It used to be that, to research a person who sailed for North America or the French colonies from Le Havre, we had to go to the Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime in Rouen to look at the microfilmed passenger lists. Now, they are online and may be searched freely. Before you dash to the website, it is important to know that this collection is not simply of departing passenger lists for all vessels leaving Le Havre.
What this collection represents are the surviving shipping documentation for vessels registered at Le Havre and held by the Departmental Archives. Much documentation has not survived. Much documentation is held at other archives. Many of the vessels are merely fishing boats, many vessels sailing to other French ports. Be warned that this is not a neat counterpart to the passenger arrivals lists for New York that can be found on Ancestry.com.
The proper title of the entire collection is Inscription Maritime. For Le Havre, the categories are:
- Registres matricules des gens de mer - 1751-1950 - These are highly detailed crew lists, often with copies of brith registrations. There are alphabetic indices at the end of each volume.
- Rôles des bâtiments de commerce - 1751-1816 - These are the papers required of each merchant vessel, listing stores, cargo, crew and passengers. Included in this category are the matricules des bateaux de plaisance - 1850-1906, the crew and passenger lists for pleasure craft.
- Matricules des bâtiments de commerce - 1741-1929 - Filed on the vessel's return to port, this gives the same information as the rôle, but will show any changes or alterations that may have occurred during the voyage.
- Répertoires d’armement et de désarmement des bâtiments de commerce - these are essentially finding aids, the lists that give the numbers, dates and names of ships necessary to find them in the relevant documents above.
Take the time to become familiar with these lists. Some of the best lists of passengers leaving France are in the documents handed over by the captain when the ship returned to Le Havre.
Enjoy the hunt!
©2016 Anne Morddel