Yesterday, I wrote about rediscovering a website called “molenechos.org” and how I located two watermills owned by one or more of my ancestors. The search engine on the website is a little tricky, but I think I figured out how to successfully search for surnames. I searched for the surname “De Backer.” (Note the space; this is how it is spelled in Belgium.) The search resulted in 113 hits; however, I immediately eliminated the entries in either West Flanders or Flemish Brabant. I focused on place names that I recognized for the entries returned for East Flanders (Oost-Vlaanderen). The result was that I found two entries that are definitely associated with one or more of my ancestors.
Watermolen van Bavegem
I will start with the oldest entry first, and that is for a watermill located in Bavegem (Sint-Lievens-Houtem), Oost-Vlaanderen. This is the town where my “De Backer” ancestors lived before relocating to Ronse sometime in the mid-18th century. The city is located approximately 10 miles southeast of Ghent, and about 15 miles, as the crow flies, northeast of Ronse. The name of the location in Flemish is “Watermolen van Bavagem.” The original structure has been long gone.
Using Google Translate to translate from Dutch to English, the description says that a watermill on the Molenbeek River was founded before 1228 and was owned by the Abbey of Sint-Baafsabdij of Ghent. The mill was burned down in 1585 but later rebuilt. Initially, it was only a grain mill, but in 1723 an oil mill was added (probably crushing linseed to make linseed oil). Listed as the tenants in the ancien regime (in other words, in the era before the French Revolution) was one Geraart De Backer. This is my
7th great-grandfather, whom I have listed as “Gerardus De Backer,” born in 1654 and was married in 1679 in Maassem, Belgium.
All of his children were born at Bavegem, Sint-Lievens-Houtem, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium in the late 1600s. My 6th great-grandfather, Jacobus (1686-1764), son of Gerardus, moved south, first to Nederbrakel and then eventually to an area north of Ronse. In the town of Ronse, he became a bourgeoisie foraine. Translating from the French Wikipedia: “The bourgeoisie foraine, or “fairground bourgeoisie,” is the type of bourgeoisie which is recognized as an inhabitant who lives outside the town, outside the fortifications of the city. The “bourgeoisie,” in its first sense, is a citizen of cities recognized as such by urban charters, and of benefiting from the privileges granted, which supposed to live there. The adjective “fairground” comes from the Latin word foris which means “outside.”
According to excerpts from the “Familiearchief De Backer” sent to me in 2002, Jacobus De Backer was an officer of the city of Ronse. In 1734, was suspended by the intendant of the Lord of Renaix on the grounds that he “outraged the “magistrate” (city council) of Renaix”
Renaix is the French name for the city of Ronse.
The description of the mill states that the tenant following “Geraart De Backer” was his daughter Livinia and it shows that she was married three times, first to Peter Mollaert. This would be Livinia DeBacker (1695-1760), the fifth child of Gerardus and younger sister of my Jacobus. I have listed for Livinia only her first husband, Petrus Mollaert (1682-?). Her third husband must have been a much younger man, as was the custom in Flanders during that era. The evidence is that the report jumps ahead to 1812, showing the watermill as belonging to the widow of Livinia’s third husband.
De Snibbe ‘t Meerreke
Google Translate doesn’t know what the name of this second mill means in English. I think it might mean The Cross of Maarkedal. At any rate, the windmill that was once there stands no longer. The mill was apparently destroyed by heavy winds in 1936.
According to the description, this corn mill located at Nukerke (Maarkedal) on the road between Oudenaarde and Ronse was first built in the 15th century. It was destroyed in the turmoil on August 13, 1582, and sometime after 1600, the mill was rebuilt. The “turmoil” in 1582 probably refers to the ongoing Eighty Years’ War which was a war in the low countries between the people of the Netherlands and the Spanish Hapsburgs. The war lasted from 1566 to 1648.
The records show that before 1834 the owner was Andre De Backer, a farmer in Ronse, and his children. It further says that the ownership before 1873 was “Seraphine De Backer and others” and that the woman lived in Ronse.
Andre DeBacker (1751-1812) was my 4th great-grandfather. He was the grandson of Jacobus DeBacker and great-grandson of Gerardus De Backer. In my database, I have one of Andre’s daughters listed as Catherine Seraphine DeBacker, born in 1800.
For reference, here is a pedigree chart showing the direct descendent from Adrianus DeBacker, father of Gerardus, to my grandfather, Dr. Leopold DeBacker.
Here is a video showing the inner workings of working windmill: