A VE Day to remember!

As Europe celebrates the official end of WWI 70 years ago , I’ve found this video footage of VE Day In Brussels. Who can now imagine the atmosphere of the country at the news of the capitulation of Germany? It must have been a incredible feeling and something to remember forever. Political analysis and justice would come later, the time was at a joyous and victorious feeling!

This video was filmed by Paul  Castaing (Courtrai 1908-1983) film 16mm Brussels –  (collection Philip Declercq)

WWII Records and informations can be found at the CEGESOMA where readers have access to a whole range of records from daily life in the country to resistance networks informations.  The CEGESOMA is located in a beautiful Art Nouveau building which is a plus in your visit.

Let’s have a heartful thought for all the WWII fallen, those who gave their life so that we could live in peace and in democracy. At the time when populism rise again in Europe, we should treasure this legacy and always remember the past!


A candidate to British PM job with a Belgian connection

Could a possible next British PM have belgian connections? Well, the answer is yes!

At the moment where Great-Britain goes to the Polls offices to choose new rulers and where the relations between GB and the EU are central in the debates, a possible candidate to the job of PM has more connections to Belgium that one could think of!

Labour Party candidate Ed Miliband’s father, Ralph was born in 1924 in Etterbeek (Brussels) under the first name « Adolphe » which he later changed for obvious reasons. His parents were Samuel Miliband and Renée (Rywka) Szteinlauf, both from Warsaw, Poland. Just as hundreds of other persons living in Eastern countries in the first half of the 20th century, Samuel and Rywka had made their way to Brussels to flee poverty and the rise of antisemitism. They got married in Brussels on the 9th of June 1923 and little Ralph opened his eyes for the first time in June 1924 in Etterbeek, one of Brussels district and funnily enough now the heart of the EU Institutions. At the time of the wedding they were both living  Rue des Palais, 249 but were officially as still living  in Warsaw (Poland). But
before the union took place, Samuel was staying Rue Vondel in Schaerbeek (another Brussels District) and Rywka in the Treurenberg downton section, near the Royal Park.  The wedding took place in presence of Noart Auslender cousin (on his mother side) to the bridegroom and of a friend, Jacques Millman. Population Registers of Brussels shows the family in the 20’s moving three times houses in less than one year , Samuel working in the leather trade and Rywka as a seamstress. At some point the young couple also sheltered Wolf, a younger brother of Samuel who was a late teenager when he went to live with his brother, sister-in-law and young nephew. During the war, Ralph’s mother and some relatives went into hiding in Wallonia.

The House where the Miliband Family once lived. No a wood furniture shop. (c) Marie Cappart
The House where the Miliband Family once lived. No a wood furniture shop. (c) Marie Cappart

A brother of Samuel, Mayer had already left Poland in 1919 to live in Brussels. In his « Foreigners » record of the archives of the City of Brussels, he is said to be of good behaviour and life. He was then living Rue de l’Engletier, a popular neighbourhood not far from where records concerning the family are being kept in Brussels City Archives.

(c) Archives de la Ville de  Bruxelles (Rec. n°106684 )
(c) Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles (Rec. n°106684 )

With that (important) bit of family history,Brussels probably holds a symbolic and important place in the heart of the Miliband clan and if  Labour Party wins the election, it »s a Prime Minister who could come on official visit to the places his ancestors once called home.

(c) Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles-rec.106684)
(c) Archives de la Ville de Bruxelles-rec.106684)

I tend to think there’s a likeness in this picture between the Great-Uncle and his great-nephew. What do you think? 😉

Additional tickets for Waterloo Bicentenary shows!

I quote http://www.waterloo2015.org : « To satisfy public demand, 8000 additional tickets are offered for sale, for both evenings of the performance. 2500 seats for the « French attack » on Friday 19 June at 8 pm, 2500 seats for « The allied counterattack » on Saturday 20 June at 8 pm. The other 3000 tickets are passes that combine an exceptional night-time visit to the Allied encampment at Hougoumont on Thursday 18 June, the Inferno opening show, and one of the two re-enactment shows. » Happy news then!

(c) www.waterloo2015.org
(c) http://www.waterloo2015.org

More info :




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!





Success for Paris Family History Show!

Numbers aren’t out yet but we can already say that the new Family History in Paris has been a huge success! Hundreds,or rather,thousands have gathered in the Mairie of the XVe arrondissement of Paris to celebrate family history and help amateurs and more experienced researchers. Organized by the well-known edition house, Archives et Culture, the show offered different conferences and booths from all over France from Languedoc to Dunkirk not forgetting of course the important subjects of military or seamen ancestors. The visitors could also seek help on the Belgian, Italian, Jewish, Arabic side of their trees not forgetting the British of course. At some point,the place was so crowded there was no point trying to make a way into the alleys and the organizers had to distribute more than welcomed water bottles to dehydrated exhibitors.

No doubt! This won’t be the last genealogical « salon » in Paris!

Greetings from the Eiffel Tower 🙂


Full House in Paris for the first genealogy show of Archives Et Culture
Full House in Paris for the first genealogy show of Archives Et Culture

Who Do You Think You Are Live? 2013 : a feedback !

It was really cold in London last week end but spirits were high at 2013 edition of Who Do You Think You Are?Live exhibition where thousands gathered in order to learn more about their ancestors,poors and riches,humbles or nobles,soldiers or civilians or to hear some of the very interesting talks that were organised.

It was also a time to meet fellow genealogists and exchange latest news and informations.

This year, Migration Zone and along with my neighbours : FIBIS, anglo-german,anglo-italian and an association with carribeans ancestors,I was able to help people with ancestors abroad or coming from abroad !One of my best memories of this year edition,if not the very best, is to have helped connecting cousins who didn’t know about each other before prior to their visit to the show !

Following a contact I had with her last year in London, I had help a lady from with her potters ancestors who at some point came to work in Jemappes (Hainaut Province,Belgium) and this very nice Lady came to say hello this year so when a couple came to ask for help with a search in Jemappes two hours or so later , I was quite amused and of course could already tell them about what I knew of this small Brits-potters in Belgium.

I first thought that the person this couple was looking for could have been one of the co-workers of the family I previously worked on (That would have make sense) but to my,and theirs,great surprise, they were also after the same family, the man even bearing their surname ! Unfortunately the Lady I had help,and who proved to be a relative of the couple, was already gone but addresses were soon exchanged and I heard they had a long chat the very same week end of the show and I can’t wait to see a pic of them united !
I just can’t wait to start again next year !


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

State Archives : Saturday opening (big) change !

Please all take good care of when you plan to visit one of the States Archives offices as they just changed their Saturday opening policy :

From the 1st of February 2013, the States Archives of Arlon (Aarlen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk) will only be open the first Saturday of the month. Of course it’s still open from Tuesday to Friday as usual.

From the 1st of March, All other places, apart from the Royal Archives for which you always have to take an appointment and the « Dépôt Cuvelier 2 » for which you also had to have a booked appointment, will be :

Open from Tuesday to Friday from 9am to 4.30 pm and the first Saturday of the month from 9.00 am to 12.30pm and from 13.00 to 16.00 pm

If the first Saturday of the month is a holiday then the Archives will be opened on the next Saturday,same hours applying.

If a special event has to take place on THAT very first Saturday then special arrangement will be made.

(source : wwww.arch.be )

I guess all this is for financial reasons although I can figure some of you will be disappointed not being able to visit the Archives every Saturday. But remember it could also mean that digital records everyone’s eagerly waiting could come sooner than planned.

If you need records and can’t retrieve them because of the opening hours change, just e-mail me at : belgianroots @ gmail . com and I’ll see how I can help you !

Saturday Opening Change in Belgian State Archives

Foundlings in Belgium

In the territory of Belgium,just like in any othercountry, it wasn’t unusal for a child to be abandoned at birth*. Surviving records are very interesting to study and even if they don’t give informations as to the child ancestors , they are a great source of informations to understand the context your foundling ancestor lived in.

Some registers are being kept in various archives repositories on a geographical basis, often in the State Archives of the province of the place where the child was discovered but also sometimes in the borough archives. In some 19th cities, there was a especially made box inserted in a door and who would give anonymity with the certitude that the child would be found. This box was called « le tour d’enfant » or « le tour d’abandon ». To give just a small example, more than 500 babies were left in this box for the sole year of 1841 in Brussels The foundling would have been taken in charge by the « meneur d’enfants » who often was the one to register the child in the said borough. This civil registration, to be found in the borough BMD’s just like any other record would always mentions the fact that the child is a foundling, the civil officer picking up his or her first and surnames at random, sometimes in link with the place the child was found in (« Léglise » could give a hint that the child was found in a church, « Laporte » that he or she was found on some doorstep) sometimes just being chosen in the Saints Calendar or in a book ( Greek and Roman Mythology were big favourites at a time) .

When the territory was under French governance (1795-1815) ,there were plenty of revolutionary themed names such as Marie Revolution or Liberté-Ignace Populaire !

Sometimes there would be a short description of the foundling clothes. A piece of paper or half of a playing card could also be found on the child , this was meant to give the parents, or rather the single mother as it often was the case , the possibility to take the child back later by providing the other half of the artefact. In some cases, those precious relics are being conserved in the records which adds a moving touch to it.

In the case of a first of last name mentioned on a piece of cloth or paper, this would be the name used for registration. It would sometimes also be mentioned that the child was already baptised even if he or she would be once again baptised. The mortality toll being what it was,you were never too sure !

Alas, not only was the infant mortality very high but hygiene low standards and over crowded orphanage often shared with the poor,the sick and the elderly surely didn’t help and also the parents weren’t sure that they would ever be able to come back to pick up their child should they wish to.

If the children didn’t died in infancy,they were sent to farms where they had to work hard. Later, they would enroll in the army or at a nearby mine or factory. In several cases that I worked on,and I had the case in my own family history, the foundling was to marry one child of his « foster » family , especially when there were several daughters and no heir to the farm. It was then a possibility for the foundling to start a new and better live.

It could be disappointing to find out a foundling in your family history but at the same time in case of a surviving record of your ancestor this information could give more informations on his or her life than you would  have found otherwise. Of course you’ll be stuck on line of your tree  but it also gives you a great subject to work on ( Were there any records kept ? Are there still available to see? Where did the children lived ? Is there any historical research made on the social history of the place your ancestor was found in ? Any statistics being made ? and many more questions that could come up at some point)

In case of a name or a baptism mentioned this could give more research hypotheses.

Always remember  too that your foundling ancestor was a kind of survivor in his/her way !

* There are some recorded cases of older children being abandoned but they surely were a minority.

The "tour" where the children were left to their fate (