The archives of the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD) have almost a million pension files on officers. Finding that a French ancestor was an officer is a thrill for the genealogist for it means there will be a pension file which usually, though not always, contains masses of information. Just recently, the SHD have finished digitizing the finding aids or indices (répertoires) to these files and have put them online, with a nifty video presentation of how to use them. The pension files themselves cover the years from 1777 to 1926 and these are not online.
To find a particular person in the index, one must know roughly when he would have retired from the military and then check the particular index for those years.
- Code 1 Yf - covers the years 1777 to 1790
- Code 2 Yf - covers the years 1801 to 1817
- Code 3 Yf - covers the years 1817 to 1856
- Code 4 Yf - covers the years 1857 to 1875
- Code 5 Yf - covers the years 1876 to 1897
- Code 6 Yf - covers the years 1898 to 1911
- Code 7 Yf - covers the years 1898 to 1911 for the colonial troops
- Code 8 Yf - covers the years 1911 to 1914
- Code 9 Yf - covers the years 1911 to 1914 for the colonial troops
- Code 11 Yf - covers the years 1915 to 1926
For a sampling, we chose someone in the series 3 Yf, who would have retired between 1817 and 1856, François Xavier Delmart.
Quite a lot of information is given in the index: his full name, rank, corps or regiment, date and reason he left the service, and the number of his file (dossier). At the moment, this is all that it is possible to view online. With the file number, which is added to the code from the list above to get the complete number, which is 3 Yf 73.860, one can then reserve (also online) the file for viewing at the archives.
We reserved Delmart's file online and went in to see it a week later. It contained 18 pages of forms and letters, copies of records, etc. Not only did it give his parents' names and a copy of his birth registration, it also had his widow's full name and place of birth, the date of their marriage, and the names and dates of birth of their children.
Of course, the file also gives Delmart's complete military service, along with his pay record.
It mentions in the file that he was awarded the Medal of the Legion of Honour. To find out more about that, recall that we can go to the online database, Leonore, to see if his file is there (not all recipients' files have been preserved.) Oh, we are lucky today, for Delmart's file is there. Even better, it has been scanned and all six pages can be viewed online.
For those not living in Paris, it is possible to request a copy of the pension file from the SHD. It is a long process, but it does work.
©2010 Anne Morddel