Up to 1860, the story of Savoie (the modern departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie) and the Comté de Nice (roughly the area between the Var river and Italy, now within the department of Alpes-Maritimes) is essentially the story of a dynasty, the House of Savoy and a country that did not make it on its own into modern times. A glance at a map could reveal why.
Both areas have been inhabited since the beginning of time, occupied by the Romans, with a royal heyday in Medieval times. From the Renaissance, when France and Spain each became much more powerful and united, to the nineteenth century unification of Italy and creation of a German identity, the Duchy of Savoy was in the fray, but increasingly as a medieval royal family against modern nation-states. Finally, a deal was struck in 1859, followed by a vote that many said was appallingly rigged in 1860, and France took Savoie and Nice, in exchange for military aid toward the unification of Italy. (For once, we find the Wikipedias article in English on the subject to be a study in befuddlement and do not recommend them. A cleaner, if laden with regional pride, version of the history of Savoie can be found here and and encyclopaedic site on la Savoie and Haute-Savoie can be found at Sabaudia. At an odd location a good one on the Comté de Nice is here. )
Two languages -- French and Italian -- and two cultures -- mountain and seaside -- make these two ex-states of the Duchy of Savoy as distinct from one another as they are from the rest of France. For genealogical research, the distinctions remain.
As concerns the Comté de Nice:
- Though Grasse was part of the Comté, it more closely followed the French style of parish and civil registrations and so, most of the practices explained on this blog apply.
- Before 1860, when the Comté was not part of the Duchy of Savoy, it was part of the Kingdom of Sicily (for much of the 18th century and from 1814 to 1860) or of France (1793-1814)
- Parish, and later, civil registers were kept
- During the years as a part of the Duchy of Savoy, from 1582, but NOT in duplicate; they were kept by the parish
- During the French periods, the French law was followed and duplicates were made and the registers were kept by the town halls (mairies)
- During the Sardinian years (1814-1860) the procedure reverted to single not duplicate registrations and parish not civil registers.
- From 1837 a form was used that also allowed for the registration of Protestant, Jewish and any other non-Catholics. These were held by the religious officers of those groups as the equivalents of parish registers.
- After 1860, all procedures followed were the same as elsewhere in France.
- The exceptions are Menton and Roquebrune, once of the Principality of Monaco, which have followed the French procedures without break since 1793.
- Thus, finding the parish registrations means applying to a variety of places:
- before 1793: to either the archives of the Diocese of Nice or to the archives of the specific parish
- for the period of 1793 to 1814, and after 1860, visit the Departmental Archives of Alpes-Maritimes or the town hall of the town where the event occurred.
- for the Sardinian era, one copy may be at either the archives of the Diocese of Nice or at the archives of the specific parish, but not at both; copies for registrations of that period were made (in 1860) and are at the Departmental Archives of Alpes-Maritimes.
- Registrations from Menton and Roquebrune, having been made in duplicate since 1793, will be found in both the Departmental Aerchives of Alpes-Maritimes and in the town halls, or mairies.
Appropriate genealogy associations which could help with research are:
- Cercle de Généalogie de Roquebrune et du Menton
- Association Généalogique des Alpes-Maritimes which has an excellent website and some English pages
- The website Prat Généalogie is a personal site but has some good advice
Genealogy always requires attention to detail and precise documentation, but even more so in this case, for dates will tell where to begin looking. Next post: Savoie.
©2011 Anne Morddel