We present here a very simple will from 1920, which is not all that different from one of 1822, examined here previously. Wills in France are usually short affairs. By law, a person must leave equal and set portions to each of his or her children -- including adopted but not step-children -- and this cannot be changed. Thus, most people simply add a few notes. If there are no children, there are requirements as to the relatives who may then inherit. (The European Union has just given a ruling allowing ex-patriates in France to bypass this law, which they find so evil.) If they have all predeceased the testator, as would seem to be the case of the will presented here, there is a bit of choice.
In November, 1920, Marie Martin, a widow seemingly without children, in good health and of sound mind, appeared at the office of her notaire with four witnesses and dictated her will. She left everything to her niece, also named Marie Martin.
The beauty of even the simplest will can sometimes be the witnesses. They are not always relatives. Here, they are four gentlemen of various professions, all who live in the same town as the notaire and not in that of the testator. Perhaps she did not even know them; perhaps they were called in from nearby offices or workshops by the notaire. Perhaps in your genealogy research it is actually one of them you seek and not Marie. Unfortunately, few archives have put together an index of all people named in notarial documents, so there is no way to know in which document to seek your ancestor as a witness. (Some genealogy groups, such as Projet Familles Parisiennes, have an ongoing project to do just this.)
The best opportunities for such a search will come to those whose ancestors were in a small town that happened to have a resident notaire. If such be your case, we recommend that you trawl the notaire's minutes for the years during which your ancestor lived. As a witness or as a named relative, your ancestor could appear and you could learn much more about his or her real existence.
©2012 Anne Morddel