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 profession
- 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.
©2013 Anne Morddel