Our lunch on the first day of the congress was not a success. We were distressed by the foul, truly foul, odours coming up from the drains along the streets in Lille, making the walk from the hotel to the conference centre a trial indeed. Hoping to avoid another running of the stench gauntlet, we chose a restaurant nearby. The salad we ordered had a garnish of drowned earwigs not listed on the menu, inspiring us to leave in a hurry. It would appear that Lille, for all of its glorious architectural treasures, is in the midst of some sort of sanitation crisis and we do not recommend investing in property there any time soon.
Back at the conference, we attended the talk given by Marie-Françoise Limon-Bonnet, head of the Minutier Central at the National Archives, on finding the professions and work of ancestors in notarial records ("Travail et ses conditions à travers les archives notariales françaises"). She pointed out that there are two other excellent sources: the actes d'état civil and the court records, décisions de la justice, before plunging into the subject of her talk. The best notarial records for finding out a person's work are:
- Marriage contracts
- Inventories after death
- Apprentice contracts
- Service contracts
- Employment contracts
Generally, in each of such documents, a person's full name, date and place of birth, address and occupation are all given. In departmental archives, they are found in series E. In Paris, they are in the Archives nationales in the Minutier Central, for which a number of data bases are online. Madame Limon-Bonnet described ARNO, which enables a search of all notarial documents by all text for the years 1551, 1751, 1761 and 1851.
The following day, we attended the talk by the Quebecois, Marcel Fournier, the head of the Fichier Origine, THE database online of French pioneers in Nouvelle France. The Fichier Origine has over 5000 documents digitised and online. Mr. Fournier pointed out that while it was illegal to post some of them in France, it was not so in Canada, so there they are.
The title of his talk was "Métier du Père en France, Métier du Fils en Nouvelle France", a study of professions of fathers in France and those of their immigrant sons in Quebec. He had done a number of searches across the database and had quite an array of statistics. More than a third of the men who settled were in the military, while nearly half of all fathers had been artisans. The jobs that had the highest occurrence of remaining the same between father and son, old world and new were merchants (34%) military officers (13%) and oddly, to our mind, surgeons (12%).
Fichier Origine is a nearly complete source and allows for numerous such statistical studies. We have long made it a habit to refer research requests about the pioneers of Nouvelle France to that site. It makes us wish we had a French ancestor who had made the journey.
©2011 Anne Morddel