State Archives of Belgium

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General FAQ

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You will find some answers to frequently asked questions about the Belgian State Archives.

Which archives are preserved and how can one obtain access?

Which tasks can I carry out via the website of the State Archives?

Which archives are preserved by the Belgian State Archives?

  • The Public archives form the major part of the archival items preserved at the Belgian State Archives are arranged according to two time periods: the Ancien Regime (prior to the French invasion in 1795, when a lot of public administration was abolished) and the period from 1795 until today, the Contemporary Period.
     
  • The private archives preserved at the State Archives comprise:
    • Archives of church institutions (abbeys, cloisters, churches, chapels, …)
    • Archives of private individuals (among others politicians) and (mostly noble) families
    • Business archives and archives of societies and associations having played an important role in the political, economic, cultural and social life of the country.
       
  • Various collections: maps and plans, posters and ordinances from the Ancien Regime, obituary notices, ...

Which archives and search aids are available online in digital format?

Our search engines provide an overview of the archives and search aids the State Archives offer online.

When is it useful to go to a reading room of the State Archives?

If you have found out in your preliminary research that the archives you are looking for can indeed be accessed at the State Archives repository in question.

Please note that not all archives are accessible to the public and that an access authorization is required for certain archives. You can find out how to obtain an access authorisation in the FAQ ‘How do I obtain authorisation to access non-public archive documents’?

In which cases is it not useful to go to a reading room of the State Archives?

There is no use going to a reading room of the State Archives in the hope of finding something interesting... Archival research and working in a reading room of an archives repository requires a particular type of preparation and approach.

The State Archives has authored a brochure (Dutch/French) in which you are advised step-by-step about how to improve your chances of finding the documents you are searching for within the kilometres and kilometres of archive stacks conserved at the State Archives.

Please note that not all archives are accessible to the public and that an access authorization is required for certain archives. You can find out how to obtain an access authorisation in the FAQ ‘How do I obtain authorisation to access non-public archive documents’?

Can I carry out genealogical research/draw my family tree with the help of the State Archives? How do I proceed?

The State Archives is the right place for genealogical research.

  1. You can start your research in one of our search engines:
  2. You can also search our numerous genealogical online sources:
  3. You can carry out research in one of our reading rooms.
    You have no Internet connection? All the reading rooms except the one at the Archives of the Royal Palace are equipped with computers, on which you can access our digital genealogic sources. All civil status registers can also be accessed on microfilm. Beside civil status and church registers, other State Archives sources can be relevant to your genealogical research. For instance: notarial deeds, aldermen’s court archives, population censuses, juridical archives, etc. For more information you can visit the individual pages of the different State Archives repositories and have a look at ‘What do we preserve’. If you have any question, you can always contact the State Archives repository in question.

How do I obtain authorisation to access non-public archive documents?

All archives older than 30 years that have been transferred by a public authority to the State Archives are public in principle (Law on Archives of 1955, amended in May 2009). The State Archives, while observing the protection of privacy of the citizens, shall spare no effort in making more recent archives accessible to the public. The law covering the publicity of governmental records guarantees access to these records from the moment of their creation. In some cases access must be restricted in order to protect the records. For instance, access to original documents is not granted if a copy, that is to say a microfilm or a digital copy of the document, is available. Access is also denied if the archive document risks being irreparably damaged as a consequence.

In order to obtain access to non-public archives, you must file an access request depending on which institution, person or organisation has created the archive in question:

How do I order reproductions of archive documents? How much does it cost?

The modalities and tariffs for reproductions of archival documents were fixed by the Ministerial Decree of 2 September 2011 (Belgian Official Journal of 23 September 2011). At every State Archive repository you can request these modalities and tariffs at the reception desk. You can also download the document itself.

To make copies of microfilm images you must use the reader-printer. If you ask a personnel member to make the copies for you, this will be considered and charged as a written order for copies.

Original documents can be scanned by State Archives personnel with special equipment. The scans are in greyscale and the price of a scan is the same as the price of a photocopy. These reproductions can be delivered as digital files or as printouts. If you chose the digital format, the scanned document is stored on an online server from which you can download it: You will receive an e-mail with the download link to your document(s). If you wish to have a printout (like a photocopy), you must print the document yourself via one of the computers in the reading room. Printouts via reader-printer or a printer in the reading room (scans) must be paid with an Xafax payment card.

Most orders are processed on the same day. The hours at which processing takes place are indicated on the information board. If immediate processing of your order is not possible, you can see on the board when to expect your scanned documents. You can pick them up on your next visit or you can ask to have them sent to you within two weeks in a digital format or as a printout by post. Digital reproductions must be paid in advance if you wish them to be sent to you.

Is it possible to make a reservation for archive documents in order to view them in a reading room?

Making a reservation for archive documents you can only for consultation on Saturdays.

Attention: at weekends, the reading rooms of the State Archives are usually only open on the first Saturday of the month.

Document reservations for Saturdays must be made at Friday 1.00 pm at the latest until via e‑mail, phone or letter for the attention of the State Archives repository where the documents are conserved. You can inquire if the documents are ready for you for Saturday until Friday at 4.00 pm by phoning the State Archives repository in question. If you have reserved the documents by e-mail, you will receive a confirmation e-mail as soon as the requested documents are ready.

It is not possible to make an advance reservation of documents for other days than Saturday. But you can request documents in person on any open day at the reading room counter. If you were not able to finish work on a particular document, you can ask to have it put aside for you at the counter and continue the next day. This is only possible for consecutive days until Saturday. On Monday, all documents are brought back to the stacks.

 

Which tasks can I carry out via the website of the State Archives?

Can I order reproductions of archive documents online?

For the time being, reproductions can only be ordered by sending an e-mail to the state Archives repository in which the original document is conserved.

We are working on a centralised and automated reproduction order solution via the Webshop of the State Archives. You can stay informed about further developments via news on this website, via the Newsletter and via Facebook.

Can I make an online reservation for archive documents to access them in a reading room?

You can make a reservation for archive documents per e-mail, but currently not via a dedicated web application.

One part of the website seems not work properly. What should I do?

Some pages of the website http://www.arch.be/ seem not to be functioning correctly ? Broken links? Please contact the webmaster.

For errors with the search engine http://search.arch.be/, please contact the service in charge.

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