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Book Review - Ma Généalogie de siècle en siècle

 

  
Ma Généalogie cover2

 

Fabulous new book on French genealogy. The author, Marie-Odile Mergnac, has long been writing on the subject (a few of her works are in the column to the right on this page) but now, someone has helped her to climb out of the pit of dull, pseudo-intellectual drudgery that has darkened so much of the writing on the subject, and to avoid the smarmy attempts at farce that sully most other efforts to lighten the approach  (as per "Ah! mes aïeux..." by Rodary and Weber) to write a book that is clear, readable, thorough, intelligent and mighty useful.

Superficially, it is aimed at those who work with young people on their genealogy projects for school, and there are scattered photos of children dressed in period costumes. The writing, however, is not in any way condescending, nor is the readership intended to be children.

The structure is brilliantly geared toward the practical. Starting with the most recent sources of information, Mergnac leads back through the centuries, explaining the sources available from that time. In under three hundred pages, she covers everything but the actual, detailed codes for various records in the archives (the best source for which remains "Guide des recherches sur l'histoire des familles" by Gilles Bernard). Loosley translated, the Table of Contents reads:

  • From today to 1900
    • How to begin
    • How to assemble and preserve documents
    • How to interview family members
    • How to find information from the Second World War
    • How to find an ancestor from the First World War
    • How to find relatives from the 20th century
    • What to do when you hit a brick wall
    • How to record your first findings
  • From 1900 to 1800
    • How to understand 19th century France
    • How to go back in time using civil registrations
    • Other archives to explore
    • How to find Parisian ancestors
    • How to use genealogy associations
    • How to recontruct the lives of ancestors
    • How to discover the skills and professions of ancestors
    • How to find name changes and naturalization records
    • How to find relatives from the 19th century
    • What to do when you hit a brick wall
  • From the Empire to the Revolution
    • Understanding a changing France
    • Records unique to the era
    • Finding those who were guillotined or who emigrated
    • What to do when you hit a brick wall
  • From the Revolution to 1700
    • Understanding France at that time
    • Parish registrations
    • Non-Catholic registrations and sources
    • Paleography - that difficult handwriting
    • Reconstructing the lives of ancestors
    • Reconstructing the skills and professions of ancestors
    • How to find relatives from the 18th century
    • What to do when you hit a brick wall
  • From 1700 to 1600
    • How to go back in time using parish registrations
    • The Protestant diaspora
    • Nobility
    • Reconstructing the lives of ancestors
    • What to do when you hit a brick wall
  • Before 1600......
    • Understanding France at that time
    • How to go back in time

The headings are a bit deceptive, for every situation and collection of documentation, from abandonned children to the registration of fishermen, is covered. There are charts and numerous photos. We very much like the many photos and identifications of military medals. Many maps illustrate the sections on history. At the end is a hefty list of websites, arranged by department. There is even a small index (indices not being a strong point in French books). In French, of course.

(Scroll down and click on the image in the column to the right to buy.)

 

©2011 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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