Postcards from Mishawaka

A Belgian-American postcard recently resurfaced in a family archive in East Flanders. It was sent to me with a request for help in identifying the individuals in the photos. Some sleuthing in American and Belgian records, as well as additional help from Belgium, revealed the identity of some, but not all, of the people featured. Perhaps a reader can help us solve the puzzle.1

A seated couple is featured with a young girl standing between them, and three mustached men standing behind them. The men all wear a bowler, a suit, tie, and a long warm overcoat. A long overcoat and fur stole cover the woman’s skirt, and a fancy-beribboned hat completes her outfit. The young girl wears a long coat and fur stole. She wears a ribbon in shoulder-length light hair.
Postcard With Photo of Belgian Americans in Mishawaka.2

The Postcards

There are two extant copies of the first postcard, depicted above. A seated couple is featured with a young girl standing between them, and three mustached men standing behind them. The men all wear a bowler, a suit, tie, and a long warm overcoat. A long overcoat and fur stole cover the woman’s skirt, and a fancy-beribboned hat completes her outfit. The young girl wears a long coat and fur stole. She wears a ribbon in shoulder-length light hair.3

The second postcard, undoubtedly made the same day, presents the three standing men, wearing the same clothes.4

three standing men, wearing the same clothes
Postcard With Photo of Three Belgian-American Men in Mishawaka.5

We know who sent the postcards to Belgium, because the sender included two detailed messages on the verso of both copies of postcard#1 and signed off as C. or Cyriel De Backer.

Postcard #1a was addressed to Cyriel’s parents in Zomergem, East Flanders:6

Dear parents. I am sending you a portrait from which you will notice that I have changed a lot since I left. I am a gentleman with a coat, which is warm, but indispensable here. Agust Claeys and I went to South Bend to get it. I paid 15 dollars (75 Belgian francs). The three of us will go to the beets this summer. God willing, we will earn them. The other portrait with the three of us is for my wife, and the other is for smed from the factory. I am sending them together so that you can deliver them. My dear parents, I will close now and send you warm greetings.

C. De Backer

Verso of postcard with the following text: Beminde ouders ik komt u een portret te zenden waar aan gij zult zien dat ik al veel verandert ben sedert ik vertrokken ben ik hen gelijk eenen heer met mijn kot aan maar dat is warm hier kunt gij dat niet  missen ik en Agust Claeys hebben er om geweest naar South Bend en ik geef er 15 dollars voor is 75 frank en wij gaan met ons ge drijen te samen naar de beeten van de zomer ik ga mee in de plaats van August wij zullen ze wel verdienen als het God bezielt

dat ander portret waar wij met ons ge drijen op staan is voor mijne vrouw en dat ander is voor de smed uit te fabriek ik zal ze alle drij te samen op zenden gij kunt ze hun dan geven en nu beminde ouders ik ga sluiten en groet u vriendelijk C. De Backer
Verso of Postcard #1a addressed to Henri De Backer and Marie-Louise Geurs, parents of Cyriel De Backer.7

Postcard #1b, was destined for smed from the factory.8

Dear friends, you will be able to see that we are doing well here in America. Agust Claeijs is younger which does not surprise. Noone can believe how good our livelihood is here. Chickens fly roasted in our mouths, as do delicious rabbits. Agust and I go to the sap together. The factories are different here than in Belgium. Four thousand people work there. Well smed how are the rabbits? Are they adjusting? It can be a heap once it starts. Marie, I think I make you happy by sending you this portrait. And now, friendly greetings from Cyriel and Agust, Melanie, and Raymond.

Cyriel De Backer I expect an answer. Tell me what you think of the postcard.

verso of postcard with text: Beminde vrienden gij zult wel zien dat wij hier nogal goed zijn in Amerca zoals gij ziet is Agust Claeijs nog veel verjongt het kan niet missen want het is hier zoo goed van de kost niemand kan dat gelooven want de kiekens vliegen hier gebraad in onzen mond en ook de lekkere konijntkes ik en Agust gaan hier te samen naar de sap en het zijn andere fabrieken dan in Belge er werken hier vier duizend menschen in en nu smed hoe gaat het met de konijnen wennen [?] zij nog al maal dat is nog nen boel als dat begint en Marie ik denk van u plezier te doen van dat potret op te zenden en nu vriendelijk gegroet van Cyriel en Agust Melanie en Raymond.
Cyriel De Backer

Mijn adres is Agust Claeijs Mishawaka Ind West 7 Street  Nr 1002 Noord America voor C. De Backer

ik verwacht een antwoord weder en zeg mij wat gij er van denk van die post kaart
Verso of Postcard #1b addressed to Emile Van de Wattijne and Maria Bert in Zomergem.9

All three postcards are embossed in the lower right corner with the imprint of Clement F. Kaylor, a phographer who was active in Mishawaka between 1910 and 1930. They are a good example of Real Photo Postcards, photographs that were developed onto photographic paper the size and weight of postcards, with a postcard back. Postcards with the letters AZO and four triangles pointed up in the upper right-hand corner, were produced between 1904 and 1918.10

Cyriel De Backer, Agust, Raymond, and Melanie, and Smed van de fabriek

Cyriel De Backer, son of Henri De Backer and Marie-Louise Geurs, was born on 7 December 1890 in Zomergem. His ‘dear friends’ were identified by Jacqueline Hebbrecht as her great grandparents, Emiel Van de Wattijne, a blacksmith who was known around town as de smed, and Maria Bert from Zomergem. Their daughter, Maria Magdalena Van de Wattijne, was married with Cyriel’s brother, Machiel De Backer.11

Cyriel extends greetings from Agust, Melanie, and Raymond, and gives his address as Agust Claeys, Mishawaka, Ind., West 7th Street, Nro 1002, Noord America. According to the 1912 Mishawaka city directory, August Claeys, husband of Melanie, was living at 1002 West Seventh Street in 1912.12

The De Backer and Claeys Families in Zomergem.

Around the turn of the century, the families of Cyriel De Backer and August Claeys were close neighbors in Korteboeken, a neighborhood in Zomergem, East Flanders.13

Table 1.

De Backer Family

Cyriel’s father, Henri De Backer, was born on 19 June 1860 in Meigem, East Flanders, son of Petrus De Backer and Marie Thérèse De Coninck. He married Marie-Louise Geurs, daughter of Augustien Geurs and Virginie Wambeke, on 7 January 1886 in Lotenhulle, East Flanders. Marie-Louise was born on 24 May 1862 in Petegem, East Flanders.14

Henri and Marie-Louise had ten children.

i. EMMA DE BACKER was born on 27 August 1886 in Lotenhulle.15 She probably died on 12 December 1958 in Ghent.16

ii. GENTILLE-AUGUST DE BACKER was born on 1 January 1888 in Sleidinge, East Flanders.17He probably died on 10 April 1960 in Ghent.18

iii. CAMIEL DE BACKER was born on 7 September 1889 in Zomergem.19 He probably died on 1 December 1889 in Zomergem.20

iv. CYRILLUS DE BACKER was born on 5 December 1890 in Zomergem.21 He probably died on 7 January 1972 in Eeklo, East Flanders.22

v. ACHILLE-PETRUS DE BACKER was born on 23 April 1892 in Zomergem.23 He probably died on 7 February 1980 in Zomergem.24

vi. LEONIE MALVINA DE BACKER was born on 8 November 1893 in Sleidinge.25 She probably died on 27 April 1959 in Zomergem.26

vii. MACHIEL DE BACKER was born on 29 September 1895 in Zomergem.27 He probably died on 8 February 1972 in Zomergem.28

viii. PAULINA JOSEPHINA DE BACKER was born on 15 July 1898 in Zomergem.29 She probably died on 15 April 1900 in Zomergem.30.

ix. MAURICE-FELIX DE BACKER was born on 15 May 1900 in Zomergem.31 He probably died on 9 December 1980 in Gent.32

x. GASTON-JORIS DE BACKER was born on 3 April 1903 in Zomergem.33 He probably died on 17 June 1924 in Zomergem.34

Claeys Family

August Claeys, son of Petrus Claeys and Francisca Vandevelde, was born on 29 February 1864 in Lovendegem, where he married Melania De Roose, daughter of Petrus De Roose and Maria Theresia Leuntjens, on 21 November 1888. Melania was born in the same place on 30 April 1867.35

August and Melanie had four children, all born in Zomergem. Three died in early childhood.

i. RAYMOND CLAEYS was born on 17 November 1889.36 He died on 9 March 1960 in Bremen, Marshall County, Indiana.37

ii. MARIE LOUISE CLAEYS was probably born on 18 October 1891.38 She died on 24 January 1892 in Zomergem.39.

iii. ACHILLES CLAEYS was probaby born on 15 August 1893.40 He died on 20 October 1896 in Ronsele.41

iv. MARIE EMMA CLAEYS was probaby born on 5 January 1895.42 She died on 10 December 1896 in Ronsele.43


Raymond Claeys, sole surviving child of August Claeys and Melanie De Roose, was nineteen when he emigrated to America. He departed on 27 February 1909 from Antwerp with the SS Zeeland, a ship of the Red Star Line. Two fellow-villagers, Charles and Maria Van Hecke accompanied him. The Zeeland arrived on 9 March 1909 in New York. Afer the Ellis Island formalities, the trio continued their journey by train to Mishawaka, a city in Northern Indiana with a burgeoning Flemish community.  Charles Van Hecke had been there before, working in the factories for four years.44

Raymond found work in a forge where he earned two dollars a day.45 Most likely, his success encouraged his father August to also try his luck in Mishawaka. August left on 27 August 1910 with the SS Lapland from Antwerp. He arrived on 4 September in New York and traveled from there to Mishawaka.46

Melanie remained in Belgium for one more year but then also departed on 4 November 1911 with the SS Lapland. She arrived in New York on 13 November 1911.47 She was accompanied by Cyriel De Backer, the author of the postcards, who left behind a wife and child in Zomergem.48

August and Raymond Claeys in Mishawaka

Between 1912 and 1923, August and Melanie Claeys lived on West Seventh Street in Mishawaka, at numbers 1002 (1912), 1014 (1914-1916), 402 (1920), and 325 (1921-1923). August is no longer mentioned in the Mishawaka city directory after 1923.49

After his marriage to Caroline Anne “Lena” Probst in 1914, and until about 1921, son Raymond lived in the country, first in Harris Township, northeast of Mishawaka, and later in Madison Township southeast of the city. He returned to Mishawaka in 1921. From about 1923 his adres was 1009 West Seventh Street.50

Table 2.

Both father and son worked at the Mishawaka Woolen Manufacturing Company, an enterprise founded in 1838 to fabricate textile products. In 1886 the company patented the all-knit boot, a woollen boot with a black rubber band at the top. From 1898 the factory mainly produced high shoes and boots marked by a black band and a red ball. Between the two World Wars, the Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Manufacturing Company was one of the largest companies in Mishawaka, employing thousands of workers.51

Aerial view of the Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Manufacturing Company, located at the river. Black and white photograph.
. The Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Manufacturing Company.52
Newspaper advertisement for Read Ball Boots. It shows where the "red ball" was located on the boot.
Advertisement for Red Ball Booths, February 1920.53

Cyriel mentions the beetfields where the tree men would work during the summer. He alluded to the sugarbeet cultivation in and around Wallaceburg and Chatham in Southern Ontario, just across the border of Detroit. The Ontario beet industry needed workers, both on the fields and in the sugar factories, and Belgians were known as experienced beetworkers. The Flemish were also familiar with seasonal employment. In Belgium, Flemish workers traveled seasonally to farms in Northern France to help with the beet harvest.54

Back to Belgium

Cyriel De Backer did not stay in Mishawaka for long. He returned home before the end of 1912, because on 20 August 1913, he reported the birth of a son, Henri-Joseph, at the town hall in Zomergem.55

August and Melanie Claeys returned to Belgium in August 1923. Before their departure they sold their belongings, and August, who three years prior had become a naturalized American citizen, requested a passport.56 It is unclear whether they ever returned to the United States.57

When were the postcards created?

Neither one of the postcards is dated and the envelope that was used to send them to Belgium has been lost. But the postcards/photographs were undoubtedly made during Cyriel De Backer’s brief stay in Mishawaka between November 1911 and late 1912. Everyone is wearing heavy winter clothing, and Cyriel mentions he bought a coat for $15 in South Bend, suggesting the photographs were made not long after his arrival in November 1911. A warm winter coat was indispensable in Northern Indiana, where daily temperatures frequently dip below 32°F during the winter. The weekend before Melanie and Cyriel arrived in Mishawaka, the South Bend area was struck by a heavy blizzard. Cyriel’s written notes also suggest that it was the first time since his arrival he wrote to his parents back home.58

The clothing worn by the individuals in the photograph reflects the fashion of the early 1910s. The decade featured large, wide-brimmed hats adorned with feathers, ribbons, or veils, such as the one worn by the adult woman. Dress lenghts fell to just above the ankle. Bowler hats were especially popular among men.59

Who is Who?

And thus, we return to our original question: who are the people portrayed in the postcards? The seated woman bears enough of a resemblance to Melanie De Roose in a 1923 passport photograph of August and Melanie Claeys, to posit that Melanie and August are the two seated individuals.60

Passport photo of Melanie and August Claeys, 1923.61

A photograph of a young Cyriel De Backer, provided by his grandson in Belgium, suggests that he may be the man standing in the middle of the back row.

Man in the middle.
Cyrial De Backer at a Young Age.62
Man on the left.

Raymond Claeys may be the man standing on the left, as he appears to be younger than the man on the right. Raymond turned twenty-one on 17 November 1889.

Man on the right.

The identities of the man on the right and the young girl in front however remain a mystery.

The young girl is not a child or grandchild of August and Melanie. They had no other children besides Raymond and the three small children that died young. Their son Raymond did not marry until 1914.63

The man on the right could perhaps be August Claeys’ older brother, Julius Leonardus Claeys, who supposedly died in America. We were not able find more information about him in any census, death, or immigration records.64

Cyriel did not see a need to identify them to his parents or his friends. We hope that a reader will recognize the family and help us fill in the blanks.

A New Genealogy Website at the State Archives of Belgium

A few weeks ago, the State Archives of Belgium launched its new genealogical website. It has fast become my go-to site for retrieving Belgian vital records. The new site at bypasses the complex multi-step and often confusing process one must follow when starting from the archives’ main website. It is, at least in my opinion, also simpler and faster than finding the same records on FamilySearch.1

Figure 1. Homepage of the New Genealogy Website.

Simpler and faster retrieval

As of today, no single database indexes all Belgian vital records with links to the exact digital image of the source. Therefore, finding a particular birth, marriage, or death record, even when place and date are known, often requires browsing through images of the digitized registers. The new website makes this process much faster and simpler than before. A search for an 1885 birth record from Sint-Laureins in East-Flanders, as shown in this example, will retrieve just the 1881-1890 birth registers for that town.

Figure 2. . Search for an 1885 Birth Record from Sint-Laureins.
Figure 3. Search Results for an 1885 Birth Record from Sint-Laureins.

Finding the decennial indexes (Tienjarige tafels,” or “Tables Décennales”) is also more straightforward, as is illustrated in this example of a search for decennial indexes of Lodelinsart, a town near Charleroi in the province of Hainaut, between 1850 and 1880.

Figure 4. Search for decennial death indexes of Lodelinsart between 1850 and 1880.
Figure 5. Search results for decennial death indexes of Lodelinsart between 1850 and 1880.

Currently, the search engine primarily provides access to vital records (birth, death, marriage) in church (before 1796) and civil status registers (after 1796). For some towns you can find other sources, such as naturalization and divorce certificates (after 1796) or lists of confirmands and penitents (before 1796), and the expectation is that more will be added.

Download capability (no more screenshots!)

Genealogists no longer need to make screenshots to preserve a digital image of the record. To download a record simply click on the three dots on the right of the image and select Download.

Figure 6. Search results for decennial death indexes of Lodelinsart between 1850 and 1880.

Permalinks (Persistant URLs)

Just as FamilySearch does already, the State Archives now provides a stable, permanent URL for each image of a source which you can record in your notes and citations.

Figure 7. Birth Record of the Author’s Grandmother.


The site offers an excellent English-language user guide as well as a helpful “How to Get Started” document for genealogists who are new to research in Belgium. Assistance is never far away with a FAQ and Contact Form. One important thing to note is that the “Genealogy” website does not work on Internet Explorer! The supported browsers are Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari.


As before, users of the website need an account to view the digitized images. Registration is free, but mandatory, and can be done by selecting login on the upper right side of the screen, or at User accounts for the old search engine remain valid for this new one.

The Database of the State Archives

Searching for persons in the database of the State Archives has not changed. Selecting this option from the new Genealogy Website merely brings you back to the old “Search Persons” page at  The English version of the search page requires some knowledge of Dutch terms such as Zoeken (search), Eerste Persoon (first person), Achternaam (last name), Voornaam (first name), etc. You may want to bookmark if you prefer French terminology.

Remember that, even though the database as of today includes more than 42 million names, it is not a complete index to all vital records for Belgium. For many towns you still need to browse decennial indexes and/or the annual registers to find the desired record. On the flip sidem the search engine does analyze other types of documents such as notarial deeds, building applications, etc.

Cite this post

Cite this post: Kristine Smets, “A New Genealogy Website at the Belgian State Archives” The Belgian American, ( : accessed [date]), posted 20 February 2023.

FamilySearch to Digitize Belgian Civil Registration Records from 1910 to 1950

Starting this fall FamilySearch will begin scanning Belgian civil registration records from 1910 until 1950 at the State Archives in Beveren (Antwerp), Leuven (Brabant), and Mons (Hainaut). As before, the digital images will be made available on both FamilySearch’s and the Belgian State Archives’ web platform. The usual, legally imposed, restrictions for genealogists still apply:

  • Birth records become public after 100 years
  • Death records become public after 50 years
  • Marriage records become public after 75 years

 A quick review of how to access Belgian Civil Registration records at FamilySearch and the State Archives of Belgium might be in order.

Civil Registration Records at FamilySearch

Access to FamilySearch is free, but users do need to create a free account. FamilySearch has three indexes to selected Belgium births, marriages, deaths, and burials.

The emphasis is on selected: Only a few localities are included, and the time periods varies by locality. For most towns you will need to browse the digital images, so it helps if you know the name of the town where the person of interest was born, married, or died.

At FamilySearch you can choose one of two approaches: (1) use the FamilySearch Catalog or (2) start from the collection record for each province.  I prefer the first one, because I have found it to be more up to date.

Using the FamilySearch Catalog

Navigate to the FamilySearch Catalog to search by place.

FamilySearch will suggest a complete hierarchy for your search term. For example, Kaprijke should be searched as Belgium, Oost Vlaanderen, Kaprijke.

Shows how FamilySearch suggests the complate hierarchy for Kaprijke in its catalog.

From the results, select “Belgium, Oost Vlaanderen, Kaprijke – Civil registration.”

Showe results of a search for Kaprijke in the FamilySearch catalog. Results are Church records, Civil registration, and Population.

Expand the Civil registration selection and explore the options.

Shows expansion of Kaprijke - Civil registration, in the catalog.

Results will vary. In this case:

  • The first selection is a link to the town’s church records from before the advent of civil registration in 1796. In some towns they will include some parish records beyond 1796 or some of the early civil registration records.
  • Selection two is a link to the town’s later civil registration records.
  • Selection three is a link to the town’s earlier civil registration records.

Make your selection and drill down to find the records you are interested in.

Shows drilled down options, listing Geboorten, Huwelijken, and Overlijdens.

Access Through the Collection Records for Each Province

You can also browse the civil registration records by starting from the collection record for each province and selecting “Browse All Images.”

Shows collection record for Antwerp Civil Registration. A green arrow points to the option to browse the records

From the browse screen, select the town and then the records of interest

Shows the top of a page that lists towns in the Antwerp province
Shows the files available for the town of Stabroek: E.g. Geboorten 1797-1822, Geboorten 1823-1851, etc.

Civil Registration Records at the State Archives of Belgium

Free online access to digital records at the State Archives of Belgium also requires registration. Users can search for names in a global search engine, and/or browse the digital images.

Using the search engine

The search engine “Search Persons,” ( provides access to thousands of genealogical records, including church and civil registration records. However, even though it contains 35+ million names, many towns have not yet been completely indexed.

Results for a search for records with Marie Smets as the bride. 428 records were found.

From the page with search results, use the hourglass button on the right to see an extract of the record. Always check the original record, which is easy now that you have a place, date, and record number.

Extract of the marriage record of Marie Smets, 15 September 1906, Leuven. The extract is very detailed.

Be aware that the English version of this search engine still uses a lot of Dutch vocabulary. If you are more comfortable with the French language, you may want to use the following link:

For detailed instructions on how to use the search engine, read the instructions at

Access via the collection records for each province and district

Do not give up if you do not find your name in the search engine. Instead navigate to the browseable images for each province at The records for East Flanders, Hainaut, Liège, Luxembourg, and West-Flanders are separated by district (arrondissement).

List of available registers for each province at the State Archives of Belgium

Drill down to the specific town, record set, and era of interest.

Shows the first page of the collection record for the district of Gent in East Flanders. The options for the towns of Aalter are expanded.

Once you have made your selection, look for the tab Gedigitaliseerde archiefdocumenten or Archives numérisées to see the digital images (this tab will not appear if you not are logged in!).

Shows the tab for "Gedigitaliseerde archiefdocumenten" in a search for a Flemish town.
Shows the tab "Archives numérisées" in a search for a Walloon town.

Navigate through the images with the buttons at the bottom of the screen (see Dutch and French browsing vocabulary at the end of this post).

Shows the buttons at the bottom of the screen in the English and Dutch interface.
Shows the buttons at the bottom of the screen in he French interface.

Unlike FamilySearch, the State Archives does not provide an easy download option, so make a screenshot to have your own digital copy of the record.

How to Find and Use the Decennial Indexes

No matter where you browse the digital images, it is a good idea to consult the indexes first. From the year 1807 the civil registrar was required to end each year with a yearly index. Furthermore, the towns were required to create a 10-year index starting with 1803-1812. Some but not all towns went back and created indexes for the earlier years as well. The decennial indexes are called “Tienjarige tafels,” or “Tables Décennales.”

Shows first page of the Decennial Index to the Birth Records of Herentals, Antwerpen, 1861-1870. The index is hand written and gives the year and record number for each name.
Decennial Index to the Birth Records of Herentals, Antwerpen, 1861-1870.
Shows first page of the Decennial Index to the Marriage Records of Heppignies, Hainaut, 1851-1860. The index is hand written and gives the year and record number for each name.
Decennial Index to the Marriage Records of Heppignies, Haint, 1851-1860.

You can usually tell from the description of the microfilms where to find the tables, but sometimes you need to do a bit of hunting.  Pay attention to the notes for each record!  For example, the indexes for Liberchies are included on a microfilm with those of several other Hainaut towns. You need to return to the catalog and search for each particular film number.

Image of the record for the Civil Registration records of Liberchies. The catalog note is highlighted in green. Three arrows point to the film numbers. It says "Tables Décennales de naisssances, marriages et décès 1803-1842 voir Film 1599882 item 2-5 1599883 item 1-3 1599883 item 5."

The tables for Herentals, Antwerpen, are found with those of other towns in the Arrondissement Turnhout. You need to return to the catalog and search for Turnhout (Arrondissement).

mage of the record for the Civil Registration records of Herentals. The catalog note is highlighted in green.  It reads: Voor Tienjarige tafels: zie: Turnhout (Arrondissement),"

A Dutch and French Browsing Vocabulary

  • Achternaam = Last name
  • Actes = Records
  • Actes de décès = Death records
  • Actes de divorces = Divorce records
  • Actes de mariages = Marriage records
  • Actes de naissances = Birth records
  • Actes de naturalisation = Naturalization records
  • Akten = Records
  • Archives numerisées = Digitized records
  • Bruid = Bride
  • Bruidegom = Groom
  • Burgerlijke Stand = Civil registration
  • Décès = Death
  • Dernier = Last
  • Deuxième personne = Second person
  • Direct naar = Directly to
  • Divorce = Divorce
  • Echtscheiding = Divorce
  • Echtscheidingsakten = Divorce records
  • Eerste = First
  • Eerste persoon = First person
  • Enfant = Child
  • Epouse = Wife
  • Epoux = Husband
  • Etat civil = Civil registration
  • Geboorte = Birth
  • Geboorteakten = Birth records
  • Gedigitaliseerde archiefdocumenten = Digitized records
  • Huwelijk = Marriage
  • Huwelijksafkondigingen = Notices of marriage (Banns)
  • Huwelijksakten = Marriage records
  • Huwelijksbijlagen = Marriage supplements
  • Jugements = Judgments
  • Kind = Child
  • Laatste = Last
  • Lieu = Place
  • Mariages = Marriage
  • Mère = Mother
  • Mère de l’épouse = Mother of the bride
  • Mère de l’époux = Mother of the groom
  • Moeder = Mother
  • Moeder van de bruid = Mother of the bride
  • Moeder van de bruidegom = Mother of the groom
  • Naissances = Birth
  • Naturalisatie = Naturalization
  • Naturalisatieakten = Naturalization records
  • Naturalisation = Naturalization
  • Nom = Last name
  • Overlijden = Death
  • Overlijdensakten = Death
  • Père = Father
  • Père de l’épouse = Father of the bride
  • Père de l’époux = Father of the groom
  • Periode = Period
  • Période = Period
  • Pièces de mariage = Marriage supplements
  • Plaats = Place
  • Précédent = Previous
  • Premier = First
  • Première personne = First person
  • Prénom = First name
  • Publications de mariage = Notices of marriage (Banns)
  • Rechercher des personnes = Search for persons
  • Suivant = Next
  • Tables décennales = Decennial index
  • Tienjarige tafel = Decennial index
  • Tweede persoon = Second person
  • Vader = Father
  • Vader van de bruid = Father of the bride
  • Vader van de bruidegom = Father of the groom
  • Vers = Directly to
  • Volgende = Next
  • Voornaam = First name
  • Vorige = Previous
  • Zoeken naar personen = Search for persons

Cite this post

Cite this post: Kristine Smets, “FamilySearch to Digitize Belgian Civil Registration Records From 1910-1950″ The Belgian American, ( : accessed [date]), posted 12 July 2022.

More of the Gazette van Moline Online

Earlier this year I reported on the digitization efforts at the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) where some of the earliest years of the Gazette van Moline were placed online. Today I received word that the Rock Island County Historical Society has added to the endeavor by digitizing the remaining years of this important Flemish American newspaper. The Society’s digital holdings start on 23 April 1915, exactly where the run at CRL is interrupted, and end with the paper’s last issue on 18 April 1940 when it announced its merger with the Gazette van Detroit.

Search capabilities are more advanced than at CRL, but at both places the researcher must be cognizant of the limitations of Optical Character Recognition technology and spelling variations in the Dutch language during the early years.

Take a look today and explore the lives of Belgian Americans one hundred years ago.

Cite this post

Kristine Smets, “More of the Gazette van Moline Online” The Belgian American, ( : accessed [date]), posted 27 August 2021.

Finding Your Belgian Ancestor In US Naturalization Records

Naturalization records can be a critical source when researching your immigrant ancestor. The documents may help you pinpoint their exact time of arrival and identify their place of origin.

Historical Background

The first naturalization law of the United States dates back to the initial years of the American republic. On 26 March 1790 Congress decreed that all free and white aliens may request naturalization after living in this country for at least two years. Aliens could petition in any court with jurisdiction over their place of residence.1 In 1795 the residency requirement was increased to five years. The law of 25 January 1795 also introduced the two-step process that remained in place until 1952: petitioners needed to first submit a Declaration of Intent, and then three years late, a Petition of Naturalization.2

Continue reading “Finding Your Belgian Ancestor In US Naturalization Records”

The Gazette van Moline

The Center of Research Libraries, an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries, has digitized selected years of The Gazette van Moline, the Flemish newspaper that was published from 1907 until it merged with the Gazette van Detroit in 1940.

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Finding Belgian-Americans in United States’ Ship Manifests. Part II: Research Tips

Surviving ship manifests, also known as passenger lists, make it possible for most genealogists to discover details of their ancestor’s voyage to America. In an earlier post I sketched a brief history of ship manifests in the United States. In this article I share some tips for searching online databases to find Belgian-Americans in the ships’ passenger lists.

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Finding Belgian Americans in United States’ Passenger Lists. Part I: A Brief History

Before the advent of commercial transatlantic airline flights in the 1960s, Belgian immigrants arrived in the new world at one of the Atlantic or Gulf Coast seaports in a sailing vessel or steamship. Surviving ship manifests, also known as passenger lists, make it possible for most Belgian-American family historians to discover the details of their ancestor’s voyage to America.

Before we delve into searching for the arrival records of Belgians in various databases and indexes, let’s take a closer look at the history of ship manifests in the United States.

1820-1890s: Customs Ship Manifests

While there are manifests that go back to colonial America, the systematic recording of passenger arrival information started in 1820, as a result of the Steerage Act, which was approved by the United States Congress on 2 March 1819.

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Research Your Maternal Line with MamaMito

This weekend, as many of us celebrate Mother’s Day, might be the perfect time to delve into your maternal roots. Who was your mother’s mother? Who was her mother, and her mother’s mother, and so on? Not as easy perhaps as tracing your paternal line, but researching the many mothers who contributed to your existence can have its own rewards.

Image with four stylized portraits of mothers: youself (born 1985), Rosalia (born 1965), Godelieve (1930-2012), and Rita (1901-1981)>
A Museum of Mothers from the MamaMito project.1
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Belgian Population Registers

The closest Belgian equivalent to United States census records are the population registers [BevolkingsregistersRegistres de la populationMelderegister], large heavy folio books that contain information about the inhabitants of a particular town. Unlike census records, which provide a snapshot of what the population looks like at a particular moment, the registers are dynamic. They are kept up-to-date for ten years or more, until a new snapshot is taken and the process is started over again. In Belgium, hard copy population registers were created and maintained until 1992, at which point the government switched to a computerized database system.

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