We have never encountered this type of folder but then, we were probably too busy looking elsewhere for other things.The good and tidy clerks of the Brive-la-Gaillard Town Hall seem to have saved everything that came in the post, and so did the archivists who later received these nuggets.
The folder entitled Recherches dans l'intérêt des familles, 1820-1959 and placed under the category of Demandes de Renseignements contains letter from all over France and the world asking for news of Brive folk. They wrote to know if their parents were still alive and, if not, when they died. They wrote to know if an abandoned spouse had died so that they could remarry. They wrote to request copies of their own birth or marriage registrations.
A father, as concerned as any Germont, wrote to check up on his daughter's suitor. Was he truly the honourable young man from Brive-la-Gaillarde that he claimed to be? Would the mayor vouch for his character and family? For his financial security?
Another letter is from a person purporting to represent a poor little orphan who, rumour had it, was heir to a fortune, via his late mother's wealthy Brive relatives. "Is this true?" the writer's breathless anticipation can still be sensed. "How do we go about claiming the money for this poor child?" One hopes that the mayor wrote his own letter of enquiry concerning these claimants.
One family wrote asking if their long lost son had passed through Brive-la-Gaillarde. In their anxiety, they were writing to every town in the region to try to find him, and give a full physical description of him.
A contrite and broken man in prison longed to hear from his mother and brother. He begged the mayor to speak to them on his behalf and ask them to put their shame and condemnation aside and write to him. If they would not, he asked the mayor to please send him news of them.
The motives vary but the request is the same: for information. In the letters asking for information, they usually give quite a lot: names, addresses, professions, dates, places, making these letters not only poignant stories of lives long ago, but documents full of genealogical clues.
Well worth investigating.
©2014 Anne Morddel