The Paris Family History Center is a five minute walk from the Archives de Paris and thus, very convenient., when all goes well. It is a much needed service for the reason that none of the archive facilities in the entire capital offer the service of microfilm exchange with other Archives Départementales. This microfilm exchange service is what allows researchers to see the états civils of another départment without having to go there. If those états civils are not yet online, this exchange between the Departmental Archives is the only possible way researchers have of accessing the records. It is astonishing that this service is not available in the largest city in the country.
In its modest way, the Family History Center fills this gap. Users order their microfilms from other parts of France via the FamilySearch website in the United States. The films are sent from either Utah or Frankfurt, Germany and generally take about four months to arrive. They remain available for three months.
We received a telephone call that our films had arrived and booked a time to view them. The first time available was a day the following week at nine in the morning. We arrived on time and saw that another user was waiting outside the locked doors. An hour later, we were still waiting. We gave up and crossed the way to do some work at the Archives de Paris. Returning a couple of hours later, we found the facility open and full. The reason it had been closed earlier was that each of the two volunteers thought she was the one on holiday. We were told that we would have to come back the following week as we had missed our time (when the door was locked). A bit annoyed, we booked a new appointment.
Returning the following week, we took our microfilm rolls to one of the three readers. It did not work. We tried another. It could focus only if we held the glass with both hands. The third was being used by a lady who moaned and swore in frustration so we suspect it was not in good condition either. The Center's volunteer tried to repair the one that was entirely non-functional but said repeatedly that she had never used it.
In all, this was not a happy experience, sad to say, for the staff are earnest and well-intentioned. It serves very well to point up the lacuna in archives services in Paris concerning loans between the Archives Départementales.
Paris Family History Center
64, rue de Romainville
telephone: 01 42 45 29 29
Métro: Porte des Lilas
Basic information on Family History Centers
©2009 Anne Morddel