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Archives and ARC

Belgian-American Research Collection

The establishment of this collection resulted from a grant received in 1975-1976. The purpose of the grant was to collect, identify, and catalog books, photographs, manuscripts, maps and other materials documenting people of Belgian descent living in the United States with a particular emphasis on those living in Brown, Door, and Kewaunee Counties.

To date, the Belgian-American Research Collection focuses on the rural Walloon settlements, with a limited amount of Flemish materials. The collection includes oral history tapes, photographs, maps, a vertical file, books, and manuscript materials.

Belgian Pedigree Charts

As part of the grant to create our Belgian-American Research Collection, the Area Research Center collected pedigree charts from individuals of Belgian descent. The pedigree charts are not available online, but each of the nearly 4,000 names on them is contained within an online, searchable index. You may order copies of any of these charts. If you request copies about multiple individuals that are all contained on the same chart, you will only be charged for the copying of one chart. The charts vary in degree of completeness with some having only names and family lines while others have complete event dates and locations.

What is in the Collection?

Architectural Survey

A component of the grant project was an architectural survey of Belgian-American farms in the area that had been owned for five or six generations of the same family. Oral history interviews were conducted with these individuals to record information about the farm. The grant staff also prepared original maps of the farms. The maps indicate the physical layout of the farm as well as the location of buildings and gardens. The maps contain historical information as well as information from the date of the mapping project.

A detailed photo survey and architectural notes were also conducted on log structures.

Oral History Recordings

During the grant period, oral history interviews were conducted with local Belgian-Americans. These interviews are available for patrons to hear online and in CD format in the Cofrin Library Archives Department. Copies of oral history recordings may be made for patrons upon request.

The oral history interviews cover subjects such as folklore, fishing, customs, foods, occupations, and religious beliefs. Some of the tapes contain Walloon folk songs with translations. Personal interviews were also conducted with farmstead owners to accompany the architecture survey of Belgian-American farms.

Personal interviews were also conducted with farmstead owners to accompany the architecture survey of Belgian-American farms.

A list of the interviewees and brief summary of each interview is available online. Full abstracts are available in the Belgian Collection at the Archives Department.

Photographs

The Belgian-American collection contains over 1500 photographs of Belgian families, farms, celebrations, traditions, and events. All of the photos have been digitized and are available for searching and viewing online.

Genealogy

The Archives Department houses family pedigree charts from individuals of Belgian descent. An index containing each name on the pedigree charts has been created. It is available for use in the Archives Reading Room.

Pedigree charts are still accepted from researchers of Belgian descent.

Vertical File

The Belgian-American Research Collection Vertical File is arranged alphabetically by subject. Materials in the files include newspaper clippings, reports, family histories, and recipes. The topics covered include customs, immigration, and communities. The contents of this vertical file are indexed in the Archives Reading Room.