Citing the sources for French records found during original research and then used in genealogy reports can be tricky. Most people begin their research with the actes d'état civil, the civil registrations of birth, marriage and death. These are the easiest for which to cite a source, but yet can be difficult.
In the definitive text for genealogists on the subject, Evidence Explained, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, the suggestion is that the source list entry should give the country, department, arrondissement, and town, in that order. Then, stating that "Worldwide, these records are more likely to be consulted via the Family History Library microfilm'" she suggests giving the FHL microfilm number as well. We suspect that users are gradually switching to the immediacy and free use of the websites of the departmental archives (see the panel to the left) in preference to the long wait for the rented FHL films. As each department seems to source differently, this can be thorny. To cite a few:
- The department of Yonne gives as the preferred sourcing: Town, Date range, film number, frame number.
- The department for Paris gives: Department name, type of acte, arrondissement, date, film number.
- The department of Tarn-et-Garonne gives the archives code, commune (or town) name, old town name, parish, type of registration, type of acte, date range
Do we respect the sourcing style of the department or do we modify it - risking their wrath, perhaps - for the sake of consistency?
The problem of sourcing changes yet again when the source is not microfilm at all but the original register. We have enormous respect for the work of Ms. Shown Mills, but wonder if we may not propose an alternative which could be used for original records.
In France, the largest administrative division is the region. Regions are divided into departments. Departments are divided into arrondisements, which are divided into cantons, in which are found communes: e.g. cities, towns, villages, hamlets, etc. Giving the full name for each can be quite long and occasionally repetitive. For example, for the village of La Chapelle-Hugon, the full address would read like this:
La Chapelle-Hugon, La Guerche-sur-l’Aubois, Saint-Amand-Montrond, Cher, Centre.
The source citation would begin like this:
France. Cher. Saint-Amand-Montrond. La Chappelle-Hugon.
This seems very unwieldy for practicality. In conversation, one would say only the town and department:
La Chapelle-Hugon, Cher.
This, however, is too short for clarity, and giving so little for sourcing would be incomplete and would lead to confusion, particularly as there are dozens of towns in France with the same name, sometimes within the same department.
French officialdom tends to use town, canton, department for a full address, which would be:
La Chapelle-Hugon, La Guerche-sur-l'Aubois, Cher
Following that lead, the full source would be:
France. Cher. La Guerche-sur-l'Aubois. La Chapelle-Hugon.
Which is every bit as unwieldy as the earlier version. When applied to large cities which are also the seats of cantons and arrondissements, it would be:
France. Cher. Bourges. Bourges. [and maybe another] Bourges.
This would be stickling to the point of silliness.
Having lived with the problem of correct identification of towns, and being a people of excellent mapping and documentation skills, the French have created a system which we would like to suggest could be used in sourcing. The national institute of statistics in France is L'Institut national de la statistique et des études eeconomiques. INSEE, as it is known, has allotted a unique number to every town of every size in the country. For large cities, such as Paris and Lyon, which have arrondissements within the city, each arrondissement has its own code. This number, the code commune, (or more properly the code officiel géographique), is not to be confused with the post code. A post code may apply to a large area and be shared by many villages, whilst the INSEE code is unique. The use of the INSEE code eliminates any chance of confusion. It could also eliminate the unwieldy and unnatural use of arrondissements and cantons in sources. Instead, a source for an original register could begin:
France. Cher. La Chapelle-Hugon (INSEE 18048)
Could the INSEE code, we wonder, be acceptable for use to make for a briefer, yet more precise, sourcing of original records?
©2010 Anne Morddel