Brabant Wallon Brabant Vlaams Brabant

In the 11th century, the Duchy of Brabant had been founded by the union of several counties under the rule of the Count of Louvain. In 1430 it was transfered to the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon, then to the Austrian Habsbourgs and later to the Spanish ones. The latter recognized in 1609 the right of the United-Provinces to the northern part, which still exists in today's Netherlands under the name of Noord-Brabant. Under the French occupation, from 1796 to 1815, Brabant was called the "Département de la Dyle".

The Province of Brabant, as determined after the independance of Belgium in 1830, covered 3283 km²(1268 sq miles). Located in the middle of the country, it surrounded Brussels, the Capital of the Kingdom. However, this Province was only a remainder of a more extended area, divided since then between Belgium and the Netherlands, and with a rich and diversified history.

More recently, in 1995, the Province was divided into two parts. The North, including Flemish-speaking populations, is now the Province called "Vlaams-Brabant", and the South, French-speaking, is the "Brabant Wallon".

Nil St Martin, Church
(photo R.Herbigniaux)

Today's Brabant Wallon (Walloon Brabant) covers 1090 km²(421 sq miles) and has 342.000 inhabitants. It is located west from the rich fields of the "Hesbaye" ("Haspengouw" in Flemish), agricultural lands largely cleared many centuries ago. Up to the middle of the 20th century, the main crops were wheat and sugar beet. Today, agriculture has lost its importance. Various industrial activities have been developed and numerous residential areas have been created.

Brabant, at the limit between two languages and two cultures, was for centuries an area with exchanges of populations. This can be observed by the mixing of surnames on both sides of the "language border", as well as in the marriages between those communities, which is the case in my family's origins.

Walhain, House of Vincent Herbigniaux

My father's line Herbigniaux finds its origin in the area of Meux, Liernu and St Germain. Some migrated then to Grand-Leez and Walhain. Another group, in Marbais, moved to Nil St Vincent and also Walhain. No Herbigniaux is found in Walhain before 1800. Other origins are in Chastre and Tourinnes-la Grosse / Beauvechain. At this stage of research, it has not been possible to find a link between these groups. The same surname is found around Charleroi. This is probably a more recent origin, due to the attraction of the industrial development.

Vossem, Church
Detail of the door
(photo R.Herbigniaux)
My mother's line Dewit has a Flemish origin, in Vossem and then in Huldenberg. Guillaume Dewit, in 1790, married in St Lambert-Libersart, and started a prolific line of descendants. Among them, an important line emigrated to the USA in 1856, on which an extended research is being made at this time. (see

To know more about Brabant, visit the following Web sites :
Province of Walloon Brabant. Economy, tourism, history, cities, culture (museums, libraries, theater...). University of Louvain-la-Neuve. In 4 languages.
Province of Flemish Brabant. In 4 languages.
Commune of Walhain, grouping the former communes of Walhain St Paul, Tourinnes St Lambert and Nil St Vincent St Martin, where the geographical centre of Belgium is located. In French.
City of Wavre. Business, culture, history. In French.

Huldenberg, Church
(photo R.Herbigniaux)
Castle-farm of Corroy-le-Grand
Entrance porch
(photo R.Herbigniaux)