After the mayhem of the Revolution and in an effort to restore order and preservation, the Archives Départementales were created by the law of 5 brumaire an V (26 October, 1796, see the post of 17 July on the Republican calendar). Further to their organisation was the law of 28 pluvoise an VIII (17 February, 1800) and another law, 10 mai 1838 (by which time the calendar fun was over).
Like most countries in Europe and unlike the United States, France is not a federation of independent states, but a single republic with a central government. The départements are not states but administrative centres carrying out the laws of the country. The departmental archives in each department are all governed by the Archives de France. This is a blessing for the researcher, for it means that they all have the same indexing system for the same kinds of documentation, and they all have the same administrative structure. Thus, learn the system once and it can be applied throughout the country's archives.
The current classification system, the cadre de classement, was created in 1841 and modified a bit in 1979. It is used to organise all the holdings of the departmental archives, whether administrative, legal deposits, or donations. The structural groupings are called series and are ordered alphabetically. We give the system in full here so that we will never have to do it again:
CADRE DE CLASSEMENT
Pre-1790 Series,( eg. pre-Revolutionary Archives)
Series AActs of sovereign power and public domain
Series BCourts, jurisdictions, sénéchaussées
Series CProvincial administration
Series DPublic education, the sciences and arts
Series EArchives relating to towns and their
administration, notarial records, parish and
civil registers, donated family archives
Series FVarious other archives having to do with civil
Series GArchives of the clergy: archbishoprics,
bishoprics, parishes, etc.
Series HArchives of the monastic orders: monasteries,
nunneries, military orders, hospitallers
Series IVarious other records having to do with the
Series JSmall and oversize records
Series KLaws and ordinances, cease and desist orders
Series LAdministrations and tribunals during
the Revolution (1790-1800)
Series MGeneral administration, including
administrative personnel, elections, the police,
public sanitation, population and economic
statistics, agriculture, commerce, tourism,
industry and a whole lot more
Series NDepartmental administration and accounting
Series OCommunal (towns and cities) administration
Series PFinance, land registry, postal services,
water and the forests.
Series QState-owned properties, both national
and those seized during the Revolution
Series RMilitary and wartime archives
Series SPublic works and transport
Series TPublic education, the sciences and arts,
the press, sports, culture
Series UJustice and notarial archives
Series VReligions and the archives concerning
the separation of church and state
Series WPost 1940 archives, primarily administrative
and judicial. Numbers 1-999 are for those
archives prior to 1980; numbers 1000 and
above are for those dated after the
1st of January, 1980
Series XPublic Assistance
Series YPrisons and reformatories
The Medium Destroys the Logic
The above series are all based on the subject of the archives, which are all stored on paper. Those below are based on the storage medium.
Series FiMaps and large plans, historical post cards,
Series MiMicrofilmed archives
Series AvAudiovisual archives
For the genealogical hunt, Series E (highlighted in a nice shade of pale lavender) is the starting point, for it contains the parish and civil registers, and the military conscription lists, as well as the archives of titled families. Many, many other series may be useful, such as Series B if an ancestor went to court, Series U if an ancestor was a judge or lawyer, Series T if an ancestor was a professor or teacher or school inspector.
©2009 Anne Morddel
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