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-
source and (c) : Chris Paton-

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 , 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 : )

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 (

Two months to wait

For Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2013 edition !

For those who aren’t acquainted with the biggest genealogical event of the year, this video should answer questions and also give you a taste of what’s to come next february. Needless to say, I’m already impatient to be there to meet and help people with european roots and Anglo-Belgians relatives. So if you have those connections or have hit a european brickwall,drop by and I’ll try to help you the best I can 🙂

You can find informations and book tickets on

Who Do You Think You Are?Live

Avis Important / Important Message

A l’approche des fêtes, les Archives de l’Etat adaptent leurs horaires : Notez donc avec attention que tous les dépôts fermeront à 15h le vendredi 21 décembre et seront fermé,contrairement à l’habitude, le samedi 22 décembre et ce jusqu’au 2 janvier inclus pour permettre au staff des archives de passer les fêtes en famille et de nous accueillir en pleine forme en janvier !


To avoid any disappointment, please note that the different locations of National Archives of Belgium will be closed on saturday the 22d december until Wednesday 2d of January so don’t plan any research trip to Belgium if you need to visit the Archives this week end or during the holidays but save all your energy for 2013 !

The archives will also close on 3 PM on friday the 21st , an hour earlier than the usual closing time so that staff can take a rest with their families and help us in full effect in the new year !

Archives Annual Closure details

A source not to be forgotten !

When one thinks family history research, one always tend to straightforwardly think about BMD records and in a sense one is right to do so : birth (or baptisms), wedding or death records are sources of the first importance and ones the researcher will be the most confronted to. It will also often be the first contact between the researcher and its subject by the way of any family documents in his or her possession.

There’s another source that could be of great interest to the same researcher providing he or she organises the work research in a good way and that is newspaper. For instance, you can now browse through a  digital collection of 30 titles in the Belgian Royal Library, this should be online soon but for copyrights reasons, nobody really knows when.

The kind of information that can be found in newspapers is really vast : it goes from obituaries to cultural events via small ads and political articles. The quantity of it makes it compulsory to organise your search very well either by date, place or even names in case of an OCRised record.

To name just a few examples of how useful this tool can be : I could trace one of my relations, the husband of one of my paternal grandfather cousin, in the sports pages on a weekly basis because he worked in the world of horses and the races he attended were all mentioned in a newspaper. Of course,there will only be a small mention of his name and where he was at that time but it’s pieces of a puzzle that alltogether forms his career.

The same with my maternal great-grandfather. He was a musician in King Albert’s band and this band toured North America in 1929. I’ve found articles telling of their homecoming and of all social events that took place as consequences of the big adventure that this tour was ! And articles can of course be of big use if the ancestor you’re looking informations about has been involved in politics,science,academics etc.

Newspapers could not only tell you about special events in which your ancestors might have been involved in but also about the world as it went in the time of your ancestors : wars,politics all this will make the context in which your ancestor lived clearer and help you your research accordingly !

As a word of conclusion, let’s say that newspapers are a source too important not to be forgotten !

If  you want to know more about online, and soon-to-be online newspapers :



Newspapers are a goldmine source for who knows where and how to search

Brugge Archives Reopening update

Brugge Archives reopening will suffer a small delay for everyhting is not 100% ready yet. Archives Repository should reopen on january the 3d

Along with a visit to this magnificent city and its soon to reopen state archives, I strongly advice you a visit to a dedicated website where you can already find a good database fed by volunteers. You’ll find this at

Brugge Archives fans will have to waiit a bit more...