A few weeks ago, the State Archives of Belgium launched its new genealogical website. It has fast become my go-to site for retrieving Belgian vital records. The new site at https://genealogie.arch.be/ bypasses the complex multi-step and often confusing process one must follow when starting from the archives’ main website. It is, at least in my opinion, also simpler and faster than finding the same records on FamilySearch.1
As of today, no single database indexes all Belgian vital records with links to the exact digital image of the source. Therefore, finding a particular birth, marriage, or death record, even when place and date are known, often requires browsing through images of the digitized registers. The new website makes this process much faster and simpler than before. A search for an 1885 birth record from Sint-Laureins in East-Flanders, as shown in this example, will retrieve just the 1881-1890 birth registers for that town.
Finding the decennial indexes (Tienjarige tafels,” or “Tables Décennales”) is also more straightforward, as is illustrated in this example of a search for decennial indexes of Lodelinsart, a town near Charleroi in the province of Hainaut, between 1850 and 1880.
Currently, the search engine primarily provides access to vital records (birth, death, marriage) in church (before 1796) and civil status registers (after 1796). For some towns you can find other sources, such as naturalization and divorce certificates (after 1796) or lists of confirmands and penitents (before 1796), and the expectation is that more will be added.
Genealogists no longer need to make screenshots to preserve a digital image of the record. To download a record simply click on the three dots on the right of the image and select Download.
Just as FamilySearch does already, the State Archives now provides a stable, permanent URL for each image of a source which you can record in your notes and citations.
The site offers an excellent English-language user guide as well as a helpful “How to Get Started” document for genealogists who are new to research in Belgium. Assistance is never far away with a FAQ and Contact Form. One important thing to note is that the “Genealogy” website does not work on Internet Explorer! The supported browsers are Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari.
As before, users of the website need an account to view the digitized images. Registration is free, but mandatory, and can be done by selecting login on the upper right side of the screen, or at https://search.arch.be/en/login/registration. User accounts for the old search engine remain valid for this new one.
Searching for persons in the database of the State Archives has not changed. Selecting this option from the new Genealogy Website merely brings you back to the old “Search Persons” page at https://search.arch.be/en/zoeken-naar-personen. The English version of the search page requires some knowledge of Dutch terms such as Zoeken (search), Eerste Persoon (first person), Achternaam (last name), Voornaam (first name), etc. You may want to bookmark https://search.arch.be/fr/rechercher-des-personnes if you prefer French terminology.
Remember that, even though the database as of today includes more than 42 million names, it is not a complete index to all vital records for Belgium. For many towns you still need to browse decennial indexes and/or the annual registers to find the desired record. On the flip sidem the search engine does analyze other types of documents such as notarial deeds, building applications, etc.
Cite this post
Cite this post: Kristine Smets, “A New Genealogy Website at the Belgian State Archives” The Belgian American, (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 20 February 2023.