Why Lëtz Research? Luxembourg is known as Lëtzebuerg by Luxembourgers (Lëtzebuerger) and this is about genealogy research in/for Luxembourg. So instead of Let’s Research…
Genealogists who have Luxembourg ancestry are fortunate in that FamilySearch has the digital images online of civil records, church records, census records, and notarial records. Nearly all of these are image-only, i.e. have not been indexed and are browse-only.
Birth, marriage, and death records found in the civil records collection are the first and easiest to research. Although volunteers are working on them, only a little more than 100,000 of these records have been indexed. The birth and death records have four records per image while the marriage records have two records per image. There are 716,518 images. Let’s assume an average of three records per image = over two million records which need to be indexed.
There’s no need to wait until indexing is finished. Even if the collections have not been digitally indexed, there are internal indexes which can be used to find records. This is the case for most collections no matter where the location. For example, will books in U.S. counties usually have an index at the front or back of the book. Clerks did not have search engines back when…so they created a list of names so they wouldn’t have to page through registers.
Index for Year
For Luxembourg after the civil records were produced the town secretary made an alphabetical index at year’s end and included it in the registers (birth, marriage, and death) at the end of the year’s records. These are most helpful when you know the date and place of an event.
If a family lived in a town for a long period of time and had, let’s say, a dozen children there is an easier way to search for the births records.
To further simplify a search, the clerks also created lists at the end of a ten-year period called tables décennales (TD). They begin in 1803. Created in alphabetical order they are arranged in order: birth, marriage, and death for the periods 1803-1812, 1813-1822, 1823-1832, etc. to 1922 the last publicly available year. The lists include the name of the person as well as the date of the event. Marriages are in alphabetical order by the surname of the groom only.
Like the yearly index which was done at the end of the year, the ten-year index was created at the end of the ten-year period. One peculiarity of both the one-year and the ten-year indexes is that they were usually used the French version of the person’s first name. Peter’s birth record may have been created for Peter while the index has the name as Pierre (Katharina=Catherine). Most names are similar in German and French, however, there are some names which can cause a bit of head scratching. For example, Stephan (German) and Etienne (French) or Wilhelm/Guillaume. This is further complicated by the old handwriting they used.
As with all indexing, there is the possibility of a mix-up in names or dates in the ten-year lists. Some may not be in perfect alphabetical order. When I’m searching for a name in the tables décennales, I always take this into consideration.
When an Index Isn’t Good Enough
Recently while working on my post, Retraction of Allegations Made Against Maisy Vesque (1913-1969), another peculiarity of the tables décennales was brought to my attention. Something we should all be aware of with any index (handwritten or digital) we are working with – an omission! We may all know this but do we always remember this may be the case?
I had checked the tables décennales for the birth of Maisy VESQUE around 1913 in Rumelange as this was the town her father lived and worked in when he married her mother in 1910. I checked 1903-1912 and 1913-1922 as I had only an estimated birth in 1913. Maisy, as I well knew, is a nickname so I was looking for any female child with the surname VESQUE. None were found. (see image above for 1903-1912)1
With A Little Help from a Friend
In my retraction post, I included a plea for help. My friend Linda K., who has come to my rescue several times, took the bait. She emailed me the date of birth and birth name. I immediately checked the TD (tables décennales) to see why I had missed it. It had been omitted from the list (see image above) but was found on the 1912 birth records’ index (below).
The record for Maria Margaretha VESQUE was easily found with the record number 107 found in the index.2 The birth record3 also included the date and place of death of the child as well as the record number in the margin which would make it easy to locate the death record – if it did not fall under the 100-year law for civil records.
A closer look at the document made me wonder if the clerk might have NOT completely filled out the record at the time the father came to report the birth and sign the record. Information appears to have been pencilled in and written over.
The lesson I learned was to check the yearly indexes even when a record is not indexed in the ten-year index as an omission is possible. The title of this post: When a record doesn’t want to be found could also read When we don’t do a thorough search to find a record. Sometimes we need to try harder to find them or admit we need help and ask for it.
- “Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1796-1941,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L97V-9BCK?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZN1%3A130319501%2C130692102 : accessed 26 September 2018), Rumelange > Tables décennales 1883-1922 > image 109 of 220; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. ↩
- Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-9YM9?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZNL%3A130319501%2C130499501 : accessed 26 June 2018), Rumelange > Naissances 1898-1912 > image 786 of 789; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. ↩
- Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-956R?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZNL%3A130319501%2C130499501 : accessed 26 June 2018), Rumelange > Naissances 1898-1912 > image 763 of 789; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. ↩