For those of you who are exploring your ancestral origins in Belgium a book I would advise you to read is A Family from Flanders by John Peters.1 You might be saying to yourself: Flanders! I thought this was a book about Belgium. Modern-day Belgium did not exist until 21 July 1831, Belgium National Day—the day Leopold I, a German prince, was installed as King of Belgium after having refused the crown of Greece. Before this day Belgium was what was known as the Low Countries—an area made of modern-day Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands and a portion of Northern France and Western Germany. Flanders is generally considered the area framed by the North Sea, the River Scheldt(or Schelde or Escaut, depending upon your orientation) and the area known as Artois in northern France.

A Family from Flanders was John's narrative of his activities to continue the search begun by his father in the 1930s to understand the connection, if any, between the Peters family of East Kent with a physician, Peter de la Pierre, an émigré from the Continent, who lived in Canterbury. His efforts were obviously enabled by having access to some of the renowned archives of the area including the Royal Library of Belgium, the libraries of universities of the Netherlands and the archives of the French Departments of Nord and Pas-de-Calais plus historical societies and organization like the Huguenot Society of London and the Central Bureau of Genealogy at the Hague.

The text provides an excellent historical account of the events from 1500 to 1700 which instigated the three exodus of diaspora from Flanders—the Reformation, the Troubles, and what may have seemed to the Flanders inhabitants as constant warfare among Catholics and Protestants, Spain and France, and the Seven Northern Provinces and Ten Southern Provinces (which were to become modern-day Netherlands and Belgium).

As Flemings (those who spoke the Flemish dialect of Low German) and Walloons (those who spoke French dialects Picard or Walcq) left their homelands to escape the turmoil, lowly clerks in receiving countries and naturalization played havoc with ancestral family names compounding the difficulty of tracing ancestral origins. The book indexes many northern French and Walloon names since John's search focused upon that area of Flanders.

The book's bibliography lists the many sources consulted. Finding them might be a challenge, as is noted, they are "...old or obscure...". I visited Royal Library of Belgium to search one such source, Le Conseil des Troubles: liste des condamnés 1567-77 [The Council of Troubles: list of the condemned 1567-77] edited by A.L.E. Verheyden looking for a family name but to no avail.2

My copy of A Family from Flanders is a used, hard cover, first edition. Given the price was £12.95 in 1985 when it was first published, a scan of popular book resellers website indicates that a used copy can still be acquired at a reasonable price. It's an inspiring story of generations found.

1 John Peters, A Family from Flanders (London: William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd, 1985).
2 A.L.E. Verheyden, editor, Le Conseil des Troubles: liste des condamnés 1567-77 (Brussels: Commmission Royal d'Histoire, 1961).

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