After the Revolution, in 1792 with the law of 7 Messidor an 2 , the government took possession of the parish registers and placed them in the newly created Departmental Archives, and required that all new church registrations of baptisms, marriages, and burials have copies made and submitted to the Departmental Archives and the Mairie (Town Hall). Additionally, they required that a registration of births, marriages, and deaths be done by the mayors or their officers, also in duplicate, with the copies going to the same places. These are the actes d'état civil and they contain an incredible amount of information for the genealogist.
The registrations for the 19th century were made in government issue notebooks. As we said in the previous post, a small commune might have used one book for all births, marriages and deaths for a few years, while a large commune would have had a single book for each category and may have run into many volumes per year for each.
Acte de naissance
The law requires that the registration of a birth be made within three days of the event. It must be made in the commune where the child was born, (which may not necessarily be the one where the parents live). An acte de naissance will contain :
- the child's surname
- the child's first names
- the date, hour and place of the child's birth
- the parents' full names
- the parents' ages
- the parents' professions
- the parents' addresses
- (since 1922) the parents' dates of birth
- witnesses' names
- signatures of the mayor or registrar, the parents and the witnesses
There may also be, in the margin, the mentions marginales, such as marriages, divorces, and death. This makes it possible to follow a person's life with one registration. It also makes it impossible to escape the past and we are astonished that more French, who certainly value their privacy, do not up stakes and move to Nevada or South America or some such. We can only imagine it is because the wine in Nevada is ghastly. Then again, it may be because they know that fewer than 20% of all actes de naissances actually have the notes in the margins.
Below is an ordinary acte de naissance (click on the image to enlarge it):
The number indicates that it is the 19th birth for that year in that commune. This image is courtesy of the Departmental Archives of la Mayenne.
©2009 Anne Morddel