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January 20, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Belgium Part 2: More Flemish Records

In Part 1 of my series on Belgium Research, I talked about finding my husband's great-grandfather Archie De Meulenaere's birth registration in 1884 in Tielt. It was written in Flemish but it wasn't too difficult to pick out and translate the key points. Having found Archie's parents' names, approximate years of birth and places of birth, we moved on to Step 2 - finding their marriage record and birth records.

Our first record to hunt for was the marriage of Henry and Rosalie. From that we assumed we might learn their parents' names which would help us verify that a birth record for each was the correct individual.

What a find the marriage record was! Exact dates of birth for bride and groom! Names and ages of parents! The record even noted Henry's mothers' name and the exact date she died. We were pretty excited.

Henri and Rosalie married in Tielt in 1882. Here is my translation:

Henry de Meulenaere, servant, 39 yrs old, living Schuyffers-Kapelle, born Canaghem 15 July 1842, father Felicianus de Meulenaere, labourer 71 yrs, living Tielt, mother Amelia Groothaert died in Tielt 12 Sept 1847 & Maria Blondeel, 31 yrs, living Tielt, b in Pittem 2 aug 1850, father Frans Blondeel, "kleermaker" (tailor), 62 yrs, mother Ida Veroughstraete, 60 yrs

We knew from Archie's birth registration that his father Henri or Henry was born circa 1843 in Kanagem. Now we had an exact date of birth and knew his parents' names so finding the correct birth record would not be difficult. A check in the FHL catalogue proved that records for this area existed for the time period we needed. We found the right microfilm and began looking. Once again the records were written in Flemish but I wasn't as worried about understanding them.

Henri's birth registration was found in the Civil Records of Kanegam.

It was fairly easy to spot his parents' names but I wanted to translate the entire document if possible.

There seemed to be so much writing that I figured there might be important details I would otherwise miss. It took me awhile but this is my translation to the best of my limited ability:

6 July 1842. Appeared before me Felicianus de Meulenaere, weaver, 32 years old, born in Thielt and living in the district, presenting a child from his marriage, born in the [....] and his wife Amelia Groottaert, spinster 32 years old, born and living in this district, a child by the name of Henry. Presented by Ferdinand de Bruyne [....can't read his occupation], 37 years old and Francis de Cloet, weaver about 57 years old, both living in this district

So far we had managed to go back two generations from Archie, and so far we only encounted Flemish records which to my eye were very similar to Dutch. So my little Dutch English dictionary plus my familiarty with early Dutch Church records of the 17th and 16th centuries was proving adequate for translation.

Anyone with Belgium ancestry should not be hestitant about diving in to the records. Yes we did run into much  more challenging time periods and records written in Latin and French, as well as the confusing (to me) French Republican Calendar, but all those obstacles were overcome with patience and perseverance. But more on that in the next blog post!

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