(01) Ain Capital: Bourg-en-Bresse.
Archives Numériques Départementales de l'Ain. Online: parish registers, civil registers, censuses. Wonderfully they also have put up the Tables de Succession, (lists of those who died and whether or not they left a will) and the Matricules, (military recruitment documents) for some communes. Being added in stages are the all-important notarial document registers.
(02) Aisne Capital: Laon.
On a very nice site that works well: parish and civil registrations, land records and maps, and many images of historical and genealogical value. There is a nice section on genealogy to help one get started. Additionally, it is possible via a different search page to see all documentation relating to a particular commune.
(03) Allier Capital : Moulins
The parish and civil registrations for over 300 communes are now online and free. One must click an agreement form before access is allowed. Nice site.
(04) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Capital: Digne-les-Bains
Online: parish and civil registers, annual indices, ten-year indices, censuses, land records.
(05) Hautes-Alpes Capital: Gap.
Online: parish and civil registers, marriage banns, ten-year indices. Incredibly helpful people when contacted by e-mail; they really go out of their way to help further one's research.
(07) Ardèche Capital: Privas. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, Protestant registrations, military registers, and censuses.
(08) Ardennes Capital: Charleville-Mézières. Online: the ten-year indices with a list of all communes, land records, parish registers and civil registers from the 16th century to 1890. Military conscription lists from 1867 to 1921.
(09) Ariège Capital: Foix. Finally! Online: Parish and civil registrations from 1551 to 1892, with ten-year indices up to 1902, and military conscription lists from 1884 to 1918.
(10) Aube Capital: Troyes. Online: ten-year indices, post cards of various towns and villages, land records. NEW! Parish and civil registrations from 1552 to 1892 are now online. EXCELLENT ADDITION: a surname index to the registrations -- with some 200,000 names!
(11) Aude Capital: Carcassonne. Online: parish and civil registrations from 1547 to 1872 and some ten-year indices. Just up: military conscription lists.
(12) Aveyron Capital: Rodez. New!!! Online: parish and civil registrations from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.
(13) Bouches-du-Rhône Capital: Marseille. Online: parish and civil registers, land records, censuses from 1836-1931, old post cards. NEW! Military recruitment registers from 1872 to 1912.
(14) Calvados Capital: Caen. DIRE! DIRE! DIRE news: all of the parish and civil records and the ten-year indices and annual indices have just been put online BUT there is a charge to see them. It is not much, but it still is there and we consider this to be very bad form. The site has left some interesting pictures of the Normandy invasion free to view.
(15) Cantal Capital: Aurillac. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses, alphabetic indices to military enlistments, photographs, AND notarial records and Holocaust records that relate to Cantal! In 2010, the website won a prize for the way it is possible for users to index collaboratively the civil registrations.
(16) Charente Capital: Angoulême. Online: census records for 1842 to 1872, land records, teachers' notebooks, church inventories, old post cards of local towns, villages and sites. NEW! Parish and civil registrations are now online, but there is a charge to view them.
(17) Charente-Maritime Capital: La Rochelle. Online: parish, Protestant and civil registers; post cards; photographs of the Second World War; Notarial records of Jonzac. Getting better every day!
(18) Cher Capital: Bourges. As with many, but not all, you must create an account. This will gain you access to parish and civil registrations, censuses, maps, military enlistment registers and indices to them.
(19) Corrèze Capital: Tulle. Online: ten-year indices from 1802 to 1902, parish and civil registrations for all communes from their beginnings to 1902, EXCEPT for Brive-la-Gaillarde (see their own website: http://archives.brive.fr), census returns from 1906 to 1936, military recruitment lists, alphabetic death and will registrations to 1940, maps.
(2A) Corse-du-Sud Capital: Ajaccio. Goofy website. You will have to do some copy-paste work. For the military conscription lists from 1859 to 1918, those of the Garde Mobile from 1865 to 1870: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
For the newly up census returns: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
There is also a very nice surname list. Ten-year indices and parish registrations are expected to be online by September 2014. The archives of the city of Bonifacio, dating from 1682, are now online at
(2B) Haute-Corse Capital: Bastia. Online: Maps, civil registrations from 1792 to 1902.
(21) Côte-d'Or Capital: Dijon. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses 1800 to 1936, indices to the military recruitment lists and the lists themselves from 1867 to 1921, court and judicial records, administrative records,maps, tables to notarial records, succession tables
(22) Côtes-d'Armor Capital: Saint-Brieuc. Online: land records, parish and civil registrations, census records to 1906, will indices, post cards, posters, photograph collections. Just up: military recruitment lists from 1867 to 1909.
(23) Creuse Capital: Guéret. New website! Online: Parish and civil registrations, maps, posters from the Second World War, census returns, military recruitment lists, and -- very nice -- alphabetic indices to inheritances.
(24) Dordogne Capital: Périgueux. Online: historic maps, ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations and census returns. These last are due to be indexed by FamilySearch, so keep checking that website as well.
(25) Doubs Capital: Besançon. Online: Ten-year indices. To use the search facility, one must register, but there is no charge.
(26) Drôme Capital: Valence. Online: parish registers, ten-year indices, civil registers up to 1852, notarial archives, land records.
(27) Eure Capital: Évreux. Online: parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, censuses, old postcards.
(28) Eure-et-Loir Capital: Chartres. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, land records, censuses, church plans.
(29) Finistère Capital: Quimper. Online: Maps, parish and civil registrations census returns, military recruitment lists, all a bit awkward to use. Very helpful staff. Parish registrations from 1772 to 1909 have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(30) Gard Capital: Nîmes. Difficulties abound. Online: No genealogical records are online at the website of the archives. However, TéléArchives at Brozer.fr now have the municipal archives of Nîmes and a large number of archives for Gard.
(31) Haute-Garonne Capital: Toulouse. Online: Land records, parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, marriage contracts from Toulouse from 1501 to 1739, censuses, insinuations from 1693 to 1790. The site is maddening in that images cannot be adjusted; there is no possibility to zoom in or out. The 1872 and 1886 census returns for Toulouse are being indexed by FamilySearch.
(32) Gers Capital: Auch. Online: Finding aids, historic maps, military conscription lists and census returns. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before late 2015.
(33) Gironde Capital: Bordeaux. Online: Transcriptions of parish registers, 182 registers of the Admiralty of Guyenne, a list of communes for which the records are being scanned. Expected date when the civil registers will be online: 2010. The ten-year indices are online now.
(34) Hérault Capital: Montpellier. Online: Military recruitment registers, parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, notarial records.
(35) Ille-et-Vilaine Capital: Rennes. Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations for most but not quite yet all locations. For Rennes see the Archives municipales de Rennes.
(36) Indre Capital: Châteauroux. Online: Finding aids, maps, parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, census returns. The site is much improved recently.
(37) Indre-et-Loire Capital: Tours. Online: Parish registers have just gone up! Also : Ten-year indices, land records, old post cards and records of wills filed (Tables de successions - very useful, these), military conscription lists.
(38) Isère Capital: Grenoble. Online: Ten-year indices, and just up: parish and civil registrations.
(39) Jura Capital: Lons-le-Saunier. This has to be one of the most helpful archives in the country. Online: maps, postcards and historic photographs. Parish and civil registrations are scheduled for 2016.
(40) Landes Capital: Mont-de-Marsan. Lots of problems with this site, and many efforts to repair them, finally leading to a new site. Online: Parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, maps, town meeting minute books.
(41) Loir-et-Cher Capital: Blois. Online: parish and civil registrations, census returns, indices to military recruitment lists, maps.
(42) Loire Capital: Saint-Étienne. Just put online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registers.
(43) Haute-Loire Capital: Le Puy-en-Velay. Online: Nice new website which has parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices to same, and the beautiful documents of the Chaise-Dieu Abbey.
(44) Loire-Atlantique Capital: Nantes. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, censuses, land records, maps, old post cards, notarial records, military enlistment registers, WITH a surname index to them! Do not waste your time contacting by post or e-mail, as they brusquely refuse to be of any help at all.
(45) Loiret Capital: Orléans. Online: Civil registrations from 1833 to 1902 are gradually being put online. About one third of all communes have been added. However, there are some that will never be online, for they were destroyed during the Second World War. Many communes have their own websites with their parish and civil registrations found online there.
(46) Lot Capital: Cahors. Online: Parish and civil registrations to 1902, including clerk's copies, census records, succession tables, military registers. This site has had some trouble but seems to be working properly as of November 2012.
(47) Lot-et-Garonne Capital: Agen. Much improved! Online now: civil registrations of the 19th century, census returns, many maps and land records, photographs, old post cards, unique funds of local history and customs, and the recordings of the accounts of some Spanish refugees.
(48) Lozère Capital: Mende. An all new website! Online: the parish and civil registers from the 17th century to 1902, photographs, maps, post cards, town histories, insinuations. Unusually, the municipal archives of the capitol city are at the same site. Nice little bit of cooperation, that.
(49) Maine-et-Loire Capital: Angers. Online: Parish and civil registrations, land records, ten-year indices. NEW! Military recruitment lists, cahiers de doléances and more.
(50) Manche Capital: Saint-Lô. Online: Historic maps, parish and civil registrations and ten-year indices, military conscription lists. Click on moteur de recherche, then on état civil. There is a nifty little video explaining how to use the search engine. Paris registrations from 1533 to 1906 for some towns have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(51) Marne Capital: Châlons-en-Champagne. New! Online: parish and civil registrations, maps, censuses, and land records.
(52) Haute-Marne Capital: Chaumont. Online: finding aids and land records are online. Gradually being added are: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, and notarial records. Here, one can also read the interesting "Notes généalogiques du Baron de l'Horme".
(53) Mayenne Capital: Laval. Online: parish and civil registers from the 16th century to 1882, ten-year indices, a data base created by volunteers of the details from the marriages of the 19th century, military registers, census lists from 1836 to 1906, land records, transcriptions of marginal notes from the parish registers. Mayenne is acknowledged as the gold standard of departmental archives online.
(54) Meurthe-et-Moselle Capital: Nancy. Online: parish and civil registers up to 1882, land records. There is a warning that records for Toul are incomplete, owing to a fire there in 1939.
(55) Meuse Capital: Bar-le-Duc. Online: The parish and civil registers are now online, as are military conscription lists and some censuses.
(56) Morbihan Capital: Vannes. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, military conscription lists, maps, photos, 19th century local newspapers.
(57) Moselle Capital: Metz. Online: an extensive site. The first phase of putting records online has begun with the parish registrations prior to 1793 for about 500 towns and villages. Civil registrations will not be online before 2015.
(58) Nièvre Capital: Nevers. Online: finding aids, list of communes, old post cards, cahiers de doléances, pregnancy declarations, censuses, military conscription lists (recently updated to include the soldiers of WWI), parish registrations and civil registrations are completed.
(59) Nord Capital: Lille. Online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, land records, 1906 census. The archives are relocating. Check the website before visiting the facility.
(60) Oise Capital: Beauvais. Online: old post cards, parish maps, parish and civil registers, censuses, military registers. It is necessary to register with the site; this is free.
(61) Orne Capital: Alençon. Online: parish and civil registers to 1902, ten-year indices.
(62) Pas-de-Calais Capital: Arras. Online: Lots of advice, plus ten-year indices to parish and civil registrations up to 1912, census records from 1820 to 1886, military recruitment records through 1921, land records.
(63) Puy-de-Dôme Capital: Clermont-Ferrand. Online: All parish and civil records, a wonderful collection of notarial files, images of clerical seals and finding aids. Nicely done.
(64) Pyrénées-Atlantiques Capital: Pau. Now online: land records, finding aids, parish and civil registrations, notarial records. One must complete a short registration form, but the site is free to use.
(65) Haute-Pyrénées Capital: Tarbes. Online: no genealogical records are online. However, the city of Tarbes has put up its parish and civil registers from 1611 to 1909 on www.archives.tarbes.fr
(66) Pyrénées-Orientales Capital: Perpignan. Online : finding aids, civil registrations, military conscription lists through 1921 with alphabetic indices through 1935, census returns.
(67) Bas-Rhin Capital: Strasbourg. Online: parish and civil registrations and census records, now up to 1912. Also a very interesting discussion of an early 19th century manuscript of a history of Jews in Alsace, by Jacob Meyer. A new website has just been launched.
(68) Haut-Rhin Capital: Colmar. Online: the heraldic devices for each commune, a list of those who died in the two World Wars, a list of all of the mairies (town halls). NEW! Civil registrations from 1798 are now up. Also, ten-year indices and lists of Jewish names. Serious teething problems abound; the site is incredibly slow and often does not work. We predict a crash.
(69) Rhône Capital: Lyon. Online: Censuses from 1836, parish and civil registrations from 1527, military recruitment registers, maps, indices to notarial records, a very large collection on orphans. Collaborative indexing of both registrations and censuses is making this site incredibly useful. Rhône is the first department to allow the images of their ten-year indices and of their parish and civil registrations to appear on www.genealogie.com, though why you would pay there when you can get it free here is a mystery.
(70) Haute-Saône Capital: Vesoul. Online: Land records, census records, civil and parish registrations, conscription registers, bureaux de succession registers. Exceedingly helpful staff. Ten-year indices for many communes can be found on the website of the local genealogy group, Serv@nc'nautes :
(71) Saône-et-Loire Capital: Mâcon. Online: land records, ten-year indices, parish and civil registers to 1902, censuses from 1836 to 1901, cahiers de doléances, post cards, and a nice facility to see all that is available for each town.
(72) Sarthe Capital: Le Mans. Online: land records, parish and civil records to 1850, military registers.
(73) Savoie Capital: Chambéry. Online : maps, some ten-year indices, census records from the 16th to 20th centuries, parish and civil registers from 1501 to 1793 and from 1815 to 1860. Also: some old newspapers, indices to maps, posters, etc.
(74) Haute-Savoie Capital: Annecy. Online: NEW! Parish and civil registrations, censuses and military conscriptions from 1860 to 1940, and maps.
(75) Paris Online: the existing and reconstructed parish and civil registers are online, with the identical system to that used in the archives, which is not the easiest. New!: The military recruitment registers from 1875-1909 and the long, long lists of the first names of children accepted into care from 1742-1909.
(76) Seine-Maritime Capital: Rouen. Parish and civil registrations up to 1912 and in some cases up to 1935. Promised soon are maps. Fingers crossed for passenger lists of ships sailing from Le Havre!
(77) Seine-et-Marne Capital: Melun. Online: Censuses, ten-year indices, notarial records, parish and civil registrations. NEW! Marriage banns, military conscription lists, World War One photographs.
(78) Yvelines and the old Seine et Oise Capital: Versailles. Online: ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment, censuses, land records, cahiers de doléances, community monographs (histories). A very nice site, but as of mid-2011, it does not work with Safari.
(79) Deux-Sèvres Capital: Niort. Online: parish and civil registers, land records and census records. Nice, clean site. NEW: military conscription registers are now online.
(80) Somme Capital: Amiens. Online: old post cards, seals, parish and civil registrations, censuses, historic maps, local histories, seals, photographs of WWI, and.....(drum roll) a user's guide in English. Just up: military conscription lists.
(81) Tarn Capital: Albi. Online: some parish registers, civil registers, ten-year indices, land records. It is necessary to register to use the site. Poor Tarn has recently had the sad distinction of becoming the first French archives site to be the victim of an attack by Anonymous, during which access to civil registrations and other digitized records was blocked. This seems to have been in protest of the planned construction of a dam at Sivens.
(82) Tarn-et-Garonne Capital: Montauban. Online: Ten-year indices, civil and parish registrations dating back to 1590. New! The local copies of parish registrations, giving an important supplement, filling many gaps in the central administration's sets of registrations. Excellent!!!
(83) Var Capital: Toulon. Online: land records, censuses, ten-year indices, medieval notarial records, architectural records cahiers de doléances, records about the liberation of Var during WWII. The site has been recently improved and cleaned up.
(84) Vaucluse Capital: Avignon. Online: parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, finding aids, maps census records from 1836 to 1906.
(85) Vendée Capital: La-Roche-sur-Yon. Online: parish and civil registers, censuses, notarial records, land records, old post cards. New!: faire part, notarial minutes and délibérations municipales.
(86) Vienne Capital: Poitiers. Online: parish and civil registers (now up to 1912), land records, census lists. Interesting: A collection of notes on cards made during the 1950s extracting further information on Protestants, abandoned children and more. ALSO, the military registrations from 1867-1908.
(87) Haute-Vienne Capital: Limoges. Online: Land records and finding aids only. Latest word is that the parish and civil registrations could be on-line around the end of 2014. The story is that there seems to be a problem of damp and fungus on the records.
(88) Vosges Capital: Épinal. Newly online: parish registers from 1526, civil registers to 1905, the ten-year indices, and recently the censuses for the years from 1886 to 1906. Very nicely done, with easy printing.
(89) Yonne Capital: Auxerre. Online: parish and civil registers. NEW! Census records are up.
(90) Territoire de Belfort Capital: Belfort. A very nice site with plenty online: parish and civil registrations, censuses, military registrations, and historic maps. Additionally, local archivists have created an excellent site of indexed data from the parish and civil registrations. It is a bilingual site:
(91) Essonne Capital: Évry. Online: Parish and civil registers, censuses, historic maps, and 184 village and town histories written for the 1900 Paris Expo, as well as indices to notaires' minutes.
(92) Hauts-de-Seine Capital: Nanterre. Online: maps; ten-year indices to the civil registrations through 1912; civil registrations from 1792 to 1912; census records for 11 towns, from 1891 to 1911. Expected in 2015: further census records and the parish registrations.
(93) Seine-Saint-Denis Capital: Bobigny. Online: no genealogical records are online, but there are lots of postcards and photos.
(94) Val-de-Marne Capital: Créteil. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, historic maps, finding aids, census records from 1795 (!) to 1906. Nice, easy site to use. Wonderfully interested, knowledgeable and helpful staff.
(95) Val-d'Oise Capital: Cergy-Pontoise. Online: Finally! With a lovely new website: parish registrations from the 16th century to 1792, civil registrations from 1793-1900, ten-year indices, and census returns from 1917 to 1936.
(971) Guadeloupe Capital: Basse-Terre. Online: no genealogical records are online.
(972) Martinique Capital: Fort-de-France. This is actually the website of BNPM - The Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais. Online: the actes d'individualité of freed slaves, 1848-1851. New! Military conscription lists from 1889 to 1921.
(973) Guyane Capital: Cayenne. Online: finding aids only. Preparation to put parish and civil registrations online is under way. There is an excellent list of links to other research resources.
(974) La Réunion Capital: Saint-Denis. Online: no records are online, but there is a nice new site for the archives.
There is an interesting article on the BBC online magazine about the French in London, currently and historically. BBC Radio 4 online is offering this week a half-hour programme about The French East End.
In the course of your studying old photographs of your French ancestors, beware of those showing military uniforms, for all is not as it may seem. In the picture below, the man is wearing a military uniform; in the picture above, the men are not. They are wearing a school uniform.
The particular uniform in the top photo was of the Ecole Polytecnique, one of the first of the grandes écoles. It was created by the National Convention in 1794, along with two others, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. All three were royal institutions of education that were restructured after the Revolution and all three were modelled on military academies, with the students wearing military style uniforms. Even today, the Ecole Polytechnique is still under the authority of the Ministry of Defense.
How to tell if a photo shows a soldier or a student? We have found no website or book on the uniforms of the grandes écoles, so we suggest looking for a specific facial expression or lack of it: extreme pride. The student of a grande école will have it, the poor conscript most likely will not. Every man was required to do military service, but entrance to a grande école (of which there are now at least twenty) was and still is quite difficult. There are years of preparation, there are exams, there are interviews.
To understand the system of the grandes écoles, which are completely separate from the university system of France, is to understand how the country is run, for every senior civil servant and every corporate executive is a graduate of a grande école. Hence the pride, some say arrogance. Graduates of the grandes écoles are known by a nickname, which may appear on the back of your photo. Thus, alumni of:
Ecole Polytechnique are known as Xs or Polytecniciens
Ecole Normale Supérieure are known as Normaliens
Arts et Métiers are known as Gadzarts
Ecole nationale d'administration are known as Enarques (and they are VERY powerful)
Ecole nationale des chartes are known as Chartistes
Should you find a Gadzart or a normalien among your ancestors, you could try contacting the school for some details as to his studies there, particularly as to in which city he did his studies (most of the grandes écoles have multiple locations around France). Discovering where a man was living in his early twenties could lead to discovery of where he married. One never knows.
There has been much in the presse généalogique recently about a dust-up that ended over a year ago, with the loser returning home, presumably to engage in the French-bashing so ignominiously fashionable there. We wrote about aspects of this tussle at the time here and here on the blog. Essentially, a number of commercial genealogy companies that have large websites of data bases with good search facilities, want to gain the right to index and link to the actes d'état civiland other records held in Departmental Archives. The key players have been Notre Famille, who own genealogie.com, and Ancestry's French arm, each of them versus the various archives facilities in France.
Ancestry lost. It is not yet clear if Notre Famille has actually won. It may even turn out that the many Departmental Archives will gain the field. That civil servants eventually could beat out two substantial corporate entities may be incomprehensible to the Anglo mind but then, it is unfamiliar with the extraordinary bellicosity and stubbornness of French bureaucrats, who, like Ricci, would rather lose all than change a structure. In any case, the game is not quite over and we are not in the business of clairvoyance.
Of interest here are the candid revelations of Clotilde de Mersan, development director for Ancestry France, in an interview for La revue française de généalogie. When asked as to what she thought went wrong, it would seem at first like a classic old tale of the Continental preference for tradition and long lunches as opposed to the those with the philosophy that the market drives all. De Mersan's reasons for what went wrong are:
Ancestry's "industrial" vision and business model did not sit well with the French civil servants;
It was not possible to create an indexing of all of the data from all of the actes d'état civil across the country because:
Notre Famille got there first and had exclusive contracts with many of the associations that had done the indexing locally, and
many of those associations refused to work with either corporation, or with any other, on a general anti-business principle;
The Departmental Archives, having lost a legal battle against Notre Famille to prevent any commercial use of their records, then charged such exhorbitant fees for that use that all hope of profit was lost;
Finally, it was too much of a headache to have to negotiate separate contracts with each of the one hundred Departmental Archives facilities.
Ancestry may have thrown in the towel, and Mme. de Mersan states that they will not be renewing the few contracts for data base rental that they do have, but the same magazine, in a special issue on "The Best Data bases" leads off with an article on how Ancestry's French website can still be of use. They list:
The Paris Collection of thirteen million names, even though all of it is also available on genealogie.com and on the website of its source, GeneaService of Andriveau.
A few indices of names from some of the cercles or associations, notably Bretagne.
Of particular interest to people in France researching ancestors who emigrated: the North American passenger arrivals lists and census returns, which can indicate a person was French.
To our mind, Ancestry was defeated in France not because of a cultural clash, but for two reasons. Firstly, many Departmental Archives are staffed by people vehemently opposed to any company cashing in on their holdings; secondly, the folks at Notre Famille -- free market dynamos all the way -- would seem to have administered a more forceful coup de pied au corps.
It may be that you have traced your family and have copies of civil and parish registrations back to the eighteenth or even seventeenth century, and then are blocked because a person on, say, a marriage registration, gave his birth in another parish and you cannot locate that parish. Such is the case of our Reader, Madame H., who wrote of an ancestor from "Saint-Mathurin-de-la-Dagueniere" in Anjou, a place that seems to be two.
Firstly, a couple of definitions. A paroisse in the French Catholic church is the territory under the spiritual jurisdiction of a curé; not to be confused with the British parish, which is an administrative division, comparable to the French commune. A diocèse encompasses many paroisses and is under the spiritual jurisdiction of a bishop or archbishop.
Usually but not always, a parish takes its name from a local church and a diocese takes its name from the town where its cathedral is located. In small villages where the village name is a saint's name, the village may be the equivalent of the parish. Additionally, from Roman times to the Revolution, France was divided into provinces, which fluctuated somewhat.
To find a parish is no longer too much of a headache, thanks to the Internet, but it still may take some hunting and may, in the end, be found with help from many people, as we described on a similar parish hunt. Here are a number of places to look:
Start with a search of the parish name on Wikipedia in French. It may be the same as a town. If so, the page will give the department where the town is located and you will then be able to use the link in the left-hand column of this blog to go to website of that department's archives. In this, case La Daguenière is a town near Angers, in the department of Maine-et-Loire, which Madame H. had already discovered. Be sure to read the history of the town to see if its name was different during the century for which you are searching.
Find the town on Google Maps, if possible. (Be warned that Google Maps for France is not infallible. Some of the maps used date from the 1960s and much has changed since then.)
Wikipedia and Google Maps have no Saint-Mathurin-de-la-Daguenière and no Saint-Mathurin near to La Daguenière. On the map can be seen that, about five or six kilometers up the river is a Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire.
French Wikipedia has listings of every commune (city, town, or village) for every department. In the search box, just type in commune and the name of the department. The list for Maine-et-Loire has, of course, the two villages, La Daguenière and Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire. It does not have any other version with Saint-Mathurin.
Wikipedia also has a list of old commune names for each department (liste des anciennes communes) and that for Maine-et-Loire shows that Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire was known as Saint-Mathurin until 1974.
It is our experience that people tended and still tend to give the name of a larger town near to their home when speaking to those who do not know the area. Knowing that near to La Daguenière was a town named Saint-Mathurin, the quickest way to determine the parish location is to go to the website of the Departmental Archives or Maine-et-Loire, which will show the parish names for the registers for each place. La Daguenière had one parish in the seventeenth century and that was named Saint-Blaise et Saint-Nicolas. Looking in the listing for registrations in Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire, called simply Saint-Mathurin in the same century, shows that the parish was also named Saint-Mathurin. Madame H. wanted to know if it would behoove her to search the registers of La Daguenière. It would not. We would like to point her in the direction of Saint-Mathurin-sur-Loire, with wishes for good luck.
Where the Departmental Archives may not be online or where the parish did not keep its own registers, the hunt may be more difficult. Continuing the search with the following may be of help.
The Catholic church of France has a website with a map of all current dioceses of France. It is interactive, so you can click on the diocese to get its address and a link to its specific web page. Each has a link to a list of its parishes. Many parishes have their own websites as well and are often worth checking as some give the history of the parish which may have changed its name over time.
Check the list of pre-Revolutionary dioceses, Ancien Régime dioceses of France, (which is in English) on Wikipedia to see if the boundaries of the diocese have changed radically.
Not so long ago, we wrote about resources for researching your French noble ancestors. Uncannily, that was a most popular post. With a sigh, we accept that more would be appreciated and so, we introduce today the recently launched "Noble Wiki", (also calling itself "Noblepédia"), a collaborative effort to gather together the genealogical data on France's noble families. As wikis go, this one is a tot, with a mere thirty-five pages but, given the subject, sure to grow apace.
Navigation is non-existent. Links are as yet few. The page entitled Liste des familles nobles has a nice explanation of the importance of knowing the difference between titles of the pre-Revolutionary era, the First Empire, the Restauration, and the Second Empire. It gives its sources, and then presents an alphabetical listing of names of noble families taken from those sources.
Assertions of nobility by contributors are already present and are forceful. We feel that those making such assertions might benefit from listening to the radio interview in 1976 with one of the authors of Dictionnaire de la noblesse française, Fernand de Saint Simon, a relation of the Duc de Saint Simon. For those of you descended from nobles, it will be a window on their views. De Saint Simon's nuggets in the interview include:
"We do not interfere with history." (When asked if he would try to reclaim the family's lost title.)
"Nobility is as much a service as a privilege."
"I have no modesty but I have great humility."
He seems never to realize or perhaps to deign to notice, that the interviewer finds him a bizarre dinosaur.
If you are seeking the genealogy of your noble ancestor, Noble Wiki is not yet big enough to be of much help. If you have completed the genealogy of your noble line, by all means, create a page there and stake out your territory.
Today, we offer a game, a treat, a chance to hit that jackpot. In France, to have an "American uncle", oncle d'Amérique, means the same as "rich uncle" does in English. He is the distant, unknown relative who dies leaving pots of money that tumble and roll down the family line to you. There is a certain type of hunter, we will not say genealogist, who specializes in finding the heirs to such folk and demanding a cut before letting them know how and were to collect. The website we introduce has naught to do with that ilk, but it does have to do with finding heirs.
French notaires and insurers are required by law to ensure that all heirs and beneficiaries are found, which can often be quite difficult, especially when inheritance can go to distant relatives. They employ and work closely with large teams of probate genealogists and clerks, one of whom, Raphaël Bermondy, had a clever idea: put together the public's ever growing passion for genealogy with the notaire's need to find heirs, et voilà! oncledamerique.com was born.
It looks like it was designed on a no frills, bargain basement web design package, but it gets the job done. Members of the public sign up at no cost and enter their family trees. (Do not start entering data until you have received an e-mail confirmation of your account.) You can enter previous generations back to your great-grandparents, that being the fourth degree of relation, and then as many of their descendants as you know, to the sixth degree. Notaires, insurers and others with a professional need to know then pay for the right to search the database of names for the heirs they seek. You have a chance to inherit a French fortune, the notaires find answers fast and Monsieur Bermondy profits nicely.
oncledamerique.com was greeted with dour scowls when it first went online a year ago, but it now has over ten thousand members and half a million names in its data banks. Put your French ancestors to work, we say. Enter that part of your family tree and see what happens.
We have mentioned before the definitive text for genealogists on the citing sources, Evidence Explained, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, when we proposed a way to identify locations with certainty using the codes assigned by the French department of statistics, the INSEE. No one can disupte the excellence of the methodology in Evidence Explained; but there are some difficulties for those working with original French sources. Shown Mills quite naturally assumes that most of her readers will be working with microfilms of French actes d'état civil in their local Family History Library and so, gives examples for how to cite the source in terms of FHL codes, which is of little help when one is working with the original or with other types of documents not filmed or in the FHL.
Just now, Sophie Boudarel, on her blog La Gazette des Ancêtres, is running a series of posts explaining how sourcing is done by French genealogists. It is extremely useful and we cannot improve upon it, but recommend it sincerely.
She began with a post on how to organise one's genealogy files and notes, entitled Comment organiser ses dossiers généalogiques? In this, she discusses the SOSA system and quotes the noted genealogist, Jordi Navarro, who arranges his documentation not by individuals, but geographically.
Ms. Boudarel then discusses how to cite and organise specific documents in Comment nommer ses documents en généalogie? She proposes a system quite different from that used by most Anglophone genealogists. In the following post, Comment utiliser les sources en généalogie? she again refers to Navarro, who had commented on her previous posts. A key difference that he makes is between a source document, such as a civil register, and the contents of a page within it, such as an acte de naissance.
Whether or not one agrees with the system, we strongly recommend that anyone serious about French genealogy read these posts and others. Only by doing so will one be able to understand the French thinking behind the creation and arrangment of their own documentation. It will greatly aid researchers in finding what they seek, and in correctly identifying it afterward.
The Boleat Family 1560-1912 Research by Marc Boleat on the origins of two brothers who moved from Brittany to Jersey in the 1870s, and their descendants. It will be of particular interest to anyone researching relatives in Jersey with a French origin.
Récits et Souvenirs The mémoires of Henri Soudée and of his parents. Soldiers, Communards, and immigrants to Martinique and the United States, their tales are fascinatingly gathered by our Dear Reader, Françoise Becker.