Onderzoek door Jan Meulepas Sr.


Dear Cecily,

Your posting drew my attention by the mere indication 'Belgium/France' and by my belief that the surnames, 'Mallpass' and the like, are merely 'sound adaptions' of my family-name, 'Meul(e)pas'.

My family's origin is situated in Halle, Province of Flemish (*) Brabant, West of Brussels, which is nearby the prevailing 'Dutch-French linguistic border' in Belgium with, in that part, the 'Province du Hainaut', bordering France.

Most of Brabant belonged to the Duke of Brabant, except for the City of Halle, 'Hal' in French, and tens of surrounding Manors, which constituted an 'enclave', belonging to the Count of Hainaut. The ancient "Duchy of Brabant" was constituted by the prevailing Netherlandish 'Province of North-Brabant' and the Belgian Provinces of Antwerp, Brabant and adjacent part(s) of Limburg.

(*) Some 5 to 10 years ago, by the most recent in the continuous flow of Belgian Constitutional Reforms, the bi-lingual Province of Brabant has been replaced by two new ones: the 'Province of Flemish Brabant' and the 'Province of Walloon Brabant'. Note: Walloon emigrants into America settled in Nieuw-Amsterdam, now New-York, in the 'Walloon' Street, now 'Wall' Street which has nothing to do with a 'wall'.

Up to the 16th century, the name "Meulepas" was also written'Meulpas' or 'Moelpas'; 'meul' and 'moel' to be pronounced as a sound between 'mouth' and 'mole'. This could explain spelling transitions into 'Mal(l)' and 'Mul(l)'.

The old Flemish (my mother-tongue) word 'meule(n)', now 'molen', means wind- or water-mill. As the ancient Flemish / Dutch dialects developed into an independantlanguage of the German stemm, since the 8th-9th century, the origin of 'meule(n)' is the ancient German word 'Möhle', the pronunciation of which is exactly the same as for the ancient Flemish / Dutch word 'meule'.

The word 'pas'(pass), in connection with 'meule', has two different meanings:
a) the most common is 'passage' to the watermill, or 'small way' towards the windmill; on a small river, the mill owner had a simple bridge, a 'pas(sage)', constructed for his own, his clients' and his neighbours' convenience;
b) unusual, but real: 'pas' is an abbreviation of 'passer', meaning "adjuster", i.c. adjuster of the windmill wings positioning mechanism towards the changing winds, and/or adjuster of the crank-axle of the 'motor' wheel of a river based watermill.

A 'Meulepas(ser)' therefore was a highly esteemed, independent, ambulant 'engineering craftsman' profession.

In a handwritten annotation, dd April, 5th, 1932, from our late family genealogist, glued to the much older hand-designed family-tree, I read the following (my strict translation; my remarks between (..)in the text):

"According to family traditions and archives, the family "Meulepas" is of German origin. In these archives, I sometimes found this surname written as Mülepas or Möhlepas. It is for sure that, prior to 1655, only one or two Meulepas families lived in our country, in or around Brussels.

- In the book "Geschiedenis van Brabant" ('History of ..') by Rev. Goetschalckx, it is mentioned that, in 1342, a certain "Molenpas" from Goidsenhoven (now Goetsenhoven, nearby Tienen/Tirlemont, eastern part of Flemish Brabant) sold a rent on his house to the Ministry of the Church of "Onze Lieve Vrouw (O.L.V.) ten Poel" ('Our Lady of the Pool').

- In 1590, the named Jan 'Meulpas'(II) and his second wife, Catherine Grimbergs, were registered as members of the "Fraternity of O.L.V. of Halle".(*)

- Also in the book "Les Communes Belges" ('The Belgian Municipalities') by A. Wauters, a mention reveals that one of the 15 manors of the territory of Lembecq (Lembeke), near Halle, belonged to the 'Meulepas' family (since medio 14th century?), and that in 1649, on the list of Priorines of the Lembecq Hospital, figured the named Catharina 'Meulepas'."
- End of translation.-

(*) His father, Jan Meulpas I, was the owner of an oil mill and a 'herberg'(hotel, restaurant, saloon) in the City of Halle. He was also 'baljuw' (bailiff) of the Manor "Oude Heide", "les vièses bruyères",(in French, 'the old bushes') at Esschenbeek - Halle. He married Joanna Philips in 1576,died in 1578. Most probably, his son Jan issued of an earlier marriage, as well as his two other sons, Willem and Antoon.

Willem Meulpas married Elisabeth Babinga (probably of Dutch origin, according to the Frison surname) in 1601. The family tree mentions a son, Hendrik, b. Halle, 1600 (!).04.23, who moved to Brussels in 1625. It is more likely that, examining the dates, Hendrik was a son of Jan Meulpas II (see here-after).

Anyway, this Hendrik Meulpas became the head of the Brussels family-branch, which spreaded also over the Provinces of Antwerp, East- and West-Flanders and partially Hainaut, Namur, Liège, Belgian and Dutch Limburg, bordering Germany.

Antoon Meulpas married Anna Van de Velde on 1605.07.25. They got a daughter, Ida, also in 1605 (!) and a son, Jan III, in 1609. He became the Mayor of Halle around 1630. He continued the ancient Halle-branch of the family.
This branch spreaded into the Province of Hainaut, which borders France. As the Belgian borders were one of the most floating in Western Europe, it is most likely that part of the Hainaut family branch became French, living suddenly in North-France. I have no records about that 'emigration'. The Hainaut family branch is nevertheless still an important one.

Jan Meulpas II married first Catelyne De Vleminck, date unknown, who probably died childless, then the above- mentioned Catherine Grimbergs, most probably in 1590. I come to that guess, because it was custom at that time that, at their wedding, important people were 'pressed' by the Clergy to register as a - generously contributing - Member of the most important Catholic Fraternity of their region, and this 'Fraternity of O.L.V. of Halle' was - and still is! - the most important. Newly-wed brides and couples come to offer Her the bride's flower 'bouquet' and to pray for children.Our Crown-Prince Philip, Duke of Brabant, and Princess Mathilde did it after their wedding, 5 years ago. Childless wifes do the same.
This second spouse 'must' have died in 1594, since he then remarried with Joanna Bonte.
He was bailiff of Halle from 1604 untill his dead (Halle, April, 29, 1614), directly accountable to the Count of Hainaut, and therefore installed at the Castle of Halle.

Hendrik Meul(e)pas, b. Halle, 1600.04.23, got a son, Eugeen-Lodewijk, registered as Meulepas when he became officially 'Poorter'(honorary title for the citizens living within the walls, behind the gates ('poorten') of the City.)
I am one of his descendants in the Antwerp branch.

Actually, there are lots of Meulepas'ses allover the USA, "from California to the New-York Islands", and in the UK, especially Wales. The names 'Millpass' and 'Millway' appear there also.

I have no indications that members of my family, as described above, emigrated into the USA. If any, it is more likely that they came from the Hainaut/France branch and/or the Liège branch.

I have a 25 p. printed booklet, in Dutch, about " Het geslacht Meulepas" ('The Kinn Meulepas') wherein figure lots of records of the Liège, Namur and Hainaut branches, starting 1622, which I haven't put into a family branch tree yet. But I found therin no indications whatsoever about emigration to the States neither.

I therefore guess, that most of the Mulpass or Mallpass immigrants into the USA came directly from Germany/Austria, most likely from the bordering Länder with Belgium/France, such as Nord-Rheinland-Westphalen, Saar, etc..

If you or others are interested, please post a message!
You may write in Dutch, French, English, German, Italian or Spanish. I can write back in Dutch, French or English.

Kind regards,
Jan Meulepas,
b. Antwerp, 1938.03.15, 8.25 AM, GMT+1,
Find an aim in life before you run out of ammunition. {Arnold Glasow}