Newly searchable newspapers in Belgium

The Royal Library of Belgium has scanned and indexed ten historical newspapers from Belgium, and set up a search interface for them called BelgicaPress.
flemish-newspaper-1918
The newspapers currently include:
  • Courrier De L’Escaut (Le)
  • Echo De La Presse (L’)
  • Gazet Van Brussel Handelsblad (Het)
  • Indépendance Belge (L’)
  • Indépendance Belge (L’) (Edité en Angleterre)
  • Messager De Gand (Le)
  • Nieuwe Gids (De)
  • Nieuwe Standaard (De)
  • Nieuws Van Den Dag (Het)
While I don’t have a breakdown of the ranges of each paper, the database of all the papers together ranges from 1831 until 1950 – with a big caveat. While you will get search results for all matches in the database online, all results from 1919 until 1950 are only viewable from within the Library itself, due to copyright issues.

That caveat means the database is almost useless for me (at least online), since although I had a lot of family in Belgium, almost all of it arrived there in the 1920s.

That said, if you have a fairly unique surname (that isn’t translatable into Flemish or French), and you get many results from the 1919-1950 period, you might at least know its worth checking into and ask someone in Belgium to do a search in the library for you.

Of course, there are other things that would be interesting to search besides family names. You could search for your ancestral town name, and see if other people from your town are mentioned in the newspapers. you could also search for information on the Jewish communities there, by using search terms like Jew or Jewish (Jood and Joodse in Flemish, Juif in French). If there were major news items concerning the Jewish communities in other countries (such as pogroms) it’s possible those might also show up.

One final note. The site is, as would be expected in Belgium, is available to use in Flemish (NL) and French (FR). I discovered, however, that secretly it also works in English. While there’s no link from the Flemish or French versions of the site to the English version, use the link above and it will indeed go to an English version of the site. Sometimes it might forget you’re using it in English, and not everything is translated, but it’s not bad. It was definitely developed to work in English, even if they haven’t active that yet on the site. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the English version available one day directly from their main site, but until then, the above link works.

If you find yourself on a page that is in Flemish or French and want to see if it’s in English, look at the URL in the address field at the top of your browser and see if it says “lang=FR” or “lang=NL” in the string. If so, just replace the FR or NL with EN and hit return.

Attending the Int’l Conf. on Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem this summer?

Will you be attending the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) International Conference on Jewish Genealogy (seriously, they need a shorter name) this summer in Jerusalem? I will be giving two lectures at the conference:











The links for each lecture above go to Facebook events I’ve set up for each lecture. If you are going to be at the conference and plan to attend a lecture, you can join the event now if you’d like. Even if you cannot attend, please feel free to go to the event on Facebook and ask questions on the topic of the lecture, and I will try to respond.

The Israel State Archives are heading online

The Israel State Archives has announced that they are close to launching a new web site with digitized versions of some of the millions upon millions of documents they hold from the history of the state. As part of the process, they showed that they’ve installed a Google Search Appliance in their computer rack to help index everything:

google box

They also said the new site will launch sometime this year with millions of records in the first collection released, with subsequent releases over time. This was presumably made possible by their move last year into new facilities, which probably had scanning equipment installed as part of the upgraded facilities.

I did some research in the old building where the Israel state Archives were located. I’m happy they have better facilities and that new technology and is going to allow many more people to access the records they have. Some years ago I posted an index to the publications in the Israel State Archive that were from the British Mandate Palestine government. This was a 111-page printout listing the documents in the archive’s possession that were published by the British Mandate government that controlled what is now Israel (and briefly what is now Jordan) for nearly 30 years from about 1920 to 1948. I was able to copy the document in 2011, but if you look at it you can see it was printed in 1993. It was so old they didn’t have the computer file anymore, or perhaps didn’t have a computer capable of reading it. I seem that now under the leadership of State Archivist Yaacov Lozowick (see him on Twitter) that they’ve finally getting their act together and will be bringing their 19th and 20th century records into the 21st century of technology. While many records are not necessarily relevant to genealogy, there are a tremendous amount that are, including early census records. For anyone researching family in Israel (which is pretty much anyone Jewish) the Israel State Archives site will certainly be an important place to look when doing your research. Looking forward to its launch later this year.