Civil Status of Westflanders

The Act of September 20, 1792 orders the local government to register births, marriages and deaths. Art. 2 and 6 of the Constitution of the Empire of December 13, 1799 confirm this. The Decree of 17 January 1806 performs a uniformal register. The registers which you can consult in the State Archives in Bruges and Courtrai refer to West-Flemish municipalities. They run from 1795 to 1910. These registers contain ALL births and deaths of the municipality. When the Frenchman gave up eventually the idea of the canton capital, he sat with the fact of incomplete civil status per municipality.There are a number of municipalities which have copied these documents in the year XI (the date of the deed is still Vendémiaire Brumaire or XI, but if you look closely to the birth dates they go even back to the year V). Now, if a number of municipalities have made this decision for the births and deaths, I can imagine that there are municipalities which also have taken the same decision for the marriages, which would explain existence of duplicate certificates.


Search screen-Births

The birth registration is done at the municipal civil registry of the place where the baby came to the world within three working days after birth. Weekends and holidays are recognized as not included. Hence, the certificate date can be a few days after birth. Certificates in the registers are arranged chronologically according to the declarations of registered births. For us, the date the certificate is important as they indicate where the certificate can be found ..

The Code Napoleon forced the people to show the newborns. Now that screening was not done at town house, it was the registrar on the spot, took note of all data from the newborn, his parents and two witnesses. Earlier, the birth had to declared within 24 hours and the child had to be shown to the registrar for sex control (military service). Witnesses were usually relatives, friends and residents of the 'village' and a lot of 'local pub owners'.


Search screen-Marriages

The French law of 1792 stipulated that the marriage had to be at the municipality of one of the spouses. Subsequently, the law of 1797 stipulated that the marriage should take place during the 'decades' in the capital of the canton. In the years VII and VIII the marriages were concluded in the respective canton capitals. In the year X, in different cantons, the marriage records were copied in the marriage registers of the respective municipalities; not in others.


Search screen-Deceased

The registrar arrived at the place where the deceased person was, and he wrote later the certificate in the death register. The death Certificate is prepared by the registrar of the place where the person is deceased after a death certificate was submitted by a relative of the deceased or by a third person providing the information which are required for the preparation of the aforementioned Act. An extract thereof is then redirected to the residence of the deceased and where it is also registered. This also applied to the deceased soldiers during the wars under Napoleon unless major battles.