Coupe du Monde Ancestors

Dear Readers, 

Please forgive this repost as we dash to watch the World Cup final, in which France plays Croatia. Allez les bleus!

Football
 

We were never much of a sports fan, though we were loyal to the Giants baseball team, which was most character building. Other than that, we were indifferent. We had barely heard of soccer and thought it was something only Latin Americans played. Then we left the homeland and discovered how very thick were the blinders we had been wearing.

We spent some years in Brazil, the land of "the beautiful game". There, where every bank and shop shuts and the streets are emptied when Brazil's team has a match during the World Cup, it was impossible not to learn about it. We were told that for Brazilians  it is not enough to win; the team must play beautifully and win. Intriguing. So we began to watch World Cup matches on television. Like every American who watches for the first time, we could not believe how hard the players ran and struggled to score just one point. It seemed crazy, like paying hundreds of dollars for a small square of chocolate. What finally captured us were first, the overhead camera shots in which one could see the geometry of a play and second, the fancy-dancy footwork. It is indeed, at times, a beautiful game.

Of course, it is not the perfect game. We do not like football hooligans. We do not like the Saxon squads' penchant to "go for injury" whenever outplayed. Most definitely, we do not like what one journalist referred to as Italy's "dark arts of football". We do like the beauty of the skill and teamwork, and the way the team will play their hearts out for one precious goal. 

We are in another World Cup year, now living in France where, though their team made fools of themselves this year, the nation is passionate about the event. The World Cup is different from anything we ever saw in America. It changes people, brings them together in a temporary camaraderie.  When the cup is won, everyone in the winning country pours into the streets and hugs one another with joy, as if a war had ended. Nationalism can be a dangerous thing, but in the same way that the presidential election allows a controlled revolution every four years in America, so the World Cup allows a controlled resurgence of nationalism. Never, for the Super Bowl or the World Series, is all of America united behind one team, but during the World Cup, entire nations are together in their support of their team, and all of France is for "Les Bleus".

If you think one of your more recent ancestors may have played for Les Bleus in the World Cup, you can check your hunch against the team lists for every World Cup since it began in 1930 on the website of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA

Select any of the years when the World Cup was held: 

Select
 

When the next screen comes up, click on the word "teams" in the horizontal bar:

Teams
 

then on France:

France 1930
 

 to get the complete list of names and each player's date of birth:

Team names

Enjoy the remaining matches!

©2010 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

 

 


Summer Lessons - An Easy Way to Learn French Genealogy Terms

Mon cahier

In France, when families go on holiday during the summer, it is not all abandonment. Children are expected to dedicate an hour or so every day to school work. From June, the supermarkets and bookshops (yes, bookshops still exist in France) are full of different types of workbooks for all levels of study. Workbooks on maths, workbooks on French spelling and grammar, workbooks on history, workbooks on science at levels ranging from the earliest years of schooling to preparation for the baccalaureate. At the beach or in the mountains or in a brasserie, in summertime, one often sees a child studiously working on such a book's lessons, with a parent nearby making certain that attention does not wander.

Increasingly, there are a few on the subject of genealogy. Our example today is "Papi, Mami, raconte-moi tes souvenirs" ("Grandpa, Grandma, tell me your memories") but there are others, all similar. The structure follows the pattern of children's genealogy school assignments, mixed with puzzles and games and spaces for snapshots. We know that all of you, Dear Readers, are diligent students of French and have committed to memory our own French Genealogy Glossary in its entirety. If, however, you are just beginning your French genealogy journey, why not learn about it as the French do?

  • Look for French genealogy words in a word search puzzle
  • Read a timeline of the twentieth century that shows events important to the French
  • Learn interesting facts in the "Le sais-tu?" ("Did you know?") bubbles on each page, such as that, around the year 1000, people did not have surnames or that, until 1840, Jean and Marie were the most common given names.
  • Discover innumerable details of daily life in France

We will be giving a course on French parish and civil registrations with the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research in October. Why not spend your summer learning a bit of French with such a workbook before you take the course?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Tahitian Soldiers in World War I

Poilus tahitiens

We do love some of the labours of love on the part of amateur historians and genealogists that achieve a level of true expertise, as with our case in point today. Occasionally, someone writes a comment on a FGB post of such interest and erudition that we ask them to tell us more. A couple of weeks ago, we had such a comment from a gentleman, pointing us to his remarkable work.

Thus, we present the website of Jean-Christophe Shigetomi, dedicated to the Tahitian soldiers of World War I, Les Poilus tahitiens. By 1916, we learned, when the First World War had been going for two years, so many Frenchmen had died that army recruitment extended to the colonies of Tahiti, New Hebrides and New Caledonia. These recruits and others formed the racially segregated Bataillon mixte du Pacifique. While a fair number of websites can be found about the battalion, only that of Monsieur Shigetomi is exclusively about the Tahitians. 

Monsieur Shigetomi retired after a career in civil aviation and has since indulged his passion for the history of Tahitians in the wars of the twentieth century. For the poilus, what he has done is to take the military service records of each man and put their photographs and details on the website. Using the information from the files, he has also written histories of the Tahitian action, primarily the Battle of Vesles-et-Caumont, and individual's activities during the war, giving a very personalized account of events. Much of this is presented on the website and a kindle edition of his entire book may be found here

For genealogical researchers, use the drop-down menu on the site entitled Unités, meaning "units". Under each unit is the category fiches signalétiques, meaning identification cards or data cards, which leads to a list of names. Click on a name to see the man's full name, photograph, details of birth and death, along with notes as to his service. Once you are certain of the spelling of the name, you can find all mentions of the man via the Recherche, or search, option. As Monsieur Shigetomi points out, this website may be the only way that researchers will have access to this data and, especially, to a photograph of the soldier.

This may be an excellent resource for those researching Tahitian ancestry or World War One.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Researchers of Families From Ardèche Take Note

A for Ardèche

There are so many unsung, rarely noticed and even more rarely praised yet stellar contributors to genealogical research. Sandrine Jumas is one of them. Many have uploaded onto the Internet and indexed extracts of the documents that they have found in their research but few have done so in such a clear fashion as Mme. Jumas has done on her site Relevés Ardéchois

It is small but a treasure and something that one finds increasingly. Some French family historians who have been working for years on their family genealogies then take all of the original documentation that they have found (in this case parish and civil registrations, along with some notarial records) and present that in a way that is helpful to others. We find this to be astonishingly generous and believe that all like Mme. Jumas deserve thanks.

Relevés Ardéchois is strongest on marriage registrations, (which can be sorted by the groom's name or the bride's name or the date) but includes also birth or baptism and death or burial registrations (many of which link directly to the image on the website of the Departmental Archives of Ardèche). The towns concerned are: 

  • Châmes
  • Gras
  • Labastide de Virac
  • Lagorce
  • Salavas
  • St. Maurice d'Ibie
  • Vallon

The families on which she has been working are:

  • Ollier
  • Peschaire
  • Sabatier

She also presents two massive lists of notarial records she has indexed. The first is of marriage contracts and the second of other notarial records. Both give a significant amount of information, allowing a researcher to know exactly which document to request to be copied by the archives.

If you are lucky enough to be researching ancestors from one of the towns listed above, do have a look at this website. If your research takes you elsewhere, look hard for you may find something similar by an equally generous soul who has been working on your area of interest. Look also on the arbres généalogiques on Geneanet.org where, increasingly, volunteers are entering data, taken from parish and civil registrations, for entire towns, showing the family relationships and giving the source documents. 

Add this type of website and "town tree" to your arsenal for research.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Grand Mémorial - One Site for All of France's World War One Soldiers



WWI men

The Ministry of Culture and the hundreds of dedicated French genealogy enthusiasts here have created something quite remarkable in the Grand Mémorial website. It is the central  research point for the military documentation on all who served France during World War I. It is not yet finished but is very impressive already.

It is a central search facility with links to each department's military recruitment lists for men of an age to have participated. It also links to the recruitment lists from colonies, held on the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer website and to the death registrations made by the army on the Mémoire des Hommes website of the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD). 

The site is in French but the search page has an English version. The results of a search are presented in a list that shows:

  • Surname
  • Forenames
  • Date - of recruitment or of birth, which is the only messy thing on the site
  • Place, showing the department first, then the town
  • The type of document

Click on a name and you are taken directly to the image. The French penchant for statistics is in evidence in the column to the side, which gives a summary of the details concerning the names in your search result. This is handy for genealogical statisticians, we suppose, and is rather cool. It shows how many of the results give the place or the date of recruitment, how many the place or date of birth. We like knowing how many were of a particular profession (four of those named Mordel were farmers, one was a baker, etc.) and how many could read or write or count (we must all say a prayer of thanks for universal education at this point).

 

A map shows which departments are covered and the status of their military recruitment registers being indexed and online.

Map of registres matricules

  • Dark blue indicates that the registers are online, indexed and included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Orange (pink?) indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives and are indexed but are not included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Light blue/grey indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives but are not yet indexed or included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Yellow indicates that the registers have been digitized but are not online or indexed nor are they included on the Grand Mémorial website; they may be viewed only on site at the Departmental Archives

As can be seen, about half of the country's recruitment registers are included on the Grand Mémorial website, which we find to be really quite impressive.

Key Geographical Notes for Researchers of World War I Combatants  

On that same page are some points general to such research that bear repeating:

  • The map does not include anything on people from the departments of Alsace and Lorraine (Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) because they were not, at that time, a part of France. More, what the site does not say, is that the people of those departments were, from 1871 to 1918, German citizens. Any men conscripted served in the German Army.  The records concerning those men were held in Berlin and were all destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during World War II. Thus, it is not possible to find a military record for a man from that region during that time. 
  • There will be no military recruitment registers for departments that did not yet exist: Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines.
  • The recruitment registers for the departments that existed then but that do not now exist, Seine and Seine-et-Oise, are to be found in the Departmental Archives of Yvelines.
  • As concerns registers held by the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer, those of Algeria and French Polynesia are almost all online. It is pointed out that thes registers concern only those persons who held French nationality at the time of recruitment. The registers for non-nationals are held at the SHD.
  • For recruitment registers from Morocco, they cover only French nationals born in France or Algeria and living in Morocco when they turned twenty years old;  the registers cover only the years 1913 to 1921. The recruitment registers of Moroccans are also held at the SHD at Pau.

For those researching an ancestor who fought for France in that conflict, this website would most definitely be the place to begin. 

And now, permit us, please, to present a trailer of  "The Burying Party", a film about Wilfred Owen, the British poet who died fighting in France, and in which Sid plays Siegfried Sassoon to perfection.

 

The Burying Party Official Trailer from Sine Wave Media on Vimeo.

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Obstructing Access to French Archives - an Old Problem

OFPRA

Oh, Dear Readers, we have been experiencing a series of unsuccessful moments of late. Recently, we were told that our suggestions and aids to you in your French genealogical research are "too professional for the ordinary family genealogist". Dear Readers, we take that as an insult to you and to anyone who is striving to provide the best possible history of his or her family.

We are as aware as anyone of how the initial thrill at the volume and ease of genealogical discoveries on the Internet can make us balk at anything that requires more work, and call it a "brick wall". Yet, if we build our family history on only the easy discoveries, we risk producing something so scant as to be minimalist. We are reminded, by way of comparison, of our hoydenish mother, who studied piano all her life.

She was enamoured of the difficult études and mazurkas of Chopin but was not really willing to do the work to master them. Instead, she used her considerable charm to convince her teacher to rewrite the pieces, leaving out all of the "hard notes". She then blissfully played these denuded ditties, indifferent to the fact that they sounded more like nursery rhymes than Chopin. Surely, Dear Readers, you do not wish your genealogical research to be the minimum, composed only of what was quick and easy to find? Surely, though some of the skills and procedures we explain in this blog are a struggle, some of you have found the results to have been worth it?

At the same time, we do try to help here with clear and concise explanations of how to use various French websites and archives. We make a point of testing every website before we write of it here. It was in an effort to try out a newly announced website that we ran into another unsuccessful moment. 

There have been a number of genealogy bloggers in France who have passed on the publicity concerning new access to government archives concerning refugees and stateless persons, Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA). This was and is an important part of the government for it is this office that decides who receives asylum and who is to be granted refugee status. In its early days, it was particularly involved with refugees from the Russian Revolution who found their way to France. 

Their archives are open to the public after a certain waiting period. For files concerning individuals, that wait is fifty years after the date of the last document entered into the file. The recent exciting announcement stated that the files concerning people who had been granted Nansen passports can now be seen online. With a modicum of fanfare, OFPRA's website encourages "Internet users, descendants of refugees, genealogists and historians" to apply to use the site and to participate in indexing the documents.

We applied. Receiving no response, we applied again. A few days later, we received an old-fashioned, possessive archivist's haughty rejection. Our "interest", we read, was inadequate. Our two applications were perceived as a devious effort to get round the barrier, though we had not suspected its existence, but a barrier does indeed exist. We reread the invitation to the public to apply. Can one find a broader term than "Internet user"?

We have the impression that the invitation and publicity were written by someone younger or perhaps by the senior managers of OFPRA and that the archivist, possibly someone much older, did not approve of the move and is doing all that he or she can to obfuscate it. Oh, how many times we have seen this innate desire to thwart! 

We urge any and all of you, Dear Readers, if you have an ancestor who had a Nansen Passport and was in France, not to take the lazy route but to apply to OFPRA for files concerning that ancestor. It clearly will not be easy but do not give up. When you succeed, please do write and tell us about it.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


What Were Your Ancestors Worth? Converting Old Money Into New

Monnaies

We cannot understand why, but countless times people have written us to ask that we help them to prove that their French ancestors were wealthy. No one seems to want their family's journey to embody the rags to riches story; all seem to prefer that their family show how the mighty have fallen. 

We have received messages from our correspondents in which they insist that their ancestors chose to abandon wealth, land and status to travel steerage and work in a new land as a butcher or a seamstress. We have tried to explain that small sums, such as thirty livres, at the time of the French Revolution were no fortune and we have been roundly told off for our efforts to adhere to the truth.

No more.

Henceforward, we shall refer all questions concerning the value of old money in modern terms to the excellent new website Convertisseur de Monnaie d'Ancien Régime, the creation of one Dr. Thomas Fressin at the Université Côte d'Azur. An admirable achievement for Dr. Fressin, it is a great toy for the family historian, straightforward and easy to use. Now, you must haul out all of those old French wills and marriage contracts and start converting. 

End of many a dispute, this, and not a moment too soon.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


At Long Last - Doubs!

Not 1st Place

The race among Departmental Archives to digitise and put online their parish and civil registrations finished long ago. The winners, Mayenne and Seine-Maritime, have had their laurels so long that the crowns have grown dusty and been relegated to a remote cabinet with indifference. Since then,  most Departmental Archives have moved on and begun filming and adding to their online collections such delights as probate and notarial indices. Spectators' spyglasses have all been pointed forward to see what new delights may appear. Pregnancy declarations? Parisian notarial records? When, lo and behold, a huffing and puffing is heard on the track and we all, in astonishment, swivel our heads and adjust our spyglasses to see. It is long-forgotten little Doubs! Performing something of a "Little Engine That Could" miracle, Doubs has finally put online its parish and civil registrations.

Well, perhaps not all but certainly a few of its parish and civil registrations may now be seen on the Internet. They still have not made their website any more user-friendly or logical. Nevertheless, a beginning has been made and praise as well as encouragement are due. Initially, the website offers three possible avenues of searching: simple, guided and expert. "Simple" searches the finding aids. "Guided", recherche guidée, is hardly that, unless eight images may be considered a guide, but that is where to begin.

If you click on the rather obscure picture of a hand grasping at a possible register book, next to Recherche dans l'état civil numérisé, you will be taken to a truly minimalist search page. There, you may enter the name of a commune (no drop-down menu of choices and no spelling aid, you had just better know or go away, or check this list) and you have the option to enter a range of years. The result will be all of the items filmed to date, looking something like this:

Sample Doubs search

Click on the image to be taken to the digitised microfilm.

Alternatively, to see all the communes, or towns, listed and what has been filmed for each, click on the words in red, Etat des fonds, next to the picture of the finding aid on the "guided" search page, below the title Recherche par plan de classement

Doubs état des fonds

This takes you to the classification of the series of Departmental Archives. Click the letter E - Communes. Seignuries. Familles. Etat civil. Notaires. Then click Etat civil. Then click Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil. Then, half-way down the page, under the bold Instruments de Recherche, click on the second, red Voir l'inventaire next to Répertoire des documents numérisés, en cours. Don't give up. Now, you are presented with an alphabet, being a list of communes or towns beginning with that letter. This is the only sure way to know if a negative result means that a town's registers have not yet been filmed or no longer exist.

As for the "expert" search, we must not qualify to benefit from it. Every time we have tried its large box, we get the same results as for the small box of the "simple" research. If the differentiation between "simple" and "expert" is thought to be a matter of the size of the query, much of the reasoning behind the Doubs delay is revealed.

Have at the Recherche guidée and good luck!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Book Review - Atlas historique des diocèses en France

Atlas

The one-woman powerhouse that is the publishing company Archives & Culture  has brought out another genealogy guide, or guide de généalogie. To anyone who has researched his or her French roots to earlier than the French Revolution, the thought of a book that explains at last the intricacies and geography of French Catholic dioceses would bring joy and immense relief. This book, by Jean-Paul Duquesnoy, the Atlas historique des diocèses en France, is, unfortunately, something of a disappointment.

The problem is that it is a bit deceptive. Civil registrations in France began in 1792. They became the legal documentation and proof of births, marriages and deaths. While parish registrations may have continued, they became, in the eyes of the law, informal and without legal validity. What is more, no religious ritual of baptism, marriage or funeral could take place until after the civil registration had been made. So, for the genealogist, civil registrations are much more important than parish registrations after 1792. 

Prior to 1792, however, the parish registrations of life events were the legal documentation and are of great importance in genealogical research. The difficulty is that identifying the correct geographical location of parishes mentioned by emigrants far from France is often close to impossible. There is much repetition of parish names throughout France and one really needs to know the correct diocese to continue research. At times, the diocese may be mentioned but identifying its location and boundaries, or even its correct name may also be problematic. (We tell a tale of the struggle here.) Over the centuries since the Christianisation of France, the dioceses have changed names, changed boundaries, been reorganised and in some cases merged. Thus, a book that could resolve the issues concerning the geography of dioceses and parishes prior to 1792 would be extremely helpful.

The Atlas is touted as just the ticket but it is not. It describes the modern, post-Revolutionary dioceses and bishoprics. It gives a list of bishoprics as they were at the time of the Revolution's beginning, in 1789. It gives the briefest of written histories of the ecclesiastical provinces and their dioceses as they were in 1789, with a tiny map of the dioceses. By page six of a ninety-six page book, this brief history is finished and the rest of the book is dedicated to an alphabetical list of the dioceses, with a brief historical account of each, mostly but not entirely from 1802 onwards. In truth, for the genealogist, this is not much help. (Additionally, it contains some serious flaws, as detailed by a comment on Amazon.fr by "Loïc Pilven le Sévellec", such as omitting the diocese of Strasbourg, among others.)

The longed for series of maps showing the historical developments and changes of the dioceses is not to be found in this little book. That is because it would appear not to exist, at least that was the case in 1965, when the excellent article on the subject, "La carte des diocèses de France avant la Révolution" ("The map of the French dioceses before the Revolution") by Jacques Dubois, appeared in Annales. Dubois gives a lengthy description of the problem of identifying the boundaries of the dioceses as they changed over the centuries. He also gives what are probably the best, simple maps of French dioceses at different periods:

  • Dioceses created from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries
  • Dioceses created in the fourteenth century
  • Dioceses created from the ninth through the twelfth centuries
  • Dioceses created under Clovis
  • Ecclesiastic provinces in the eighteenth century (showing the dates when some were created)
  • Ecclesiastic provinces during the Merovingian period

Neither Dubois nor Duquesnoy attempts to list for each diocese the parishes it contained. (For locating a parish, we describe some of the tricks we have tried here.) We cannot really recommend this Atlas because it is not what its title says, unless you are building a library and are happy to put this in a corner of it. More useful would be to download Dubois's article and, where appropriate to your research, examine the sources given in his excellent footnotes.

Would someone please write the book, complete with many maps, that we need?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The French Genealogy Blog Celebrates Nine Years !

9th blog birthday

 

Can it be that we really have been writing this blog about French genealogy for nine years? It feels but a blink. Its success is all due to you, our Dear Readers, for your comments, e-mails, support and encouragement have been extraordinary and we blush that we cannot thank you enough. You have remained with us during our rants and our mysterious, occasional disappearances. You have been kind in your praise of our work here on the blog and have suggested most interesting topics. Thank you so much.

This year, we are excited to be offering via the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research two courses on French genealogy. In early October, we will be presenting “First Steps in French Genealogy: Parish and Civil Registrations of Births, Marriages and Deaths”. The following February, we will give “French Notarial Records: A Genealogical Goldmine”. We hope that many of you may be interested to sign up for one or both of the courses.

A landmark birthday, indeed. Raise a glass of Veuve with us in celebrating our neuvième anniversaire as we thank you, Dear Readers for the grand party it has been.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy