The Family History Centers (FHC) are organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly called "the Mormons", but their facilities and infrastructure are at the disposal of any researcher. You don't have to be or become a member of that Church, nor will they make any attempt to discuss religion with you.
Click here to search for the nearest FHC.
We assume that this is your first visit to a FHC, during which you will try to find out the film roll numbers containing the civil registrations of birth, marriage, and death of your ancestors in Belgium (time frame: about 1795 to about 1870/1890).
On this first visit, you will only find out about the film roll numbers, which then you will have to order to see the actual records you are looking for. See below for some other things you may want to do (searching the AF, and the IGI).
For now, let's concentrate on finding the film roll numbers.
- Before making an appointment, make sure that you know
To help you with this, this web site contains a list of all places in Belgium, many of them with alternative spellings. If in doubt, post a query to the BELGIUM-ROOTS Mail List.
- the present name of the place your ancestors lived in
- the alternative spellings of the name of this place
- the province that place is (was) located in
- Locate the FHC closest to your residence. Address lists can be found at:
Most of the FHC can be found in or near an LDS church building.
- or at Cyndi's List under LDS & Family History Centers: www.CyndisList.com
- or in your telephone directory.
- Give them a call to find out the open days and time.
- If, after your first visit to that FHC, you are not pleased with the help you received, or if the open hours are not convenient to you, you may look for another one which may be further away. You may also try another time. Remember that the FHC are manned by volunteers; not all of them are versed in foreign research, so be patient with them as they learn with you.
- When you have fixed for yourself a date, make an appointment per telephone. Some of the FHC are small, or are very busy, and an advance booking is required to have access to one of their computers. Generally, you will be allocated a certain amount of time during which you can use the computer. If you haven't made an appointment, you may want to make sure you can get there early, to get on the computer. Alternatively, you can also access the catalogue from fiche.
- When arriving at the FHC, make yourself known, and explain to the volunteer what exactly you want to find. You may ask the volunteer to explain you how the computer operates, but you should do the research yourself.
- On the computer:
- Get into the Family Search program.
- Go into the Family History Catalogue
- Choose the "locality search" option
- the name of the place in the "City" field;
- the name of the province in the "County" field;
- the name of the country in the "Country" field.
- Press F12
- When you have the name up, press F6 to get the topics.
If no name comes up, you will need to check the spelling or try the "browse" feature. So, you will have to exit to the Family History Library catalog menu. Then choose the "locality browse" option. It will ask you to type in one word. Type in the name of the town. The following screen should give you an alphabetical listing of the word you spelled or anything close. You will have to make a decision as to whether or not the answer is the one you want or not, move with the arrow keys up and down. Press F6 when you want to see what is available on the highlighted town, county, or country.
- Choose "Civil records" to get the information on the civil registration.
- F7 will give you titles. This is a good one to press if the topics list more than one item.
- F8 will give you the detailed listing with Author / Title / Publication information / Format / Notes / Contents.
- Author: name of the town, and where the records were taken from (church or civil registers)
- Title: kind of records and dates
- Publication: Salt Lake City, Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, date
- book: usually not available at FHC satellites, unless they have been filmed; you can request copies of certain pages for a fee.
- fiche: cost effective, as they cost 15c/per, and stay at the FHC you ordered them from permanently.
- film: 35mm/8mm ; how many rolls available
- Notes: explanation of the listing
- Contents: listing of film numbers with what kind of records for what year
Generally, the decennial tables are listed first.
The actual records are usually found further down in the listing.
In larger cities like Antwerp, Arlon, Brugge, Brussels, Charleroi, Gent, Hasselt, Liege, Namur, etc, there are sometimes hundreds of films to pick from. For small villages, all records are on a handful of films.
If you have a precise date, or at least a year, don't bother with the 10-year tables, look directly for the film number that contains the record you are trying to find.
If you don't have a precise date, you should first order the decennial tables to find the precise date, and order the film with the actual records later.
- You can just write down the film numbers you require, but you can also make a printout of the listing by pressing F2. These usually cost very little, and insure that you didn't make a mistake recopying the number down.
- When you have looked through the civil records, and you wish to check out other types of records, such as church records, go back to "Topics", by pressing F6.
- Do the same thing with that topic, and any other topic you want to investigate.
- Counties/provinces have larger topic groups; worth taking a look at too (protestant parishes, ...).
- When you have decided on a film number, tell the volunteer you want to place an order. She/he will give you a order form to fill out.
The top left part will have a place for you to write down the film number.
Next, you will write down the title of the film you are ordering. (This is to help you remember what is on the film more than for anything else.)
Next your name and phone number so you can be contacted when the film comes in.
Order on "short term". That will allow you to look at the records for up to 6 weeks.
The cost for the rental is $3.25 for the film. Some FHC also charge a minor shipping fee.
Usually you do not pay the fee until the film comes in, but check with the volunteer at your FHC.
If you don't have time to view the film or if you find it has more than you can view within your allotted time, renew the rental for another $3.25, for another 2 months - "Long Term loan".
You will never have to pay for more than 2 renewals.
If after you renewed the rental once you decide you still want to keep the film handy, for later reference, another $3.25 will keep the film at your local FHC on "Indefinite loan"
If you move away, you can request that the films you placed on "indefinite loan" be sent to the FHC near where you move to, thus continuing to have access to them.
- Another interesting option of the Family History Catalog menu is the "Surname Search". This is where you will find a collection of family histories published on different emigrant families. Some may not be available on film or fiche however, but can give you knowledge of their existence. Many times, local county libraries also have a copy of these family histories and you can access them there. Use it the same way you would the other option.
Here the F7 key comes in quite handy as it gives you the listing with highlights of the book's content. If the highlights sound right, press F8 for the complete listing.
Always remember the golden rule of genealogy: go back from where you are.
- During your first visit, you will want to check the Ancestral File - AF - and the International Genealogical Index - IGI - to check for a previous submission that would allow you to save a lot of time by connecting with someone who is already researching the line. Many people get lucky. If it's not the case with you, don't despair.