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July 2018

August 2018

Guest Post - Researching a French Ancestor of Berlin

Sad lady

We have received a wonderful guest post from Loyal FGB Reader, Monsieur C, detailing his research of French ancestors in Berlin and Mainz.

 

My success story for today: I have an ancestor Peter Franz Nicolas Bello (1743-1821), who lived in Berlin, married twice, had eight children, and died, all in Berlin.  But, his origins were not known.  No baptism could be found for him in Berlin.  His marriage records did not mention his parents’ names.   A few of his records, including his burial, used French forms of his names, Pierre or Francois, so I suspected he might have been French. 

Another cousin and I have been working on this problem for nearly 50 years.  We both hired separate researchers in Berlin, but no one could find anything.  Most of the French in Germany at that time seem to be Huguenots, but most of them arrived closer to 1685, so his baptism should be in Germany, right?  What to think or do?

I don’t usually subscribe to ancestry.com at the International level, as for so long they were so limited for the extra money.  But, every few years I get tempted to try again, to see if anything new turns up which is of value in my research.  

Subscribing anew, I saw that Ancestry now has a lot of pertinent Berlin records to this case, so I thought I would try to find them all and look them over for any possible clues which might point to new research.  

After successfully finding the records for his two marriages, baptisms for his eight children and his burial, one thing among them drew my attention: in the 1802 baptism for his eighth child, there was a witness, Catherine Mathee, born Bello.  Aha!  Perhaps an aunt or a sister.  Another witness was Joseph Mathee of Mainz.  Perhaps her husband or son?  Perhaps researching Catherine might reveal new information. 

1802 baptism

Searching ancestry.com for Catherine Mathee in Mainz, I was pleasantly surprised to find an 1806 Mainz death record for Catherine Matheo.  Better, it was linked to the actual record.  Better yet, the record was in French (Napoleon’s France controlled Mainz from 1795-1814, which they called Mayence), so I could mostly read it. 

1806 death

It said she was 65 (so born about 1740/41, so probably Pierre’s sister), she was born in Metz, Dept. of Moselle, and that her parents were Francois Bello and Catherine ___. 

Finally, I had a new place to look for Pierre’s baptism, records were available on-line, and possible parents’ names.  OK, maybe they weren’t Huguenots, but they were French.

Metz had 15 parishes, and it took me more than a week of paging through 1740-1743 records, looking for Pierre and Catherine, and I finally found Pierre’s baptism in the 14th parish, Saint Simplice (his mother’s name was not Catherine, though it turns out that was his paternal grandmother’s name).   

It is so pleasing to finally know his name as baptized was Pierre Nicolas François Bello, to know his birthplace of Metz, his birthdate of Dec. 8, 1743, and his parents’ names: Nicolas François Bello and Elisabeth Evrard. 

1743 baptism

After a concerted effort, I also found sister Catherine Bello’s baptism in 1741, born Jan. 7, even though it had eluded me and a later-discovered previously-published work on archive.org because the extracted “margin” name was wrong (Catherine Francois instead of Catherine Bello).  It would have saved me a many hours if I had had this reference before.  I also found via filae.com that there were also two later children not mentioned, Joseph and Pierre, who were baptized some distance from Metz. 

1741 Baptism

This case also included an interesting scenario where Pierre’s father Nicolas Francois also had a 13-years younger brother with the same name, Nicolas Francois. I have found that usually when another child in a family is given a name previously used, it is because the earlier child died. But, this is my second case where an elder child was given the responsibility of being the godparent, so the new infant received the same name.  Luckily, his younger brother had a different profession, and married three times with the record always giving either his age or his previous wife’s name, so I could distinguish them. 

I also found that Pierre’s father, Nicolas Francois Bello the elder, referenced in Catherine Bello’s death record above, also died in Mainz in 1801.  I am still working on what happened to his mother Elisabeth Evrard.  Maybe the entire family left France, perhaps during the French Revolution, I don’t know.

I used both archives.metz.fr and archives57.com, especially the former with mostly original registers and it being a little easier for me to navigate.  Lovely that they have color images of originals, and not scanned poor b/w microfilm images.  Image resolution on archives.metz.fr is limited but quality is still usually OK. 

I have since spent many more hours paging through some of the Metz registers and the 2 Protestant registers, with occasional help from filae.com indexes, I have managed to build his tree back another 4 to 6 generations, with more work that can be done. 

Once again, patience and persistence paid off.  Fifty years of. 

This break-through in this story is another example of why I like to see actual records myself, to see if maybe someone else misread or ignored something which might turn out to be important.

 Other: without any good indexes yet (filae has an extremely limited number for Metz from CG Moselle), the register scanning process (which I have done in about 12 French cities now), usually seems to involve some degree of looking at the same register pages repeatedly as one learns of more family names to keep track of, it becoming necessary to repeat the review process to find the records which were not noted during the first pass.  Many times, I have been tempted to try to make some sort index of all names in order to greatly facilitate locating any of them again, though I haven’t thought of an efficient method which might turn out to be worth the effort.  Thoughts welcome! :-)

I have also thought of trying to organize the various parish registers in a city (and nearby) by years, maybe in a spreadsheet or table, with links, but again, I see no clear elegant path, especially as some registers are B only, some are BM, some are BMS, some are MS, some are S only.  As it is, I gradually compile pages of cheat sheets as to what vue (image) number each year begins for each parish or the rare yearly index, which often turn out to be very handy in saving time later, here and there.

 

Monsieur C has shared with us a good example of cluster research, (what Elizabeth Shown Mills calls the FAN club principle) here and we are most indebted. Read the comments below to see that we are not alone in saying :Merci!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Make a Suggestion for Our Course

Hard at work

Dear Readers, we have been hard at work on our planned course with the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research entitled "First Steps in French Genealogy". Things are coming along nicely but we thought we might ask you if there are any additional points that you would like to see covered. Please do have a look at the course outline at the link above and, if there is anything more that you would like to see included, tell us in a comment on this page or in an e-mail and we will do our best to fit it in.

Many thanks!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Files on Officers of the French Navy Are Going Online

 

Frigate ropes coiled

A work in progress and an exciting one, this. The Archives nationales have begun to digitize and make available online at no cost the personnel files of the officers of the Marine. "Personnel" is to be understood loosely here. These are not modern human resources files, full of identical forms and warning letters. Basically, these are any surviving documents with a name of anyone who was in the French navy before the Revolution. They are arranged alphabetically by surname and can include not only officers but captains of merchant vessels or of privateers, surgeons, ordinary seamen, women who owned vessels, and heaven knows whom else.

There are men who fought in the American Revolution, men from Saint-Domingue, men who were in the Compagnie des Indes. Spelling was a creative art at the time, so if you do not find someone whom you believe should be on the list, you can read the entire thing (not recommended - there are over thirteen hundred pages) or try searching on such terms as may be applicable:

 

  • Louisiane
  • Saint-Domingue
  • capitaine, or other rank if you know it
  • the name of a vessel
  • guerre en amérique (for the American Revolution)

 

A dossier may contain only a single page or quite a few (one has sixty-eight pages). It may be in other languages, including English, Russian, or Spanish. They are beautifully filmed. At the moment, the hundreds of files available cover only those surnames beginning with the letters from A to D. We await with baited breath for the rest to appear.

To access the files, go to the main search page of the Archives nationales (which we have explained how to use in this case study) and search on the surname, but this can bring up much more than you want unless you narrow the search with many more words. Alternatively, go directly to the finding aid on the website of the Archives nationales and search on the name; this can bring annoying results, each of which has to be opened, if the name be a common one. Lastly, we have uploaded the PDF of the finding aid here which, using "control F" can be searched for a variety of words and on which each name has a link directly to the images of the file.

Enjoy!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A Parisian Artisan Among Your Ancestors? - Try Eclat de Bois


Cabinet
 

It has been a difficult summer so far. A week of insanely high temperatures has left the garden parched, even after the relief of rain. The garden was then invaded by rats, vile creatures, harbingers of disease, detested. Using no poisons, or traps, ever, we are finding the battle against them a losing one. We have encouraged stone martens and snakes, but if they make a dent at all, it is a small one. How we wish we could encourage the rats to move on to the hedges and woods, but we do not seem to be able to do so and are discouraged.

Our low mood of discouragement was much lifted and transformed by using the wonderful website Eclat de Bois. The magical part of Paris known as the Faubourg Saint Antoine has a rich history as the centre for cabinetry and exquisitely made furniture and furnishings. For any of you with an artisan ancestor in Paris, especially a carpenter, weaver, cabinet-maker, gilder, or expert in any of the other skills needed to beautify a home, he or she may well have lived in the Faubourg Saint Antoine.

Yet, as many of you already know, researching Parisian ancestors was made difficult by the city's resistance to census-taking until the 1930s and the fire that destroyed the parish and civil registrations of the city's people. Researching this particular group has been much improved by the availability of the Fichier Laborde, but that covers mostly just the eighteenth century. Georges Claude Lebrun, the descendant of a cabinet-maker, has created the website, Eclat de Bois, that will help you to take your research to a new level.

This is no simple list of names but a full, and ever growing, biographical dictionary. There are limits:

  • The area covered is the Faubourg Saint Antoine and the eastern part of Paris, where all such workers tended to live
  • The time period covered is up to 1860, the year before which all parish and civil registrations were lost, this is also the year that Paris expanded from twelve to twenty boroughs (arrondissements), redrawing the boundaries of them all. The year 1860 forms a natural delineation between old and new Paris.

The true value of the research presented in the website is the variety of sources that are used and their cross-referencing, in order to give as much information as possible about a person and/or business. The astonishing list of sources includes names from:

  • Revolutionary courts
  • Electoral rolls
  • Escaped prisoner lists
  • Various lists of political prisoners and insurgents
  • The saved or reconstructed parish and civil registrations
  • Lists of victims of coup attempts
  • Lists of anarchists
  • Freemasons directories
  • The catalogue of Parisian bankruptcies
  • Those who exhibited their works at trade fairs
  • Cases taken before the Tribunal de Commerce (Commercial Court)
  • Those sent to penal colonies

In all, the site now has some 242,000 names and continues to grow. The search page is simple; just type in a surname and all those with the name as well as variations of the name are in the results. One is limited to twelve searches if not registered. Since registration is free, why not sign up and use this site to its fullest and thus discover so much more about your artisan ancestor in Paris?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Summer Reading - La Pitié-Salpêtrière


La Salpetriere

La Pitié and La Salpêtrière, two of the oldest hospitals in France, were combined in the twentieth century to form the "largest hospital complex in the world". In 2012, celebrating four hundred years since the earliest incarnation of the first, this surprisingly academic yet readable, commemorative tome was published. Why would this be of any interest to you, Dear Readers? Because many of you are descended from women sent from La Salpêtrière to Canada and known as "les Filles du roy", to Louisiana, to Saint-Domingue, to Martinique, and to what is now Reunion, and because some of you are descended from the officers, doctors and nurses who worked there. 

Written by Anne-Sophie Pimpaud and Gilles-Antoine Langlois, the book is beautifully produced, on fine paper, with lovely type with photographs and illustrations of a high quality. Most importantly to you, it is completely bi-lingual, with the French text in the left-hand columns and the English text in the right-hand columns. This is a history of two hospitals, their functions, their architectures, their place in the social and medical history of Paris. It is not a genealogy book and will not help you to prove your ancestry but it will give you a wonderful insight into your ancestress's life were she incarcerated in La Salpêtrière.

Langlois gives a few paragraphs to "orphan girls transported to the [North] American colonies", from 1669, on page 51. He differentiates between them and the later prisoners, "debauched women" who, from 1684, were rounded up at night and sent to the newly built prison cells of La Salpêtrière (pp. 52-53). We like the fierce defiance of some of the women in the description of their being arrested and imprisoned without charge, legal representation or trial, merely for being female and outdoor after dark. In prison, their protest took the form of shrieking en masse, long and loud, driving mad their tormentors.

The first part of the section by Pimpaud goes into great detail about the types of girls taken in as orphans and about their daily lives, from what they ate to the skills that they were taught (pp. 149-163); good for all of you writing historical novels based on your research. Through the nineteenth century, the institutions changed in function from hospice, orphanage and prison to medical hospitals, then medical training institutions, then an asylum, maternity hospital and more until they became, together, the huge medical complex that they are today. 

The book ends with eight lovely and clear drawings showing the historical development of the site from 1690 to 2012. The notes are extensive and revelatory as to sources on the subject. Sadly, there is no index. The book is out of print but it may easily be purchased à l'occasion, or second hand, (as we did ours) on the behemoth

Excellent read.

Gilles-Antoine Langlois and Anne-Sophie Pimpaud. La Pitié-Salpêtrière The Pitié-Salpêtrière. Paris : Somogy éditions, 2012.

ISBN: 978-2-7572-0527-3

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


October Is To Be Huguenot Month in London

Toiles Rideaux

There have been many developments in Huguenot research and studies in London since we last wrote on the subject here. We think that, based on the many requests we have had recently from you, Dear Readers, an update would be timely. This is especially so as many of you have been attempting research in France before you have enough information.

It is NOT recommended that you:

  • Research online genealogy databases for anyone with a similar surname and then try to prove a relationship
  • Come to France to visit all villages where the surname has appeared in documents (though we would never discourage a visit to France)
  • Assume that all Protestants were Huguenots (only that all Huguenots were Protestants)

Generally, we find that many descendants of French immigrants have a family tradition that an ancestor was Huguenot. This claim is often made even when the ancestor was Catholic (Huguenots were, by definition, Protestants) or even when the ancestor was born long after persecution of Huguenots ended and the waves of Huguenot emigration ceased. We reiterate: do all possible research and get all possible documentation of the French ancestor after he or she emigrated, in the country or countries to which he or she immigrated, before attempting research in French archives and records.

That first phase of research includes, if you have reason to believe your ancestor were, indeed, a Protestant who left France before the nineteenth century, checking with existing Huguenot societies to see if your family may not already have been researched. These societies are centres of research excellence that have done an enormous amount of work on many Huguenot families already. The British societies are particularly useful as more than fifty thousand Huguenot refugees went there and many of them passed through London, staying for a few years, before moving on to another place, such as Pennsylvania or South Africa. 

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland has a number of interesting events coming up:

  • 15 September 2018 will be Huguenot Day at the French Protestant Hospital in Rochester, which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year
  • The Huguenot Museum, established in 2014 and now open Wednesday through Saturday, has lovely collections that well illustrate the skills of many Huguenot refugees: weaving, lacemaking, silversmithing.
  • The Lecture Programme, each year, presents four lectures on Huguenot scholarship 

The Huguenots of Spitalfields are planning over thirty events for the month of October: walks, talks, activities, and exhibitions. Read about them all - your ancestor may be among those discussed. 

The lovely city of Norwich in Norfolk will have, on the 9th, 15th and 16th of September a walking tour around central Norwich demonstrating the effect upon the urban landscape of the 'Strangers' - incomers from the Spanish Netherlands and France 1550-1750.

Study these organisations, their resources and their events, Dear Readers, if you think your ancestor may have been a Huguenot. We suspect that you may find them very helpful.

UPDATE: We received this very helpful comment by e-mail:

Congratulations on your latest very pertinent blog on Huguenot Month.

I am a researcher at the Huguenot Museum and have always to mention the do nots you mentioned.

There is one more warning I have to mention to people as well. Your family might be Protestant, they might even be of French origin, but they might also be Norman.

My father's family are of Huguenot descendant in Normandy. 
But my mother's family are of Norman descent in Normandy.

I have also to stress, most appropriately this year, don't ignore the women.

Too often the inquirers insisting their ancestors are Huguenot, concentrate on their male surnames. We have not unusually followed up possible French surnames only to find a Huguenot wife appearing.

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy