The death registration is, like the other actes d'état civil, a creation of the Revolutionary government to replace the church's parish registers with civil registrations. Among them this, the acte de décès, is the one most often to be missing information. This is usually due to the fact that those giving the information about the deceased simply do not know enough details about his or her life and family.
One significant difference between the acte de décès and an American death certificate, for example, is that the French registration will not have the cause of death. The cause of death appears on no official acte de décès. This can be a trial should the family ever wish to transfer a body from one cemetery to another for, to do so, the cause of death must be given. Usually, the only way to find the cause of death will be if the person died in a hospital, where the patient records in the hospital archive will yield up the information.
Acte de Décès
The death registration is required to be made on the same day as the death occurred and in the commune where the death occurred. The acte de décès should include:
- the full name of the person who died
- the date and hour of death
- the address of the deceased
- the profession of the deceased
- any titles or decorations awarded to the deceased (!)
- all of the above information for the spouse and the parents of the deceased, and for the informant (minus the decorations)
Below is a typical 19th century acte de décès complete with clerical scribbles:
As the deceased was a child of two months who died in a home for foundlings, almost no information is given about her at all, poor dear.
The image is courtesy of the Departmental Archives of la Mayenne.
©2009 Anne Morddel