Given Name(s) Last Name

from the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 1/22/2003

More Mortier Analysis

Last week's article discussed my location of birth records for several members of the extended Mortier family in Hansbeke, Belgium. This week, we analyze the entries that were located to learn more about the family under study and to prepare to enter the information in a genealogical database.

There were twenty-four birth records for individuals with the last name Mortier in the Hansbeke records between 1848 and 1870. Even though I was really looking for the four Mortier brothers Peter, Frederick, August, and Camiel (and their potential siblings), I decided to copy every Mortier entry while I had the records at my disposal. There was a reasonable chance all the families were related.

Birth entries were located for the four Mortier brothers. The years of birth for all four brothers matched what had been obtained from American records. This was a good sign, but is not necessarily always the case. The precise date of birth did not match in all cases, but this slight discrepancy did not appear significant given the other matching information. Peter's birth from American records was in May of 1859 and the birth registration indicated July of that year. I will use July as the "official" date of birth for Peter and make a notation in my records that American sources provide a different date. My main concerns were that the place of birth; the relationship of Peter, Frederick, August, and Camiel as siblings; and the parents' names were consistent with what I had already located before I used the Belgian records. And these items fortunately were consistent.
Dates are often a little bit off.

Before doing any data entry, I did some paper and pencil analysis of the entries. I wanted to write, make notes on my copies, and shuffle papers around on a real table instead of a virtual desktop. I did not want to write on my original copies so I went to my local copy shop and made cheap copies of what I had brought home from my local Family History Library. Then I could write, staple, and mark to my heart's content on the copies I made at the copy shop.

There were several family groups represented by the records. I sorted the records into one pile for each set of parents to determine the number of family groups. I then arranged the records chronologically within each family group. Taking into account minor spelling variations (especially for the maiden name of the mother), I arrived at five sets of parents:

--- Jan Baptiste Mortier and Francisca Goethals:
Five children from 1848-1855
--- Charles Mortier and Rosalie DeMayer:
Seven children from 1851-1862
--- Bruno Mortier and Sophie Danneels:
Nine children from 1859-1866
--- Bernardus Mortier and Rosalie Mortier[sic]:
One child in 1860
--- Charles Louis Mortier and Victoria Catherine DeWinter:
Two children from 1864-1867

There's a good chance the men are related; the precise relationship hopefully can be determined from other records.

Here a Charles, There a Charles
How many Charleses are there? The Charles and Charles Louis could be the same person. My initial conjecture is that they are not for several reasons. One is that every entry with Rosalie DeMayer as the mother lists only Charles Mortier (never using a middle name) as the father. Every entry with Victoria Catherine DeWinter as the mother lists Charles Louis Mortier (using all three names) as the father.

However, the entries for Charles and Charles Louis do dovetail nicely enough that they could be the same person. Rosalie DeMeyers last child in the records was born in 1862 and Catherine DeWinter's first child in the records is in 1864. Based upon the dates and what has been located thus far, Rosalie could have died and Charles could have married Catherine after her death.

Further Speculation?
I'm going to resist the temptation to speculate further on the relationship among the five Mortier men. They did repeat some names with their children, hinting at a relationship among them.

--- Charles, Charles Louis, and Bruno all had children named Camillus. (Just because both Charles and Charles Louis both had children Camillus does not mean they are not the same person. Some families did re-use names if a child died at a young age.)
--- Charles and Bruno had children named August.
--- Jan Baptist and Charles had children named Frederic.
--- Jan Bapist and Bruno both had children named Marie.
--- Jan Baptist and Bruno both had children named Rosalie.

Some of this repetition may be coincidence; some of it may not. I should determine how common these first names were during the time period in question and whether or not there were popular figures who had these same first names.

Looking at the Whole Entry
I noted that there were several signatures at the bottom of each birth registration. One appeared on every record and in the same location. This signature seemed to be that of the official making the record. Since I had made copies of over twenty records, this pattern was easier to determine.

The other names were not quite so clear. It appeared that the father signed the document at least on some of these records. Records for the children of Jan Baptiste, Charles, and Charles Louis Mortier had signatures of the respective father's name on the bottom of the record. For children of Bernardus and Bruno, men with a name other than that of the father signed the record.

The children of Charles Mortier all had the name "C Mortier" signed at the bottom, apparently written by the same hand. One child of Charles Louis Mortier had only "Mortlier" at the bottom of their birth registration and the other child's record had the signature "Karel Mortlier." What was interesting was the world "Mortlier" looked virtually identical on both entries and in both cases included an "l." The listing of Charles as "Karel" did not concern me.

Analyzing the bottom of the records gave me additional reason to believe that Charles and Charles Louis were distinct individuals.

Months of the Year

While some months were pretty easy to translate, I found it handy to have a list of the months of the year in the Dutch language.

January ----- januari
February ---- februari
March ------- maart
April ------- april
May --------- mei
June -------- juni
July -------- juli
August ------ augustus
September --- september
October ----- oktober
November ---- november
December ---- december

If the records are entered chronologically, sometimes it is helpful to note the month before and after the desired entry if the desired entry's month is difficult to read. All of which again indicates the necessity of reading the copy as it is made from the microfilm and not waiting until you are home (or in your hotel room) to look at what you copied.

Month of Xbr.
Abbreviations are wonderful. Abbreviations can sometimes be a pain in the seat when the person who used them is dead. In this case, the registrar's notations were fairly standard and not difficult to interpret. There were birth entries for the month of "Xbr." This month was not listed on my list of Dutch months. The "X" stands for the Roman numeral "X;" literally the tenth month. We won't get into a lengthy discussion of the calendar at this point, but in an earlier time December was originally the tenth month (note the prefix "Dec" denoting "ten"). December is not the only month where you might notice this convention used. It also may happen with September,
October, and November. September may be listed as "VIIber" (also remember that "sept" means seven); October may be listed as "VIIIber" (also remember that "oct" means eight); November may be listed as "IXber" (also remember that "nov" means nine).

I may be called old fashioned, but most of this analysis was done sans computer. Next week we'll discuss the data entry of these records.

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2003, Inc.

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