Summer Fun - Find Your Ancestor's Region With a Fable
Solving Riddles With Géopatronyme

A Bit of Geography and How Your Ancestors Travelled Around France

Navigable waterways


At a recent vide-grenier (similar to a local flea market) we purchased a school textbook. It was written in the late 1920s for children in the cinquième, which is the year for children aged about twelve and would be the seventh grade in the American system, we imagine. 

It is a treasure. It is full of maps of the world and of France. What it reflects is not that different from the France of the second half of the nineteenth century, when many emigrated. We think that some of the maps could be most useful in helping the better to understand how and why people left their homes and made their way to the ports.

The map above shows navigable waterways, including France's many canals. With it, you can see connections between cities and regions that you would not understand from a map showing only political and administrative boundaries. This map also shows the main destinations for ships sailing from the different ports. Thus, you can see that a person sailing to New York was much more likely to leave from Le Havre than from Toulon in the south, and that Marseille was the point of departure for the Far East.

The map of railways, below, is not much different from the maps of the late 1890s showing railway lines. As you can see, Paris served as the hub of the wheel. Then, as now, travel in a direction not going toward Paris was very difficult and indirect.



 A voyage by train from Limoges to Pau, for example, would be long and tedious. The major ports, however, are well served.

The next map shows industrial centres as they were on post-WWI France. It can be seen, however, that many traditional industries are included. If you know where your ancestor originated, this map could suggest possible work in which he or she engaged, or vice versa.



The map below could suggest reasons for travel to and from a particular place, as it shows imports and exports. If, for example, you have no idea of where an ancestor was from but know about his or her travels or work, this map could lead to further insights.




Perhaps these will open a new research path for one of you Dear Readers. We do hope so.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy