Next spring, the twenty-second National Genealogy Conference will be held in Marseille. (Recall that we reported here on some of the presentations of the twentieth and the twenty-first of such a conference.) In anticipation of the grand event, we visited the archives to be found in that most vibrant of all France's cities.
Trip Advisor and other travel sites abound with tourists' tales of Marseille's marauders, of assaults, attacks, robberies and the like. Our offspring read them all and said "Dont' go", but we have lived in São Paulo and are quite used to thinking we are not in Kansas anymore, so go we did. It was hot, it was dusty, the fashion was more Italian than French, but we were not "aggressed" as French speakers of English say, not at all. Then again, archivists, even in Marseille, tend to be a tame lot.
The Salle de Lecture, or Reading Room, is long, well lit, cool and modern. There are more than a dozen microfilm readers and most of them are in working order. There are also many desks with computers for accessing the website and intranet system of the Departmental Archives. There is an overall air of prosperity and efficiency.
With its website (there is a link in the panel to the left on this page), the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône have made available to the world its holdings of parish and civil registrations (registres paroissiaux and actes d'état civil), census returns, land records, and recently, prisoner lists. Genealogists on the hunt will also want what is not online, the notarial records and the private archives. Among the richest and most useful of private archives are those of the Albertas family, merchants in Provence from 1360 to the present day. They engaged in extensive commercial activity, trading in skins and salt, primarily. The archives contain not only correspondence and bills of lading but contracts and disputes with clients or other merchants. Reading through them provides a glimpse of the life of aristocratic society of Provence through the past seven hundred years. If your Provençal ancestor were a merchant, he or she may have done business with the Albertases and his or her name may appear in the archives. (If you cannot get to Marseille, you can read about the family in the work by Luc Antonini, "Les D'Albertas : une Grande Famille Provençale"; if you can get to the region, visit the family's phenomenal gardens.
As with all Departmental Archives, use is free of charge. One must present a valid identity document to receive a user's card, which is given instantly. Bags and coats must be left in a locker, which costs one euro. On leaving the archives, one may admire the view of the busy harbour and the statues of sumo wrestlers.
Archives départementales Gaston Deferre (centre de Marseille)
18, rue Mirès
13303 Marseille Cedex 03
Tel: (+33) 4 91 08 61 08
Opening hours: Mondays 14.00 to 18.00; Tuesdays through Fridays 9.00 to 18.00; Saturdays 9.00 to 13.00
Closed to the public for much of July and August and on all public holidays.
©2012 Anne Morddel