Belgium Church Records

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Belgium
Church Records
In the period before 1795, Church records(Parochieregisters, Kerkelijke registers, Registres ecclésiastiques) are the main genealogical resource in Belgium. The main types of church records are: baptisms, marriages, burials, and confirmations. The records will be written in Latin for Catholics(the vast majority of the population, and the only legal religion before 1781), or in the local language, either Dutch, French or German. Besides the Catholic majority, there were a small number of Dutch Reformed(Nederlands Hervormde), French Reformed(Egilse Reformee) and Lutheran churches, as well as some Jews.

The earliest start in the 1500s, but in many parishes they do not start until well into the 1700s. In 1795 Civil Registration becomes the major source for births, marriages and deaths in Belgium.

Information Content

Baptisms

Catholics traditionally baptised children a few days after birth. A typical baptism record includes:

  • The name of the baptized
  • The date of baptism, and sometimes the birth date
  • The names of the parents, often including the mother's maiden name
  • The names of godparents or witnesses
  • Sometimes the residence of the parents, the relationship between witnesses and child, and whether the child was illegitimate

Always note the witnesses, as they often are a close relative such as an aunt/uncle, grandparent or an older sibling, even if it is not stated that they are related.

A Latin baptism record

Marriages

A typical marriage record includes:

  • The names of the bride and groom
  • The date of marriage
  • Whether they were single, divorced or widowed. Any previous spouses may be named
  • The witnesses to the marriage
  • Sometimes parent's names, birthplaces and residences

Marriage Contracts and Banns

  • Couples’ names
  • marriage intention dates
  • residences
  • occupations
  • witnesses’ names
  • often parents’ names and sometimes other relationships.

Burials

A typical burial record includes:

  • The name of the deceased
  • The date of burial
  • The spouse or widow of the deceased for married women, and the parent's names for children.
  • Sometimes additional information such as age or residence

Confirmations

Children were confirmed between the ages of 7 and 12.

  • Candidates name,
  • age
  • residence
  • father’s name.

Other Records

Church censuses, membership lists, family registers: Names of married couples, their ages or birth dates and places, sometimes marriage dates, childrens’ names, ages or birth dates, death or burial dates of children. Sometimes marriage dates and names of spouses of children are given.
Donations before death or for masses for the dead: Names of husbands and wives, and sometimes other family members.

Accessing Records

Online at the State Archives

The State [i.e. Federal] Archives of Belgium/Rijksarchief in België/Les Archives de l'Etat en Belgique has images and some indexes of church records . Free registration is required to view the records The site comes in English, French, German or Dutch(see top left corner)

Most of the records are available only as images. They can be browsed here. A few have been indexed. They can be searched here. The images placed online are not necessarily the entirety of the records are available- the remaining records would need to be viewed in person at the archives. Nonetheless, the vast majority have been placed online.

GeneaKnowHow

Some church records can be found on the site Geneaknowhow, which contains many links to local genealogical websites and sources.

FamilySearch Catalog

a. Click on this link to see the Belgium page in the FamilySearch Catalog
b. Click on "Places within Belgium" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the province. Open Places within.... that province.
d. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
e. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
f. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
g. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the film listed for the record. FHL icons.png. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.The microfilm image means that the film has not yet been digitized. You can view the microfilm at the Family History Library at Salt Lake City. All microfilms should be digitized by 2020.

Writing to a Catholic Priest for Church Records

When you cannot locate the records online or in a microfilm, baptism, marriage, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting local parish priests.

Write a brief request to the proper church using this address as guide replacing the information in parentheses:

Reverend Pastor
(Street address, if known: see The Catholic Directory)
(Postal code) (City)
(province), BELGIUM

Send the following:

  • Cashier’s check or international money order (in local currency) for the search fee. Usually $10.00.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history or medical).
  • Request for a complete extract of the record


References