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Press Review


Press Review

It has been some years since we last did a general review of what was to be found in the French genealogy press, though we have tried to keep you posted on any hot topics concerning French genealogy. Time to take a look at what three of the most visible magazines are saying.

La Revue Française de Généalogie has for its cover story an article explaining best practices for research in the censuses. It discusses the history of population censuses in France, where the returns may be found in the Departmental Archives. There is a long discussion of how a census was taken, explaining the paperwork, and a comparison of American and British census fashions with those in France. It is followed by a study of an example that includes many errors. As ever, the French love of statistics is evident.

There is an article on the value of permalinks to specific document images by Pierre-Valéry Archassal. A map of the country showing which Departmental Archives use the technology on their websites shows them to be in an odd south-to-north strip up the centre of the country. Arkothèque, the company that designed the system for archives is based in Marseilles and it would seem that the salesman never got off the E15 to Paris or the E17 to Lille.

 It seems there must always be a bit of celebrity genealogy and here it is that of Pierre Soulages, the artist. A few pages later is printed an eye-witness account of the Battle of the Marne by an unfortunate woman who lived nearby.

The prize article, in our opinion, is that on wolves. Not the genealogy of wolves, but -- statistics again -- the number of attacks on people and human deaths attributed to wolves based on information found in archives. Apparently, wolves claimed about three thousand victims per century until they were mostly eliminated in the twentieth century. The article is based on and praises the work of Professor Jean-Marc Moriceau at the University of Caen, who has launched a website on the history of the murderous relationship between wolves and humans.

Nos Ancêtres, Vie & Métiers is an off-shoot of the above publication. It comes out every two months and focuses on bygone skills and professions and on aspects of daily life long ago. The most recent issue tells of medieval cookery. As what the majority of the people ate is not very much documented (probably because for most there was not very much to eat) the author is forced to rely on the writings that do exist, and they are mostly about monks' dining rules and regulations. The source for what the nobility ate seems to have been illuminated manuscripts (of which we are most fond) many little reproductions of which dot the article.

There is a biographical article on the composer, Offenbach. The rest of the magazine is about the professions of maintaining law and order: the police, the gendarmerie and the maréchausée. In all, this magazine is not one to aid the reader's skills in genealogical research, but to deepen his or her understanding of the times in which various ancestors lived.

Généalogie Magazine always seems a bit down market to us, perhaps because it generally gives about sixty per cent of its space to celebrity genealogies. This month's big names are the new Prime Minister, Manuel Valls and Charlie Chaplin. For royalty fetishists, there is a biography of Louis Philippe I, really a long promotion for the big new book listing all of his descendants. As it runs to almost four hundred pages, we imagine there are many.

The lead article, however, is a step in a new direction, for it is about "The Best Genealogy Websites". It is quite a thorough directory. It lists:

  • all of the Departmental Archives websites
  • commercial data bases
  • online guides and manuals
  • websites about surnames
  • medal and military websites
  • lists of those who can be linked to historical personages or events
  • websites on heraldry
  • websites on paleography
  • map and geographical websites
  • websites of genealogy associations and cercles
  • publishers and bookshops specializing in genealogy
  • professional genealogists
  • international archives
  • genealogy bloggers (minus our own sterling effort)

It is a most unusual lurch into excellence for this magazine and we wonder if this heralds a new path or if it be merely the raising of the hippo's head out of the shallows and into the light of day before it is again submerged in the murky waters.

 ©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy