In our first post on the Archives diplomatiques, we mentioned the overseas civil registrations, the actes d'état civil étrangers, but we did not give much discussion of them. We address and redress that omission now.
French citizens overseas retained their nationality through thick and thin, as the tussle given in the three posts on the Citizenship Dispute during the American Civil War exhibits. They were able to register their overseas marriages, the births of their children -- who would have had French nationality -- and their relatives' deaths with the nearest French embassy or consulate. They often presented supporting documentation, such as local birth, marriage and death certificates or letters from local officials. The officier d'état civil in the embassy or consulate then wrote up a French civil registration, an acte d'état civil, for the event.
The registrations and supporting documentation were eventually sent to Nantes. Copies were sent to Paris. It is these copies that are available, on microfilm only, in the Archives diplomatiques. They are not online at the moment. The finding aid for them, however, is, as a series entitled ETAT CIVIL DEPARTEMENT CARTONS.
They date from the various starting dates of different embassies and consulates and go to 1884. On the microfilm, the documentation is given chronologically, within the name of the post. Again, beware the article: La Nouvelle Orléans and La Mobile are under the letter "L".
Another location hint is to know that the documentation of many events which occurred in what were at the time British colonies may have been sent to the French embassy in London. Thus, the documents about the wreck of a French ship off of New Zealand, which list the names of all who drowned, appear in the état civil carton for London.
The supporting documents, as per the examples above and below -- the death certificates in New Orleans of one Jean Dubarry and one Jules Guiot -- can be of great value to the genealogist.
Again, you have to go there, and it is a gloomy ride on the RER. Yet, you could be one of the lucky ones and find such a certificate for your ancestor.
©2012 Anne Morddel