8th of August 1956

« Tutti Cadaveri » . It’s with those italian words ( all corpses) that the rescuers came back from the Bois du Cazier Mine on the 23d of August 1956 following a a cascade of technical failures in  the Mine. 232 miners from 12 countries were killed, injured and only 13 workers survived the ordeal.

http://www.sonuma.be/archive/catastrophe-de-marcinelle

There had been a long history of fatal accidents in Belgium mines before but the importance of this one, the number of foreign death ( 136 of were italian, 8 Polish, Six were Greeks, One British, One German, One Dutch,One Russian and One Ukranian for 95 Belgian) combined with the fact that the victims weren’t found immediately and the extended coverage by newspapers and television contributed to make it an international drama. The events are pretty well explained in this link  ( Flash Player Required) http://www.leboisducazier.be/lg_fr/esp_8aout/play.htm

An official commission investigated on the case to come to the conclusion that a combination of material as well as human failures were the sad causes of the explosion that led to the loss of lives of so many*.

The Bois du Cazier s now a memorial, important to remember but also very interesting to learn more about what happened on that fateful day and what could have been done in the mining world at the time to extend safety measures that weren’t then and that could have saved lives. Do you have any relatives who witnessed or lost a loved one in the catastrophe? Do you have other mining stories in your family history? If so,I’ll be really happy to hear from you!

Image result for bois du casier

 

  • The list of names and nationalities of the victims is to be found here http://www.charleroi-decouverte.be/index.php?id=301

The 2015 Ommegang

In 1549 , Charles V, presented his son to the joyous AND boisterous people of Brussels. Philip II made his « Joyeuse Entrée » in the city. This ceremony had a double goal : For the new leader to present himself and for the people of Brussels, and most notably the high classes, to recognize the new sovereign power in other words to promise they will obey and remain calm 😉

In rememberance of this major event for the city, the public is invited to witness a reenactment of the event. Horses, flag throwers, jugglers and most importantly, a cortege of descendants of the nine »nations » of the city make their way to the Grand Place, enlightened by a light and sound show.  The cortege first leaves the Royal Park where free events are organised for the Grand Place where paying guests can witness a magnificient show!

This year’s Ommegang will take place tonight and on the 2d of July in a new car-freed center of Brussels. Just like each year, there are special guests invited to explain the whole story  and do a bit of a  « who’s who  » for the audience (This year Brussels-based writer Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Humorist Bert Kruismans and singer Jo Lemaire)

(c) Emmanuel Bosteels (c) Frederic Andrieu.

Besides those animations in the Park and on the Grand Place, there are cooking events organised with famous belgian chefs, visits of the Coudenberg old palace ruins in the context of the Carolus V festival, a balloon christening and much much more for the whole family so be sure not to miss this event if you’re in town! It’s definitively worth seeing! All infos are to be found on http://www.ommegang.be and if you have Brussels ancestors be sure to get in touch so that we can talk about it!

(c) Emmanuel Bosteels (c) Frederic Andrieu.

 

 

‘Doudou’ time in Mons!

This week end is the week end  the city of Mons waits all year for ! It’s the annual celebration of the ‘Doudou’. This centuries-long tradition, since 2005 a official oral and immaterial UN heritage dates form the Middle Ages and takes place each year during the Trinity week end, one week after the celebration of Pentecost.  This traditional ‘Ducasse » last for several days and has many important times including The Procession of Saint Waudru, the city Saint who founded an abbey at the foot of the castle of Mons and The Battle of the Lumeçon.

Of course, this year the celebrations holds a special place for the city is a European Capital City of Culture so if you go there for the Doudou celebrations, be sure to also visit the art installations that are all over town and the five museums that just reopened several weeks from now. The procession of Saint Walburge will go through town with the traditional ‘Car d’Or’ (Golden Cart) and its cortege including corporations representants and city dignitaries. Last year, as a rememberance of the legend of the Angels of Mons ( telling of how british soldiers were protected by angels during the retreat of 1914) , angels took place in the procession as well and I hope, as a big fan of this legend (As a child, I knew about the legend long before I realized that Mons was in Belgium 😉 ) , they’ll be there this year too. At the end of the procession, the participants and inhabitants gathers behind the golden cart that must go up a hard slope next to the collegiate Church of Saint Waudru. If the ‘Car d’Or’ goes up the slope in a go, pushed by hundreds, if not thousands, of inhabitants the city will have luck for a year.

Saint-Georges-et-dragon (19th century-source : Wikipedia)

On sunday, a battle will oppose Saint George to the Dragon, it’s the ‘Battle of the Lumeçon’ where Saint George has to kill the dragon after a fight first with a lance, then with a gun pistol. The game of Saint George is codified and symbolises the victory of good against evil. The public, mostly young and strong men it must be said 😉 , also helps Saint George by fighting back the dragon tails that goes into the audience. Gripping a hair of its tail is a very looked for good luck charm and many are fighting to get one! It’s a unique tradition and I cannot resist posting this video from the local tv channel :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwcExoBZmTw

and another one dated 1945 who surely was special for it marked the end of WWII in a city wounded by two wars not mentioning the 18th centuries conflicts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muZvoOdqCEM

but this symbolic battle could (can? 😉 ) sometimes be impressive to foreign visitors, ‘The « Courrier de l’Escaut », regional newspaper of 16th of June 1892 tells the story of  a french student was so shocked by the dragon’s tail attacks that he filed up a legal complaint against the ‘Doudou’!

The hymn of the ‘Doudou’ is the famous song « Chant du Doudou’ and its lines « C’est l’Doudou, C’est l’mama » are known by heart and transmitted from one generation to another. Talking about younger generations, to let them have a part in the ceremony without being scared by the crowds,a « Children’s doudou’ is organised the next sunday after the « Doudou’ with a child-scale battle and game. It sure has a great success with the younger ones!

A young girl enjoying the Children's Doudou ( (c) and courtesy A. Morren)
A young girl enjoying the  rehearsal of the battle of the Doudou  in Mons ( (c) and courtesy A. Morren)

Happy Doudou Everybody! (and especially my friends and long lost cousins from Mons)

30 years from now, the Heysel/Heizel disaster….

Heyzel drama (c) -Reuter

 

Another sad commemoration this week is the one of the Heyzel disaster of 1985 where 39 people died, many were wounded and thousand were shocked.  The important match opponing Liverpool FC and the Juventus of Turin who took place at the Heyzel stadium in Brussels was classed at risk long before it took place but nobody expected this to happened. A general fight broke out in tribune Z, normally used for neutral supporters but full of italian supporters. People were tramped, crushed and pushed. Journalists on the scene talked of « war theatre ». Those of the public trying to flee the scene,often fathers with children,were literally walking on bodies. A good part of the stadium was too far to see what was going on in fatal tribune Z and were totally unaware of the drama unfolding. Even with such events going on, the game was played as there were fears of more dangers if the match was cancelled and the stadium fully evacuated. Most shocking to many was the joyful reaction of Michel Platini as he scored in such terrible circumstances.

Just like the Innovation disaster in 1967 for shops, this drama has totally changed the way football matches and crowd managing was organised in Belgium. The name of the stadium was changed in 1995 to Roi Baudouin/Koning Boudewijn but a commemoration plaque unveiled to never forget.

30 years from now, the disaster is still in all memories, especially the British community in Belgium. For the commemoration of the 25th year, Liverpool FC chaplain, Bill Bygrove, made this address to the representant of Juve and it’s so well written that I can’t resist copying it here from Liverpool FC website :

« We can’t change our history or dry up all our tears. We cannot solve the mysteries still unanswered down these years. But we can, for all our children’s sake and for the 39, build a monument of friendship that will stand the test of time. It is estimated the average person can live 40 days without food, five days without water, eight minutes without air, but only one second without hope. The anthem of this club is ‘walk on with hope in your heart’. We would ask you to express to those who continue to walk many miles with sorrow that they should walk on with hope in their heart. And from this club, to your club, to our friends in Italy, please say ‘You do not stand alone, you do not grieve alone and you do not walk alone. »

A Belgian TV video is to see at http://www.sonuma.be/archive/le-drame-du-heysel

And if the sports archives is of interest to you and your family history, the place to go to consult Belgian sport archives is the Sportimonium in Hofstade even if the Royal Library also have a huge collection of books and informations on clubs and championships of all kind. Newspapers collection also to consult at the Royal Library or more and more online is a good source too for matches reports and teams compositions, even at a less important leveL Several years ago, the States Archives of Belgium did set up « Gooaal! » , a exhibtion on Belgian Football, the archives of the Belgian Football Association are kept at the Archives, and this exhibition is still to see online at http://goaaal.arch.be/index.php?l=fr.

 

Belgian Newspapers Archives to go online!

Do I sound excited? 😉 It’s official! Belgian Press archives are coming online! We all ‘ve been waiting for this for long over here and it’s now on! Of course not all titles are online (yet) as there are privacy laws issues to deal with but the first titles have been put online several days ago and who knows could be a great source of informations  about your ancestors and fun times as well!

There’s the possibility of searching via keywords where you can just type in any surname (be always careful of the presence of homonyms and as always, do not jump too hastily to conclusions or through a calendar. In the later case, pick up a year and a newspaper, then a date and you’ll be able to check the day of your choice of the edition of your choice. This can be very useful if you know about about a particular event and want to check if there’s something in the press about it. Also think local, a small event might not head the national titles but it could very well have hit the local lines. 

It’s all thanks to the hard work of Mr Marc D’hoore, head of the Newspapers and Press Departement of the Royal Library that those titles are going online and believe me, for our country, it’s a big step in the archives world of the 21st century!

http://belgica.kbr.be/fr/coll/jour/jour_fr.h

Belgica-Press

 

 

2016 FamilieKunde Vlaanderen Congress and Geneatica FH Show together!

It’s in the « Cité of the Maca »*, Wavre, hometown to the Belgian PM Charles Michel, that the 2016 congress of Familiekunde Vlaanderen will take place along with « Généatica », the family show traditionnally organised by Geniwal association.  Both events will take place on the 20/21st february 2016 so you can already book it in your agendas. It’s the first time that the two sistership associations will get together for a common event so this promises to be a great event! More news to come!

* The « Maca »‘ is that statue next to Wavre Town Hall. It’s said that whoever caressses his bottom see luck on his/her side!

50 years of Familiekunde Vlaanderen

The family history federation of Flanders has a very important birthday coming up!
The coming week end will be filled with a family history show, various conferences and ceremonies. There will be people from France, Belgium and The Netherlands so this event is a must for family historians in the Benelux and Beyond!  I’ll be there all two days so feel free to come and meet for a chat!

The whole programme of this event is to be found at

http://www.familiekunde-vlaanderen.be/50jaar/

 

Familiekunde Vlaanderen is 50!

 

 

RootsTech2015!

Histoires de Familles will be at RootsTech 2015 and will help you find your continental europe ancestors by giving you tips, hints and more! I’m delighted to cross the ocean and meet you at this world scale event so if you have belgian, french or dutch ancestors come and meet me in Booth 100! I’ll be also presenting the freshest WWI Website of the country in his english-speaking version to be found at http://www.rtbf.be/WWI

 

Ancestors in Europe ?

Don’t panic ! I’ll be at table 78 at Who Do You Think you are?Live! 2013 and you can always drop by to say hello and talk about your research !

I also plan to give hints and ideas as to where to search either belgian,french or dutch ancestors on this very blog in the coming months as well as how to trace british,welsh,irish and scots on the continent !

source and (c) :  Chris Paton-http://britishgenes.blogspot.com
source and (c) : Chris Paton-http://britishgenes.blogspot.com

Brugge Archives Database Available

Everybody knows about Brugges, the magnificent and touristical city of Flanders but did you know that volunteers from Brugge City Archives just put a free database online ? This could of course be of good use if you’re looking for ancestors in that part of Belgium and lots of english speaking persons used to live there !

More info and access to the database at http://www.archiefbankbrugge.be/ , unfortunately it’s only available in Dutch but good news,it’s free and it shouldn’t be to hard to use !

Brugge Database Online
Brugge Database Online