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June 2017

French Nationality Law Through the Years

To be French

One can pen an encyclopaedia on the subject of what it means to be French but for those researching their ancestors, it is the law that matters. The laws on French nationality determined whether or not a person would have been allowed to present him or her self to the world as truly French and the law changed over the years. Thus, though we glossed over this in a post some years ago, we now give a brief history of French law on nationality.

  • During the Ancien régime, the years of kings prior to 1789, only the king could confer French nationality, with a letter of naturalisation, une lettre de naturalité. This could have been granted to a foreigner living in the country,  un aubain.
  • At the beginning of the French Revolution, the rather vile concept of one being a subject of a king gave way to the marginally better one of one being a citizen of a democratically governed country. Citizenship could be granted to foreigners who may have done something fine for the Republic, (such as Thomas Paine, who had fine ideas, or as Joel Barlow, the American diplomat and conman who seemed fine at the time) and who resided in France. Citizenship rights were also granted to the children of French people who had left the country to escape the violence of the Revolution.
  • In 1804 the Civil Code allowed émigrés and their children to return to France and to be French; and for all foreigners born in France to choose, at the age of twenty-one, to acquire French nationality.
  • In 1851, double nationality was permitted, in part, for the first time. Those born in France to a foreign parent who was also born in France could be considered as French from birth; they could, on reaching majority, choose to surrender their French nationality. This right was annulled in 1889. (At that time, those born within France to a foreign father who had been born outside of France were not French. Women who married foreigners lost their French nationality.)
  • In 1889, needing more men for the army, the country changed the laws concerning foreigners born in France such that all foreigners born in France and still living in France at the time that they reached the age of majority and who had not surrendered formally their French nationality, were French and did have to do their military service. (See here and here.)
  • In 1927, after the reduction of the male working population by approximately one and a half million, with a further two million handicapped and unable to work, needs trumped exclusivity. The many working men who had come to France to fill the gap were allowed to become French more easily. Those who had lived in the country for three years could apply for nationality. Children born to French women who had married foreigners, became French; their mothers had already acquired the right to re-establish their French nationality.
  • In 1940, the Vichy government suspended all naturalisations. This was annulled in 1944 and 1945 and the possibility to become French again reappeared.

 To know more, read the excellent Ministry of the Interior publication here.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Could DNA Testing for Genealogy Be Permitted in France?

Photo 51

Tomorrow we go to the polls again in France, this time for the run-off election for the legislature. All predictions say that the party of the newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, La République en March! (REM), will be the winner. This is expected to give President Macron (who is referred to by the press as "The Kid") a majority of supporters among legislators that could lead to many of his proposals becoming law.

President Macron is an educated man with an appreciation for sound science. While still campaigning, he issued a video in English encouraging American scientists, particularly disappointed climate scientists, to come to France, where their work would be supported, encouraged and, best of all, funded. 

 

Since becoming president, he has made a number of pro-science moves, including the "Make Our Planet Great Again", which offers foreign scientists four-year grants worth up to one and a half million euros each to come to France to do their research.

Is this a new Enlightenment? If so, will it open the door to DNA testing for genealogical purposes here? To date, such testing has been banned in France on grounds that it could be a violation of bioethics, as we explained in this post. Now, however, many in the French genealogy community, with the well-known Guillaume de Morant at the vanguard, have launched a petition asking parliament to review and change the restriction. Those of you who have attempted to trace French ancestors via DNA testing are aware of the shallowness of the French DNA pool in genealogy databases, (in spite of some one hundred thousand French people per year using the post to have foreign companies test their DNA). Should you wish to see this improve, we suggest that you sign the petition.

It will be interesting to see how far the pro-science stance of the new President and legislature will reach.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 


New Booklet : French Notaires and Notarial Records

Booklet Cover N

We do apologise, Dear Readers, for the long silence and thank those of you who wrote with concern. There are times when, to accomplish something, one must bury the phone in the garden, draw the curtains closed, lock the door and focus on the project at hand. So we did and are pleased to announce the publication of a new FGB Booklet "French Notaires and Notarial Records". It contains over twenty posts from this blog, plus an eleven page glossary of standard terms used in notarial records, which we compiled specifically for this booklet. We give here the Table of Contents:

  • What Is A Notaire?
  • Notarial Records - Les actes notariés
  • Array of Notarial Records
  • Old French in Old Documents
  • Two Marriage Contracts
  • Defiance - the Acte de Respect
  • A Guardianship Document Examined
  • Paris Guardianship Cases
  • Two Wills
  • Estate Inventories
  • Did Your Ancestor Take Another's Place in the Army?
  • Finding Notarial Records
  • Répertoires
  • Registers of the Bureaux des Hypothèques
  • How To Find a Modern Will
  • Marriage Contract Tables
  • Follow the Trail to the End
  • Overseas Notarial Records
  • Glossary of Notarial Terms

"French Notaires and Notarial Records" has been added to the booklets list in the right-hand column on this page and may be purchased via Lulu.com (click on the cover for the link) or via Amazon.

Whew!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy