Years ago, a rather risquée friend of ours accompanied an ailing gent on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Being an outgoing, theatrical lass, she tried to cheer him up with singing and dancing and nakedly splashing about in the holy waters. The nuns on patrol issued her with -- honest -- a red card, and she was thrown out of the sanctuary.
However strict they may be at the sanctuary, it seems they are not so at the Lourdes town hall, the mairie, where a local professional genealogist, Jean-Loup Martinet, has been photographing the parish and civil registers. We all do this. What we do not all do is photograph them in their entirety and put the images online, which is what M. Martinet is doing. On his website, he is gradually adding the images (as PDFs) of all of the pages of the register books. (Beware: they take AGES to upload.) They are in chronological order and are not indexed. He currently has put online the marriages that took place in the town from 1901 to 1905. His warning notice states that the images may not in any way be used commercially. The site is free to use.
The French press in reporting on this generally makes little "miracle!" jokes. Some press reports have added that the work of M. Martinet shows up the failure of the Departmental Archives of Hautes-Pyrénées to develop a website. They criticize the city government of Lourdes, a pretty wealthy town, for the same failure. They do not question its legality, its quality, or the practicality were others to follow suit. We find this a very interesting development. It would seem that the battle of the archives to maintain absolute control over the registers is being lost.
Nevertheless, for the time being, should you be researching your family in Lourdes, now is your chance to access some of the registrations online. We suggest that you act quickly.
©2011 Anne Morddel