The work of the various Departmental Archives to get their parish and civil registrations online continues apace. We have been amending the notes in the links to the left on this page as quickly as we have received the information, but feel that a general update may be due.
The latest to go online are the Departmental Archives of Rhône, with more than the first steps of maps and post cards. They have also put online their parish and civil registrations from 1527 to 1910, the records for enfants assistés, abandoned children and children under care. The latter is a significant amount of documentation on orphans, searchable by name and year of birth. Census records, military recruitment registers, and indices to notarial records round out what Rhône has made available.
Monsieur K has written enthusiastically to us about his enormous successes using the site of the Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin. He has been able to find many, many more of his ancestors by searching the village records online. Monsieur K has been particularly happy to be able to access documents of great age that concern his ancestors. Madame S wrote to point out that Bas-Rhin have put up their censuses for much of the nineteenth century.
Bas-Rhin has one of the nicest, user-friendly sites that we have seen. We wish that we could recommend to others to follow its design, but there is one of the problems of this rather exciting wave of archives going online. Every department puts out its own call for bids on the project and each selects what fits its budget, and not all are so lovely.
We recently had the opportunity to revisit the Departmental Archives of Doubs, which currently have their Tables décennales online, but do not yet have the parish or civil registrations up. Working in the archives is a pleasure, for the staff are incredibly helpful. They know their collection thoroughly and cheerfully come to one's assistance. We are most grateful to them. We hope that they will soon have all of their parish and civil registrations online, even if it would take the wind out of the sails of certain local genealogists (see below).
Monsieur H wrote from Louisiana asking for help in researching his French ancestors from Marseille. We pointed him toward the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône, where he had a field day of successes.
Folks in Aude have created a petition to urge their Departmental Archives to put records online. Some years back, we attempted to walk from Carcassonne to Prades, traversing much of Aude and discovered it to be the most desolate, hot, craggy, underpopulated region of France. Tales of Cathares were shoved from our minds by the tales of the day involving escaped convicts tramping the same footpaths as we were. We were unnerved by the four helicopters criss-crossing the skies above, searching for them. They, and we, stood out as the only humans to be seen for hundreds of kilometers. We sincerely doubt that there will be enough signatures on this petition to merit a sneeze, if it be left to residents, and urge anyone who cares to do so to click on the link and sign it.*
These Departmental Archives websites are usually free and, for the most part, quite clean (no ads flashing in your face!) and well organised. It astonishes us that people are still ordering microfilms of the same records, paying the fee, waiting the weeks, straining with clunky microfilm readers, when the identical films are available for free and can be viewed on a computer screen at home. We really do urge everyone to check the column to the left regularly to see if the records they which to research may not be available online. You may find what you seek and can then spend the entire summer cooped up with your computer!
In his Généalogie blog, Stéphane Cosson disapproves of this free-for-all of information. While he approves of the fact that this preserves and protects the originals and provides the opportunity for collaborative indexing, he also feels that getting these records online takes the archivists away from more important tasks. With what is a sort of market approach to putting online what the public wants, he feels that this causes other collections in the archives to be ignored. (So far as we know, they were always ignored by the general public.)
He then exhorts professional genealogists to fear not (there's the rub) but to explore these other, neglected collections in the archives that are not online. Becoming expert in these will keep them employed and will enrich their knowledge. Indeed.
©2011 Anne Morddel
*Well done signatories! Over 6,300 people signed the petition urging the Departmental Archives of Meurthe-et-Moselle to stop requiring payment to use their site. They have agreed and, from the first of the year 2012, will no longer be charging a fee.