Database of individual mortality data for Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek (1910)
Brussels had very high mortality rates in the late 19th and early 20th century. The URBAN DEATHS database was developed as part of a doctoral research project into the causes of this phenomenon and it includes individual death certificates from Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek for 1910.
Title Database of mortality data in Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek
Author: Dr. Tina Van Rossem
Region: Brussels, Liège, Schaerbeek; Belgium
Number of units: 4 900
Number of variables: 275
Format: CSV, XLS, PDF
Accessibility: No restrictions on top of the general terms and conditions of use of the Quetelet Center.
Context of the database
URBAN DEATHS is the realisation of Tina Van Rossem’s doctoral research project, “Bruxelles ma belle. Bruxelles mortelle. An investigation into excess mortality in Brussels at the turn of the twentieth century” (supervisors Professor Dr. Patrick Deboosere and Professor Dr. Isabelle Devos), which was funded by Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO).
In the 19th and early 20th century, mortality rates in Belgian cities were generally higher than those in the countryside. Individual death certificates provide the ideal source for collecting more information about this phenomenon and determining exactly who died in these cities.
The death certificates were drawn up by the civil registrars of the municipality. The civil registers contain all the records of the births, marriages and deaths that took place in the municipality. The death certificates provide various information about the deceased, such as:
- Place of birth
- Place of death
The URBAN DEATHS database was created for a detailed study into the causes of the high mortality rates in Brussels in the late 19th and early 20th century and how they relate to the living and working conditions of the deceased. In order to ascertain whether the high mortality rate was partly due to the death of persons who did not officially live in the capital, information was also collected for Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek regarding the non-registered residents who died in these cities, and the registered residents who died elsewhere (outside these cities).
What data can you find in this database?
The database (created in MS Excel) contains data from individual death certificates from Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek for the year 1910.
Deaths in Brussels, Liège and Schaerbeek
For Brussels, data were collected on all persons who died in the city in the year 1910. The database contains data on:
- Date of death
- Place of death
- Usual residence (and any official residence)
- Age at death
- Place of birth and occupation of spouse, father, mother and the two witnesses who signed the certificate
For Liège and Schaerbeek, the individual death certificates were only used to collect such information for people who had died in these cities but whose official residence was elsewhere.
Double death certificates of residents in another municipality
When a resident of a municipality died elsewhere, the municipal authorities of the person’s official residence had to be informed so that he/she could be removed from the population register. For this reason, the administration of the municipality where the death occurred had to send a copy of the death certificate to the municipality where the person had their official residence. Based on these copies, the database contains data on persons who had their official residence in Brussels, Liège or Schaerbeek, but who died in another municipality in 1910. The database contains data on:
- Municipality where the death occurred
- Date of death
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Official residence (and any usual residence)
How can you consult data from the database?
The database is managed by the Quetelet Center. Those who are interested in using the database can submit a reasoned request to staff at the center (Queteletcenter@ugent.be).
Publications based on URBAN DEATHS
- Van Rossem, Tina. “Bruxelles ma belle, Bruxelles mortelle: an investigation into excess mortality in Brussels at the turn of the twentieth century.” PhD diss. Universiteit Gent, 2018.
- Van Rossem, Tina, Patrick Deboosere, and Isabelle Devos. “De jure and de facto deaths: the impact of unregistered attendees and absentees on urban death rates in early twentieth century Belgium”. Population 73, no. 1 (2018): 89–114.
- Van Rossem, Tina, Patrick Deboosere, Isabelle Devos, and Annick Renon. “Décès de jure, décès de facto: l’impact des présents et des absents non enregistrés sur les taux de mortalité urbaine en Belgique au début du XXe siècle”. Population 73, no. 1 (2018): 91–117.
- Van Rossem, Tina, Patrick Deboosere and Isabelle Devos. Old engineers versus young domestic servants: the relationship between social class, residence, and age at death of adults in Brussels, 1910. (to be expected)
- Van Rossem, Tina, Patrick Deboosere, Isabelle Devos and T. Debroux. From residence to grave? Spatial differences in mortality in Brussels, 1910. (to be expected)