(01) Ain Capital: Bourg-en-Bresse.
Archives Numériques Départementales de l'Ain. Online: parish registers, civil registers, censuses. Wonderfully they also have put up the Tables de Succession, (lists of those who died and whether or not they left a will) and the Matricules, (military recruitment documents) for some communes. Being added in stages are the all-important notarial document registers.
(02) Aisne Capital: Laon.
On a very nice site that works well: parish and civil registrations, land records and maps, and many images of historical and genealogical value. There is a nice section on genealogy to help one get started. Additionally, it is possible via a different search page to see all documentation relating to a particular commune.
(03) Allier Capital : Moulins
The parish and civil registrations for over 300 communes are now online and free. One must click an agreement form before access is allowed. Nice site.
(04) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Capital: Digne-les-Bains
Online: parish and civil registers, annual indices, ten-year indices, censuses, land records.
(05) Hautes-Alpes Capital: Gap.
Online: parish and civil registers, marriage banns, ten-year indices. Incredibly helpful people when contacted by e-mail; they really go out of their way to help further one's research.
(07) Ardèche Capital: Privas. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, Protestant registrations, military registers, and censuses.
(08) Ardennes Capital: Charleville-Mézières. Online: the ten-year indices with a list of all communes, land records, parish registers and civil registers from the 16th century to 1890. Military conscription lists from 1867 to 1921.
(09) Ariège Capital: Foix. Finally! Online: Parish and civil registrations from 1551 to 1892, with ten-year indices up to 1902, and military conscription lists from 1884 to 1918.
(10) Aube Capital: Troyes. Online: ten-year indices, post cards of various towns and villages, land records. NEW! Parish and civil registrations from 1552 to 1892 are now online. EXCELLENT ADDITION: a surname index to the registrations -- with some 200,000 names!
(11) Aude Capital: Carcassonne. Online: parish and civil registrations from 1547 to 1872 and some ten-year indices. Just up: military conscription lists.
(12) Aveyron Capital: Rodez. New!!! Online: parish and civil registrations from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.
(13) Bouches-du-Rhône Capital: Marseille. Online: parish and civil registers, land records, censuses from 1836-1931, old post cards. NEW! Military recruitment registers from 1872 to 1912.
(14) Calvados Capital: Caen. DIRE! DIRE! DIRE news: all of the parish and civil records and the ten-year indices and annual indices have just been put online BUT there is a charge to see them. It is not much, but it still is there and we consider this to be very bad form. The site has left some interesting pictures of the Normandy invasion free to view.
(15) Cantal Capital: Aurillac. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses, alphabetic indices to military recruitment lists and the lists as well, photographs, and notarial records and Holocaust records that relate to Cantal. In 2010, the website won a prize for the way it is possible for users to index collaboratively the civil registrations.
(16) Charente Capital: Angoulême. Online: census records for 1842 to 1872, land records, teachers' notebooks, church inventories, old post cards of local towns, villages and sites. NEW! Parish and civil registrations are now online, but there is a charge to view them. After many petitions, this Departmental Archives have agreed to make their site free, but now they are having trouble making that change in the bowles of programming. Be patient.
(17) Charente-Maritime Capital: La Rochelle. Online: parish, Protestant and civil registers; post cards; photographs of the Second World War; Notarial records of Jonzac. Getting better every day!
(18) Cher Capital: Bourges. As with many, but not all, you must create an account. This will gain you access to parish and civil registrations, censuses, maps, military enlistment registers and indices to them.
(19) Corrèze Capital: Tulle. Online: ten-year indices from 1802 to 1902, parish and civil registrations for all communes from their beginnings to 1902, EXCEPT for Brive-la-Gaillarde (see their own website: http://archives.brive.fr), census returns from 1906 to 1936, military recruitment lists, alphabetic death and will registrations to 1940, maps.
(2A) Corse-du-Sud Capital: Ajaccio. All new! Online: Parish and civil registrations from 1548 to 1914, probate tables, land records and census returns. Very nice.
(2B) Haute-Corse Capital: Bastia. Online: Maps, civil registrations from 1792 to 1902.
(21) Côte-d'Or Capital: Dijon. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses 1800 to 1936, indices to the military recruitment lists and the lists themselves from 1867 to 1921, court and judicial records, administrative records,maps, tables to notarial records, succession tables
(22) Côtes-d'Armor Capital: Saint-Brieuc. Online: land records, parish and civil registrations, census records to 1906, will indices, post cards, posters, photograph collections. Just up: military recruitment lists from 1867 to 1909.
(23) Creuse Capital: Guéret. New website! Online: Parish and civil registrations, maps, posters from the Second World War, census returns, military recruitment lists, and -- very nice -- alphabetic indices to inheritances.
(24) Dordogne Capital: Périgueux. Online: historic maps, ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations and census returns. These last are due to be indexed by FamilySearch, so keep checking that website as well.
(25) Doubs Capital: Besançon. Online: Ten-year indices. To use the search facility, one must register, but there is no charge.
(26) Drôme Capital: Valence. Online: parish registers, ten-year indices, civil registers up to 1852, notarial archives, land records.
(27) Eure Capital: Évreux. Online: parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, censuses, old postcards.
(28) Eure-et-Loir Capital: Chartres. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, land records, censuses, church plans.
(29) Finistère Capital: Quimper. Online: Maps, parish and civil registrations census returns, military recruitment lists, all a bit awkward to use. Very helpful staff. Parish registrations from 1772 to 1909 have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(30) Gard Capital: Nîmes. Difficulties abound. Online: No genealogical records are online at the website of the archives. However, TéléArchives at Brozer.fr now have the municipal archives of Nîmes and a large number of archives for Gard.
(31) Haute-Garonne Capital: Toulouse. Online: Land records, parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, marriage contracts from Toulouse from 1501 to 1739, censuses, insinuations from 1693 to 1790. The site is maddening in that images cannot be adjusted; there is no possibility to zoom in or out. The 1872 and 1886 census returns for Toulouse are being indexed by FamilySearch.
(32) Gers Capital: Auch. Online: Finding aids, historic maps, military conscription lists and census returns. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before late 2015.
(33) Gironde Capital: Bordeaux. Online: Transcriptions of parish registers, 182 registers of the Admiralty of Guyenne, a list of communes for which the records are being scanned. Expected date when the civil registers will be online: 2010. The ten-year indices are online now.
(34) Hérault Capital: Montpellier. Online: Military recruitment registers, parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, notarial records.
(35) Ille-et-Vilaine Capital: Rennes. Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations for most but not quite yet all locations. For Rennes see the Archives municipales de Rennes.
(36) Indre Capital: Châteauroux. Online: Finding aids, maps, parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, census returns. The site is much improved recently.
(37) Indre-et-Loire Capital: Tours. Online: Parish registers have just gone up! Also : Ten-year indices, land records, old post cards and records of wills filed (Tables de successions - very useful, these), military conscription lists.
(38) Isère Capital: Grenoble. Online: Ten-year indices, and just up: parish and civil registrations.
(39) Jura Capital: Lons-le-Saunier. This has to be one of the most helpful archives in the country. Online: maps, postcards and historic photographs. Parish and civil registrations are scheduled for 2016.
(40) Landes Capital: Mont-de-Marsan. Lots of problems with this site, and many efforts to repair them, finally leading to a new site. Online: Parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, maps, town meeting minute books.
(41) Loir-et-Cher Capital: Blois. Online: parish and civil registrations, census returns, indices to military recruitment lists, maps.
(42) Loire Capital: Saint-Étienne. Just put online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registers.
(43) Haute-Loire Capital: Le Puy-en-Velay. Online: Nice new website which has parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices to same, and the beautiful documents of the Chaise-Dieu Abbey.
(44) Loire-Atlantique Capital: Nantes. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, censuses, land records, maps, old post cards, notarial records, military enlistment registers, WITH a surname index to them! Do not waste your time contacting by post or e-mail, as they brusquely refuse to be of any help at all.
(45) Loiret Capital: Orléans. Online: Civil registrations from 1833 to 1902 are gradually being put online. About one third of all communes have been added. However, there are some that will never be online, for they were destroyed during the Second World War. Many communes have their own websites with their parish and civil registrations found online there.
(46) Lot Capital: Cahors. Online: Parish and civil registrations to 1902, including clerk's copies, census records, succession tables, military registers. This site has had some trouble but seems to be working properly as of November 2012.
(47) Lot-et-Garonne Capital: Agen. Much improved! Online now: civil registrations of the 19th century, census returns, many maps and land records, photographs, old post cards, unique funds of local history and customs, and the recordings of the accounts of some Spanish refugees.
(48) Lozère Capital: Mende. An all new website! Online: the parish and civil registers from the 17th century to 1902, photographs, maps, post cards, town histories, insinuations. Unusually, the municipal archives of the capitol city are at the same site. Nice little bit of cooperation, that.
(49) Maine-et-Loire Capital: Angers. Online: Parish and civil registrations, land records, ten-year indices. NEW! Military recruitment lists, cahiers de doléances and more.
(50) Manche Capital: Saint-Lô. Online: Historic maps, parish and civil registrations and ten-year indices, military conscription lists. Click on moteur de recherche, then on état civil. There is a nifty little video explaining how to use the search engine. Paris registrations from 1533 to 1906 for some towns have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(51) Marne Capital: Châlons-en-Champagne. New! Online: parish and civil registrations, maps, censuses, and land records.
(52) Haute-Marne Capital: Chaumont. Online: finding aids and land records are online. Gradually being added are: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, and notarial records. Here, one can also read the interesting "Notes généalogiques du Baron de l'Horme".
(53) Mayenne Capital: Laval. Online: parish and civil registers from the 16th century to 1882, ten-year indices, a data base created by volunteers of the details from the marriages of the 19th century, military registers, census lists from 1836 to 1906, land records, transcriptions of marginal notes from the parish registers. Mayenne is acknowledged as the gold standard of departmental archives online.
(54) Meurthe-et-Moselle Capital: Nancy. Online: parish and civil registers up to 1882, land records, military recruitment lists from 1887-1921. There is a warning that records for Toul are incomplete, owing to a fire there in 1939.
(55) Meuse Capital: Bar-le-Duc. Online: The parish and civil registers are now online, as are military conscription lists and some censuses.
(56) Morbihan Capital: Vannes. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, military conscription lists, maps, photos, 19th century local newspapers.
(57) Moselle Capital: Metz. Online: an extensive site. The first phase of putting records online has begun with the parish registrations prior to 1793 for about 500 towns and villages. Civil registrations will not be online before 2015.
(58) Nièvre Capital: Nevers. Online: finding aids, list of communes, old post cards, cahiers de doléances, pregnancy declarations, censuses, military conscription lists (recently updated to include the soldiers of WWI), parish registrations and civil registrations are completed.
(59) Nord Capital: Lille. Online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, land records, 1906 census. The archives are relocating. Check the website before visiting the facility.
(60) Oise Capital: Beauvais. Online: old post cards, parish maps, parish and civil registers, censuses, military registers. It is necessary to register with the site; this is free.
(61) Orne Capital: Alençon. Online: parish and civil registers to 1902, ten-year indices.
(62) Pas-de-Calais Capital: Arras. Online: Lots of advice, plus ten-year indices to parish and civil registrations up to 1912, census records from 1820 to 1886, military recruitment records through 1921, land records.
(63) Puy-de-Dôme Capital: Clermont-Ferrand. Online: All parish and civil records, a wonderful collection of notarial files, images of clerical seals and finding aids. Nicely done.
(64) Pyrénées-Atlantiques Capital: Pau. Now online: land records, finding aids, parish and civil registrations, notarial records. One must complete a short registration form, but the site is free to use.
(65) Haute-Pyrénées Capital: Tarbes. Online: no genealogical records are online. However, the city of Tarbes has put up its parish and civil registers from 1611 to 1909 on www.archives.tarbes.fr
(66) Pyrénées-Orientales Capital: Perpignan. Online : finding aids, civil registrations, military conscription lists through 1921 with alphabetic indices through 1935, census returns.
(67) Bas-Rhin Capital: Strasbourg. Online: parish and civil registrations and census records, now up to 1912. Also a very interesting discussion of an early 19th century manuscript of a history of Jews in Alsace, by Jacob Meyer. A new website has just been launched.
(68) Haut-Rhin Capital: Colmar. Online: the heraldic devices for each commune, a list of those who died in the two World Wars, a list of all of the mairies (town halls). NEW! Civil registrations from 1798 are now up. Also, ten-year indices and lists of Jewish names. Serious teething problems abound; the site is incredibly slow and often does not work. We predict a crash.
(69) Rhône Capital: Lyon. Online: Censuses from 1836, parish and civil registrations from 1527, military recruitment registers, maps, indices to notarial records, a very large collection on orphans. Collaborative indexing of both registrations and censuses is making this site incredibly useful. Rhône is the first department to allow the images of their ten-year indices and of their parish and civil registrations to appear on www.genealogie.com, though why you would pay there when you can get it free here is a mystery.
(70) Haute-Saône Capital: Vesoul. Online: Land records, census records, civil and parish registrations, conscription registers, bureaux de succession registers. Exceedingly helpful staff. Ten-year indices for many communes can be found on the website of the local genealogy group, Serv@nc'nautes :
(71) Saône-et-Loire Capital: Mâcon. Online: land records, ten-year indices, parish and civil registers to 1902, censuses from 1836 to 1901, cahiers de doléances, post cards, and a nice facility to see all that is available for each town.
(72) Sarthe Capital: Le Mans. Online: land records, parish and civil records to 1850, military registers.
(73) Savoie Capital: Chambéry. Online : maps, some ten-year indices, census records from the 16th to 20th centuries, parish and civil registers from 1501 to 1793 and from 1815 to 1860. Also: some old newspapers, indices to maps, posters, etc.
(74) Haute-Savoie Capital: Annecy. Online: NEW! Parish and civil registrations, censuses and military conscriptions from 1860 to 1940, and maps.
(75) Paris Online: the existing and reconstructed parish and civil registers are online, with the identical system to that used in the archives, which is not the easiest. New!: The military recruitment registers from 1875-1909 and the long, long lists of the first names of children accepted into care from 1742-1909.
(76) Seine-Maritime Capital: Rouen. Parish and civil registrations up to 1912 and in some cases up to 1935. Promised soon are maps. Fingers crossed for passenger lists of ships sailing from Le Havre!
(77) Seine-et-Marne Capital: Melun. Online: Censuses, ten-year indices, notarial records, parish and civil registrations. NEW! Marriage banns, military conscription lists, World War One photographs.
(78) Yvelines and the old Seine et Oise Capital: Versailles. Online: ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations to 1912, military recruitment lists, censuses, land records, cahiers de doléances, community monographs (histories), remarkable indices to 114 towns in the arrondissement of Versailles civil registrations covering the years from 1843 to 1912 .
(79) Deux-Sèvres Capital: Niort. Online: parish and civil registers, land records and census records. Nice, clean site. NEW: military conscription registers are now online.
(80) Somme Capital: Amiens. Online: old post cards, seals, parish and civil registrations, censuses, historic maps, local histories, seals, photographs of WWI, and.....(drum roll) a user's guide in English. Just up: military conscription lists.
(81) Tarn Capital: Albi. Online: some parish registers, civil registers, ten-year indices, land records. It is necessary to register to use the site. Poor Tarn has recently had the sad distinction of becoming the first French archives site to be the victim of an attack by Anonymous, during which access to civil registrations and other digitized records was blocked. This seems to have been in protest of the planned construction of a dam at Sivens.
(82) Tarn-et-Garonne Capital: Montauban. Online: Ten-year indices, civil and parish registrations dating back to 1590; military recruitment lists, with alphabetic indices for some years.
(83) Var Capital: Toulon. Online: land records, censuses, ten-year indices, medieval notarial records, architectural records cahiers de doléances, records about the liberation of Var during WWII. The site has been recently improved and cleaned up.
(84) Vaucluse Capital: Avignon. Online: parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, finding aids, maps census records from 1836 to 1906.
(85) Vendée Capital: La-Roche-sur-Yon. Online: parish and civil registers, censuses, notarial records, land records, old post cards. New!: faire part, notarial minutes and délibérations municipales.
(86) Vienne Capital: Poitiers. Online: parish and civil registers (now up to 1912), land records, census lists. Interesting: A collection of notes on cards made during the 1950s extracting further information on Protestants, abandoned children and more. ALSO, the military registrations from 1867-1908.
(87) Haute-Vienne Capital: Limoges. Online: Land records and finding aids only. Latest word is that the parish and civil registrations could be on-line around the end of 2014. The story is that there seems to be a problem of damp and fungus on the records.
(88) Vosges Capital: Épinal. Newly online: parish registers from 1526, civil registers to 1905, the ten-year indices, and recently the censuses for the years from 1886 to 1906. Very nicely done, with easy printing.
(89) Yonne Capital: Auxerre. Online: parish and civil registers. Census records, and now military lists from 1867 through the First World War.
(90) Territoire de Belfort Capital: Belfort. A very nice site with plenty online: parish and civil registrations, censuses, military registrations, and historic maps. Additionally, local archivists have created an excellent site of indexed data from the parish and civil registrations. It is a bilingual site:
(91) Essonne Capital: Évry. Online: Parish and civil registers, censuses, historic maps, and 184 village and town histories written for the 1900 Paris Expo, as well as indices to notaires' minutes.
(92) Hauts-de-Seine Capital: Nanterre. Online: maps; ten-year indices to the civil registrations through 1912; civil registrations from 1792 to 1912; census records for 11 towns, from 1891 to 1911. Expected in 2015: further census records and the parish registrations.
(93) Seine-Saint-Denis Capital: Bobigny. Online: no genealogical records are online, but there are lots of postcards and photos.
(94) Val-de-Marne Capital: Créteil. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, historic maps, finding aids, census records from 1795 (!) to 1906. Nice, easy site to use. Wonderfully interested, knowledgeable and helpful staff.
(95) Val-d'Oise Capital: Cergy-Pontoise. Online: Finally! With a lovely new website: parish registrations from the 16th century to 1792, civil registrations from 1793-1900, ten-year indices, and census returns from 1917 to 1936.
(971) Guadeloupe Capital: Basse-Terre. Online: no genealogical records are online.
(972) Martinique Capital: Fort-de-France. This is actually the website of BNPM - The Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais. Online: the actes d'individualité of freed slaves, 1848-1851. New! Military conscription lists from 1889 to 1921.
(973) Guyane Capital: Cayenne. Online: finding aids only. Preparation to put parish and civil registrations online is under way. There is an excellent list of links to other research resources.
(974) La Réunion Capital: Saint-Denis. Online: no records are online, but there is a nice new site for the archives.
We regularly receive requests, even demands, some of them quite forceful, from people who wish to trace the early French immigrants to Quebec. We point out that this group has been pretty heavily researched and that reinventing the wheel is dull, dull, dull. As a matter of fact, the whole purpose of this blog is to guide our Dear Readers, firstly, to where those previously invented wheels may roll on the Internet and, only secondarily, to where, if not, said Readers may have to (get to?) do research that has never been done before.
Today's revelation is an online database that has been around for a while and is no longer updated but that is, except for the misguided use of red type on light blue ground, a wondrous find for the fortunate descendants of the immigrants listed therein. PREFEN stands for the Programme de Recherche sur l'Emigration des Français en Nouvelle-France. Hosted by the University of Caen Basse-Normandie, it is the access point to data gathered over a long period and only recently made available on the Internet. The impetus for the grant that enabled the work was the establishment of a new museum, La Maison de l'Emigration française au Canada in the small town of Tourouvre, in Orne, whence came quite a few immigrants. (The exodus of more than 230 people must have left quite a dent since, for the past 220 years, the population of Tourouvre only once topped 2000 and probably was much less than that 400 years ago.)
What is quite unusual is that the database brings together information from Canadian records, French parish registers and French notarial records. It can be searched via two avenues, the Banque Migrants and the Banque Percheronne. The Banque Migrants can be searched initially on the surname of a pioneer. The resulting, almost unreadable (that red and blue combination), page gives the names of all those whose surname even comes close to the one typed, the variations of that person's name, his or her title, and date and place of birth. Clicking on a name gives quite a lot:
date and place of birth
a map showing the region of origin
a genealogy chart of all known ancestors
the date and place of departure from France
the name of the ship
the date and place of arrival in Canada
further details concerning the ship, its passengers, cargo, etc.
facts known about the pioneer's life in Canada
sources for the above
The Banque Migrants can also be searched by various other criteria, such as the place or date of birth, or general category of pioneer (military, fille du roi, priest or nun, etc.) enabling all those family stories about the ancestor who was a wayward priest or the ancestress who was a fille du roi to be checked.
The Banque Percheronne is another matter altogether. It contains the extracts of some 166,000 parish registrations and 33,000 notarial records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from archives of the old Norman area known as Perche, where Tourouvre is located.
To make a search, you must first give your country of residence (from a drop-down list) and the reason for your research. The next page asks what type of research, e.g. are you looking for a specific person, a specific record or "Générale". Below that is a more detailed form to complete, though it actually works just fine with very little information. Results keep being added to the bottom of the page so scroll ALL the way down each time the page refreshes.
A sample search on the important name of Juchereau brings a long list of over 400 results containing baptisms, marriages, burials, marriage banns, deeds of sale, rental agreements, marriage contracts, agreements, loans and repayments, division of estates, and more. Each document is extracted in detail, with a printable version. The Banque Percheronne is not only for those researching immigrant ancestors to Canada, but for anyone whose ancestors were in the villages of the cantons of Tourouvre, Mortagne-au-Perche and Bellême, and who may have gone to the notaires of Tourouvre, Réveillon or Montagne.
To carry on your research, the Centre Généalogique de l'Orne et du Perche has an excellent website with a form for searching their database of names (access is via Bigenet or Geneabank). They also maintain the Perche-Quebec.com website, all about famous descendants of those Perche immigrants, revealing some very peculiar cousin relationships.
With all of this beautiful work done and available, why would anyone want to reject it and insist on reinventing the wheel? Just be grateful.
Historically, the notion of an individual's right to privacy is rather young. Early societies seem not to have considered it. According to a Scientific American timeline on the subject, American Puritans vehemently opposed it, the story goes that French kings would not have comprehended it (indeed, most royalty thought nothing of performing the most intimate acts in front of a crowd of courtiers) but today we cherish it.
Ever since those in power have had the strength to enforce the documentation of the people under their authority, they have tried to do so. The reasons were almost never academic, but economical: a list of citizens, their ages and sex enabled more efficient taxation and the identification of young men to fill the ranks of armies for conquest.
As we all know, enormous amounts of documentation, revealing all kinds of details about the lives of people long ago and yesterday have been and are being collected and stored. As genealogists, we raid the archives hunting ancestors with joy. It is fun to find out who they were and how they, and consequently we, fit into history. As to the same kinds of documentation and information about our own lives, most of us would prefer it not be available to the entire world, e.g. splattered all over the Internet, at least until we are dead and gone. Therein lies the tug-of-war: we want to find all on others and we want no one to find anything on us.
It is the Internet, of course, along with various programmes that can manipulate and unite personal data, that is bringing the tug-of-war to the point of one side or the other all falling down. The rate at which not only officially collected but all kinds of personal information is accumulating is astonishing and bizarre. Google "accidentally" scoops up loads of personal data on people while photographing their homes. Scientists (and progeny) have used genealogy DNA websites to identify sperm donors who thought they were anonymous. Facebook gathers and sells to marketing companies as much as it possibly can about the lives of its users, many of whom are young and innocently think it is a free site for connecting with friends. Those are examples of only the legal misuse of personal data. Crooks are having a field day on the Internet.
In the United States, concerns about identity theft have resulted in a few bills being introduced in Congress aiming to limit access to the Social Security Death Index. This is a puny and myopic response to a huge issue when compared to the proposal before the European Parliament, which intends to "strengthen on-line privacy rights" across the entirety of the twenty-seven countries of the Union. More specifically, it will recognize what is called the droit à l'oubli or the "right to be forgotten", including the right to erase personal information from public view. How many of us wish we could take down words or pictures we put on the Internet in the past?
Just as a number of genealogy organisations in the United States are opposed to any restriction of access to the Social Security Death Index, so a number of French genealogy groups and others (including Facebook) are opposed to this Data Protection Reform (though the CNILsupports it). The recent, rather panic-stricken press release of the Association of French Archivists suggests that the proposal says that the only way to prevent the misuse of private data is to eliminate it....all of it.....forever. To quote:
"Did you recently graduate? Schools or universities will destroy your file. Did you sell your real estate property? The land registry office will destroy every trace of your property. Are you no longer employed? The organisation you worked for will delete every bit of information related to you."
Alternatively to the whole document being destroyed, according to the blog of the Fédération Française de Généalogie, this law, if passed, would require the anonymisation (and the British mock the Americans for word invention!) of documents, e.g. presumably with a censor's bold, black marking pen, blocking out names, dates and places from documents. The blog of FranceGenWeb says the law would mean that the websites of the Departmental Archives, with on-line archives (see the panel to the left on this page) would all have to be closed.
Would such a law be applied to historical records? Of course, if not, we would have to reconsider when current information becomes history. Should all information contained in vital records be public from the moment of creation? Should it be allowed to be sold? Doesn't that make us all, literally, a commodity? And doesn't being a commodity dehumanise us? We have to teach our children how to avoid pornography in the Internet, how to "self-censor"; should not we genealogists learn to apply that same sort of self-discipline when it comes to researching and publicly presenting personal information about living people?
Never before in our history as a species have we had to grapple with this problem or ask these questions. These are exciting times indeed.
To those who have the opportunity to travel to one of the Departmental Archives in France to research in notarial records for the marriage contracts of their ancestors, we dedicate this post. We have written a tad about dowries and marriage contracts in French society. We have given an example of a 1929 marriage contract, with an explanation of the marriage regimes allowed by law. Now, we explain how to find them in the archives, should you be so lucky as to go on a research junket.
There are, in the Departmental Archives, the fonds de l'enregistrement, also known as the fonds du Contrôle des actes, both being a type of documents register book. They form a part of the insinuation judiciaire, a required registration of all notarial actes concerning the transfer of property. Enlarged by the same law, the ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts in 1539, that mandated the recording of baptisms, marriages, and burials, the insinuation judiciaire ensured that such transfers of property -- whether by donation, inheritance, as part of a marriage contract, etc. -- would be public, thereby, rather wishfully, hoping to avoid fraud. Fifty years later, the Contrôle des actes, was required for all notarial documents written and also -- rather more realistically than the insinuation, collecting fees and taxes on each transfer of property or goods. After the Revolution, these registers were called l'enregistrement.
All of these registrations were the responsibility of the notaires who took their own registers to specific bureaux, the location of which makes no geographical sense that we can see. The Departmental Archives all keep maps and concordances explaining where these bureaux were and what areas they covered. The registers contain transcriptions of the actes and are, naturally, in chronological order. Thus, for each type of documentation, the bureaux created alphabetic tables, or indices, for each type of acte register. The example above and below is a Table aphabétique des Contrats de Mariage registered from 1803 to 1805 in Montauban.
The images above show the left and right side, respectively, of the register of marriage contracts. It gives:
The full name of the groom-to-be
His place of residence
The name of the bride-to-be
Her place of residence
The nature and value of any goods or property given as dowry
The date of the marriage contract
The name and place of residence of the notaire who wrote it
With this information, it is then possible to find the marriage contract, with all of its wondrous genealogical detail.
These tables work best when you have the knowledge from the marriage registration, e.g. the names of the groom and bride and their places of residence, as well as the date and place of the marriage. Without that, the hunt through the many tables would be too arduous.
For those not able to visit the Departmental Archives, some of them have put some tables and contrôles -- either for marriage contracts and/or for other notarial documents -- on their websites. As of today, they include:
Var (who have a particularly good explanation of how to use their collection)
So, for many, it may not be necessary to travel after all.
We have written recently about the determination of Louis XIV to establish just who in his realm was truly of the nobility and who was not. We have also pointed out in a recent post that the nobility did not pay many forms of taxes. It does not require deep thought to comprehend that there was a clear financial incentive for many to become what were known as "false nobles". This problem was particularly severe in Bretagne, which had missed out on the nobility checks for several years and thus had a surfeit of spurious dukes.
The royal command inaugurating the Great Reformation of 1668 established an office for reformation in each province. That for Bretagne was headed by Monsieur d'Argouges; he was supported by a team of parliamentary advisers. They were to examine and rule on all disputed or "usurped" uses of noble titles. Local notaires had to provide copies of the documentation showing use of titles by their clients, and reveal their addresses. There were two basic ways to prove one's claim to nobility:
Being able to show that one's ancestors were of the old nobility of Bretagne, which required much genealogical documentation, or
Being able to show "noble and advantageous government" of the title for at least one hundred years, which required not only some genealogy but good account books and perhaps testimonials as to one's noble and advantageous governing practices.
Those proven to be false nobles had to pay a stiff fine of four hundred livres. This was reduced to one hundred livres if they confessed and gave up their dishonest use of titles. Even those who may have thought they were legitimately ennobled by Letters patent had to surrender their titles if awarded after 1609, or pay one thousand livres to keep them.
These would have made a most enjoyable read on a rainy night but, sadly, most of the case documentation was destroyed during the Revolution, either by those despising all to do with hereditary tax breaks or by those desperate to eradicate a method by which they could be traced as such. The genealogy proofs which have survived cover about two hundred families and have been collected and transcribed by the Count of Rosmorduc (how quickly the titles returned!) in the four-volume La Noblesse de Bretagne devant le Chambre de la Réformation, which can be read on Gallica. Some original documentation can be found in :
the municipal library of Rennes
the municipal library of Saint-Brieuc
the Departmental Archives of Côtes d'Armor
the Departmental Archives of Loire-Atlantique
the Departmental Archives of Ile-et-Vilaine
the Bibliothèque nationale
Without doubt, one of the best online sources of information concerning this and other episodes in the history of Bretagne's nobility is Tudchentil. This is a very impressive site, founded by a historian, Norbert Bernard, and written for the most part by academics and post-graduate students, with a few genealogists and history buffs contributing as well. For those too impatient to read the history and who wish to dash straight to the family list to see if Grandpa may not be there, the Preuves de Noblesses are given in their entirety, carefully copied out from Rosmorduc.
The world of French genealogy is abuzz with the news that Belgium has begun to put its genealogical records online. If you have had trouble tracing your ancestors from the north of France, chances are that they slipped over into Belgium or came from there in the first place. If so, this news will please you, indeed.
It is early days yet, and the Belgian archives, the State Archives of Belgium, are calling it a test phase and are adding document images gradually (so, if you do not find your people, try again in a few weeks). However, the plan is to include all of the country's ten provinces and all of the nineteen communes of the Brussels region.
Before beginning there, we suggest you exhaust other resources first, including the work of André Vanderlynden, in order to make a more focused search. This will be particularly useful if your ancestors had family members on both sides of that somewhat mobile border between France and Belgium. You may also want to use this handy little Belgian towns site to be sure of the town's correct name.
Having completed your preparation, you may then try the search page of the Belgian State Archives. Though it purports to be multi-lingual, the English page is not yet set up, so you will have to work in French or Flemish. The site is free, though it is necessary to register. Then ..... chargez! Jump in and start hunting among the parish and civil registrations. They are arranged first by province, then by arrondissement. The map site above will help with this.
You may also want to try the search page of names, based on the enormous amount of extracts made by volunteers. This is quite useful as it includes many types of documents, not only the parish and civil registrations (of which there are hundreds extracted) but:
When you run into trouble with language, and you could well do, the Association Généalogique du Hainault Belge, will help with translation from Flemish or Latin to French; you upload an image of the document onto the forum and everyone helps decipher it.
The Boleat Family 1560-1912 Research by Marc Boleat on the origins of two brothers who moved from Brittany to Jersey in the 1870s, and their descendants. It will be of particular interest to anyone researching relatives in Jersey with a French origin.
Récits et Souvenirs The mémoires of Henri Soudée and of his parents. Soldiers, Communards, and immigrants to Martinique and the United States, their tales are fascinatingly gathered by our Dear Reader, Françoise Becker.