Methodology Spotlight

Rubens died in Brussels, not in Middelburg!

Merchants often travel. They can have their domicile (official dwelling places) in one town, but stay in another place for a longer or shorter time. What if… in the meantime one of their children dies? Where can you find that death record? Today’s document answers this question.

Civil registrar (Middelburg, Zeeland, Netherlands), deaths 1870, record no. 278, Anne Rubens, 23 July 1870; “Netherlands, Zeeland Province, Civil Registration, 1796-1940,” digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 8 September 2020), image 250 of 599.


On 23 July 1870, the civil registrar of the municipality of Middelburg recorded the following details, taken from a death record from Brussels.

The original death record says that on 20 April 1870 the civil registrar of the municipality of Brussels registered the death of Anna Rubens, who died in that city on the 18th at 5.00pm in a house at Rue de la Verdue no. 37, 3rd floor. She was 14 years and 3 days old, born in Middelburg, daughter of the spouses Marcq Rubens, merchant, and Sophie Lappeman, who are staying in the aforesaid house but are officially residing in Middelburg. Informant was the father; witness was Meijer Efira, a 48 year old merchant of Brussels.

A copy of the original death record from Brussels was attached, and is therefore available in the death register of Middelburg.

Why two records?

Marcus Rubens, a 30 year old merchant of Middelburg, married Vetje (or Betje) Lappeman, a 18 year old woman of Amsterdam. [source] They had the following children, all born in Middelburg [source]:

  • Naatje, born on 15 April 1856
  • Ruben Marcus, born on 18 March 1857
  • Marie, born on 8 June 1859
  • Philip Marcus, born on 29 August 1863
  • Rica, born on 7 December 1864
  • Hartog, born on 27 October 1866

At some time the family left Middelburg and moved to Belgium. First they lived in Brussels, where Anna died. Later the family lived in Charleroi where Marie and Ruben married. [source]

When Anna (whose birth name was Naatje) died in Brussels in 1870, the family still had their domicile in Middelburg. According to the Dutch and Belgian law, a death is recorded in the municipality where the event took place. In this case it was the civil registrar in Brussels who recorded the death.

Because the Rubens family officially resided in Middelburg, a copy of the Belgian death record was sent to the civil registrar in Middelburg. He copied the text of the record in his own death register. By doing so, he created a new Dutch record with nothing more than the text of the Belgian death record.

A document for Anna Rubens’ death is available in Belgium and the Netherlands, but her original death record is the one in Brussels.