Liège, Belgium Genealogy

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Belgium
Liège
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Guide to Liège Province ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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History

The strategic position of Liège has made it a frequent target of armies and insurgencies over the centuries. It was fortified early on with a castle on the steep hill that overlooks the city's western side. In 1345, the citizens of Liège rebelled against Prince-Bishop Engelbert III de la Marck, their ruler at the time, and defeated him in battle near the city. Shortly after, a unique political system formed in Liège, whereby the city's 32 guilds shared sole political control of the municipal government.
At the end of the Liège Wars, a rebellion against rule from Burgundy, Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy, witnessed by King Louis XI of France, captured and largely destroyed the city in 1468, after a bitter siege which was ended with a successful surprise attack. The Prince-Bishopric of Liège was technically part of the Holy Roman Empire which, after 1477, came under the rule of the Habsburgs. During the Counter-Reformation, the diocese of Liège was split and progressively lost its role as a regional power. In the course of the 1794 campaigns of the French Revolution, the French army took the city and imposed strongly anticlerical regime, destroying St. Lambert's Cathedral. The overthrow of the prince-bishopric was confirmed in 1801 by the Concordat co-signed by Napoléon Bonaparte and Pope Pius VII. France lost the city in 1815 when the Congress of Vienna awarded it to the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Dutch rule lasted only until 1830, when the Belgian Revolution led to the establishment of an independent, Catholic and neutral Belgium which incorporated Liège.
After the war ended, the Royal Question came to the fore, since many saw King Leopold III as collaborating with the Germans during the war. In July 1950, André Renard, leader of the Liégeois FGTB launched the General strike against Leopold III of Belgium and "seized control over the city of Liège". The strike ultimately led to Leopold's abdication. Liège began to suffer from a relative decline of its industry producing high levels of unemployment and stoking social tension. During the 1960-1961 Winter General Strike, disgruntled workers went on a rampage and severely damaged the central railway station Guillemins. The unrest was so intense that army troops had to wade through caltrops, trees, concrete blocks, car and crane wrecks to advance. Streets were dug up. Liège saw the worst fighting on 6 January 1961. In all, 75 people were injured during seven hours of street battles.
Liège is also known as a traditionally socialist city. In 1991, powerful Socialist André Cools, a former Deputy Prime Minister, was gunned down. Many suspected that the assassination was related to a corruption scandal which swept the Socialist Party, and the national government in general, after Cools' death.
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Civil Registration

  • Civil registration records are government records of births, marriages, and deaths.
  • Dates: Civil registration began around 1795-1796 while under French rule.
  • Contents:
    • Births: Child’s name, birth date and place; parents’ names, residence, and occupation, witnesses’ ages, relationships, residences; yearly indexes.
    • Marriages: Bride and groom names, ages, residences, occupations; sometimes ages and/or birth dates and places, parents' names, marriage date and place, residences, occupations, witnesses and officer who performed ceremony, former spouses, yearly indexes.
    • Marriage proclamations: Names of prospective marriage partners, intentions, residences, parents, etc.
    • Marriage supplements: Names of marriage partners, documents showing proofs of births, parents, deaths, prior marriages or divorces, proclamations, consents, contracts, etc.
    • Death registers: Deceased's name, age, death date and place, occupation, name of surviving spouse, informant’s name and residence, cause of death, sometimes birth dates and places, parents’ names, children’s names, yearly indexes.
    • Divorces: Listed on the back of the marriage registers in the municipality where the marriage took place. Includes names, ages, dates and places, occupations, residences.
    • Multi-Year-Indexes: Additional two, three, five and ten year indexes to births, marriages, divorces and deaths. Some are alphabetical, others chronological, by first letter of the surname, all letters, and given names.
  • Language: The major languages of records in Belgium are Flemish (Dutch) in the North, and Walloon (French) in the South, and German in the East. To understand the records, you only need to know a few typical words such as those for mother, father, born, name, bride, groom, married, etc. Translation of these words are found under Online Digital Records for Civil Registration below and also on word lists for: Dutch, French and German.
  • Accessing the records: Digitized, online civil registration records until 1912-3 are available through FamilySearch Historical Records and the National Archives. For more recent certificates, you need to write to the state, provincial, or municipal archives.


1. Online Digital Records for Civil Registration

For some localities, digital copies of civil registration can be searched online:

  • Dutch titles for recorded events: "Geboorten" means births. "Huwelijken" means marriages. "Overlijden" means deaths. "Huwelijksafkondigingen" means marriage proclamations. "Huwelijksbijlagen" means marriage supplements. "Tienjarige tafels" means 10-year indexes.
  • French titles for recorded events: "Naissances" means births. "Mariages" means marriages. "Décès " means deaths. "Publications de mariage" means marriage proclamations. "Pièces de mariage " means marriage supplements. "Tables décennales" means ten-year indexes.
  • German titles for recorded events: "Geburten" means births. "Heiraten" means marriages. "Toten" means deaths.

2. Online Digital Records at the State Archives

Civil registration digital images are also online from the State (National) Archives (Rijksarchief in België), for records at least 100 years old. You will need to complete a free registration here: Register.
This address leads to the Zoekrobotten--Search Robot (or Search Engine) which leads to several search options:

3. Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

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There are may be microfilmed records available but not included in the online collections above. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Belgium, Liège.
b. Click on "Places within Belgium, Liège" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Civil Registration" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. 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.

4. Writing for Civil Registration Certificates

For the more recent records (since 1913), the locality keeps one copy and the other copies are turned over to the State Archives (Algemeen Rijksarchief/Archives Générales du Royaume in Brussels, or Rijksarchief in de Provinciën/Archives de l'État in the provinces). Researchers can access them by contacting:

The National Archives

Algemeen Rijksarchief Ruisbroekstraat 2
Brussels 1000
BELGIUM
Telephone: 32 2 513 76 80
Fax: 32 2 513 76 81

or

The province archives

Rijksarchief te Luik
Rue du chéra 79
4000 Luik
Belgium

Telephone: +32 4 252 03 93
Fax: +32 4 229 33 50
E-mail: archives.liege@arch.be

or

The archives of the municipality

Gemeentebestuur
De Ambtenaar van de BURGERLIJKE STAND
Gemeentehuis
BE - (postal code) (name of municipality)
Belgium

What to send:

Send the following:

  • A request for them to tell you the fees and how they should be paid.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your exact relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history or medical).
  • Request for a complete extract of the record

Writing the letter

This Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy will help you with composing your letter.

Church Records

  • Church records are vital records kept by priests and are often called parish registers or church books. They include records of christenings (baptisms), marriages, and deaths (burials).
  • Church records are crucial for research before the civil government started keeping vital records, which began about 1796.
  • Roman Catholicism has been the pre-dominant religion in Belgium.
  • To learn more about church records, see Belgium Church Records.

1. Online Digital Records for Church Records

For most localities, digital copies of church records are included in the civil registration online collection. Church records prior to 1796 were considered to be the country's civil registration:

2. Microfilm Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

Icon-warning.png

There are many microfilmed records available but not included in the online collections above. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you.
To find a microfilm:

a. Click on this link to see a list of records for Belgium, Liège.
b. Click on "Places within Belgium, Liège" and a list of towns and cities will open.
c. Click on the town or city you wish to search.
d. Click on "Church Records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct event and time period for your ancestor.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm 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.

3. 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) Liège
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


Reading the Records

  • Records are most commonly written in Dutch, but may also be in German or French. You do not have to be fluent these languages to read your documents! Genealogical records usually contain a limited vocabulary. Use this Dutch Genealogical Word List to translate the important points in the document. If you find that the records are written in German, or French, click on that language link in this sentence.


  • Also, the handwriting can be slightly different, so you will want to watch these lessons, as needed, depending on the pre-dominant language in the region your ancestors lived:


Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The Dutch Alphabet.
Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Dutch Words and Dates.
Reading Dutch Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Dutch Records.


Reading French Handwritten Records Lesson 1: The French Alphabet,
Reading French Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Key Words and Phrases
Reading French Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading French Records


German Script Tutorial
Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 1: Kurrent Letters
Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Making Words in Kurrent
Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Kurrent Documents

Tips for Finding Your Ancestor in the Records

  • Effective use of civil registration and church records includes the following strategies:
  1. Identify your ancestor by finding his birth or christening record.
  2. When you find an ancestor’s birth or baptismal record, search for the births of siblings.
  3. Search for the parents’ marriage record. Typically, the marriage took place one or two years before the oldest child was born.
  4. Search for the parents' birth records. On the average, people married in their early 20s, so subtact 25 or so years from the marriage date for a starting year to search for the parents' birth records.
  5. Search the death registers for all family members.
  6. If you do not find earlier generations in the parish registers, search neighboring parishes.
  • Marriages were usually performed and recorded where the bride lived.
  • Do not overlook the importance of death records. Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information about a person’s birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records.