The Belgian Researchers history
THE THIRD DECADE AND AFTER
By Regine Brindle
In 1998 Pierre Inghels approached me about taking charge of The Belgian Researchers. He and his wife Leen had nurtured the organization for 10 years and felt like it was time to pass the reins to the next generation. Their health had been failing of late and they were tired.
It came as a total surprise to me and although I was thrilled at the idea to have a say in what was going to be put into Belgian Laces, I shrank at the size of the task.
Leen and Pierre had set high standards for Belgian Laces. It was known as a high quality newsletter. I had no experience. I had just barely learned to use a computer and made my first steps online. I was way out of my league. But it felt like The Belgian Researchers were coming home, to me and I could not say no. I accepted the challenge but asked for a transition period during which I could first get my feet wet with editing Belgian Laces. Leen continued to help for a couple of issues and then it was time to let go.
The membership had grown at an incredible speed thanks to Georges Picavet’s support through his Belgium-Roots mailing list and website. It had swelled to 800 by January 1999. Not all 800 were still current members but I still printed more than 450 issues of Belgian Laces every quarter and I too had to enlist the help of my family members to get the newsletters on their way.
In fact it was too much and the legal responsibilities of the organization too dear. I wasn’t ready to advertise. My cup was already full enough, but it was time to bring The Belgian Researchers into the cyber age. Guy Gallez had suggested several times at the digitization of the old issues and I liked the idea but the task was daunting. Denise Fransaert-Corke suggested we needed a new index to cover the second decade’s issues (1988-1998), along with a couple of years of the third decade. I was grateful for her having volunteered to take on this task, while Matt Verona took on digitizing the first index.
Once these indexes were done we had to post them online somehow and I could not think of a better way than to create a mailing list of our own on Yahoogroups. This enabled us to upload files, pictures and databases as well as provide a means to communicate with the members at large. It worked but I always had a misgiving at using a free webpage for our membership. That’s when I opened a site with MyFamily and there we began to post histories and files that could help our members.
Glenn Cleereman took over managing the Yahoogroups and suggested we create a logo for our organization. The members were given the choice between 5 different logos and voted by mail as well as on the Yahoogroup.
We kept MyFamily for the members and the Yahoogroup for everyone interested in Belgian research, but there was a limit as to what and how much could be uploaded to either site.
Guy and I began digitizing the old issues of Belgian Laces and within a couple of years, it was done. They were all uploaded to MyFamily where Guy Gallez revamped the page to provide the members with an easier access to the older issues and posted the winning logo at the top of the page.
It was now time to address the building of a new site where we could share materials that would be of help to all researchers and we were given space on Rootsweb. Guy Gallez is the webmaster.
He has really done a marvelous job creating a space where we could display the work of our members as well as link to less than well-known Belgian sites where generous people had uploaded their indexing work.
Guy’s Civil War and Ship lists site were our first big addition.
Then we added Elaine Putman’s obituaries from Canada and Victoria Hospodar’s from Pennsylvania/West Virginia and Ken Guillette’s from Wisconsin.
We turned our eyes to the WWI Draft cards. An enormous portion of this was done by Chuck VandenEeden, but we also had help from many others: Therese Aguirre, Lee Carrier, Gene Jenkins, Micheline Gaudette, Linda Kincade, Trina Rabida, Kathleen Race, Cindy Roberts, Regine Brindle.
Belgian Laces also grew in size. From a 24 pages issue it currently holds 36 pages and include an alphabetical index. The complete index to Belgian Laces can also be found online and is of great value to all researchers.
To facilitate paying membership dues, especially outside the US, we opened a PayPal account.
Looking back, I have no regret accepting the Inghels’ challenge to continue their work with Belgian Laces and The Belgian Researchers. I have met some wonderful people whose goals are in harmony with ours, who have freely shared their work with us to help all researchers and with whom I am grateful to have developed friendships. I could not ask to work with a better bunch of people.
The time will come when I have to give up the reins too but until then I will strive to continue in the way of my great predecessors and will enjoy the continued support of our wonderful members.
The Second Decade 1986 - 2006 and after
The First Decade 1976 - 1986
The Purpose of Our Organization is
To Keep Alive Our Belgian Heritage
To Promote Better Understanding and Appreciation of our Emigrant Forebears.
To Promote Cooperation Between Researchers.
To Bring Together Families Long Separated.