Our latest junket has taken us to Bordeaux, city of the greatest wine on earth, and home of the Departmental Archives of La Gironde. This is a very beautiful city, one that must be strolled and one in which, unusually, the archives can be included in a stroll for they are not out in the suburbs but in the city centre. How nice!
Why bother? You may ask, for these archives have an exceptionally full website, with not only the parish and civil registers online but an excellent collection of passports issued in that city. Well, no archives have all of their holdings online and there is more to genealogy than vital records.
The facility is not on one of Bordeaux's prettiest of streets but one does not feel endangered. Within, it is quite luxurious, even elegant. One applies for the Reader's Card at the desk near the entry on the ground floor. Next to it are the lockers, with glass doors and magnetic locks. Upstairs, at the entry of the massive Reading Room, is -- more glass -- the Salle des Inventaires, the room of finding aids and indices.
This room is staffed by the most intelligent and efficient people we have ever encountered in a Salle des Inventaires, people who actually knew the contents of all the binders (it used to be like that at the Archives nationales at CARAN, but alas, no more). We admired their lab coats. The assistance to our research was to the point and immensely helpful. Using one's card, documents and files are requested via the computers in the room, on a system that is clear - no quirky little codes -- and works perfectly. The only annoyance is that only two items may be on request at any one time, (most other Departmental Archives will allow between three and five) reducing the amount of work that may be achieved in a day.
The Reading Room itself is wide, grand, airy, with a quiet hum of activity. The staff here were a bit of the more usual type of civil servant and less like their stellar colleagues in the Salle des Inventaires: polite if indolent, munching chocolate bars and ignoring the waiting users at the desk, prone to impatience at any request, but surrendering to helpfulness if one persisted. We did persist; we bought copies of interesting publications; we prowled the meagre holdings of the library.
Meagre but again, useful. We wrote here of the burning of the archives of the Port of Bordeaux, a serious loss. The fire was in 1919. The library (and many online) has copies of publications, such as the Revue Historique de Bordeaux, containing articles of research based on the burnt archives which could be of help. Some of the earlier volumes have detailed discussions of certain lost documents.
If your French roots come from Gironde, a visit to the Departmental Archives will surely prove enlightening. However, these archives also may have discoveries for those whose ancestors:
- came from the French colonies of Saint Domingue, Guadaloupe or elsewhere
- engaged in the importation of wine from the region to another country, as there were many international wine houses with offices in Bordeaux
- were of African origins travelling on their own or with others in the region
We will explain how in the next post.
Archives départementales de la Gironde
72/78 Cours Balguerie-Stuttenberg
tel: (+33) 5 56 99 66
©2014 Anne Morddel