De Vos Almshouse, Bruges, Belgium

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De Vos Almshouse by Karla Mae

In a recent post about my children’s ancestors, De Vos family, I mentioned that it was believed that the De Vos family had built an Almshouse in Belgium.  I didn’t actually know what an Almshouse was so I set about finding out.  I love how we wade through old documents to find the information we need but I have to say how wonderful it is to sometimes have the Internet agt our fingertips.

Above is the De Vos Almshouse.  It was built in 1713.  According to my information, Olivier de Vos had already left for Ceylon by then so I wonder how much he had to do with the building of the Almshouse in Belgium.  Certainly it would seem he was making a lot of money in Ceylon so could afford it but it may have been one of his siblings.

I had expected to find out that an Almshouse was some kind of stately home and I was half right.   From the Middle Ages the wealthy citizens built Almshouses as free housing for widows, the poor and the elderly.  In exchange for free rent, the residents had to pray every day for their benefactor’s soul to be admitted into heaven when he or she passed away.  This was a daily duty and to ensure they didn’t forget, a chapel was always built in the courtyard of the property.  De Vos had eight homes originally but in recent times were converted into six.

Today, Almshouses are owned by the city and run by Social Services.  To live in one, you must be either old or poor and have been a citizen of Bruges for at least two years.

De Vos houses (2 of 6)

Two of the six De Vos houses still available

(Photos and some of my information was taken from the blog

A bit more of this other family…The Kent and De Vos Families


Charles Kent and his wife, Ida (nee De Vos) with their son, Charles (Frank) abt 1896

Charles Kent and his wife, Ida (nee De Vos) with their son, Charles (Frank) abt 1896

I think this is a wonderful photo!  The furniture, the clothing (I love the little boy’s outfit!) and their pose.  I particularly like the embossing at the bottom – Skeen & Co, Colombo.  This company was very well known and respected in Ceylon in the 1890s.
To me the picture is quite exotic and when I look at the lineage of Ida,  I can see why.  I am lucky enough to have the family tree of the De Vos family which is taken from “Genealogy of the Family of De Vos” as published in “The Journal of the Dutch Burgher Union”.  This was compiled in 1910 by Frederick Henry de Vos and revised and updated in 1937 by Mr D V Altendorff.

In the photo above are the great-great grandparents of my children (on their father’s side).  They were mentioned in my previous blog.   Charlotte Ida Elizabeth de Vos was born on 14 December 1871 at Trincomalee, Ceylon and married Charles Kent on 28 December 1895.  She was one of eleven children born to (great-great-great grandparents) Harriet Hunter (born in Scotland on 28 November 1837) and John George de Vos (born Ceylon on 5 June 1835).    His parents were (great-great-great-great grandparents) John George De Vos (born 1810) and Elizabeth Euphrosine Merciana Franke.  Going back another generation, parents of John George are (5th great grandparents) Petrus Geradus de Vos (Boekhouder – meaning accountant) (1762) and his third wife Susanna Petronella Van Dort (1790).  Petrus was born to (6th great grandparents) Pieter de Vos (Boekhouder) (1731) and his second wife, Magdalena Meyer (1744-1780).  Going back another generation, Pieter was born to (7th great grandparents) Pieter de Vos Boekhouder (1698-1734) and  his second wife, Christina Polnitz (1699-1750).  My children’s 8th great grandparents from this family were Olivier de Vos (1653-1699) and  Johanna Melchiors.  I believe he was the first of the family to move to Ceylon, travelling by ship in 1673.  And going back once more, Olivier’s parents (9th great grandparents to my children) were Victor de Vos (about 1612) and Maria Jooris (1614).

Being Dutch colonists, the De Vos family were able to take control of as much land in Ceylon as they wanted.  It was said that, at one stage, the family were very wealthy and owned up to one third of the island of Ceylon!

Two points of interest that I would like to follow up on – firstly it is said that there is a direct connection between the De Vos family and Baron de Vos Van Fleming who was created a Baron in either 1235 or 1325.

Secondly, information I have to hand says that the De Vos family built and donated Alms House in Bruges, Belgium in 1713.  Apparently it has been restored and is open for inspection as part of the National Trust.   Perhaps this is somewhere my children might visit one day.

Obviously I have more research to do on this family!


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