Oh, we do love municipal archives! Their staff are kind and helpful, bringing to mind the solicitous librarians during the long, summer holidays of our childhood. The archivist in charge of the Archives municipales de Nantes was a paragon of both efficiency and knowledge of her city's history and of the archives in her care. Municipal archives are naturally smaller than the Departmental Archives, but their intense focus on collections relating to their cities results in fascinating collections.
They have newspapers; they have books and papers on local history; they have photographs; they have various administrative records for their cities (and, in many cases, they have websites and it is here -- not the relative Departmental Archives -- that you must seek parish and civil registrations). Among these last, there are odd, unanticipated, treasures, such as the enregistrements des étrangers, and the déclarations de fixation de domicile. Both of these were in the city police files and both were an effort to keep track of people in an age before identity cards with chips containing scanned fingerprints. These records both began during the Revolutionary period, when much of the population was scattered and on the run.
At that time, a person could not simply move to a city, buy a house and live there. They had to go to the town hall, or mairie, and state that they planned to live there. In the brief entry for each declaration, much useful information is provided:
- Date of the declaration
- Full name and civil status of the person making the declaration
- Place of birth
- Last residence and a statement that the mayor there was informed of the planned relocation
In the example below, on the 20th of June 1815, Marie Thérèse Marguerite Louise Julienne Segretier, widow of Masson de la Veronniere, born in Léogane, Saint Domingue, a refugee from the Haitian Revolution, declared that she wished to live in Nantes and had, on the 12th of April, stated to the mayor of her previous town of residence (Versailles?) that she was leaving.
If you know of a city where an ancestor may have spent even a short time, the municipal archives can be worth a visit.
©2015 Anne Morddel