Book Review - Le Guide de la Généalogie en Belgique
French Inheritance Law in the News

Was Your Ancestor Expelled From France?

Pont Louis Philippe

Was you ancestor a Pole or a Spaniard or a Russian who came to France in the late nineteenth century and was then expelled? Or, are you aware only of the fact that he or she passed through France during that period but you do not know when? In fact, you know little? The archives of documents concerning expulsions of foreigners are scattered throughout France's many facilities. There are probably such files in every Departmental Archive. None of these files is online.  If you did not know where your ancestor stayed while in France, the research prospect can be daunting.

Historians are wanting to research the same documents in order the better to understand policies of exile, asylum and expulsion of the past and, now, their work can benefit your genealogical research. The University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne is running a project called AsileeuropeXIX (e.g. European Asylum in the Nineteenth Century) and the researchers have made their database available to the public and able to be searched on many different criteria. It is a work in progress, with data from the: 

  • National Archives of France, out at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
  • Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin
  • Departmental Archives of Somme
  • Departmental Archives of Nord
  • Departmental Archives of Rhône
  • Departmental Archives of Calvados

One expects that data from other archives will be added. It is a very nice website, with more than just the database. There are interviews with academics on the subject of asylum and exile, there is a budding lexicon of the somewhat rarified vocabulary used to discuss political exiles, asylum seekers, expelled migrants and other such. Very interestingly, there are a few maps that show the routes followed by some exiles, beginning with that of a Prussian student who, after much journeying through France, ended up in the United States.

Naturally, the section of primary interest to you, Dear Readers, will be the database search page, on which you can search on:

  • Surname
  • Sex
  • Whether or not the arrival in France were for political reasons
  • Country of birth
  • Profession
  • Whether or not the expulsion were for political reasons
  • The year or range of years of the expulsion
  • The reason (motif) for the expulsion
  • The country to which the person was sent
  • The authority that ordered the expulsion
  • The source of the data

This is pretty comprehensive. What we particularly like is that it is possible to search on any of the criteria without having to give a surname (Filae and Geneanet, take note!) This means that spelling issues can be avoided. It also means that the data can be searched in more interesting ways, such as seeking all the women who were artists from Russia, or all the students from Prussia, or all the thieves expelled from Bas-Rhin, or simply all the glassmakers. Think of all of those vague family stories that could be tested here.

There are minor flaws:

  • The itineraries of migrant routes could have more identification and dates at each point
  • The countries lists need to be cleaned and organised. Currently, there are both Empire de Russie and empire russe, Hesse Cassel and Hesse-Cassel, Grande Bretagne and Royaume-Uni. This means that you must read the drop-down lists of possibilities and search on each one that you find suitable.

 This is a wonderful resource. We have reported on other such academic databases that have withered and died at the end of the project, finally falling off the edge of the Net altogether. This project ends in 2020 and we do so hope that the database will continue to be maintained afterward. (Or, again we ask Filae and Geneanet to take note, it could be purchased and added to a commercial genealogy company's collection?)

We hope that this may help you to confirm that family story about your political exile ancestor.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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