Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Flemish Origins of Baltimore

Tonight was the 47th Superbowl (American football championship) game here in the U.S. The competing teams were the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. While I supported San Francisco, I really should have supported Baltimore. For with Baltimore we have the strongest claim to a Flemish origin.

The city of Baltimore is named after the Founder and Proprietor of the Colony of Maryland, Baron, Lord Baltimore. Lord Baltimore began life with a simpler name: George Calvert.  Although born in Yorkshire, Calvert was keenly aware of his Flemish roots. In 1622, when King James I made Calvert a Baron, the official announcement read:

"we have seen an exact collection [of documents] made by Mr. Richard Verstegan an Antiquarie [=historian] in Antwerp sent over this last March 1622 by which it appears that the said Sir George is descended of a noble and ancient family of that surname in the Earldom of Flanders where they have lived long in great honor, and have had great possessions, their principal and ancient seat being in Wervik in the said province." [source: John W. Jordan, Colonial and Revolutionary Familes of Pennsylvania, Vol.2, p.1107 - spelling modified to conform to modern usage].

Given his Flemish roots, it is no surprise that Lord Baltimore's family flag was yellow and black (please see above). In fact, historians now believe that this was the first flag to be carried aloft by soldiers under the command of George Washington. More importantly, today's City of Baltimore flag is almost identical (please see below).

So, when you think of the City of Baltimore in the future - whether because of the Superbowl or some other timely reference - remember also the modest town of Wervik in West Flanders from which his family hailed. Yet another instance of an unacknowledged contribution of the Flemish diaspora to the discovery and settlement of America.

Copyright 2013 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without my explicit written consent. 


  1. Thanks David, one more thing I learned.

  2. Thank you Dirk for your kind note!

  3. Hello, I just came on your blog, I have much to read now. But I have some questions, do you still speak Flemish? Not that that's a problem for me because I have a little knowledge of English, but I'm a Flemish nationalist and I want to learn more about our people in the states, and there history and the Flemish heritage there.

    1. Hallo! Ja ik spreek een beetje Nederlands of een tussentaal, maar mijn moedertaal is natuurlijk Engels. AUB, schrijf me op debendevan @
      David Baeckelandt

  4. hello
    very intresting blog i learned a lot of it and now i know why my lastname is also in the USA and why my grandfather told me things about the history of the USA
    (its by that,that i am very intrested into the USA history i even recreated a 13 star betsy ross flag.

    and your blog encouraged me to find out more about my lastname and family and their history.

    but i have something for you that i found on wikipedia its an article called "united states of belgium" the period is 5 years after the american revolution and there are more things who are alike so i wonder if it possible it where flemish who returend from america to free their home?

    good luck with your blog
    have a nice day.

    1. Dear Anonymous from Belgium. Thank you fr your note. That is a great question. I do not know the answer but I will start to do some research. Thank you again and I hope to hear from you again. Warm regards, David Baeckelandt

    2. thanks for your fast answer i will trie to come by everyday so that i wont miss the post where the answer lies in. and if i find new things like this then i will share them with you too but thats hard if i see how much you posted allready you are i think much older then me and knows much more too.

      and your wish to hear from me again is by this granted.

      i hope i can go and visit the USA once to see it there i heard there is much nature there in comparising to europe.
      maybe to visit my family there maybe not (they never saw me but they know i excist because i got a birth card from them)

      anyway i may not tell too much that is not good.
      but i hope i can tell my story to someone of the possibility that some of my ancestors lived in the USA (just a theory but i think its possible)

      nice day to you

      ps. just maked a blog account with nickname so you know when i post something in the future.