In a previous post we analyzed a typical marriage record from a town in Flanders. Today we will take a look at marriage supplementary records. They are often overlooked, and indeed, they often repeat information you can find elsewhere, but I am here to show you they can still be worth your while.
Supplementary marriage registers [huwelijksbijlagen in Dutch, Pièces de mariages in French] contain all the extra paperwork bride and groom had to produce in order to get married, such as extracts of vital records, certificates of military service, or birth records for illegitimate children to be recognized by the act of marriage. They can be helpful when you have trouble finding the originals (at least now you have a place, date, and number), are particularly useful as you get closer to the Ancien Régime, and may even contain tidbits of information you will not find anywhere else. Finally, in the few cases where original records have been lost, the extracted information among the marriage supplements may be the only evidence left for a vital event.
My great great great grandparents, Benedictus Vanhooydonck and Maria Catharina Greefs, were married at Kalmthout on Friday 6 May 1832. He was the son of Adriaan Van Hooydonck and Maria Greefs, and grew up in the Nieuwmoer hamlet of Kalmthout, where his mother managed a small store in the Capelstraat. Maria rented the house, and Benedictus, Maria’s second husband, was a common manual laborer who could not read or write. Benedictus had one older sister and seven older half-siblings.1
Maria Catharina was the daughter of Peeter Jan Greefs and Maria Elisabeth Nuytemans, prosperous farmers in the Vogelenzang at Kalmthout. She had several older siblings.2
Feel free to read along as I transcribe and translate the marriage record of Benedictus and Maria Catharina:3
No. 11. In het Jaer Een Duizend acht honderd tweeendertig den zesden van de Maend Mey ten vyf uren naermiddag
No. 11. In the year One Thousand Eight Hundred Thirty-Two, the sixth of May [6 May 1832], at five o’clock in the afternoon [5 pm]
is voor ons Borgemeester Ambtenaer van den Borgerlyken Stand der gemeente Calmpthout Distrikt en Provincie Antwerpen gecompareerd
appeared before us, the mayor, Officer of the Civil Registration of the town of Calmpthout [Kalmthout], District and Province of Antwerp
Benedictus Vanhooydonck oud tweeendertig jaeren, drij Maenden vierentwintig dagen handwerker
Benedictus Vanhooydonck thirty-two years old and three months and twenty-four days [32 years, 3 months and 24 days], manual laborer
woonende in deze gemeente, en ook in dezelve geboren den twaelfden Januarius achttien honderd,
residing in this town and also born here on the twelfth of January eighteen hundred [18 January 1800]
bejaerden zoon van Adrianus Vanhooydonck, achten vyftig jaeren oud en van Maria Greefs tweeenzeventig jaeren oud
adult son of Adrianus Vanhooydonck, eighty-five  years old, and of Maria Greefs, seventy-two  years odl
handwerkers woonende in deze gemeente hier tegenwoordig en in dit houwelyk toestemmende
manual laborers residing in this town, present and consenting to this marriage
En hebbende voldaen aen de wetten op de Nationale Militie gelyk het blykt uyt het Certificaat ten dien eynde afgeleverd door den Heer Gouverneur der Provincie Antwerpen den zeventienden April achttien honderd tweeendertig
And having satisfied the laws concerning the National Militia, as it is shown on the Certificate that was issued to this end by the Governor of the Province of Antwerp on seventeen April eighteen hundred thirty-two [17 April 1832].
En Maria Catharina Greefs, oud zevenentwintig jaeren en zesentwintig dagen, landbouwster
And Maria Catharina Greefs, twenty-seven years and twenty-six days old [27 years and 26 days], farmer’s wife
woonende in deze gemeente, en ook in derzelve geboren den zesentwintigsten Germinal jaer dertien der fransche Republiek (tien April achttien honderd vyf)
residing in this town, and also born here on the twenty-sixth Germinal year thirteen of the French Republic (ten April eighteen hundred and five [10 April 1805])
bejaerde Dogter van wylen Petrus Joannes Greefs overleden in deze gemeente van Calmpthout den zestienden Meert achttien honderd eenentwintig
adult daughter of the former Petrus Joannes Greefs who died in this town of Calmpthout on the sixteenth of March eighteen hundred twenty-one [16 March 1821]
gelyk het blykt uyt den akt van overlyden ingeschreven op de registers van den Borgerlyken Stand dezer gemeente alhier ter Secretary berustende,
as it is shown in the death record registered in the Civil Registration of this town, kept here in the office
en van Maria Elizabeth Nuytemans, achtenzestig jaeren oud landbouwster woonende in deze gemeente hier tegenwoordig en in dit houwelyk toestemmende
and of Maria Elizabeth Nuytemans, sixty-eight  years old, residining in this town, present here and consenting to the marriage
Welke Comparanten ons hebben verzogt van te procederen tot het houwelyk onder hun beraemd
Which parties request us to proceed to the marriage devised by them
en welkers afkondigingen zyn gedaen geweest voor de voornaemste Deur des ingangs van ons gemeentenhuys
And of which the announcements were made before the most important door at the entrance of our town hall
te weten de eerste den tweeentwintigsten en de tweede den negenentwintigsten van de Maend van April laestleden, om tien uren voormiddag zynde twee zondagen
that is the first one on the twenty-second and the second one on the twenty-ninth of the month of April last, at ten o’clock in the morning, being both Sundays
geene tegenstryding aen dit houwelyk ons te kennen gegeven zynde
no opposition to the marriage was made known to us
recht doende aen dit verzoek
to do justice at this request
naerdat door ons aen de Comparanten waeren voorgelezen alle de stukken hier boven vermeld alsmede het zesde Kapittel van den Borgerlyke Wet Boek geintituleerd van het houwelyk
after which have read to the parties all the aforementioned records as well as the sixth chapter of the Civil Code entitled about marriage
gevraegd aen den toekomenden Bruydegom en aen de toekomende Bruyd of zy begeêren zich te nemen voor man ende vrouw
asked the future groom and the future bride whether they wish to take each other as husband and wife
ider van hun afzonderlyk geantwoord hebbende dat Jae,
both of them separaretly having answered yes
wy verklaeren in den naem van de wet dat Benedictus Vanhooydonck en Maria Catharina Greefs vereenigd zyn door het houwelijk,
we proncoune in the name of the law that Benedictus Vanhooydonck and Maria Catharina Greefs have been united in marriage
waer van wy dezen akt hebben opgesteld in de tegenwoordigheyd van
of which we have recorded this act in the presence of
Franciscus Feyen negenenveertig jaeren oud handwerker halven broeder van den man,
Franciscus Feyen, forty-nine  years old, manuel laborer, half brother of the husband,
Gerardus Aerts, dertig jaeren oud hoef smit zwager van den man
Gerardus Aerts, thirty years old, farrier, brother-in-law of the husband
Joannes Greefs veertig jaeren oud landbouwer, Broeder van de vrouw,
Joannes Greefs, forty years old, farmer, brother of the wife,
en Cornelius Greefs tweeendertig jaeren oud landbouwer Broeder van de vrouw,
and Cornelius Greefs thirty-two years old, farmer, brother of the wife,
alle woonende in deze gemeente van Calmpthout,
all residing in the town of Calmpthout
de welke den tegenwoordigen akt gezamentlyk met ons en de partyen Contraktanten hebben geteekend
who have signed this act together with us and the contracting parties
naer dat den zelven hun was voorgelezen,
after it was to read to them
uytgenomen Adrianus Vanhooydonck en Maria Greefs die verklaerd hebben van niet te kunnen schryven uyt reden van onwetendheyd.
except for Adrianus Vanhooydonck and Marie Greefs who declared they are not able to write due to ignorance.
The first time you encounter a Belgian civil marriage record, your eyes may glaze over, because they tend to be long and contain a lot of so-called ‘legalese.’ But they are worth your close attention, because they are a true gold mine of information.
Since the introduction of the Code Civil in Belgium, most Belgians traditionally have gotten married twice: first at the town hall [voor de gemeente in Dutch], and subsequently in the church [voor de kerk]. The French Revolutionary Law of 20 September 1792 had muzzled the role of the church and from now on the sacrament of marriage, which was made optional, had to be preceded by a civil contractual marriage. The Code Napoléon of 1804 retained this stipulation, and it became the model for the Belgian Code Civil.1
The marriage had to be celebrated publicly before the officer of civil registration in the town of residence of either bride or groom (Civil Code, article 165).2 Most often this was the bride’s village. No minister was allowed to conduct a nuptial ceremony prior to receiving a marriage record issued by the officer of civil registration (Penal code, article 199 and 200).3
Searching the Belgian State Archives (Rijksarchief in België, Archives de l’État en Belgique, Belgisches Staatsarchiv) for vital records can be confusing, especially when you are not familiar with the language. First, there are four possible starting places, depending on your language of preference. But with almost all of them, as you dig deeper, the language in the background switches to either Dutch or French. Second, there is no comprehensive index (although you can always try your luck at https://search.arch.be/en/zoeken-naar-personen), so for now browsing the images town by town is the only way to do exhaustive research, which means you must know the town and approximate date for the vital event. Last, and this very unfortunate, there is no download option, so the best you can do it take screenshots in order to have your own digital copy of the record.
Don’t let this deter you however! There two very good reasons for exploring birth, marriage, and death records at the Belgian State Archives as well as at FamilySearch.
In a previous post I mentioned that Belgian vital records less than 100 years old are not open to the public. This is about to change, and genealogists with recent Belgian ancestry should be excited. The new law will take effect on 31 March 2019.1
Death records will become public after 50 years. I.e. on 1 April 2019 you will be able to request a transcript of the death record for anyone who died before 1 April 1969.
Marriage records will become public after 75 years. I.e., on 1 April 2019 you will be able to request a transcript of the marriage record for anyone who married before 1 April 1944.
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.
Here is the good news for Americans who are tracing their ancestors in Belgium: unlike the United States where some states did not require civil birth, death, or marriage records until the end of the nineteenth century, vital records have been meticulously kept for about 225 years in Belgium, and they contain a wealth of information.