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"Amnistié" on a Birth Registration

Infanterie de la Garde Royale 1815


Monsieur M. wrote in to ask what "Amnistié" meant when written as a marginal note on a birth registration. The word means "pardoned". Thus, the person was either condemned as a criminal, possibly a political prisoner, or was found guilty of desertion from the military and then was pardoned. How to find out more?


One must look in the Archives de justice in the Departmental Archives for the dossiers on condemned political prisoners of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The would be in the archives of the courts in Series U. They could also be in the police archives in Series M. The Archives nationales, in the Sub-Series BB/18, has a large number of dossiers on condemned anarchists, from 1890 through 1955.


Ordinary criminals' trial records will also be in Series U of the Departmental Archives, while prison records are found in the Departmental Archives in Series Y, arranged by the name of the prison. In Paris, the police archives could have more no a case.


The Archives nationales, in  Sub-Series BB/21-24, have all applications for pardons and whether they were granted or refused. They are indexed in a somewhat complicated way, which is explained in the excellent Archives nationales document here. There was a general pardon of the Counter-Revolutionaries in 1791, and another of the Communards voted on the 11th of July 1880.


The military in France during the nineteenth century was hard. It was hard under Napoleon and it was hard during various conscription regimes. Desertion was common, so common that there have been occasional general pardons. When a deserter was pardoned, he received a Certificat d'Amnistie, which he then showed to mayors and officials where he was born and/or where he lived, to be accepted as an honest member of society once again. To find out if an ancestor was a deserter, start with the military conscription lists to see if he was supposed to serve, then check his record. 


When a full pardon is granted, the conviction is annulled and any prison term commuted, and full civil rights are restored. In most cases, a full pardon would be noted on the birth certificate. Recall that, in France, one must constantly supply copies of one's birth certificate or show the portable, official copy in the Livret de Famille. This means that the marginal note, "Amnistié" will ensure that the person will not be treated as a criminal or re-arrested.

Many thanks for this one, Monsieur M.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy