Petrus Bernardus was the fourth child of Jacobus Bernardus and Apolonia. He married with Sylvie Taets. She was born in Watervliet op 17/7/1821, the daughter of Jacobus Taets and Catharina Van Hercke. Petrus Bernardus couldn't sign his name unlike the bride and her mother.
They were innkeepers in the Notelaer (Walnut tree) hamlet on the Graafjansdijk (Duke John's Dyke) in Boekhoute, near his brother Ferdinand.
In those days we had in Flanders on average one inn (or alehouse)
per hundred inhabitants or 1 house in every 15 to 20 houses. People
drank beer: 180 liters per person per year. (2 pints or 57.75 cubic
inches is 0.946 liters.)
The quantities of wine consumed were very small.
Since the 18th Century there was also gin made with grain
(although with a lower alcohol content than nowadays because of technical
problems in the distillation). On average 6 liters of gin were served
per man per year. (Source: Chris Vandenbroecke, "The Social History of
the Flemish People").
This high alcohol consumption was not only the result of the high salt contents of food. Salt was almost the only way to preserve food. Poverty and misery were especially blamed for alcoholism, no matter how hard the village priests preached and raised the devil against it.
The fact that Petrus and Ferdinand lived so near to each other had its advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps things didn't always improve when Sophie also put in a word or two: on 22/8/1868 Ferdinand and Sophie were summoned in court for insulting each other. By the decision of the court they were each fined 2 francs. They also had to pay the legal expenses which amounted to 4,10 francs. That was approximately a week's wages for a labourer.
Like his brothers Petrus Bernardus also worked as a day labourer on nearby farms. This was heavy manual labour and not very well paid. In the "Gazette van Eeclo" of 5 September 1886 there is a bitter complaint about the working conditions and pay of the farm workers but not till after the First World War did their lot gradually improve.
How much does a worker, a labourer working out in the open, earn ?
For spading, digging, felling, threshing, etc..., that is work for slaves, the daily wages are eight to maximum ten pennies (72 to 90 cents) excluding board (food) - yes, what food !
For those wages they work from 5 in the morning till 8 in the evening. At lunch time they have 2 hours off to eat and to rest; but this break for rest exists only from May till 15 August. No pause for rest outside this time of the year, at noon, when the food was eaten, immediately back to work, or rather back to the labour.
No exception to this rule. There are even regions here abouts, where the wages are even less, only six to at the most 8 pennies (54 to 72 cents). And beware: one has to be an adult day labourer to earn that much.
For the harvesting work, which is considered special work, one is paid a little more; 12 pennies per day, excluding food: 1.09 francs for thirteen to fourteen hours of labour in the open field under a burning sun.
And no hope of higher wages, no prospect of improvement, because the farmers themselves are poor.
It's true, the women also earn something: 6 pennies (54 cents) on top of the food, for weeding, for gathering potatoes, etc although that only lasts a short while, and then, especially in the worst part of the winter, there is no work and nothing to be earned, not for the day labourer and not for the woman labourer."
Source: De Gazette van Eeclo (The Gazette of Eeclo), 5 September 1886
(1 franc of 1886 is equivalent to about 4 euro in 2001.)
There is no question that the family of Petrus Bernardus and Sophie were pretty poor. In 1864 their son Petrus was one of the 46 boys and 34 girls who received free education at the town school of Boekhoute.
After the great crisis of 1840 to 1850 attempts were made to send children between ages 7 and 14 to school. The children of the poor received a free education. But later on this measure was extended to allow more and more children to benefit from it. And the number of pupils who didn't have to pay increased rapidly. There were 80 in the School Year 1864-65, 101 the year after, 121 the year after that. In 1870-71 there were as many as 90 boys and 71 girls who took advantage of this measure. And at the end of the 19th Century their number had doubled once again. On the one hand the population and the number of children had increased dramatically and on the other hand people were allowed ever more easily to take advantage of it.
Naturally most people considered it an honour to be able to pay for the education of their children. And this too has to be taken with a grain of salt. On 23 March 1847, when few people were still unaware of this measure, the teacher, Engelbert Van Vooren, wrote "Although I have only three children among my non paying pupils, there are nevertheless several who haven't paid me half and many who for a long time haven't paid anything at all; but the pretensions to honesty of their parents forbid me to disclose their names."
Not only Petrus but Ferdinand and Philomena also enjoyed a free education. This was not the case for Petrus Bernardus' first born, Charles-Louis.
Sophie died in Boekhoute on 1 May 1891. We have not found a death certificate for Petrus Bernardus. Perhaps he went to live in with his daughter Philomena.
Petrus Bernardus and Sophie Taets had 6 children:
All about Jacobus Bernardus (B V b) and Apolonia Pauwels.
Most recent update : 05-02-2018