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.
On the morning of September 2, 1944, the first allied forces arrived in the province of Hainaut in Belgium. Mons and Brussels were liberated the next day. Other major cities followed in quick succession: Antwerp (September 4), Gent (September 5-6), Liège (September 7-8). In the course of ten days most of Belgium was liberated by the British (mostly in Flanders) and the American (in Wallonia) forces.3
Everywhere they went, the troops were welcomed with open arms. People danced and celebrated in the streets and women threw their arms around their liberators as they passed by. The Yanks and Canucks brought chocolate, Coca-Cola, cigarettes, and candy. They were carefree and lighthearted and soon enough captured the hearts of numerous girls. Ellie Shukert and Barbara Scibetta, both daughters of war brides, estimate that approximately one million women married American GIs during and after World War II.4
Not long ago, a friend passed me an article published in Texas Highways, a monthly publication of the Texas Department of Transportation, which featured an interview with West Texas columnist and raconteur Lonn Taylor. During the interview, Taylor mentions a little Mexican restaurant in Fort Davis, Texas, called Poco Mexico, which is owned by one of the oldest Hispanic families, the Dutchover family. And here is where it got interesting for me: the Dutchovers’ founder was a Belgian immigrant by the name of Anton Diedrick.1
One of my favorite Belgian singer songwriters, Willem Vermandere, wrote a song that captures the grief and sorrow of a mother who watched all but one of her sons emigrate to America in the early twentieth century.
Acht kloeke zeuns had moeder Cordula En zeven zijn der naar ‘t vreemde gegaan Zo wijd over zee daar lag Canada Moeder Maria, lat dat schip nie vergaan Lat dat schip nie vergaan
Did you know that during the first two decades of the twentieth century, Moline, Illinois, was the major center for the Belgian immigrants? Not only did the area receive a large portion of the new arrivals, but the city even hosted its own Flemish newspaper, the Gazette van Moline.1
Today, about 356,405 people in the United States claim Belgian ancestry, an estimate which appears to be low, especially when compared with the estimated number of Dutch Americans: 4,289,116.(1) Did that many more Netherlanders immigrate to the United States?