Sometimes, trying to obtain French documentation can be a long, lonely struggle. Sometimes, the way is smoothed - incomprehensibly, considering their inclinations -- by the very offices that usually do their snooty best to frustrate all hopes. The stories we are told of those trying to obtain copies of civil registrations of births, marriages or deaths are together a case in point.
As we have explained before, parish and civil registrations are increasingly to be found online at the websites of the Departmental Archives (links to all in the column to the left). Nearly all of these, however, go no later than the year 1902. The next ten-year batch is being filmed in many cases, but it will be a while before they are on the websites. Subsequent ten-year batches are in various stages of being sent in duplicate to the Departmental Archives by the towns where they were originally recorded.
Where does that leave those seeking more recent registrations? Left to deal with the various municipal and communal archives or the diocesan archives by post, for that is where the more recent registrations will still be stored. One must have the full name of the person whose registration is sought, the town and the exact date. One must write a letter and include a self-addressed, stamped (with French stamps) envelope for the reply. For many, this is daunting and complicated.
If one can read a bit of French, there is a growing, governmental resource online, entitled Actes d'état civil en ligne. It offers a simple procedure, in three steps, to find the website or the correct address for requesting a recent civil registration. The first screen describes the process:
- Find the commune (city, town, village)
- Fill out the request form
- Send the request. Depending on the commune, the copy of the registration will be sent via e-mail or the post.
Click on the orange box "Commencer la démarche", which brings the next screen:
In the box labelled "Localité" enter the name of the town. In the box below, give the department. If you do not know the department, look up the town on the French pages of Wikipedia which has, for every commune in France, in a box on the right of the page, the department in which it is located. For our example here, we have entered the city of Nantes, in Loire-Atlantique. Click on the orange box that says "Rechercher". This brings the result:
Given are the address of the mairie, the town hall, of Nantes, and a link to the website. In cases where the town has no website, only the address is given. The municipal websites are a mixed bag. Some links take you straight to a form to complete, some to a busy page that requires a lot of study to find the right place to click, some lead you through a series of confusing pages until you get to where you can make the request. Nevertheless, it generally works.
In the next post, we explain the even smoother ride for doing the same with Paris.
©2011 Anne Morddel