WHEW! Many, many cases have come through and we are not certain of the most elegant way to treat them, so we will just jump in and see how it goes.
Monsieur Al Rouyer writes:
My great-great-grandfather, Pierre Rouyer arrived in the United States in 1821 from Bordeaux France. In the 1850 US census he list his birth place as 'St Domingo' but in the 1860 census it is Bordeaux France. His wife, Marie Eyquem was born in Bordeaux and immigrated from that city in 1828. All efforts to locate Pierre either in Bordeaux vital records or those from overseas French records have proved fruitless. He was born in 1806 and emigrated when he 15, but from where? And who are his parents and ancestors?
Monsieur Rouyer, because it is easier, the first place that we would look is among the passports issued at Bordeaux. These are on the website of the Archives départementales de la Gironde. We wrote at length about the resource here; it contains the images of some 44,000 passports that were issued at Bordeaux between the years 1800 to 1899. You may also want to search on the year of travel alone, to see if that may not reveal something interesting.
Have you the arrival passenger list for Pierre Rouyer? Did the ship arrive directly from Bordeaux or elsewhere? Did he arrive alone or with family members? If he arrived as a child with his parents, you may have better luck searching his father's name on French genealogy websites, as there would be more records on an adult.
A search for the name on Geopatronyme.com shows that it is not at all rare, making your hunt more difficult, but it also shows that, nearly 100 years after your ancestor emigrated, the name was most common in northeastern France. It probably was more heavily concentrated there in 1821, a bit of knowledge that will not be of much use to you at the moment but may help to guide your search later. Searching Geopatronyme.com for Eyquem, however, shows that it is very clearly a name from the region around Bordeaux, and researching Marie Eyquem may be easier.
If Pierre Rouyer were born in Saint Domingue, the French colony on Hispaniola, you might want to search the surviving birth and baptism registrations for the colony on the website of the Archives nationales d'outre-Mer. Unfortunately, you would need to know the town where your ancestor was born for it to be a quick and easy search.
A quick look at his very impressive tombstone on Find-A-Grave shows that his date of birth was known by the family to have been the 13th of November 1806 (this would make it easier to search the Saint Domingue records, as for each town they are shown chronologically). That was bang in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, making it very likely that his father would have had a military record. IF you have the father's name and IF the father lived until 1857, you may try searching the website of the more than 400,000 surviving soldiers of Napoleon's Grande Armée on Les médaillés de Sainte Hélène.
Please do write in the comments below to let us know how you get on. Any further suggestions from you, Dear Readers would be most welcome below also.
Update: Read the excellent suggestions in the comments to this post.
©2015 Anne Morddel