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.Continue reading “Belgian Marriage Records: A True Gold Mine.”
The first “Belgian” settlement in America dates back to 1624, when some thirty Protestant families, “for the most part Walloon,” landed at Manhattan island aboard the “Nieuw Nederland”.1 They had fled religious persecution in the Spanish Low Countries (present day Belgium), and sought refuge in the town of Leiden in the Netherlands. There some of them had come in contact with the West India Company, who organized and financed their emigration to the New World.2Continue reading “Belgian Immigration to America until 1880.”
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.
Continue reading “The Eight Sons of Moeder Cordula.”
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
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.Continue reading “Navigating Belgian Vital Records at the State Archives: A Walloon Example.”
No comprehensive work exists describing the Belgian immigration to the Moline, Illinois area. The following is a brief annotated bibliography of works, some more scholarly than others, that include information about this particular Belgian-American community.Continue reading “Some Secondary Resources for the Belgians in and around Moline, Illinois.”
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.1Continue reading “The Belgians in Moline, Illinois: An Overview.”
Smith-Six, Mariette. Visiting the Past: A Memoir of a Belgian-American Immigrant. [Port Huron, Mich.: Privately Printed,] 2010. 230 p. ISBN 978-0-615-38969-1.Continue reading “Visiting the Past with Mariette Smith-Six.”
In a previous
- 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 anyonewho married before 1 April 1944.
- Birth records remain closed for 100 years.
Did you know that, just like the Germans, Italians, and other ethnic groups in America, the Belgians created and maintained their own ethnic press? The two best known Belgian-American newspapers are the Gazette van Moline, which appeared from 1907 until 1940 in Moline, Illinois, and the Gazette van Detroit (Detroit, Michigan), which was first published in 1914, published its first online issue in 2006, went completely digital in 2015, and, sadly, was discontinued in December 2018. In addition, there were several other more short-lived publications. Most were written in Dutch, yet at least two were issued by Walloons, and therefore were composed in French.
There was a small glitch this morning when I posted the article on navigating Belgian Vital Records at FamilySearch. My apologies. I hope this time the link will work.