Civil Records of Belgium
E. Wade Hone, 2004
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in Belgium in 1795, and the records contain even more information than found in church records. The details presented go far beyond the typical information about the event taking place. Civil registration occurred on a town-by-town basis, and is supplemented with decennial (ten year) indexes which generally begin by 1802. Theses indexes are invaluable and allow town by town radius searches to be made with little difficulty, even if somewhat time consuming. Some provinces, such as Antwerpen, have microfilmed their indexes together for the entire province, though the town-by-town arrangement still remains the format within. Civil registration records are available on microfilm from 1795 to about 1870. Before civil registration, these events were still recorded in Belgium, but in church records. The additional data contained in the civil records is apparent from the descriptions below:
- Birth records provide the time and date of the birth of the child; name of the child; both names and ages of parents (often including wife’s maiden name); residence of the parents; occupation of the father; the number of the child born to this couple; names, ages and residences of witnesses; and usually the actual signatures of all involved.
- Marriage records provide the date of marriage; the names of the groom and bride; residences of each; names of the parents of the groom and bride (including maiden names of their mothers); occupation of groom; birth dates or ages of both groom and bride; names, ages and residences of witnesses; names and death dates of previous spouses when applicable; dates and places of deaths of parents when applicable; and usually the actual signatures of all involved.
- Death records provide the date of death; the name of the deceased; the date and place of birth of the deceased; former occupation and/or marital status; surviving spouse (when applicable); date and place of death for spouse (when applicable); and names of parents.
Other Civil Sources
Numerous civil resources exist for the genealogist in Belgium; more than can be found in almost any other country save its counterpart, The Netherlands. A few of the most accessible and helpful are presented below:
- Immigration/Emigration records for Belgium are most prominent in the form of passport records. These records are available in the Municipal Archives of Antwerp from as early as 1593, though begin more heavily in the eighteenth century. There is a separate collection for passports issued during the French Occupation from 1795-1815. Foreigner registers from hotels, of those originating from outside the Netherlands area and embarking from Antwerp, also exist from 1679-1811, and from 1858-1898, with data similar to passports. All of these records usually contain names, birth dates or ages, occupations (sometimes places of employment), origins and destinations.
- Notarial records are available from the 1400s to the present. Their most valuable category for genealogical research is the marriage contracts. These contracts usually include names of bride and groom, names of their fathers, residences of both, often their origins, dates of the contract and witnesses. These records pre-date many church generated documents, and are generally found in the applicable provincial archives.
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