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.

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

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.

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

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
Continue reading “Research Your Maternal Line with MamaMito”

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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Where to find Belgian Mourning Letters and Memorial Cards

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.

Continue reading “Where to find Belgian Mourning Letters and Memorial Cards”

De Mortuis Nili Nisi Bene

Of the dead (say) nothing but good

The custom of distributing death memorial cards during Roman-Catholic funeral services dates back to the seventeenth century. At first they were handwritten, but during the early nineteenth century printed cards became the norm. Initially reserved for bishops, priests, and other dignitaries, the prayer card tradition spread to the upper and middle classes, and the development of inexpensive printing techniques made them more affordable to all members of society by the early twentieth century. 1

Though not as rich as mourning letters, memorial cards contain brief genealogical information with many clues for the savvy genealogist. At the very least they provide the place and date of birth and death for the deceased. Cards also customarily include the name of spouse(s), both deceased and living. Cards for young children mention the parents.

Continue reading “De Mortuis Nili Nisi Bene”