(01) Ain Capital: Bourg-en-Bresse.
Archives Numériques Départementales de l'Ain. Online: parish registers, civil registers, censuses. Wonderfully they also have put up the Tables de Succession, (lists of those who died and whether or not they left a will) and the Matricules, (military recruitment documents) for some communes. Being added in stages are the all-important notarial document registers.
(02) Aisne Capital: Laon.
On a very nice site that works well: parish and civil registrations, land records and maps, and many images of historical and genealogical value. There is a nice section on genealogy to help one get started. Additionally, it is possible via a different search page to see all documentation relating to a particular commune.
(03) Allier Capital : Moulins
The parish and civil registrations for over 300 communes are now online and free. One must click an agreement form before access is allowed. Nice site.
(04) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Capital: Digne-les-Bains
Online: parish and civil registers, annual indices, ten-year indices, censuses, land records.
(05) Hautes-Alpes Capital: Gap.
Online: parish and civil registers, marriage banns, ten-year indices. Incredibly helpful people when contacted by e-mail; they really go out of their way to help further one's research.
(07) Ardèche Capital: Privas. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, Protestant registrations, military registers, and censuses.
(08) Ardennes Capital: Charleville-Mézières. Online: the ten-year indices with a list of all communes, and land records, parish registers and civil registers from the 16th century to 1850. Civil registrations from 1851 to 1890 are almost complete.
(09) Ariège Capital: Foix. Currently not online. After two years of preparation, parish and civil registrations may be online by the end of 2014.
(10) Aube Capital: Troyes. Online: ten-year indices, post cards of various towns and villages, land records. NEW! Parish and civil registrations from 1552 to 1892 are now online. EXCELLENT ADDITION: a surname index to the registrations -- with some 200,000 names!
(11) Aude Capital: Carcassonne. NEW! Online: parish and civil registrations from 1547 to 1872 and some ten-year indices.
(12) Aveyron Capital: Rodez. New!!! Online: parish and civil registrations from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.
(13) Bouches-du-Rhône Capital: Marseille. Online: parish and civil registers, land records, censuses from 1836-1931, old post cards. NEW! Military recruitment registers from 1872 to 1912.
(14) Calvados Capital: Caen. DIRE! DIRE! DIRE news: all of the parish and civil records and the ten-year indices and annual indices have just been put online BUT there is a charge to see them. It is not much, but it still is there and we consider this to be very bad form. The site has left some interesting pictures of the Normandy invasion free to view.
(15) Cantal Capital: Aurillac. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses, alphabetic indices to military enlistments, photographs, AND notarial records and Holocaust records that relate to Cantal! In 2010, the website won a prize for the way it is possible for users to index collaboratively the civil registrations.
(16) Charente Capital: Angoulême. Online: census records for 1842 to 1872, land records, teachers' notebooks, church inventories, old post cards of local towns, villages and sites. NEW! Parish and civil registrations are now online, but there is a charge to view them.
(17) Charente-Maritime Capital: La Rochelle. Online: parish, Protestant and civil registers; post cards; photographs of the Second World War; Notarial records of Jonzac. Getting better every day!
(18) Cher Capital: Bourges. As with many, but not all, you must create an account. This will gain you access to parish and civil registrations, censuses, maps, military enlistment registers and indices to them.
(19) Corrèze Capital: Tulle. Online: ten-year indices from 1802 to 1902, parish and civil registrations for all communes from their beginnings to 1902, EXCEPT for Brive-la-Gaillarde (see their own website: http://archives.brive.fr), census returns from 1906 to 1936, military recruitment lists, alphabetic death and will registrations to 1940, maps.
(2A) Corse-du-Sud Capital: Ajaccio. Goofy website. You will have to do some copy-paste work. For the military conscription lists from 1859 to 1918, those of the Garde Mobile from 1865 to 1870: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
For the newly up census returns: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
There is also a very nice surname list. Ten-year indices and parish registrations are expected to be online by September 2014. The archives of the city of Bonifacio, dating from 1682, are now online at
(2B) Haute-Corse Capital: Bastia. Online: Maps, civil registrations from 1792 to 1902.
(21) Côte-d'Or Capital: Dijon. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses 1800 to 1936, indices to the military recruitment lists, court and judicial records, administrative records,maps, tables to notarial records, and much more.
(22) Côtes-d'Armor Capital: Saint-Brieuc. Online: land records, parish and civil registrations, census records to 1906, will indices, post cards, posters, photograph collections. Just up: military recruitment lists from 1867 to 1909.
(23) Creuse Capital: Guéret. New website! Online: Parish and civil registrations, maps, posters from the Second World War, census returns, military recruitment lists, and -- very nice -- alphabetic indices to inheritances.
(24) Dordogne Capital: Périgueux. Online: land records, ten-year indices, and now, all parish and civil registrations.
(25) Doubs Capital: Besançon. Online: Ten-year indices. To use the search facility, one must register, but there is no charge.
(26) Drôme Capital: Valence. Online: parish registers, ten-year indices, civil registers up to 1852, notarial archives, land records.
(27) Eure Capital: Évreux. Online: parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, censuses, old postcards.
(28) Eure-et-Loir Capital: Chartres. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, land records, censuses, church plans.
(29) Finistère Capital: Quimper. Online: Maps, parish and civil registrations census returns, military recruitment lists, all a bit awkward to use. Do not bother to contact by post or e-mail, as these people are not only incredibly unhelpful but rather insulting.
(30) Gard Capital: Nîmes. Difficulties abound. After being closed to the public for a year, the new location is now open. Online: No genealogical records are online as yet, but a website is planned for the end of 2014. It will start with the military conscription lists. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before 2017! However, the municipal archives of Nîmes have placed some indices online:
(31) Haute-Garonne Capital: Toulouse. Online: Land records, parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, marriage contracts from Toulouse from 1501 to 1739, censuses, insinuations from 1693 to 1790. The site is maddening in that images cannot be adjusted; there is no possibility to zoom in or out.
(32) Gers Capital: Auch. Online: Finding aids and maps only at the moment. Expected by the end of 2014: census returns and military conscription lists. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before late 2015, if then.
(33) Gironde Capital: Bordeaux. Online: Transcriptions of parish registers, 182 registers of the Admiralty of Guyenne, a list of communes for which the records are being scanned. Expected date when the civil registers will be online: 2010. The ten-year indices are online now.
(34) Hérault Capital: Montpellier. Online: Military recruitment registers, parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, notarial records.
(35) Ille-et-Vilaine Capital: Rennes. Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations for most but not quite yet all locations. For Rennes see the Archives municipales de Rennes.
(36) Indre Capital: Châteauroux. Online: Finding aids, maps, parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, census returns. The site is much improved recently.
(37) Indre-et-Loire Capital: Tours. Online: Parish registers have just gone up! Also : Ten-year indices, land records, old post cards and records of wills filed (Tables de successions - very useful, these), military conscription lists.
(38) Isère Capital: Grenoble. Online: Ten-year indices, and just up: parish and civil registrations.
(39) Jura Capital: Lons-le-Saunier. This has to be one of the most helpful archives in the country. Online: maps, postcards and historic photographs. Parish and civil registrations are scheduled for 2016.
(40) Landes Capital: Mont-de-Marsan. Lots of problems with this site, and many efforts to repair them, finally leading to a new site. Online: Parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, maps, town meeting minute books.
(41) Loir-et-Cher Capital: Blois. Online: parish and civil registrations, census returns, indices to military recruitment lists, maps.
(42) Loire Capital: Saint-Étienne. Just put online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registers.
(43) Haute-Loire Capital: Le Puy-en-Velay. Online: Nice new website which has parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices to same, and the beautiful documents of the Chaise-Dieu Abbey.
(44) Loire-Atlantique Capital: Nantes. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, censuses, land records, maps, old post cards, notarial records, military enlistment registers, WITH a surname index to them! Do not waste your time contacting by post or e-mail, as they brusquely refuse to be of any help at all.
(45) Loiret Capital: Orléans. Online: NEW! Civil registrations from 1833 to 1902 are now online. However, there are some that will never be online, for they were destroyed during the Second World War.
(46) Lot Capital: Cahors. Online: Parish and civil registrations to 1902, including clerk's copies, census records, succession tables, military registers. This site has had some trouble but seems to be working properly as of November 2012.
(47) Lot-et-Garonne Capital: Agen. Much improved! Online now: civil registrations of the 19th century, census returns, many maps and land records, photographs, old post cards, unique funds of local history and customs, and the recordings of the accounts of some Spanish refugees.
(48) Lozère Capital: Mende. An all new website! Online: the parish and civil registers from the 17th century to 1902, photographs, maps, post cards, town histories, insinuations. Unusually, the municipal archives of the capitol city are at the same site. Nice little bit of cooperation, that.
(49) Maine-et-Loire Capital: Angers. Online: Parish and civil registrations, land records, ten-year indices. NEW! Military recruitment lists, cahiers de doléances and more.
(50) Manche Capital: Saint-Lô. Just up Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations and ten-year indices. Click on moteur de recherche, then on état civil. There is a nifty little video explaining how to use the search engine. NEW! Military conscription lists are being added.
(51) Marne Capital: Châlons-en-Champagne. New! Online: parish and civil registrations, maps, censuses, and land records.
(52) Haute-Marne Capital: Chaumont. Online: finding aids and land records are online. Gradually being added are: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, and notarial records. Here, one can also read the interesting "Notes généalogiques du Baron de l'Horme".
(53) Mayenne Capital: Laval. Online: parish and civil registers from the 16th century to 1882, ten-year indices, a data base created by volunteers of the details from the marriages of the 19th century, military registers, census lists from 1836 to 1906, land records, transcriptions of marginal notes from the parish registers. Mayenne is acknowledged as the gold standard of departmental archives online.
(54) Meurthe-et-Moselle Capital: Nancy. Online: parish and civil registers up to 1882, land records. There is a warning that records for Toul are incomplete, owing to a fire there in 1939.
(55) Meuse Capital: Bar-le-Duc. Online: The parish and civil registers are now online, as are military conscription lists and some censuses.
(56) Morbihan Capital: Vannes. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, military conscription lists, maps, photos, 19th century local newspapers.
(57) Moselle Capital: Metz. Online: an extensive site. The first phase of putting records online has begun with the parish registrations prior to 1793 for about 500 towns and villages. Civil registrations will not be online before 2015.
(58) Nièvre Capital: Nevers. Online: finding aids, list of communes, old post cards, cahiers de doléances, pregnancy declarations, censuses, military conscriptions, parish registrations and civil registrations are completed. Unusually organised that is very helpful to the genealogist.
(59) Nord Capital: Lille. Online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, land records, 1906 census. The archives are relocating. Check the website before visiting the facility.
(60) Oise Capital: Beauvais. Online: old post cards, parish maps, parish and civil registers, censuses, military registers. It is necessary to register with the site; this is free.
(61) Orne Capital: Alençon. Online: parish and civil registers to 1902, ten-year indices.
(62) Pas-de-Calais Capital: Arras. Online: Lots of advice, plus ten-year indices to parish and civil registrations up to 1912, census records from 1820 to 1886, military recruitment records through 1921, land records.
(63) Puy-de-Dôme Capital: Clermont-Ferrand. Online: All parish and civil records, a wonderful collection of notarial files, images of clerical seals and finding aids. Nicely done.
(64) Pyrénées-Atlantiques Capital: Pau. Now online: land records, finding aids, parish and civil registrations, notarial records. One must complete a short registration form, but the site is free to use.
(65) Haute-Pyrénées Capital: Tarbes. Online: no genealogical records are online. However, the city of Tarbes has put up its parish and civil registers from 1611 to 1909 on www.archives.tarbes.fr
(66) Pyrénées-Orientales Capital: Perpignan. Finally online! : finding aids only, civil registrations, military conscription lists, census returns.
(67) Bas-Rhin Capital: Strasbourg. Online: parish and civil registrations and census records, now up to 1912. Also a very interesting discussion of an early 19th century manuscript of a history of Jews in Alsace, by Jacob Meyer. A new website has just been launched.
(68) Haut-Rhin Capital: Colmar. Online: the heraldic devices for each commune, a list of those who died in the two World Wars, a list of all of the mairies (town halls). NEW! Civil registrations from 1798 are now up. Also, ten-year indices and lists of Jewish names. Serious teething problems abound; the site is incredibly slow and often does not work. We predict a crash.
(69) Rhône Capital: Lyon. Online: Censuses from 1836, parish and civil registrations from 1527, military recruitment registers, maps, indices to notarial records, a very large collection on orphans. Collaborative indexing of both registrations and censuses is making this site incredibly useful. Rhône is the first department to allow the images of their ten-year indices and of their parish and civil registrations to appear on www.genealogie.com, though why you would pay there when you can get it free here is a mystery.
(70) Haute-Saône Capital: Vesoul. Online: Land records, census records, civil and parish registrations, conscription registers, bureaux de succession registers. Exceedingly helpful staff. Ten-year indices for many communes can be found on the website of the local genealogy group, Serv@nc'nautes :
(71) Saône-et-Loire Capital: Mâcon. Online: land records, ten-year indices, parish and civil registers to 1902, censuses from 1836 to 1901, cahiers de doléances, post cards, and a nice facility to see all that is available for each town.
(72) Sarthe Capital: Le Mans. Online: land records, parish and civil records to 1850, military registers.
(73) Savoie Capital: Chambéry. Online : maps, some ten-year indices, census records from the 16th to 20th centuries, parish and civil registers from 1501 to 1793 and from 1815 to 1860. Also: some old newspapers, indices to maps, posters, etc.
(74) Haute-Savoie Capital: Annecy. Online: NEW! Parish and civil registrations, censuses and military conscriptions from 1860 to 1940, and maps.
(75) Paris Online: the existing and reconstructed parish and civil registers are online, with the identical system to that used in the archives, which is not the easiest. New!: The military recruitment registers from 1875-1909 and the long, long lists of the first names of children accepted into care from 1742-1909.
(76) Seine-Maritime Capital: Rouen. Parish and civil registrations up to 1912 and in some cases up to 1935. Promised soon are maps. Fingers crossed for passenger lists of ships sailing from Le Havre!
(77) Seine-et-Marne Capital: Melun. Online: Censuses, ten-year indices, notarial records, parish and civil registrations. NEW! Marriage banns, military conscription lists, World War One photographs.
(78) Yvelines and the old Seine et Oise Capital: Versailles. Online: ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment, censuses, land records, cahiers de doléances, community monographs (histories). A very nice site, but as of mid-2011, it does not work with Safari.
(79) Deux-Sèvres Capital: Niort. Online: parish and civil registers, land records and census records. Nice, clean site. NEW: military conscription registers are now online.
(80) Somme Capital: Amiens. Online: old post cards, seals. NEW! with a new website: parish and civil registrations, censuses, land records, local histories, seals, photographs of WWI, and.....(drum roll) a user's guide in English.
(81) Tarn Capital: Albi. Online: some parish registers, civil registers, ten-year indices, land records. It is necessary to register to use the site.
(82) Tarn-et-Garonne Capital: Montauban. Online: Ten-year indices, civil and parish registrations dating back to 1590. New! The local copies of parish registrations, giving an important supplement, filling many gaps in the central administration's sets of registrations. Excellent!!!
(83) Var Capital: Toulon. Online: land records, censuses, ten-year indices, medieval notarial records, architectural records cahiers de doléances, records about the liberation of Var during WWII. The site has been recently improved and cleaned up.
(84) Vaucluse Capital: Avignon. Online: parish and civil registrations for some towns and ten-year indices for all.
(85) Vendée Capital: La-Roche-sur-Yon. Online: parish and civil registers, censuses, notarial records, land records, old post cards. New!: faire part, notarial minutes and délibérations municipales.
(86) Vienne Capital: Poitiers. Online: parish and civil registers (now up to 1912), land records, census lists. Interesting: A collection of notes on cards made during the 1950s extracting further information on Protestants, abandoned children and more. ALSO, the military registrations from 1867-1908.
(87) Haute-Vienne Capital: Limoges. Online: Land records and finding aids only. Latest word is that the parish and civil registrations could be on-line around the end of 2014. The story is that there seems to be a problem of damp and fungus on the records.
(88) Vosges Capital: Épinal. Newly online: parish registers from 1526, civil registers to 1905, the ten-year indices, and recently the censuses for the years from 1886 to 1906. Very nicely done, with easy printing.
(89) Yonne Capital: Auxerre. Online: parish and civil registers. NEW! Census records are up.
(90) Territoire de Belfort Capital: Belfort. A very nice new site with plenty online: parish and civil registrations, censuses, military registrations, and land records. Additionally, local archivists have created an excellent site of indexed data from the parish and civil registrations. It is a bilingual site:
(91) Essonne Capital: Évry. Online: Parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, and 184 village and town histories written for the 1900 Paris Expo. Just up: indices to notaires' minutes.
(92) Hauts-de-Seine Capital: Nanterre. Online: maps and the ten-year indices to the civil registrations through 1912, and now the civil registrations from 1792 to 1907.
(94) Val-de-Marne Capital: Créteil. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, finding aids. Nice, easy site to use. Wonderfully interested, knowledgeable and helpful staff. NEW: census records are now online, from 1795 (!) to 1906.
(95) Val-d'Oise Capital: Cergy-Pontoise. Online: Finally! With a lovely new website: parish registrations from the 16th century to 1792, civil registrations from 1793-1900, ten-year indices, and census returns from 1917 to 1936.
(971) Guadeloupe Capital: Basse-Terre. Online: no genealogical records are online.
(972) Martinique Capital: Fort-de-France. This is actually the website of BNPM - The Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais. Online: the actes d'individualité of freed slaves, 1848-1851.
(973) Guyane Capital: Cayenne. Online: finding aids only. Preparation to put parish and civil registrations online is under way. There is an excellent list of links to other research resources.
(974) La Réunion Capital: Saint-Denis. Online: no records are online, but there is a nice new site for the archives.
The Republican calendar name for this month, Thermidor, needs no explanation. Perhaps, this year however, it is mere nostalgia, for this has been one of those summers that is so rainy and cold that we have had a fire in the grate on a number of evenings. There have been occasional days of extraordinary surges of the thermometer to 45 C, and then the reversion to cold and rain.
After about four pages on the beauties of the song of the lark, Le Roy writes that this is the month of threshing. By hand. With a flail. In the hot sun. People beat the cut wheat to separate the grain from the chaff. Le Roy comments that it was particularly hard for the women, as they had to keep up with the pace of the men or risk getting whacked by another's flail if the rhythm were lost. He also moans about the suffocating dust that would fill the air, as well as one's mouth, nose and throat, and stick to any exposed skin. (In spite of his poetic descriptions of the rustic life, Le Roy goes on so much about irritants of dust and pollen that we suspect he may have suffered from a number of allergies himself.)
For us, no flailing, but it looks as if the hedges will be producing a bumper crop of sloes (prunelles sauvages) this year and we will be harvesting them this week and making sloe gin (eau de vie). Should you find yourselves near Périgueux this summer, stop by for a glass!
The day of national celebration of the birth of the Republic of France is upon us again. Known as the Fourteenth of July (Quatorze Juillet) in France and as Bastille Day to foreigners, it commemorates the beginning of the struggle to turn the government of France from an absolute monarchy to -- eventually -- a democracy.
The publicity wing of the military, L’établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD) has created a wonderful VIDEO that explains the history of the celebration of the day, complete with archive footage of parades down the Champs Elysées in Paris. It is a day of military pomp and display in the capital, to be sure.
There are, as the video above shows, hundreds of soldiers marching, some tanks rolling, some jets careening overhead. Every little town has its celebration as well, with evening fireworks and speeches by the mayor. In certain parts of France, there is also the tradition of erecting a tree-flagpole, nostalgically termed the plantation du mai ("planting the hawthorne", the ancient custom of the Maypole, co-opted in a somewhat baffling style by country politicos). This does not involve planting nor does it involve hawthorne, nor even a traditional Maypole of ribbons and dancing children.
In one village's celebration today, it involved a pine stripped of its branches and festooned with flags.
Which was secured to a railing by the village elders:
hoisted up with pulling and some very deft use of ladders:
To stand proudly over the village square:
After which a good time was had by all:
The sign on the tree reads "Honneur aux élus", literally, "Honour to elected officials" but a literal reading would be obtuse. The true meaning is to honour the electoral process, that is, democracy. Should you have an ancestor among the elected officials, you may begin to research them in a couple of places:
"to simultaneously query Jean Nicot's Thresor de la langue française (1606), Jean-François Féraud's Dictionaire critique de la langue française (1787-1788), Émile Littré's Dictionnaire de la langue française (1872-1877) and the Dictionnaire de L'Académie française 1st (1694), 4th (1762), 5th (1798), 6th (1835), and 8th (1932-5) editions."
To test it, we pulled out our battered list of words the definitions of which we have not been able to find in our modern French dictionary, nor in our grandmother's pink Petit Larousse Illustré, nor online. What a delight it was to find all of our mystery words defined via this single database.
Other databases available to the public at no charge include:
Perseus under PhiloLogic: The Perseus Digital Library of Classical texts available using the PhiloLogic search engine.
There are further databases which require access to the libraries and services of North American or French institutions which subscribe to the ARTFL Project:
Main Database: ARTFL-FRANTEXT, over 3500 texts ranging from classic works of French literature to various kinds of non-fiction prose and technical writing from the 12th to the 20th century.
French Women Writers, over 100 works by French women authors from the 16th to the 19th century.
Provençal Poetry, 38 collections of texts from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Textes de Français Ancien (TFA), 103 works from the 12th through 15th century.
The Journal de Trévoux, ou Mémoires pour l'Histoire des Sciences & des Beaux-Arts. 109 volumes, 1751-1758.
Pierre Bayle, Dictionnaire historique et critique (5th Edition, 1740).
Louis Moréri, Le Grand dictionnaire historique, ou le Mélange curieux de l'Histoire sacrée et profane, etc. (1759).
Opera del Vocabolario Italiano (OVI) Database, 1,960 vernacular texts dated prior to 1375, including Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, as well as many lesser-known texts.
But for the dictionaries, these databases may not further your genealogical research much, but they will certainly expand your knowledge of the thinking, culture and history of your French ancestors. Thank you very much Monsieur D.C.!
The popularity of genealogy in France continues to grow and, along with it, the rather new field of transgenerational psychotherapy or psychogénéalogie. A fairly well-known name among the practitioners is that of Christine Ulivucci, who has recently published a book entitled "Ces Photos Qui Nous Parlent : une Relecture de la Mémoire Familiale" ("Photos That Speak to Us : a Rereading of Family Memory" - click on the cover image in the column to the right to buy). She describes the book in an interview:
During the interview, a short film is shown of an example. Aurélie, aged thirty-seven, wanted to know if there may not have been some transgenerational reason as to why she had not yet found matrimonial bliss. A study of a few family photos revealed bad marriages on both the paternal and maternal side. No further along the road to marriage, Aurélie at least had found an explanation as to why.
Dear Readers, beware of adding this type of analysis of minimal amounts of data to your family histories! Were this sort of conclusion to be subjected to the Genealogical Proof Standard, it would fall far short of the rigorous research and standards required. Photography long ago was expensive and used only for the most formal occasions. Later, only the rich could afford to take snapshots at every family event. Now, of course, everyone's computer and phone is flooded with digital images. Analyzing a family using hundreds of photos today might be possible, but we question very severely the validity of conclusions based on five or six formal, posed photos from a hundred years ago.
Had Aurélie wished to use that conclusion as a part of her family's genealogy, she would have had to confirm the assumption of those bad marriages with further documentation. Barring the convenient discovery of a photo showing one spouse in the process of strangling the other, she would have had to find some sort of documentation, such as:
a string of births of children mothered or fathered by someone outside the marriage
a will detailing with vitriol why the spouse would inherit the minimum allowed by law
documented proof of crimes by one spouse against the other
We jest in part but the point is no joke: in genealogy, assumptions based on limited and/or vague sources are unacceptable. This is not only because it would be sloppy work but because the bad results would be interminable: one weak assumption would lead to another and another, unendingly. We all know how easily it happens: a guess that a marriage was bad becomes and assumption, the a certainty. It then is perpetuated in print and on the Internet and further conclusions about people, based on that "certainly bad" marriage appear, until there is an entire family history that is pure fiction.
We wish Aurélie no harm, nor do we wish to disparage Madame Ulivucci's work, which surely has its value when used correctly, but we do wish to warn against the invention of a life's "truths" based on limited sources.
Due to a ruling by CNIL, this database can no longer be viewed online, but may be seen in the reading room of the Departmental Archives of La Mayenne.
Why not spend some time this new year researching those poor souls whose lives -- perhaps with justification, perhaps not -- never again contained anything new or beautiful: prisoners?* The département of Mayenne has raised the standard yet again with a new database on their website. It contains the names of 42,000 people sent to one of the department's three prisons between the years of 1832 and 1908. It is extremely useful not only for those with ancestors in Mayenne, but for those whose ancestors may have been from elsewhere but ended up in prison there. Thus, it is a good place to look for a French brick wall ancestor.
To find the site, either click on the link above or on the link in the column to the left for the Archives Départementales de La Mayenne and click on the link Archives en ligne to the left on that page, then on Registres d'écrou. Once there, click on the orange line that reads:
consulter la base des registres d'écrou
That brings up a nice, clean and simple search page. We have put in English below how to complete the form (click on it to see a larger version):
We recommend leaving the age and year of imprisonment fields empty, in order to bring up all possible names. Click on Rechercher to start the search or Effacer to clear the form and try again. A sample search result looks like this:
A sample log book page looks like this:
Which we found utterly impossible to read, but those clever folks at La Mayenne put in a useful tool for magnification and moving around the page. Some departments got this bit wrong, with the image not refocusing when magnified, but La Mayenne is one of those which got it right. It takes quite a few seconds to focus. A word to the wise on this point: if, like us, you beat on the mouse a dozen times to enlarge the image significantly, the whole thing freezes in a blur. One must treat the page with delicacy, click the mouse once, wait for the refocus, click again and wait again. The procedure requires rather the same extreme patience and politesse as does dealing with French bureaucrats. How on earth did they manage to digitize that?
A nicely enlarged section looks like this, giving a wondrous amount of information about the person:
Fun site. Enjoy!
* For a suitably horrifying read on life in French prisons even in modern times, we recommend Frank Abagnale'sCatch Me If You Can
Dear Readers, if any of you are still out there, we continue with our struggle to resolve the issue of many of you not receiving posts by e-mail. Our latest trawls through the appalling tedium of Google search results have revealed that the cause may not ever have been FeedBurner but Yahoo, who have changed some letters somewhere in the vastness of their programming.
We have dutifully followed the instructions for circumventing the problem (one never actually corrects mistakes on the Internet, it seems, just tries to weave around them; eventually it is obvious, this will create a very ugly and useless tapestry). Thus, this is yet another test post and we hope that it will successfully reach those of you who have languished since April without word from us.
It has been some years since we last did a general review of what was to be found in the French genealogy press, though we have tried to keep you posted on any hot topics concerning French genealogy. Time to take a look at what three of the most visible magazines are saying.
La Revue Française de Généalogie has for its cover story an article explaining best practices for research in the censuses. It discusses the history of population censuses in France, where the returns may be found in the Departmental Archives. There is a long discussion of how a census was taken, explaining the paperwork, and a comparison of American and British census fashions with those in France. It is followed by a study of an example that includes many errors. As ever, the French love of statistics is evident.
There is an article on the value of permalinks to specific document images by Pierre-Valéry Archassal. A map of the country showing which Departmental Archives use the technology on their websites shows them to be in an odd south-to-north strip up the centre of the country. Arkothèque, the company that designed the system for archives is based in Marseilles and it would seem that the salesman never got off the E15 to Paris or the E17 to Lille.
It seems there must always be a bit of celebrity genealogy and here it is that of Pierre Soulages, the artist. A few pages later is printed an eye-witness account of the Battle of the Marne by an unfortunate woman who lived nearby.
The prize article, in our opinion, is that on wolves. Not the genealogy of wolves, but -- statistics again -- the number of attacks on people and human deaths attributed to wolves based on information found in archives. Apparently, wolves claimed about three thousand victims per century until they were mostly eliminated in the twentieth century. The article is based on and praises the work of Professor Jean-Marc Moriceau at the University of Caen, who has launched a website on the history of the murderous relationship between wolves and humans.
Nos Ancêtres, Vie & Métiers is an off-shoot of the above publication. It comes out every two months and focuses on bygone skills and professions and on aspects of daily life long ago. The most recent issue tells of medieval cookery. As what the majority of the people ate is not very much documented (probably because for most there was not very much to eat) the author is forced to rely on the writings that do exist, and they are mostly about monks' dining rules and regulations. The source for what the nobility ate seems to have been illuminated manuscripts (of which we are most fond) many little reproductions of which dot the article.
There is a biographical article on the composer, Offenbach. The rest of the magazine is about the professions of maintaining law and order: the police, the gendarmerie and the maréchausée. In all, this magazine is not one to aid the reader's skills in genealogical research, but to deepen his or her understanding of the times in which various ancestors lived.
Généalogie Magazine always seems a bit down market to us, perhaps because it generally gives about sixty per cent of its space to celebrity genealogies. This month's big names are the new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls and Charlie Chaplin. For royalty fetishists, there is a biography of Louis Philippe I, really a long promotion for the big new book listing all of his descendants. As it runs to almost four hundred pages, we imagine there are many.
The lead article, however, is a step in a new direction, for it is about "The Best Genealogy Websites". It is quite a thorough directory. It lists:
all of the Departmental Archives websites
commercial data bases
online guides and manuals
websites about surnames
medal and military websites
lists of those who can be linked to historical personages or events
websites on heraldry
websites on paleography
map and geographical websites
websites of genealogy associations and cercles
publishers and bookshops specializing in genealogy
genealogy bloggers (minus our own sterling effort)
It is a most unusual lurch into excellence for this magazine and we wonder if this heralds a new path or if it be merely the raising of the hippo's head out of the shallows and into the light of day before it is again submerged in the murky waters.
The month of Messidor takes its name from the Latin word for harvest. Eugène Le Roy describes the back-breaking labour in the hot sun that was the wheat harvest. Dreading summer rains or a hail storm that could destroy the crop, and thus their supply of bread for the year, people worked as hard and as fast as they could, bent double in the fields, their heads so low that they were breathing the mixed dust of earth and chaff.
But, Le Roy exults, Messidor is also the month for celebrating the anniversary of THE REVOLUTION. Heroism! Struggle! Nobility! Fiery change! Fireworks!
The French Revolution involved a hefty amount of destruction, and Le Roy tidily links this to the pre-Revolutionary festival of Saint Jean, which itself was a Christian festival draped over the pagan rites of Mid-Summer. Bonfires all round. For a couple of weeks or so, people no longer being fussy about the exact date, there have been village fêtes for Saint Jean, with evening bonfires, all over the country. The government allows these fires for just a few short weeks, just for these festivals, (though some people also use this permission to burn their garden rubbish).
Your French ancestors, if they lived in villages, would have gathered at the place in front of the church, everyone bringing wood and faggots to build the bonfire. On top of the wood would be added pine and juniper branches, then bunches of fennel and mint for their scent. When darkness fell, the church door would open and the curé would come out, say a prayer, light the fire and retreat back into the church, leaving the parishioners to revert completely to paganism and whoop and dance round their inferno.
Mid-Summer night is now overlaid with yet another festival. It seems that those in power must always put their imprint on certain human rituals that will be performed no matter what happens, for all time. In France, the twenty-first of June is now "Fête de la Musique", an all-night celebration of music. In Paris, not only will there be concerts indoors and out, but every bar will have a band or a singer. People will dance in the streets, even -- or perhaps especially -- those on strike. In towns and villages, there will be music and people will gather together. In the village close to where we are at the moment in the southwest, the grocer -- whose shop happens to face the church and the place -- will be serving drinks at tables placed in the road and his teenaged son will play the guitar.
All of France is celebrating the beginning of Summer tonight. Observe how it is done here, and enjoy.
For a definition of French citizenship in the Ancien régime, for a complete explanation of how it was developed and eventually dismantled and for an understanding of how and why people became citizens of France, look no further than this excellent book. This is history, not genealogy, but one cannot do very well at the latter without studying the former. The author, Peter Sahlins, is a professor of History at our old stomping grounds, the University of California at Berkeley.
There are many fine historians out there, publishing with abandon, but few of them have the clear prose of Professor Sahlins. Indeed, after reading some of the more frantic, polemical and muddled histories out there, to come to "Unnaturally French" is to step from a pen full of turkeys at feeding time into a calm room where all are banished but the sane.
He explains the crucial difference between citizens of the realm of France and foreigners residing in it: the droit d'aubaine, the right of the king to seize the estates and property of foreigners who died in the realm. Those wishing their children -- if they were foreign also -- to inherit might have been inspired to apply to the king to become French. Those applications, of which the author says only about twenty per cent were successful, would have given much personal detail. Challenges in court by heirs concerning citizenship and the right to inherit were many. Quickly, it becomes apparent that this book is essential to anyone tracing ancestors who arrived in France from elsewhere and stayed for a generation or two.
The period covered is from 1660 to 1789 and the key sources used by Professor Sahlins are the letters of naturalization and the tax rolls for the 1697 Naturalization Tax. He has a very large sampling from both, running into the thousands of cases, and sprinkles his history with examples. His data base revealed that the largest categories of those who were naturalized were, in descending order:
Many came from regions that are now part of France but that were not so at the time, such as Savoie and Nice. The Irish flight of the "Wild Swans" occurred during this period and is covered as well. In terms of geographic origin, the largest groups were from:
Of particular use to those using this book to know better the history in order to trace better their family is the Appendix number two, which gives a long list of treaties France made with various countries to abolish or exempt foreigners from the droit d'aubaine, beginning with the 1753 treaty made with the Kingdom of Prussia and ending with the 1790 and 1791 unconditional and absolute abolition of the droit d'aubaine throughout France and her colonies.
Increasingly, we are contacted by people seeking not just their French ancestors, but something they have recently discovered. With DNA testing for genealogy, they have discovered indicators of ancestry from other parts of Europe and, based on other research, it seems to them that their French ancestors had non-French origins. For all those who suspect that those ancestors entered France and became French during the seventeenth or eighteenth century, this book is essential to understanding what may have happened.
It is also invaluable as a source of sources. A quarter of the book's 453 pages is devoted to notes, appendices, an index and a superb bibliography of published and unpublished sources. First, read this book to learn the history, then use it as a guide for your own genealogical and historical research.
You can buy it by clicking on the image under "Books In English" in the column to the right.
Masson, Agnès, editor: Sur les traces de vos ancêtres à Paris Produced and published by the Archives de Paris, this is a 2007 update of the 1997 publication of the same title. It is, in our opinion, the best book available on genealogical research in Paris. ISBN 978-2-86075-011-0 (*****)
The Boleat Family 1560-1912 Research by Marc Boleat on the origins of two brothers who moved from Brittany to Jersey in the 1870s, and their descendants. It will be of particular interest to anyone researching relatives in Jersey with a French origin.
Récits et Souvenirs The mémoires of Henri Soudée and of his parents. Soldiers, Communards, and immigrants to Martinique and the United States, their tales are fascinatingly gathered by our Dear Reader, Françoise Becker.