Puzzle pieces of Limburg's heritage put together

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Text: Meyke Houben. Article De Limburger dated October 9, 2020

They have already put in thousands and thousands of hours, the volunteers who have been committed to the AEZEL Project for eleven years. The results of their efforts will be visible to everyone from 10 October 2020. On the digital platform aezel.eu, a wealth of facts and stories about Limburg's heritage has been mapped and interconnected.

You may be misled by it, but AEZEL has nothing to do with the animal to which the name refers in Limburgish. It stands for Archives for Heritage of Southern Netherlandish Properties and Communities. "The credit for this initiative is due to Martin Pfeifer of the LGGI (Limburg Genealogical and Historical Information Center)", says Corry de Koster, who, as secretary of the LGGI / AEZEL Projek, joined Peer Boselie of the Sittardse De Domijnen archive to discuss the project. “Martin came up with the idea of ​​making the history of Sittard accessible to a wide audience via the internet. There are of course numerous organizations, such as local history associations, archives or museums, that have recorded valuable information about Limburgers and their environment over the centuries. But those loose puzzle pieces become much more interesting if you can also make connections and see the broader context. And that is exactly what AEZEL does. ”


The ball started rolling when more and more volunteers applied via the Sittard-Geleen archive to digitize the enormous amount of data and bring it together in one place. Cities and villages throughout the province joined the project and AEZEL now covers most of Limburg and even Maaseik in Belgian Limburg. “We have about two hundred volunteers from Vaals to Venlo who work together with a number of archival institutions,” says Corry. “Some have been participating from the start. It is great for them that their work is finally becoming visible.”

But how exactly does AEZEL work? “It starts with digitizing factual historical information,” Peer explains. “We use geographic data, based on historical maps and current street view maps, and genealogical data, such as Baptism, Marriage and Burial registers, old photos and notary records. You can see all that information as separate atoms, which we link together via AEZEL on interactive maps to form a coherent whole. For example, we combine the cadastral data of a certain parcel with personal data from the wedding register. This way you can follow the history of that place at a glance on the map. ”


Fake news

Peer gives an example. “Take the Geleenbeek (a brook) in Munstergeleen. Along the brook, next to two water mills, stood the birthplace of Father Charles, who was born in 1821 and later canonized. On the minute plans, the map register that has been kept by the land registry since 1842, you can see the watermill and the meandering brook. The brook was later straightened, but the meandering course was restored quite recently. However, if you place the new map under the old minute plan, you will see that the stream now meanders differently than it used to. The loop has therefore not been shifted historically correct. Very interesting to see that the current Father Charles Chapel no longer borders the stream. A matter of 'fake news', we would now say."


AEZEL is there for anyone interested in the history of his or her own family, house, village or city. Corry:
“You can play with it in all kinds of ways. For example, you can recognize old castles or burial mounds
with height maps. Every grave in the old cemetery in Roermond can be visited virtually. Another part is
the Stolpersteine ​​in Sittard-Geleen, the stones in the sidewalk with which we commemorate Jewish
victims of the Nazi regime. By clicking on one of those stones, you can see the entire history of the family
that lived in that house. ”



A big advantage of AEZEL, according to the two employees, is that everything is open source. “Anyone who has already conducted research can easily link that data to the database via an Excel file by adding exact coordinates. In this way, we are increasingly adding context to the "bare" facts. A picture of an old map does not say much in itself. It becomes much more fun if, by clicking on the map, you see a picture and can read the corresponding story of the place. ”

Not only fans of cultural heritage can benefit from AEZEL, the project also has practical use, Corry believes. “The 1842 cadastre map of Sittard, for example, shows the former Putpoort, a citygate.. It is now completely underground. Suppose you want to build a sewerage system at that location, you can dig around the gate based on the map data. That saves costs. ”



AEZEL is an ongoing project, to which countless subjects and data can be added. But Peer and Corry are realistic: a lot depends on the available manpower, especially the volunteers. “There is certainly still a lot of work to be done, but we are proud of what we have already achieved. That is why we no longer want to hide our platform. We even receive praise from abroad for the way in which AEZEL came about. We hope that now all interested people in Limburg will also find their way to the platform. ”

This story was written by Corry de Koster