We have read that learning to look at a mass of things, to identify similarities and differences, to separate and group into categories the items that form the mass, is a process that is crucial to humans' being able to understand the world they perceive. We are not certain if our love of putting things in alphabetical order comes from our stint in library school or if that love is what directed our choice of that school in the first place, but we do like to make things tidy and comprehensible. We especially like making charts that bring reason and genealogical discoveries to the mass of information found in French civil registrations.
Each time we are working on a family, as soon as we start to find the civil registrations of births, marriages and deaths, we start a chart on which to enter all of the information. It can be made in Word, Excel, or any other programme that enables sorting on the rows and columns. The categories of information that can be found in the registrations and entered onto the chart include:
- The full name of the subject(s) of the event
- The event (birth, marriage bann, marriage, divorce, death)
- The date of the event (year first)
- The location of the event
- The address of the subject
- Dates given about the subject (e.g. dates of birth in marriage registrations)
- The profession of the subject
- The parents of the subjects
- The parents' addresses
- The parents' ages
- The parents' professions
- The parents' dates of death
- Each witness of the event, listed separately
- The witnesses' addresses
- The witnesses' ages
- The witnesses' professions
- The witnesses' relationship to the subject of the event
By constantly going over this information and analysing it as it is accumulated, a great deal more can be learned about the family and about where next to search.
- Marriage registrations that give a parent's date and place of death lead to that death registration
- Birth registrations with marginal notes lead to the marriage and death registrations of the subject
- Witnesses' relationships to the subjects can lead to the discovery of more branches of the family
- Addresses of subjects, their parents, or witnesses can lead to new places to search for missing individuals
- Scrutiny of witnesses' ages can help to separate individuals with the same name and profession
Taking things further, we get a map and mark all of the addresses, with the years of occupation. We use a dictionary of métiers to see how professions are similar or connected. We get a time line of local history and note the dates and places of events on the map. There are many opportunities for eureka! moments of clarity and understanding of the lives being researched.
Too often, people think of the information from such registrations in terms of what can be entered into a genealogy database, via one programme's screen. Concerning French civil registrations, these programmes are inadequate and information can be habitually overlooked or set aside for the later that never comes. Thus, we still make our own chart, tailored to the family being studied, and use every single detail we possibly can.
©2014 Anne Morddel