The nineteenth-century civil records for Belgium were microfilmed by The Church of the Latter-Day-Saints, and have since then been digitized. They are freely available at FamilySearch.org. Indexing of the records however is very sparse. You will need to browse the records, so it is helpful to have a general idea of time and place before you start.
In this example, we will look for the birth record of my paternal great-grandfather, Constantinus Smets, who was born in Borgerhout, now part of the city of Antwerp, in 1870.
Once we’ve signed into Familysearch (access is free, but we do need to register), we find the vital records for the province of Antwerp at: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2138481.
We skip the index, as it is incomplete, and select to Browse through the 3,208,809 images instead. Don’t worry — we will be able to narrow down the browsing to a much more manageable number!
The next screen shows us a list of all the towns in the province of Antwerp. Keep in mind that some smaller villages have since merged with larger towns (a large “fusion” of towns occurred in 1977). Borgerhout, for example, is now part of the larger city of Antwerp. In 1870 however, it was still an autonomous town with its own municipal government and civil registration office. Therefore, we need to select “Borgerhout” from the list, and not Antwerp.
We look for the file that contains birth records for 1870. Here is a handy table to help you translate the filenames.
|Tienjarige Tafels||Decennial Indices|
This takes us to the first image of the microfilm reel. To quickly find the index, which is usually at the back of the register, we select the tool to browse multiple images on the left hand of the window.
It is usually not too hard to find the break identifying the end of one register and the beginning of another.
Image 62 shows the beginning of the “Alphabetique Tafel der Geboorten in 1870.” [Alphabetical index for the births in 1870.]
On the next image, we find the reference to Constantinus Franciscus Cornelius Smets, record number 251.
This particular register recorded five birth records per page. We use the “Browse multiple images” tool again to quickly jump around the register until we find Constant’s birth record on image 31. He was born on 10 June 1870, legal son of Franciscus Smets, a 40-year-old gardener, born in ’s Gravenwezel, residing in Borgerhout, and of Joanna Van Wesenbeeck, 35 years old, born in Stabroek. The birth was registered on 13 June 1870. Notice how this birth record provides us with enough information to now hunt for the birth records of his parents.
Just for reference, image 5 shows us the first page of the birth register for 1870, which reads: Register der Akten van Geboorten der Gemeente Borgerhout, Kanton en Provinicie Antwerpen, voor het jaar achttien honderd zeventig, inhoudende vijftig bladeren van nummer een tot nummer vijftig inclus gequoteerd en geparapheerd door den President der Rechtbank van eersten aanleg van het Arrondissement Antwerpen. Antwerpen den 20 December 1800 negenenzestig [Register of the Birth Records for the Town of Borgerhout, County and Province of Antwerp, for the year Eightteen Hundred Seventy, comprising of fifty pages number one to fifty, equally divided and initialed by the president of the First Appeals Court of the District of Antwerp, Antwerp, 20 Deecember 1869.]
Cite this post
Kristine Smets. “Navigating Belgian Vital Records at FamilySearch: A Flemish Example,”The Belgian American (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 11 January 2019.
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