Hard Times in France
Finistère Departmental Archives - A Game of Wait and See

How France Has Changed

Ma Vigne small

Technology swamps our lives. Instead of marathon Monopoly sessions with the neighbourhood gang, our children played computer games. Instead of soberly reading Plato by the fireside of an evening, we find ourselves trawling iTunes for a good film, and there never is one.  Yet there can be jolly aspects to all of this gadgetry, one being selecting a ditty for the phone. Ours is a rousing tune. When we are trudging from one archival facility to another, often via the Métro, the word most aptly applied to us might be biddy, or perhaps frump, but if our phone rings, the tune brings a surprised smile to those around us at first and then, when it is recognized, a frown, it being the Overture of 1812 and celebrating the Corsican's defeat at the gates of Moscow. (By way of compensation, we give above a ditty celebrating French victory, albeit of a different sort.)

Had he won, Napoleon would have extended the boundaries of France to a degree that would have disconcerted mapmakers for generations. As it is, the boundaries of France, particularly on the north and the east, have shifted with the speed and contortions of a sidewinder on scorching sand. For those tracing their ancestors who lived near the northern or eastern borders, it can be very tricky indeed, for it is difficult to know just when a certain region was part of France or not and so, whether to search in French records or perhaps Belgian or Italian archives.

To those of us who have never had the benefit of an education covering the entirety of French history comes a spot of relief from La Maison de l'histoire de France with two dandy animated maps. One shows the changing northern border of France through the past five hundred years; the other shows the changes along the border formed by the Alps. Technology the way it should be. Really simple. Really clear. Really useful.

©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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