Hello! I wavered on whether to post this, but thought someone else may have some good advice. My grandfather was born in Ghent and emigrated to the US in the early 1950's. I know he had several siblings, so there's a strong possibility I have relatives in Belgium that I would love to track down! Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away several years ago and my father doesn't really recall much about that side of his family, let alone names. Any suggestions? I will be in Ghent next week for a day trip. :)
With that short of time to do all your pre-trip research, in addition to your pre-trip packing and checklist, you will have to do a lot of quick time internet paddling to get what you need.
As somebody who has spent many years in genealogical research in England and Wales, just looking for about 20 people, I can tell you that it isn't always easy. People move, change names, get married, have unusual family events, and all sorts. Records aren't always perfect and misspellings are rife.
In Gent you will have all that and have to do it all in Flemish. It would have been good if you had exhausted the internet before landing.
I hope the family name is a very unusual one.
If you start with your grandfather - can you get his date of birth and exact place of birth? Was it before WWII? If so, some records may have been destroyed in the war. If you can find his birth records (I don't know the Belgian system, I admit - that would be very good research for you), most places will show the names of both parents if known, and maybe an occupation. It is way too soon for census records to be released or you could see if there were siblings listed, but if you can go back another generation or two that way, then perhaps you can start going sideways.
If you can locate an address the you can see if it still exists, and perhaps ask questions locally.
In Gent the civil part of marriages are at the town hall, just near the TI, and opposite the NH hotel. I'd go in there during business hours and ask some questions.
Good luck. Sorry I haven't had more time to help you.
Ancestry.com could be a good resource for you. You can set up an account and have a free trial period (30 days, if I recall correctly). Gather up any names and dates that you may have, and plug them in. If you are lucky, you will find that some other relative has done some research and you will be able to use those links. I was able to trace some ancestors back to the 1400's in England, just by following hints discovered by others. You don't have much time, but this should only take a couple of hours. Good luck!
If you want information of the civil registration in Ghent you need to get first in contact with the “Dienst Burgerzaken” (more precise: “Loket Uittreksels van de Dienst Burgerzaken”). But you have to deal with European bureaucracy, they follow procedures, so don’t expect they jump immediatily out of their seats as soon as you arrive. Best is to E-mail them asap, with a bit of luck they can help before coming week.
Administratief Centrum Zuid
Woodrow Wilsonplein 1
Tel.: 0032(0)9 210 10 10 (Gentinfo)
The desk is not in the townhall, but in the office at the well-known Woodrow Wilsonplein, there is a direct tramline to it, takes some 5min. Ask also for their hours of opening. There are also archives in Ghent like Stadsarchief, E-mail: email@example.com and Rijksarchief, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org . But the official website, Dutch only advices to get in contact with “Dienst Burgerzaken” , the servants can help you in English. E-mail all three, who knows it helps.
I live an hour drive from Ghent and a bit familiar with the city, if you send a private message with more info I can see what I can do.