A couple of years ago, we wrote about the Archives diplomatiques outside Paris at La Courneuve. At that time, they had just opened their new site and things were a bit raw, to say the least. Much has improved since then and we have been spending more time there. We report here on one of their collections that is most interesting to genealogists.
All of those emigrants who left France did not always cut loose from their families. Many stayed in as close touch as the communication methods of the day allowed. They sent money home; they sent tickets for relatives to follow them. They were involved in the lives of those left behind. During the years of their separation, life went on as usual back home and it was, as usual or comme d'habitude, completely and thoroughly documented and certified by the local notaire.
Many times, a corresponding notarial acte was required from the overseas relative. As an example, for a minor child to be married, a father had to give his consent, the consentement à mariage. If he were in another land, he did this by going to his closest French embassy or consulate and asking the notaire who would be on the staff there to draft the consentement for him. Written, witnessed and stamped, it would then be posted back home. And then probably lost over the decades. The notaire, however, kept a minute book, with an entry for each acte he wrote.
Other types of actes included procurations, or power of attorney, and confirmations of all sorts of things, such as deliveries and payments. According to the diligence of the notaire, the acte may have been noted in the minute book in a most cursory fashion or it may have been written out in great detail. We came across an entire contract copied into the minute book, taking up nine pages.
If the notaire were one of the more diligent, these minute books can be a superb resource for the genealogist. They often contain much family detail and can often be the best way to find or confirm a French immigrant's relatives.
The collection is entitled Actes des Chancelleries and covers the years from 1834 to 1900 (though not every consular post sent books for all of those years). The minute books were sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the various overseas posts each year. Initially, they were filed chronologically. In 1989, the archivists put them in alphabetical order by the name of the city where the embassy or consulate was located. (Beware of the article! The minute books for New Orleans, for example, are filed under the letter "L", for La Nouvelle Orléans.) They are not microfilmed and are not online. You have to go there, but it could very well be worth it.
©2012 Anne Morddel