Hitherto, France's genealogists have been a secretive bunch. Each chambre (office or company) working steadily to build a massive collection of information, as in the Andriveau archives. The work was and still is competitive, the genealogist usually hired by a notaire to find heirs. When one chambre went under, the others fought to buy its precious archives. In addition to heir searching, traditional use of genealogists was centred around the discovery or creation of a noble pedigree with a collection of coats of arms. This was lucrative and much coveted work. Sharing information, openness about sources and research, cooperation, were all unknown concepts.
With the growing popularity of a more simplified form of family genealogy -- a passion to discover the true place of oneself and one's family in history, as opposed to the need to find a relation for legal reasons or the need to justify one's existence through the aggrandisment of one's forebears -- professional genealogy in France is changing with the times.
The USGP is the Union des syndicats des généalogistes professionnels, the federation of four professional genealogists' associations:
- le Syndicat national des généalogistes (SNG)
- la Chambre des Généalogistes Professionnels (CGP)
- la Chambre Syndicale des Généalogistes et Héraldistes de France (CSGHF)
- la Compagnie Européenne des Généalogistes Successoraux (CEGS)
The newly redesigned website of the USGP opens with a message from the president announcing a commitment to advancing the profession, increasing the public's awareness of professional genealogists, providing information to both professionals and the public and to openness and transparency.
There are some ninety-five companies as members. Approximately six hundred individuals are members, of whom four hundred and five hold professional qualifications. The statistics about cases handled is a good indication of the focus of the profession and of its fundamental function: about 5,000 cases per year concern family and historical genealogy, while more than twice the number of cases per year (12,000) concern the finding of heirs and establishing their rights.
The site has some information about the laws and access to records, but the USGP does not aim to help amateurs find their way; it aims to further the profession. To this end, it has created a page that is extremely useful to those seeking a professional: a directory of all members, l'annuaire. Here, one has a complete list of all registered members. Click on a name and a card image comes up giving the full name, business name and address, membership to one of the syndicats above, card number and date of first joining. Unfortunately, no telephone number or e-mail address is given; neither is there a link to the company website. Worse, there is no filter to allow a search by location, which is quite a bore.
Still and all, it is a good beginning. We are rather charmed by the naturalness of most of the photos.
©2011 Anne Morddel