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The Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne


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Junket time of year is upon us again. We took the train to Limoges, land of painted porcelain, to do a bit of research in the Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne. The planning of the journey brought rather tiresome and repetitive comments from friends and acquaintances.

Since the First World War, Limoges has entered French slang in an unfortunate way. Marshal Joffre disciplined a dozen or so officers by demoting them and sending them to useless desk jobs in Limoges. Thus, in parlance, to be sent to Limoges or just "limoged", se faire limoger, is to be stripped of responsibility and authority and packed off to somewhere remote to rot. Tell anyone today that you are off to Limoges and there is bound to be some joke along the lines of "Oh, you've been limoged, eh?" accompanied by a guffaw. We really must upgrade some of our friendships.

The Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne are like so many in the less-than-wealthy regions. The building is a bit tired. It has an interior garden that screams "Water me! Please!". They reportedly have a serious problem with fungus destroying documents. Procedures are similar to those of other Departmental Archives around the country: a first-time user must present a piece of identification which has a photograph, fill out a form and receive a user's card. It reminds us of the simple days of going to the town library as a child.

Normally, there is then a lecture and tour explaining the archives collections and how to use them. Here, we were given our card and waved toward the finding aids on the other side of the sunlit room. Good enough; we have no problem with independence. To request a file of register, one fills out a slip of paper and hands it to the fellow at the desk. After we did so, we watched the clock. Our register was in our hands less than six minutes after we had turned in the request slip. We think this may be some kind of a retrieval record. Though the staff may not force themselves upon one, ask a question and they suddenly bubble with helpfulness.

Genealogists are welcomed at the Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne. Their website has a page of advice for people researching their family. It is brief but thorough. They also work closely with the genealogy associations of the region, including:

Both have published a number of surname studies and village histories. Both cover a much larger area than just Limousin, indicating that people from the area moved around it a fair bit. Both contribute to the palaeography classes given by the Departmental Archives. These classes are at three levels:

  • Initiation
  • Perfectionnement
  • Méthodologie

During our visit, members of the Le Cercle Généalogique, Historique et Héraldique de la Marche et du Limousin were present and they were keen to help us in our research. Thanks to them and to the archivists, it was a successful day.

The archivists also have produced some very good, one-page research guides, entitled Pistes de recherches:

  • Etangs et moulins (this is in Aquitaine, so ponds and watermills are many)
  • Le Cadastre - how to use the land registry
  • L'organisation de la justice - understanding the court structure in order to understand court records

We can warmly recommend that you pay a call with confidence to the Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne, should your research needs lead you in that direction. For those who cannot make such a felicitous voyage, we suggest writing with queries to or using the search engines on the websites of the two associations and/or sending an e-mail, or courriel as it is here, to the Departmental Archives to request copies of specific documents. After a minor windstorm of courriels and some money changing hands, you will have a very nice copy of the record you seek.

Nice place, Limoges and its Departmental Archives. We suspect those exiled officers did not complain too much.


Archives Départementales de la Haute-Vienne

1 allée Alfred Leroux

87032 Limoges Cedex

tel: (+33) 05 55 50 97 60

Hours:  Monday to Wednesday and Friday: 8.30 to 17.00; Thursday: 9.00 to 17.00

 Read all of our posts about Departmental Archives here.

©2013 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy