fs Judocus and Maria Catharina Van Zele
° Boekhoute 15/4/1782
x Boekhoute 11/4/1815 Apolonia Pauwels
He was the 10th child of Judocus and Maria Catharina Van Zele and Judocus' 15th. His dad was 53 when he was born. He was also the only one to continue this branch of the family.
They had been shepherds for four generations but Jacobus Bernardus preferred to become a blacksmith.
War was in the air again when Jacobus Bernardus was a child. Emperor Joseph II was no friend of the people. And France was still there. The French Revolution reached a first climax in 1789. From 1792 on our country was now under French then under Austrian rule. With the French victory at Fleurus on 26/6/1794 it would be part of the French Empire until Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
Napoleon promulgated many laws, he was terribly allergic to everything Catholic and clerical but his period of rule brought a certain prosperity, alas not for long and not for the ordinary man in the street.
The main sources of income were agriculture and the textile industry. The population increased at a rate of 6% per annum and a quarter of the population lived in the cities. This rapid increase in population brought with it an equally rapid decline in the size of businesses and farms because they were very often split up. Around Eeklo there were many farms with only 1 hectare of land. But the Flemish farmers work their land very intensively. More than half of the land was set aside for growing grain, wheat in the polders and rye elsewhere. Leguminous crops such as peas and beans lost out in favour of the potato. Clover and rapes were grown for the animals. Rape-seed was important for the oil it provided and the Flemish flax for the textile industry was of excellent quality thanks to the supple flexibility of its fiber. A fourth of the land was grazing-land. In the first half of the 18th Century the small farmers only worked their land. Later many of them also had a weaving-loom or a spinning-wheel. During this French occupation this spinning and weaving gradually disappeared, especially in the cities after Lieven Bauwens had introduced the mechanical cotton industry.
The nobility and the clergy lost much of their power during this French period. Church property was confiscated and sold. But the great fortunes remained in the hands of the nobility and the large landowners. The big farmers in the countryside were also wealthy, even though in a few years 10 percent of them descended the ladder to rejoin the lower (poor) classes.
Farmers with medium-sized farms who had from 2 to 5 hectares could improve their lot with hard work. But for labourers, the weavers who worked at home and for those who had no land, these were difficult times: there were more and more labourers and the prices for food went up.
In 1815 the southern part of the Netherlands was reunited with the North under King William I as a buffer-state between the great powers. This state of affairs lasted 15 years until a new country called Belgium won its independence in 1830. But independence doesn't automatically bring prosperity and the first 20 years in independent Belgium were far from rosy for the common man: there were the bad harvests and the infectious diseases to add to the poverty.
The fact that Jacobus Bernardus and Apolonia had to marry was certainly no exception. Approximately a third of all first born children were conceived out of wedlock. In this period of 1870-80 only half the young brides were virgins. The mighty Church tried to impose its laws on premarital sex but the labourers and day workers enjoyed more sexual freedom than the middle classes.
Around 1820 Jacobus and Apolonia lived in the Hendeken quarter but when he died on 21/2/1834 they were housed in the Landdijk quarter ("dijk" = dyke. The Dutch "ij" letter combination is pronounced as one vowel. I can see no equivalent in English for this sound.) Only 5 weeks earlier Apolonia had given birth to their tenth child and now that the bread winner of the family had gone she was soon in dire straights.
She had to ask for help and the town councillors decided on 11 November 1835 that families in need could obtain cotton which the whole family could spin and they received approximately 70 cents for every kilogram of yarn they had spun. In 1837 Jacobus' widow, together with her daughter Sophie and her 4 youngest sons had spun 81.19 kg of yarn and thus received 54.75 franks compensation. Fifty families or 245 people in all benefitted from this measure which was in fact meant to suppress begging.
And that was only a quarter of the families whose income then came mainly from processing flax, spinning and weaving of yarn, cloth and tissue to be sold on the markets ("... hun voornaemste middel van bestaen vonden in de voorbereiding van het vlasch, of het spinnen of weven van linnen, gaeren, lijnwaden bestemd tot den verkoop op de markten"). There were then in the whole of Boekhoute 310 spinning-wheels and 62 weaving-looms in use.
They were in need of help for several more years because of unemployment. But the number of registered needy in Boekhoute increased from 154 in 1834 to 894 in 1848. And that was about a third of the population.
Apolonia was described as a spinster when she died in Boekhoute on 11 January 1856.
Jacobus Bernardus and Apolonia had 10 children:
Most recent update: 09 January 2012
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