If in seeking for parish or civil registers in the Archives départementales you can find little or nothing, do not give up hope just yet. Many of the larger cities maintain their own archives, the Archives communales and the Archives municipales. In some cases, they have given a copy of their holdings to their Departmental Archives, but in many cases they have not done so. Thus, they may have many, many documents found nowhere else and, joy of joys, some are putting their holdings online.
The larger and older municipalities, such as Lyon, have quite significant archive holdings. Smaller ones may be just beginning to collect information on their local history. They tend to be more willing than the Departmental Archives to respond to a letter with a self-addressed and stamped envelope.
The superb website, Archives de France, gives information on all of the archives in the country, as well as on their management, laws concerning archives, and training and professional development for archivists.
This brings you to a page which lists all of the communes that have archives, with the name of the person in charge and the postal address. Thus armed, you can write asking for more information or for copies of actes.
To find quickly the very few communal archives that are online, from the front page click on Ressources en ligne at the top, then on Archives numerisées et disponibles en ligne, then on Accès par service d'archives in the column to the left. Scroll down the page to the Archives communales, click and begin hunting.
Afterward, take the time to explore the Archives de France website and learn about all of the other archives in France, their websites, and possibilities for genealogical research.
©2010 Anne Morddel