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Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding an Ancestor in Belgium

I received several queries from a woman, let's call her Ms. X. In this one she wants to know how to find an ancestor from Belgium.

Her question:
I need your help deaperatley, I have  tried every web site to trace my grandfather (charles pluquet.from begium) it seems as though he did,nt exsist no body as heard of the name let alone him,I have even tried to find out if the name is dutch but no luck could you please tell me were to look next,thank you so much
Dear Ms. X: My husband's great grandfather Achilles De Meuleunaere was born in Belgium and his ancestry goes quite far back in that country.

The Belgium records are extraordinary. Using the microfilmed church records beginning with Achilles' birth in 1884, we were able to find his parents' names. From there we searched back, one person and one event at a time.

We found marriages, deaths and baptisms quite easily. Although the records are in various languages other than English, it is not too difficult to pick out a name - provided you are familiar with reading old handwriting!

Being diligent and carefully looking for each ancestor's church records as we searched back from Achilles, we were able to prove his lineage back to 1779. At some point we would like to research further but we simply ran out of time. We also researched the spousal lines with great success.

Some of the records are in Latin. Some are in French. Some are in Dutch. Some are in a language very similar to Dutch. It depends on the time period you are searching in and the location. So you must go slowly and not be discouraged by the changes in language as you search the records.

If you get back far enough to the time when the French occupied the country, you will see a change in how dates are recorded. From 1793-1805 the French Republican Calendar was in use. Believe me when I first encountered it in the church records in Belgium I was completely lost! But I was able to find a research guide which explained how the calendar worked and what each month name meant.

The twelve months of the French Republican calendar were based on the natural events of the seasons of the year. They don't correspond to the standard months of January through December so you must go slowly and be sure you understand when each event you find occured.

I suggest you begin at  Belgium Roots then have a look at the online FamilySearch catalogue to see what records have been microfilmed for the location and time period you need.

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