The value of notarial records in French genealogy would be difficult to overstate. We have discussed them before (see the category "Notaires" in the column to the right) and give here an example of a modern (e.g. post-Revolutionary) marriage contract, in full. It was written on the sixth of July, 1929, a generation or so later than the one described here, but showing the standard structure.
It begins by identifying the parties. Firstly, we have the groom, his full name, his profession, his place of residence, then, his place and date of birth, the full names of his parents, their marital status, the fact that they are alive, their professions, their place of residence. They are present for the signing of this contract. Secondly, we have the bride, with all of the same details about her.
The contract then goes on to say where the marriage is expected to take place and then, in the first article, the régime matrimonial chosen by the couple, a crucial choice.
The régime matrimonial determines what is community property in the marriage. If a couple marry and have no contract, the law applies the régime of la communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts, which is to say that each person preserves as his or her separate property what each possessed before the marriage, whatever each may inherit, and personal effects. The community property shall include all goods, property and income acquired after the marriage. Most people do not like this régime and choose another, which requires the signing of a contract before a notaire. Currently, these other possibilities are:
- régime de la communauté universelle
- régime de la communauté de meuble et acquêts
- régime de participation aux acquêts
- régime de séparation des biens
There is a tidy little video in which a rather stern-looking actress (could she be a real notaire?) explains all on pratique.fr, one of those sites that will explain the entire world, its meaning, purpose, and probably future as well.
Our young couple did accept the the standard régime of la communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts, but with certain exceptions.
In the event of death, the survivor will have the right to continue with his or her share of the community property. This means, among other things, that any heirs cannot force a sale to get their inheritance, which might make the survivor homeless. The bride brings to the marriage the sum of four thousand francs. The groom brings one thousand francs, a rifle and a bicycle, bless his cotton socks.
If the first pages were not genealogical joy enough for you, the signatures should be, for they usually include more family members. In this case, we have the bride's cousin.
(Click on any of the images to see a larger version.)
Even the simplest of contracts can reveal so very much for the genealogist. It really is worth the effort to find notarial records.
©2012 Anne Morddel