You may have found mourning letters and memorial cards for Belgian relatives among the papers of your immigrant ancestors. But most often you will have to hunt for them in the archives of genealogical and historical societies and in the files of private collectors. Luckily many societies, archives and collectors have placed their indices online and will provide genealogists with a scanned image upon request.
The following is a selected list of websites for societies, archives, and private individuals who collect mourning letters and death memorial cards. Keep in mind that in most cases, location of the archive or collector does not reflect the scope of the collection.
Historical and Genealogical Societies
- Familiekunde Vlaanderen. Almost all divisions have placed their collections online. See list of documentation centers and regional divisions at familiekunde-vlaanderen.be/afdelingen.
- Service de Centralisation des Études Génealogiques et Démographiques de Belgique. 180,000+ letters. List of last names can be viewed online. More than 2,000,000 newspaper obituaries.
- Association Généalogique du Hainaut Belge. 17,708 letters.
- Genealogical Society of Flemish Americans. Leon Buyse Library. Over 6,000 letter and 13,000 memorial cards for US, Canada, and Belgium, as well as hundreds of mourning letters. No online index. A selection of memorial cards have been reproduced and translated by Cheryl A. Heckla in Flemish American Deaths 1900-1925 (Roseville, Michigan: GSFA, 2012).1
- Beeldbank Stad Kortrijk. More than 800,000 cards and letter. More than half have been digitized and can be viewed online.
- Brussels City Archives. No index or images online.
- Rijksarchief in Gent. Letters formerly at the State Archives in Gent. No index or images online.
- Rijksarchief in Gent. Letters formerly at the State Archives in Ronse. No index or images online.
- Rijksarchief te Antwerpen. Collection of death, birth, and marriage announcements from the Gazet van Antwerpen. No index or images online.
- Rijksarchief te Antwerpen. Geldof Verzameling doodsbrieven, huwelijksaankondigingen, geboorteaankondigingen. No index or images online.
- Bidprentjes – Funeral Cards Waasland. Collection of Harry Truman.
- Doodsprentjes.be. Collection of Guido Morent.
- Philippe Verzamelt. www.philippeverzamelt.be. 24,000 cards.
- Collection of Werner Claus. 207,500 cards.
- Delcampe Hint: search in their “old paper” section.
- 2ememain Hint: find “Images pieuses & Faire-part” in section “Collections.”
- eBay Select category “Religion and Spirituality.” Search for “doodsprentje,” “Bidprentje,” “Sterbebild,” “Avis de décès,” “Death card,” “Death announcement.”
- Verzameling Van Bidprentjes en Oude Postkaarten. [Collection of death memorial cards and old postcards]
The works of Paul Callens deserve special mention. While wieldy and a bit cumbersome to use, they are a treasure trove for Belgian-American genealogists. Copies can be found at the Library of Congress, the Wisconsin Historical Society, the New York and San Antonio Public Libraries, as well as the Genealogical Society for Flemish Americans.
Callens, Paul. Death Memorial Cards. 14 vols. Tielt: Vlaamse Vereniging voor Familiekunde, Afdeling Tielt and Genealogical Society of Flemish Americans, 2000-2005.
This monumental work contains information from prayers cards for Belgian-born Americans, as well as some cards for persons who were born in North-America but died in Belgium. The entries are listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the deceased. Women are listed under their married name. Each volume includes images of some cards. There are multiple A to Z sequences. There is no overall index to all fourteen volumes. You may need to look under variant spellings. Multi-part names (e.g. De Smedt, Van den Bergh) and the same names spelled in one word (e.g. Desmedt, Vandenberg) are listed in one sequence. The notes include place and date of birth and death, names of parents and children, whether or not the card contains a photo, as well as the name of the undertaker, cemetery and printer. Quite often the editor added additional information written on the cards or found in newspapers.
- Vol. 1: A-Z. Search online at: fv-tielt.familiekunde-vlaanderen.be/DMC/dmc_1.htm.
- Vol. 2: A-Z Search online at fv-tielt.familiekunde-vlaanderen.be/DMC/dmc_2.htm.
- Vol. 3: Especially Southern Ontario. A-Z. Search online at fv-tielt.familiekunde-vlaanderen.be/DMC/dmc_3.htm.
- Vol. 4-7: Especially Moline, Illinois. A-Z.
- Vol. 8: Flemish in Langton, Southern Ontario. A-Z.
- Vol. 9: Flemish who are buried or purchased plots at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic cemetery in Langton. Illlustrated with memorial cards.There is some overlap between parts 8 and 9.
- Vol. 10-14: A-Z. Also includes information for second generation Belgian-Americans (i.e. those who were born and died in North America).
Callens, Paul, ed. Americanse Zantingen [American Gleanings]: Belgen in Amerika = Belgians in America. Tielt: Vlaamse Vereniging voor Familiekunde, 2011-2016. Three parts in 27 volumes.
Part I. De Mensen = The People. 14 volumes.
List of Belgian-Americans with information found in death memorial cards, newspaper articles, personal correspondence, magazines, and more. As such it is an expanded version of the earlier 14-volume Death Memorial Cards. People are listed in alphabetical order. Women are listed under both their maiden and married name. Multi-part names (e.g. De Smedt, Van den Bergh) and the same names spelled in one word (e.g Desmedt, Vandenberg) are listed in one sequence.
- Vol. 1-7: A-Z. Published in 2011.
- Vol. 8: Index to parts 1 to 7. This expanded index includes personal names, placenames, undertakers (look under Funeral Home), printers (look under Druk, Drukkerij, Gedrukt, Printed, Uitgave, And Cemeteries (Look Under Ashes, Begraven, Bijzetting, Burial, Buried). Multi-part names (e.g. De Smedt, Van den Bergh) and the same names spelled in one word (e.g Desmedt, Vandenberg) are listed in separate sequences.
- Vol. 9-11: A-Z. Published in 2016. More recent information.
- Vol. 12: index to parts 9-11. Similar index as in pt. 8.
Part II. Illustraties = Illustrations. 3 volumes.
Images of death memorial cards, newspaper articles etc. to complement De Mensen = The People. Does not overlap with the images in Death Memorial Cards.
Part III. Bronnen = Sources. 10 volumes.
An annotated bibliography of everything that has ever been written about the Belgians in America, works that may be relevant to anyone interested in the history of Belgians in America, as well as works about America written by Belgians. Each entry is annotated with notes by Paul Callens.
- Vol. 1-5: Sources are listed in alphabetical order by author. Anonymous works are listed first. Look here also for journals such as De Biekorf and Belgian Laces. Articles in journals of local historical or genealogical societes are listed by place. For example articles in Bijdragen Tot De Geschiedenis Der Stad Deinze En Het Land Aan De Leie En Schelde are listed under Deinze.
- Vol. 6-7: Subject index to parts 1-5.
- Vol. 8. Published in 2016. New sources. A-Z with subject index.
- Vol. 9: Published in 2016. Newspaper articles published in Het Nieuwsblad, Kerk & Leven, and Krant Van West-Vlaanderen. In chronological order. 2012-2014. subject index.
- Vol. 10. Published in 2016. Newspaper articles published in Het Nieuwsblad, Kerk & Leven, and Krant Van West-Vlaanderen. In chronological order. 2015-2016.With subject index
Cite this post
Kristine Smets, “Where to find Belgian Bereavement Letters and Memorial Cards,” The Belgian American, (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 21 February 2020.