It is incredibly cold and snowy in much of France just now. The document we plan to discuss reminds us of our early days here, struggling with the language. During a similar cold snap, down in the countryside, a kindly neighbour asked how we were managing, for the old stone farmhouses are difficult to keep warm. "Ah," we said "Nous mettons une brouette dans le lit chaque soir," believing we were telling her we took a hot water bottle to bed at night. The neighbour said nothing, being polite or perhaps amazed, but her expression gave away that we had said something unusual. We asked if we had said something untoward. She pointed out the window into the garden, where stood a wheelbarrow, which is what we had actually told her we took to bed, confusing bouillotte with brouette. With that, we sealed our reputation in the village.
Our guardianship document is about the Brouette family and their children and the arrangements made for their guardianship when Jacques Brouette died on his farm in 1760. He left two sons: Jean and François. His widow was Marie. His brother, Louis, was designated guardian, le tuteur, for his two nephews. This was something agreed by the relatives of the deceased after his death; it not being the norm for guardianship wishes to be expressed in life. (Bad luck, you see.) Louis was also to manage the deceased's property and goods for the children. (The widow being a woman, you see.) The agreement as to this guardianship, la tutelle, was drawn up by a notaire, signed by all concerned -- who had voluntarily gathered for the purpose.
A list of all of the deceased's possessions was then made and divided into three groups. Marie took one, for she inherited a third of her husband's estate. The relatives and guardian took another, for the same reason. The final lot was to be kept for the children until they should reach the age of majority (which was twenty-five at the time).
Attached to the above documents is one dated seven years later stating that both Jean and François were adults and now could receive their inheritance. Their third of the possessions was listed again and they signed for them. At the same time, their uncle had to submit accounts for all the years that he was their guardian, le compte de la tutelle.
The entire document runs to thirty-eight pages and is a fund of genealogical information, for when the family gathered, it listed every person present, with place of residence and his or her relationship to the children. For the children, the widow, and the deceased, ages, dates of birth, places of birth and of residence are given.
As with other notarial records, they can be found either in the copy books of the notaire who wrote the document or among the court records where it was filed, both of which will be in the Departmental Archives. Generally speaking, they exist from the sixteenth century to the present day. Among resources to discover the extended family of a person, the tutelle, if one exists, may well be the best.
Read more on these issues here.
©2010 Anne Morddel