Tag Archives: immigration

Preparing your research at the Belgian State Archives

Because archives are not always only one block away from you, or because their opening times don’t suit you always well, you most probably will need to do as much preparatory and research work as possible before and after your visit. In order to know how to plan your visit to the archives the best way possible, it is of utmost importance to know what you should and what you should not expect at the archives.

It is for that reason that I’ll try to share in this article some of my personal tips for doing research in the Belgian state archives while focusing on the alien files (click here for an overview of other articles with tips ont doing research at the Belgian archives on this website).

I’ve explained a bit about the numbers which were assigned to each newly opened file (see: “An introduction to the Belgian Statearchives and its immigration files”). When you are looking for a specific relative, you obviously need to get the number of that immigrant’s file. Now, the reading room at the state archives have three sets of indices to the files at your disposal. These indices are copies of the originals. The originals can obviously not be borrowed out to the visitors, what you’ll get instead are the copies in various formats. The format of each copy depends on the index you’ll need, see later).

The originals of the indices are papers in an A3 format with small cards pasted on it. Each card has on it the number of the person’s file and very basic information of the persons such as the first and last names. Additionally to that information, you may find sometimes the date of birth, the place where s/he was born, the occupation of that person, the partner, etc.

An example of how the top row (with tree cards) of one copied A3 page from the index looks like on the microfilms (it did not come out clearly with my digital camera therefore I had to note it down on a piece of paper). Note the details in this index. On the top we see the starting letters for this page (TIMBER).You see for some people the details of the partner (the name, the file number, etc). For most of the people you see also the DOB and the place where they were born. The file number is obviously still the most important piece of information on these cards.

This all means that Continue reading Preparing your research at the Belgian State Archives

An introduction to the Belgian Statearchives and its immigration files

The Public Safety Organization:
In 1840 the Belgian state, which was founded in 1830, entrusted the Public Safety (in Dutch: Openbare Veiligheid, in French: Sûreté Publique, in German:Öffentlichen Sicherheit) which was an autonomous board under the Minister of Justice, to monitor the aliens on its territory.

Note: Both Dutch, French and German are spoken in specific parts of Belgium as can be seen on the following map:

In order to preserve public order, the Public Safety Organization had to remove undesired aliens from Belgium’s territory. In order to be able to implement this order, they had to rely on the support from the municipal authorities who had in their turn to report each registration of any alien in the register of the municipality as soon as possible to the Public Safety.

This Public Safety organization would then decide whether the person could remain in the country. If this was the case, the Public Safety organization would keep a close eye on the alien citizen during his or her stay in Belgium. All authorities, including the army and the judiciary, were supposed to forward any document about the foreigner to the Public Safety Organization.

How was the information collected:
Most information was obviously gathered from aliens who voluntarily went to the municipalities to register. In addition, information was directly obtained by the police who found foreigners on Belgian territory and of foreigners that had to resort to the use of public services such as hospitals, etc.

Some files were opened on aliens even though they never reached Belgian territory. The organization opened these files preventively for “subversive” and possible criminal foreigners in order to be prepared in case they would enter Belgian territory.

When the foreigner in question passed away or Continue reading An introduction to the Belgian Statearchives and its immigration files

Immigration files in Archives of Antwerp & State Archives of Belgium

In the courtyard of the Felixpakhuis complex

I posted a few times in a few newsgroups/forums with as subject Jewish Genealogy a short explanation on the files in the Belgian archives.
I hope to publish once an article on my blog with more details about my experience in the archives, for the moment being I think it could be useful for other researchers to read the following short explanation according to my view:

Usually all documents were kept in twofold. One copy stayed in the city/town and the other copy went to the state archives in Brussels.
In Antwerp you have a few boroughs which have separate administrations and were independent cities/towns . Nowadays these cities/towns are part of Antwerp, the most interesting boroughs for Jews researching their ancestors is: Borgerhout, Berchem and Antwerpen. The archives from the other boroughs besides, Antwerp, are not in the felixarchief (each city could choose whether to save the files or whether to throw them away). Continue reading Immigration files in Archives of Antwerp & State Archives of Belgium