On Nationality
What Is A Notaire?

The Bulletin des lois

Bulletin des Lois small

The Bulletin des lois was the official publication of all laws and decrees of the government of France from 1818 to 1919.  The supplement, published at the same time,  covered a wide range of government activities and notices, from the granting of pensions to government employees to applications for patents. Both sections were published every six months, making for four volumes a year for a century. (There they all are, in the photo above.) The laws and decrees make heavy reading, of course, but the supplements can provide the genealogist with a few good nuggets.

Pension Lists

The pension lists include all government employees - the postman, customs officers, teachers, various inspectors, and the military -- and gives the following about each person:


  • full name
  • date and place of birth and, if foreign-born, whether the parents were French
  • pay grade, with the number of years, months and days worked
  • the amount of the pension
  • if the person were deceased and the pension was to go to the widow, there will also be:
    • the date of marriage
    • the widow's date and place of birth
    • her place of residence
  •  if the pensioner were widowed and died leaving minor children, the pension reverted to them, so they are named and their dates of birth given

It is rather like finding Grandpa's entire personnel file in the Congressional Record. 


Anyone who chose to become French is listed in the naturalisations, with their name, date and place of birth, the names of their parents and their nationality. Probably the best source for this information.

Patent Applications

There is not so much to be found here, just the name of the inventor and his invention. As always with patents, this makes for a humourous read.

Name Changes

All name changes were published, with the date the decree was granted, the old name, the new name, and the date and place of birth. (A much better place, for it  is a much easier tool to use, to find this information is the Dictionnaire des changements des noms by "Jérôme l'archiviste"  for the years 1803-1962.)

Nominations to the Légion d'Honneur

With name and the date of acceptance. Again, as we wrote in a previous post, there is now a much better place to find this information: LEONORE.

The Optants - the nationality options of the people of Alsace-Lorraine after the annexation

Found in the volumes for the year of 1872, in 15,000 pages of names (with an alphabetical index), giving the name of the spouse, date and place of birth, place of residence, and date and place of the option. Yet again, as we wrote in our post on the Optants, this information can be more easily accessed via www.optants.fr.


There is no single index to the entire series, but there are indices every ten years, the Tables alphabétiques. Even so, the standard estimate for a genealogical search in the Bulletin des lois is "It takes a week."

B des Lois Table Alpha small


The Bulletin des lois can be found in most large libraries in France and in many national libraries around the world. Odd volumes are available for download on the Internet Archive. The best way to access it is via the Bibliothèque nationale de France's website, Gallica, where the entire series is online and searchable. (As always, with scanned pages, the search function is not too reliable, though better than nothing. If you are serious, use the indices.)

Forget Truffaut, Godard, Balzac, and Hugo; this is what one reads to understand the French mind.

©2010 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy