribunal cases
- notarial records
- construction permit requests
- lists of bourgeois
When you run into trouble with language, and you could well do, the Association Généalogique du Hainault Belge, will help with translation from Flemish or Latin to French; you upload an image of the document onto the forum and everyone helps decipher it.
We wish you grand success!
©2013 Anne Morddel