Via Belgium

Long before the European Union existed, people were migrating to London from far and wide.  Just across the "English" channel was Belgium, a nation formed only in 1830.

In the 1870s, the Belgian branch of my family migrated to London. In view of this, most of my research of Belgian records has involved pre-1880s documentation.  It has certainly been an interesting, exciting and surprising exploration from my point of view.

I try to imagine the various challenges of language and literacy my great-great-grandparents would have faced.  Although such obstacles were probably difficult enough for my uneducated English and Ulster forebears, they must have been much more so for my Belgian ancestors.

Although they lived mainly in Soho from the 1880s to the 1910s, an area known as a destination for foreigners over many generations, my Flemish ancestors lived near Antwerp earlier in the 19th century.

Just as today, family life in the 19th century was rarely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Being prepared for the spice of life can turn family history research into an endlessly surprising journey.

If you have already had a genealogical look around Ancestors Within, is it because your family history explorations have taken your research via Belgium?

You may be interested in the origins of family names.  The paintings illustrating this page are by Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans, an artist who was born in Lier, the same Flemish town where my Gysemans ancestors lived in the early 1800s.

For anyone just starting out with family history research, especially Belgian family history research, I hope this blog is helpful.  In the 19th century and early 20th century, families were often much larger than they are today in western societies.  There are often so many cousins and second cousins out there today that new discoveries can feel overwhelming

Put everything and everyone into the family history picture requires a sense of purpose.  In my own case, I begin with questions I want to answer.

One of the things I have been doing is getting to know great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers, within reason.  They are people often unknown to history except through family discoveries. 

I enjoy the joy of genealogy, especially when discovering new facts about my ancestors.  There are also the issues of consanguinity, affinity, peace and privacy to consider when interacting with other family history researchers.

Art, artistry and craft skills can provide insights into the activities of ancestors.  For example, my husband's Italian heritage is linked through one branch of his family to the harpists of Viggiano.  My Belgian ancestors are linked to textile industries and tailoring.

When considering location in family history research, it can be hard to imagine how our ancestors lived even if we know something about where they lived.  If you have a similarly mixed cultural heritage to my own, how was Christmas usually experienced by your ancestors?  Where and how did your family traditions originate, and why?

My great-grandfather, whose parents were born in Belgium, brought his own family up in Finsbury Park in London.  It was obviously an area away from the coast.  Like his Belgian forebears, and many of my other ancestors, my great-grandparents lived inland.

During her first marriage, my Belgium great-great-grandmother lived in Molenbeek.  As far as I am aware, she grew up closer to the centre of Brussels.


No comments:

Post a Comment

I especially appreciate historical insights.