Ah! The efficiency of the military! We have come to one of the five locations of French port and naval archives, which are a part of the Service Historique de la Défense, based in Vincennes, to the east of Paris. Each location is responsible for a specific collection:
- SHD Cherbourg - has the archives of the ports and naval departments concerned with the English Channel and the North Sea
- SHD Brest - covers the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Antarctica, overseas missions and maritime activities for international organisations
- SHD Lorient - covers the areas of Lorient, southern Brittany and the Compagnie des Indes
- SHD Rochefort - covers the region of Rochefort and the archives of naval warfare
- SHD - Toulon - covers the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans
These hold some of the best chances of finding certain crew lists, but those to the west, especially the archives at Lorient which took a direct hit, suffered enormous damage during the Allied invasion. Brest lost quite a lot too, but there is still much on offer.
That military efficiency means that these archives have plenty of staff, all of them well-informed as to the holdings and all quick to be of help. We were concentrating on crew lists and naval administrative correspondence and found every single thing we sought, making for a successful day, indeed.
Before visiting one of the Marine archives facilities, do your homework. From the main SHD page, using the list of locations on the right of that page, or the links given above:
- select the location you wish to visit
- on that page, select "lire la suite"
- scroll down this page to "l'état des fonds d'archives"
There, you will be able to read all of the finding aids to the archives at that location. Note down the codes and arrive at opening time ready to research.
4, rue du Commandant Malbert
(right on the water, with fairly decent restaurants nearby)
©2014 Anne Morddel