Convents have a wealth of information if you know where to look. I found a lovely entry in the monastery profession book of the Black Sisters in Mechelen.
Between 1558 and 1593 a few of these sisters entered the order of the Black Sisters, which was a lay congregation, and followed the rule of St. Augustine. It is also recorded when they passed away.
These are their names:
· 1558 Gertrudis Wellens, passed away on 18 Oct 1622 at the age of 90
Gertrudis Wellens, upon entering in 1558 she was 26/27 years old. She was born around 1532 and lived to be 90 years old.
Gertrudis, or Gertrude, is a Germanic name consisting of 2 parts. The first part, Ger, means spear, the second part ‘could’ be seen as similar to Drude ‘witch’ in Germanic. With this explanation the name resembles Walkure (Valkyrie), one of the goddesses of the battlefield and victory. It is also possible Trudis is closely related to the Germanic word Traut, meaning loved.
Wellens is originally a Flemish and Dutch family name. Wellen is related to William, making Wellens a patronym. Wilhelmus Wellens can be found in the Mechelen city archives as early as 1460, this could be a distant relative.
· 1574 Maria Cauwelier, passed away in 1603
Maria Cauwelier, not much is known about her age at the time of her passing. Her last name Cauwelier could either come from old French chevelier meaning cellar master OR caulier meaning chalk maker.
· 1578 Anna Schreuens, passed away 21 Feb 1623 at the age of 77
Anna Schreuens. Born around 1546, entered the convent at the age of 32. The Mechelen archives only have this one entry for her, so I cannot find out (yet) if she was a late bloomer or perhaps a childless widow who took the veil later in life.
The name Anna is closely related to the Hebrew name of Hannah, meaning ‘grace’ or ‘beautiful’.
The familyname Schreuens comes from the word schrooier, which could have been one of these 3 professions: tailor, wine carrier, or coin maker.
· 1588 Maria van Hoeght, passed away 13 Sep 1629
Maria van Hoeght. Hoeght comes from old Flemish, meaning height which makes it a toponym. There is no other information on her.
· 1593 Elisabetha Pallets, passed away 19 Nov 1622 at the age of 69
1593 Elisabetha Pallets, born around 1553, she entered the convent in 1593 at the age of 40.
Elisabeth comes from the Hebrew ‘Elisjewa’ meaning something along the lines of “God has my oath”. In the bible, Elisabeth was the wife of Zachary and mother to John the Baptist.
The name Pallets could refer to a painter’s palette.
Please note that the names are not normalised; they contain ‘typos’ which is what we like in medieval sources.