(01) Ain Capital: Bourg-en-Bresse.
Archives Numériques Départementales de l'Ain. Online: parish registers, civil registers, censuses. Wonderfully they also have put up the Tables de Succession, (lists of those who died and whether or not they left a will) and the Matricules, (military recruitment documents) for some communes. Excellent!
(02) Aisne Capital: Laon.
On a very nice site that works well: parish and civil registrations, land records and maps, and many images of historical and genealogical value. There is a nice section on genealogy to help one get started. Additionally, it is possible via a different search page to see all documentation relating to a particular commune.
(03) Allier Capital : Moulins
The parish and civil registrations for over 300 communes are now online and free. One must click an agreement form before access is allowed. Nice site.
(04) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Capital: Digne-les-Bains
Online: parish and civil registers, annual indices, ten-year indices, censuses, land records.
(05) Hautes-Alpes Capital: Gap.
Online: parish and civil registers, marriage banns, ten-year indices.
(07) Ardèche Capital: Privas. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, Protestant registrations, military registers, and censuses.
(08) Ardennes Capital: Charleville-Mézières. Online: the ten-year indices with a list of all communes, and land records, parish registers and civil registers from the 16th century to 1850. Civil registrations from 1851 to 1890 are almost complete.
(09) Ariège Capital: Foix. Currently not online. After two years of preparation, parish and civil registrations may be online by the end of 2014.
(10) Aube Capital: Troyes. Online: ten-year indices, post cards of various towns and villages, land records. NEW! Parish and civil registrations from 1552 to 1892 are now online. EXCELLENT ADDITION: a surname index to the registrations -- with some 200,000 names!
(11) Aude Capital: Carcassonne. NEW! Online: parish and civil registrations from 1547 to 1872 and some ten-year indices.
(12) Aveyron Capital: Rodez. New!!! Online: parish and civil registrations from the 16th to the end of the 19th century.
(13) Bouches-du-Rhône Capital: Marseille. Online: parish and civil registers, land records, censuses from 1836-1931, old post cards. NEW! Military recruitment registers from 1872 to 1912.
(14) Calvados Capital: Caen. DIRE! DIRE! DIRE news: all of the parish and civil records and the ten-year indices and annual indices have just been put online BUT there is a charge to see them. It is not much, but it still is there and we consider this to be very bad form. The site has left some interesting pictures of the Normandy invasion free to view.
(15) Cantal Capital: Aurillac. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses, alphabetic indices to military enlistments, photographs, AND notarial records and Holocaust records that relate to Cantal! In 2010, the website won a prize for the way it is possible for users to index collaboratively the civil registrations.
(16) Charente Capital: Angoulême. Online: census records for 1842 to 1872, land records, teachers' notebooks, church inventories, old post cards of local towns, villages and sites. NEW! Parish and civil registrations are now online, but there is a charge to view them.
(17) Charente-Maritime Capital: La Rochelle. Online: parish, Protestant and civil registers; post cards; photographs of the Second World War; Notarial records of Jonzac. Getting better every day!
(18) Cher Capital: Bourges. Now Online! As with many, but not all, you must create an account. This will gain you access to parish and civil registrations, censuses, maps, indices to military registrations.
(19) Corrèze Capital: Tulle. Online: ten-year indices from 1802 to 1902, parish and civil registrations for all communes from their beginnings to 1902, EXCEPT for Brive-la-Gaillarde (see their own website: http://archives.brive.fr), census returns from 1906 to 1936, military recruitment lists, alphabetic death and will registrations to 1940, maps.
(2A) Corse-du-Sud Capital: Ajaccio. Goofy website. You will have to do some copy-paste work. For the military conscription lists from 1859 to 1918, those of the Garde Mobile from 1865 to 1870: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
For the newly up census returns: http://www1.arkhenum.fr/
There is also a very nice surname list. Ten-year indices and parish registrations are expected to be online by September 2014. The archives of the city of Bonifacio, dating from 1682, are now online at
(2B) Haute-Corse Capital: Bastia. Online: Maps, civil registrations from 1792 to 1902.
(21) Côte-d'Or Capital: Dijon. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, censuses 1800 to 1936, indices to the military recruitment lists, court and judicial records, administrative records,maps, tables to notarial records, and much more.
(22) Côtes-d'Armor Capital: Saint-Brieuc. Online: land records, parish and civil registrations, census records to 1906, will indices, post cards, posters, photograph collections. Just up: military recruitment lists from 1867 to 1909.
(23) Creuse Capital: Guéret. New website! Online: Parish and civil registrations, maps, posters from the Second World War, census returns, military recruitment lists, and -- very nice -- alphabetic indices to inheritances.
(24) Dordogne Capital: Périgueux. Online: land records, ten-year indices, and now, all parish and civil registrations.
(25) Doubs Capital: Besançon. Online: Ten-year indices. To use the search facility, one must register, but there is no charge.
(26) Drôme Capital: Valence. Online: parish registers, ten-year indices, civil registers up to 1852, notarial archives, land records.
(27) Eure Capital: Évreux. Online: parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, censuses, old postcards.
(28) Eure-et-Loir Capital: Chartres. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, land records, censuses, church plans.
(29) Finistère Capital: Quimper. Online: Maps, parish and civil registrations census returns, military recruitment lists, all a bit awkward to use.
(30) Gard Capital: Nîmes. Difficulties abound. After being closed to the public for a year, the new location is now open. Online: No genealogical records are online as yet, but a website is planned for the end of 2014. It will start with the military conscription lists. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before 2017! However, the municipal archives of Nîmes have placed some indices online:
(31) Haute-Garonne Capital: Toulouse. Online: Land records, parish and civil registers, military recruitment lists, marriage contracts from Toulouse from 1501 to 1739, censuses, insinuations from 1693 to 1790. The site is maddening in that images cannot be adjusted; there is no possibility to zoom in or out.
(32) Gers Capital: Auch. Online: Finding aids and maps only at the moment. Expected by the end of 2014: census returns and military conscription lists. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before late 2015, if then.
(33) Gironde Capital: Bordeaux. Online: Transcriptions of parish registers, 182 registers of the Admiralty of Guyenne, a list of communes for which the records are being scanned. Expected date when the civil registers will be online: 2010. The ten-year indices are online now.
(34) Hérault Capital: Montpellier. Online: Military recruitment registers, parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, notarial records.
(35) Ille-et-Vilaine Capital: Rennes. Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations for most but not quite yet all locations. For Rennes see the Archives municipales de Rennes.
(36) Indre Capital: Châteauroux. Online: Finding aids, maps, parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices, census returns. The site is much improved recently.
(37) Indre-et-Loire Capital: Tours. Online: Parish registers have just gone up! Also : Ten-year indices, land records, old post cards and records of wills filed (Tables de successions - very useful, these), military conscription lists.
(38) Isère Capital: Grenoble. Online: Ten-year indices, and just up: parish and civil registrations.
(39) Jura Capital: Lons-le-Saunier. This has to be one of the most helpful archives in the country. Online: maps, postcards and historic photographs. Parish and civil registrations are scheduled for 2016.
(40) Landes Capital: Mont-de-Marsan. Lots of problems with this site, and many efforts to repair them, finally leading to a new site. Online: Parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, maps, town meeting minute books.
(41) Loir-et-Cher Capital: Blois. Online: parish and civil registrations, census returns, indices to military recruitment lists, maps.
(42) Loire Capital: Saint-Étienne. Just put online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registers.
(43) Haute-Loire Capital: Le Puy-en-Velay. Online: Nice new website which has parish and civil registrations, ten-year indices to same, and the beautiful documents of the Chaise-Dieu Abbey.
(44) Loire-Atlantique Capital: Nantes. Online: Parish registers, civil registers, censuses, land records, maps, old post cards, notarial records and more. Expected soon: the archives of the dukes of Bretagne. This is one of the best of the AD sites.
(45) Loiret Capital: Orléans. Online: NEW! Civil registrations from 1833 to 1902 are now online. However, there are some that will never be online, for they were destroyed during the Second World War.
(46) Lot Capital: Cahors. Online: Parish and civil registrations to 1902, including clerk's copies, census records, succession tables, military registers. This site has had some trouble but seems to be working properly as of November 2012.
(47) Lot-et-Garonne Capital: Agen. Much improved! Online now: civil registrations of the 19th century, census returns, many maps and land records, photographs, old post cards, unique funds of local history and customs, and the recordings of the accounts of some Spanish refugees.
(48) Lozère Capital: Mende. An all new website! Online: the parish and civil registers from the 17th century to 1902, photographs, maps, post cards, town histories, insinuations. Unusually, the municipal archives of the capitol city are at the same site. Nice little bit of cooperation, that.
(49) Maine-et-Loire Capital: Angers. Online: Parish and civil registrations, land records, ten-year indices. NEW! Military recruitment lists, cahiers de doléances and more.
(50) Manche Capital: Saint-Lô. Just up Online: Land records, parish and civil registrations and ten-year indices. Click on moteur de recherche, then on état civil. There is a nifty little video explaining how to use the search engine. NEW! Military conscription lists are being added.
(51) Marne Capital: Châlons-en-Champagne. New! Online: parish and civil registrations, maps, censuses, and land records.
(52) Haute-Marne Capital: Chaumont. Online: finding aids and land records are online. Gradually being added are: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, and notarial records. Here, one can also read the interesting "Notes généalogiques du Baron de l'Horme".
(53) Mayenne Capital: Laval. Online: parish and civil registers from the 16th century to 1882, ten-year indices, a data base created by volunteers of the details from the marriages of the 19th century, military registers, census lists from 1836 to 1906, land records, transcriptions of marginal notes from the parish registers. Mayenne is acknowledged as the gold standard of departmental archives online.
(54) Meurthe-et-Moselle Capital: Nancy. Online: parish and civil registers up to 1882, land records. There is a warning that records for Toul are incomplete, owing to a fire there in 1939.
(55) Meuse Capital: Bar-le-Duc. Online: The parish and civil registers are now online, as are military conscription lists and some censuses.
(57) Moselle Capital: Metz. Online: an extensive site. The first phase of putting records online has begun with the parish registrations prior to 1793 for about 500 towns and villages. Civil registrations will not be online before 2015.
(58) Nièvre Capital: Nevers. Online: finding aids, list of communes, old post cards, cahiers de doléances, pregnancy declarations, censuses, military conscriptions, parish registrations and civil registrations are completed. Unusually organised that is very helpful to the genealogist.
(59) Nord Capital: Lille. Online: Ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment lists, land records, 1906 census. The archives are relocating. Check the website before visiting the facility.
(60) Oise Capital: Beauvais. Online: old post cards, parish maps, parish and civil registers, censuses, military registers. It is necessary to register with the site; this is free.
(61) Orne Capital: Alençon. Online: parish and civil registers to 1902, ten-year indices.
(62) Pas-de-Calais Capital: Arras. Online: Lots of advice, plus ten-year indices to parish and civil registrations up to 1912, census records from 1820 to 1886, military recruitment records through 1921, land records.
(63) Puy-de-Dôme Capital: Clermont-Ferrand. Online: All parish and civil records, a wonderful collection of notarial files, images of clerical seals and finding aids. Nicely done.
(64) Pyrénées-Atlantiques Capital: Pau. Now online: land records, finding aids, parish and civil registrations, notarial records. One must complete a short registration form, but the site is free to use.
(65) Haute-Pyrénées Capital: Tarbes. Online: no genealogical records are online. However, the city of Tarbes has put up its parish and civil registers from 1611 to 1909 on www.archives.tarbes.fr
(66) Pyrénées-Orientales Capital: Perpignan. Finally online! : finding aids only, civil registrations, military conscription lists, census returns.
(67) Bas-Rhin Capital: Strasbourg. Online: parish and civil registrations and census records, now up to 1912. Also a very interesting discussion of an early 19th century manuscript of a history of Jews in Alsace, by Jacob Meyer. A new website has just been launched.
(68) Haut-Rhin Capital: Colmar. Online: the heraldic devices for each commune, a list of those who died in the two World Wars, a list of all of the mairies (town halls). NEW! Civil registrations from 1798 are now up. Also, ten-year indices and lists of Jewish names. Serious teething problems abound; the site is incredibly slow and often does not work. We predict a crash.
(69) Rhône Capital: Lyon. Online: Censuses from 1836, parish and civil registrations from 1527, military recruitment registers, maps, indices to notarial records, a very large collection on orphans. Collaborative indexing of both registrations and censuses is making this site incredibly useful. Rhône is the first department to allow the images of their ten-year indices and of their parish and civil registrations to appear on www.genealogie.com, though why you would pay there when you can get it free here is a mystery.
(70) Haute-Saône Capital: Vesoul. Online: Land records, census records, civil and parish registrations, conscription registers, bureaux de succession registers. Exceedingly helpful staff. Ten-year indices for many communes can be found on the website of the local genealogy group, Serv@nc'nautes :
(71) Saône-et-Loire Capital: Mâcon. Online: land records, ten-year indices, parish and civil registers to 1902, censuses from 1836 to 1901, cahiers de doléances, post cards, and a nice facility to see all that is available for each town.
(72) Sarthe Capital: Le Mans. Online: land records, parish and civil records to 1850, military registers.
(73) Savoie Capital: Chambéry. Online : maps, some ten-year indices, census records from the 16th to 20th centuries, parish and civil registers from 1501 to 1793 and from 1815 to 1860. Also: some old newspapers, indices to maps, posters, etc.
(74) Haute-Savoie Capital: Annecy. Online: NEW! Parish and civil registrations, censuses and military conscriptions from 1860 to 1940, and maps.
(75) Paris Online: the existing and reconstructed parish and civil registers are online, with the identical system to that used in the archives, which is not the easiest. New!: The military recruitment registers from 1875-1909 and the long, long lists of the first names of children accepted into care from 1742-1909.
(76) Seine-Maritime Capital: Rouen. Parish and civil registrations up to 1912 and in some cases up to 1935. Promised soon are maps. Fingers crossed for passenger lists of ships sailing from Le Havre!
(77) Seine-et-Marne Capital: Melun. Online: Censuses, ten-year indices, notarial records, parish and civil registrations. NEW! Marriage banns, military conscription lists, World War One photographs.
(78) Yvelines and the old Seine et Oise Capital: Versailles. Online: ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations, military recruitment, censuses, land records, cahiers de doléances, community monographs (histories). A very nice site, but as of mid-2011, it does not work with Safari.
(79) Deux-Sèvres Capital: Niort. Online: parish and civil registers, land records and census records. Nice, clean site. NEW: military conscription registers are now online.
(80) Somme Capital: Amiens. Online: old post cards, seals. NEW! with a new website: parish and civil registrations, censuses, land records, local histories, seals, photographs of WWI, and.....(drum roll) a user's guide in English.
(81) Tarn Capital: Albi. Online: some parish registers, civil registers, ten-year indices, land records. It is necessary to register to use the site.
(82) Tarn-et-Garonne Capital: Montauban. Online: Ten-year indices, civil and parish registrations dating back to 1590. New! The local copies of parish registrations, giving an important supplement, filling many gaps in the central administration's sets of registrations. Excellent!!!
(83) Var Capital: Toulon. Online: land records, censuses, ten-year indices, medieval notarial records, architectural records cahiers de doléances, records about the liberation of Var during WWII. The site has been recently improved and cleaned up.
(84) Vaucluse Capital: Avignon. Online: parish and civil registrations for some towns and ten-year indices for all.
(85) Vendée Capital: La-Roche-sur-Yon. Online: parish and civil registers, censuses, notarial records, land records, old post cards. New!: faire part, notarial minutes and délibérations municipales.
(86) Vienne Capital: Poitiers. Online: parish and civil registers (now up to 1912), land records, census lists. Interesting: A collection of notes on cards made during the 1950s extracting further information on Protestants, abandoned children and more. ALSO, the military registrations from 1867-1908.
(87) Haute-Vienne Capital: Limoges. Online: Land records and finding aids only. Latest word is that the parish and civil registrations could be on-line around the end of 2014. The story is that there seems to be a problem of damp and fungus on the records.
(88) Vosges Capital: Épinal. Newly online: parish registers from 1526, civil registers to 1905, the ten-year indices, and recently the censuses for the years from 1886 to 1906. Very nicely done, with easy printing.
(89) Yonne Capital: Auxerre. Online: parish and civil registers. NEW! Census records are up.
(90) Territoire de Belfort Capital: Belfort. A very nice new site with plenty online: parish and civil registrations, censuses, military registrations, and land records. Additionally, local archivists have created an excellent site of indexed data from the parish and civil registrations. It is a bilingual site:
(91) Essonne Capital: Évry. Online: Parish and civil registers, censuses, land records, and 184 village and town histories written for the 1900 Paris Expo. Just up: indices to notaires' minutes.
(92) Hauts-de-Seine Capital: Nanterre. Online: maps and the ten-year indices to the civil registrations through 1912, and now the civil registrations from 1792 to 1907.
(94) Val-de-Marne Capital: Créteil. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, land records, finding aids. Nice, easy site to use. Wonderfully interested, knowledgeable and helpful staff. NEW: census records are now online, from 1795 (!) to 1906.
(95) Val-d'Oise Capital: Cergy-Pontoise. Online: Finally! With a lovely new website: parish registrations from the 16th century to 1792, civil registrations from 1793-1900, ten-year indices, and census returns from 1917 to 1936.
(971) Guadeloupe Capital: Basse-Terre. Online: no genealogical records are online.
(972) Martinique Capital: Fort-de-France. This is actually the website of BNPM - The Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais. Online: the actes d'individualité of freed slaves, 1848-1851.
(973) Guyane Capital: Cayenne. Online: finding aids only. Preparation to put parish and civil registrations online is under way. There is an excellent list of links to other research resources.
(974) La Réunion Capital: Saint-Denis. Online: no records are online, but there is a nice new site for the archives.
We have received a nice gift for the holidays from a reader, Monsieur N. He has sent us a user's report on the new website for the Departmental Archives of Nièvre. He writes:
I've had a chance to tour around the new Archives de la Nièvre website, and thought I'd give you a little review, especially in light of your post with one genealogist leaving his records for the rest of us. To start, the basics, online now are Tables décennales for all of the communes along with select censuses, and military registrations. The actual état civil is apparently nearly ready and expected to be online this month, with the parish registrations to follow progressively over the coming months. They have also put online two more of the less known but more interesting sets of documents - the Cahiers de Doleances sent to the French king shortly before the Revolution, and the Déclarations de grossesse.
The search form is free text which is nice for the freedom, but tiresome when you're repeatedly looking for certain villages. The interface still has bugs being worked out, such as printing, but it's generally faster than most of the other ones I've used. It has all of the standard features, plus an impressive new innovation - collaborative indexing. Anyone can add notes, such as a name, date, & document type to any areas the user wishes to highlight on the page. These tags then appear in the search results, something M. de Chastellux would have no doubt enjoyed. It's incredibly useful, and the value is immediately apparent in the Déclarations de grossesse where names are hidden in large bodies of text, not otherwise indexed in the tables décennales. I suspect they will be equally useful when the parish registrations are published in the new year. The indexing still had a few bugs, for instance: though there appears to be a functionality to edit the indexing, it's not yet live. The site also has a few images online, but overall, it's a giant leap forward for the Departmental Archives. Hope that helps.
It does, indeed, Monsieur N., and thank you very much. We hope that all of our Readers will receive exciting genealogical breakthroughs for the holidays. In the new year, look for it....the much anticipated website of the department of Finistère!
Have you ever tried to find out if a particular French archive has in its collection papers on a particular subject? One can use BORA for private archives, one can Google rabidly, maniacally, wildly, desperately, and then one must trawl the repertoires (indices) and inventaires (listings). All of this can just about drive a person mad. The deep throes of true insanity come when one realises that the only possible way of perhaps finding the sought-after subject or names is to read through hundreds of pages of indices and of lists of carton and dossier titles for each archives. Observe our response above.
The Departmental Archives of Aube is piloting a way to ease this pain. Using the Wiki software - "the simplest online database that could possibly work", they are asking visitors to the website to participate in key wording and annotating the collections, thus making them searchable at a deeper level. Users register on the MyArchive page, and can then receive instructions and get started, either doing original work or correcting and adding to that of others. The local genealogy circle has embraced this and all ready extracted over 200,000 surnames.
The hope is to find new and better ways to navigate the archives' contents via the internet. This is a significant opening of doors and is to be applauded. Anyone may participate, if able to read and write French to a high level. This would be a fine way for those who use archives from abroad to make a contribution in return.
The work of the various Departmental Archives to get their parish and civil registrations online continues apace. We have been amending the notes in the links to the left on this page as quickly as we have received the information, but feel that a general update may be due.
The latest to go online are the Departmental Archives of Rhône, with more than the first steps of maps and post cards. They have also put online their parish and civil registrations from 1527 to 1910, the records for enfants assistés, abandoned children and children under care. The latter is a significant amount of documentation on orphans, searchable by name and year of birth. Census records, military recruitment registers, and indices to notarial records round out what Rhône has made available.
Monsieur K has written enthusiastically to us about his enormous successes using the site of the Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin. He has been able to find many, many more of his ancestors by searching the village records online. Monsieur K has been particularly happy to be able to access documents of great age that concern his ancestors. Madame S wrote to point out that Bas-Rhin have put up their censuses for much of the nineteenth century.
Bas-Rhin has one of the nicest, user-friendly sites that we have seen. We wish that we could recommend to others to follow its design, but there is one of the problems of this rather exciting wave of archives going online. Every department puts out its own call for bids on the project and each selects what fits its budget, and not all are so lovely.
We recently had the opportunity to revisit the Departmental Archives of Doubs, which currently have their Tables décennales online, but do not yet have the parish or civil registrations up. Working in the archives is a pleasure, for the staff are incredibly helpful. They know their collection thoroughly and cheerfully come to one's assistance. We are most grateful to them. We hope that they will soon have all of their parish and civil registrations online, even if it would take the wind out of the sails of certain local genealogists (see below).
Monsieur H wrote from Louisiana asking for help in researching his French ancestors from Marseille. We pointed him toward the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône, where he had a field day of successes.
Folks in Aude have created a petition to urge their Departmental Archives to put records online. Some years back, we attempted to walk from Carcassonne to Prades, traversing much of Aude and discovered it to be the most desolate, hot, craggy, underpopulated region of France. Tales of Cathares were shoved from our minds by the tales of the day involving escaped convicts tramping the same footpaths as we were. We were unnerved by the four helicopters criss-crossing the skies above, searching for them. They, and we, stood out as the only humans to be seen for hundreds of kilometers. We sincerely doubt that there will be enough signatures on this petition to merit a sneeze, if it be left to residents, and urge anyone who cares to do so to click on the link and sign it.*
These Departmental Archives websites are usually free and, for the most part, quite clean (no ads flashing in your face!) and well organised. It astonishes us that people are still ordering microfilms of the same records, paying the fee, waiting the weeks, straining with clunky microfilm readers, when the identical films are available for free and can be viewed on a computer screen at home. We really do urge everyone to check the column to the left regularly to see if the records they which to research may not be available online. You may find what you seek and can then spend the entire summer cooped up with your computer!
In his Généalogie blog, Stéphane Cosson disapproves of this free-for-all of information. While he approves of the fact that this preserves and protects the originals and provides the opportunity for collaborative indexing, he also feels that getting these records online takes the archivists away from more important tasks. With what is a sort of market approach to putting online what the public wants, he feels that this causes other collections in the archives to be ignored. (So far as we know, they were always ignored by the general public.)
He then exhorts professional genealogists to fear not (there's the rub) but to explore these other, neglected collections in the archives that are not online. Becoming expert in these will keep them employed and will enrich their knowledge. Indeed.
*Well done signatories! Over 6,300 people signed the petition urging the Departmental Archives of Meurthe-et-Moselle to stop requiring payment to use their site. They have agreed and, from the first of the year 2012, will no longer be charging a fee.
Recently, we had the opportunity to go on a junket to Montauban and to work in the Departmental Archives of Tarn-et-Garonne. Being one of the smallest of the French departments, Tarn-et-Garonne has not a lot of cash, and the department's archives are not wealthy. This does not mean, however, that they are in any way shabby. The workspace is small but clean, modern and comfortable. The archives cat -- a feisty calico we were warned not to stroke -- seems to do a good job keeping the rats and mice out of the collection. The parish and civil registrations are online at the excellent website of the Archives départementales, and that does not come cheap.
Where the money has not gone, and for which we shall ever be grateful, is to the scanning or filming of all the rest of the collection. It seems that almost nothing other than what is all ready online has been filmed. This does not mean that one cannot see the documents. Rather, it means that one has the sensual joy of handling the originals, many on vellum, with calf-skin covers. A Canadian diplomat we know visited Paris lately and told of early treaties in the archives of his country, of the governmental holiness one must have to be allowed access to them, the white gloves one must wear to handle them. Not so in the Tarn-et-Garonne archive, bless their cotton socks. They plunk down on a table a notaire's book (above) or land records drawn up for Louis XVI and let one have at it, fending off the cat as one goes. Absolute heaven!
The holdings here are of particular interest to researchers on Protestants. Montauban was one of the most Protestant of all cities in France. In 1560, its bishops and magistrates declared it a Protestant city. They evicted the monks of the town and tore down the cathedral. Within ten years, it was a Huguenot centre and formed a republic. Montauban headed the Huguenot Rebellion of 1621 and fought off a siege by Louis XIII for eighty-six days, surrendering only when it was learned that La Rochelle -- the leading Huguenot city -- had fallen. Protestant records are numerous in the archives, and the Protestant registers are online on the website.
A good source of basic information about the archives can be had on Quercy.net. To use the departmental archives of Tarn-et-Garonne, the procedure is the same as at all others: it is free, but one must register and receive a user's card. Belongings must be put in one of the lockers provided. Pencil only at the tables. Digital photography (no flash) is permitted. One requests documents or registers by computer and they are brought to one's assigned place by the staff. There is a limit of ten requests per half day. Deliveries are every fifteen minutes except during lunch, which is from 12.00 to 14.00.
Just a few meters from the archives is a flash hotel with a spa. That was a bit too la-di-da for us, but it would be very convenient for any voyaging researchers.
Archives départementales de Tarn-et-Garonne
14 avenue du 10e Dragons
Tel: + 33 (0) 5 63 03 46 18
Open Mondays to Fridays 8.30-17.00 - Closed annually for the first two weeks of July.
To many non-French, the name of the town, Arras, recalls the stories of the terrible battles there in 1914 and 1917 and the large Arras cemetery of World War I dead. As is often the case when horrors were too close, the French never easily mention the trenches, but will instead say something blandly cheerful along the lines of "Ah the north coast!" Speak of Arras to a Parisian, and he will look puzzled. "Arras? Where is that?"
Arras is less than an hour from Paris by train from the Gare du Nord and it is there that the Departmental Archives of Pas-de-Calais are located. In truth, there are two locations, for Pas-de-Calais is the first departmental archives we have encountered that has divided their holdings into two groups: those records most often requested for genealogy, and those most often requested by those researching other aspects of the department's history. Microfilms of all parish and civil registers, census records online, and military registers are all at the location in the centre of town at the Centre Georges-Besniers (the photo above). Outside of town, at the Centre Mahaut-d'Artois in Dainville, are all other records. Whether this division was intentional, as it seems, or has more to do with space issues, it works extremely well. The staff at the facility in Arras, unlike in so many other departmental archives, are expert at genealogical research and quite willing to be of help to their many patrons, both hobbyists or professional, since that is the exclusive function of their branch.
Historically, the economy of Pas-de-Calais was based on mining, a notoriously hard and short life for its labourers. Many emigrated, often from one of the department's ports, usually Calais or Boulogne-sur-Mer. Thus, the archives are the focus of research for many descended from those emigrants. Currently, the department's website has the ten-year indices online but not yet the images of the parish and civil registers, some of the military recruitment records, but not the early ones, and land records. Until more is available online, for complete research on a family, one must go there.
For research to find the grave of an ancestor who fought in Pas-de-Calais in the Great War:
One normally goes to Bourges for the fabulously beautiful cathedral, but we went to do research in the long-suffering Departmental Archives of Cher, which are located at the southern edge of town and which have an abnormal amount of damaged goods. We have seen some battered archives in our day, including the underground pit that was the National Archives of Uganda not longer after Amin got done with that poor and beautiful country. The condition of some of the registers we requested at Cher's departmental archives were really no better:
Other users gossiped and exchanged stories of waterlogged register books with pages nibbled away by mice. We were told by a beaming member of the staff:
"Fungus, termites, mice," he said, then shrugged and, rather as the French cheerily say "c'est la vie" he added: "That's archives!" No. It is not.
Happy days are on the horizon, however, for the archives are being expanded greatly, the facilities improved, and a preservation and microfilming programme is going on at a galloping pace. All of these efforts mean that the service is somewhat chaotic as well as that rather a significant amount of the civil and parish records are unavailable.
Like that of Haute-Saône, Cher's is another small departmental archives facility, with not much money and what they do have is going to the conservation programme, it would seem. No records are online. The usual registration is required and a paper card is given. The list of all holdings and their codes is on a database and there are two terminals available. Most, but not all records are requested via these terminals and delivered by trolley ever 15 minutes. There is no copier or printer for use by the patrons, so a digital camera is most necessary. Additionally, should anyone be planning a visit, it would be a good idea to allot an extra day or two, for there are a couple of odd regulations that inhibit work:
The entire building is closed for an hour at lunchtime. (There are no restaurants nearby but there is a small canteen one can use, though the food is such as we had never thought to see in France.)
There is a limit of twelve items -- whether original or microfilm -- that can be requested to view per day.
These mean that an efficient researcher will spend a lot of time waiting...or knocking off early and visiting the cathedral.
The family we were researching in the departmental archives of Doubs turned out to have spread into the neighbouring department of Haute-Saône. The departmental archives of Haute-Saône have only maps and census records online so, once again, we needed to visit the archives to do the research. (Fortunately, we like very much to visit archives.) They are based in Vesoul, a rather small city in a land of rolling green hills and late-flowering apple trees. There is a quite luxurious bus from Besançon to Vesoul that takes forty-five minutes. This meant that we were able to alternate days between the archives of the two departments while staying at one local hotel. The archives in Vesoul are a twenty minute walk through the town centre, past the church, and up a hill to the residential neighbourhood.
As can be seen in the photo above, the archives are in a quite slick and modern facility, but this is not a wealthy department. Users must register, but no user's card is issued. There are only four microfilm readers and no printer. Staff are very helpful and certainly professional, yet apologetic for their limited means. Civil and parish registers have all been microfilmed and the microfilm is readily available for use. The original civil register books are also available for examination, and we found it easier to photograph these than the screens of the non-printing microfilm readers. There is no indexing system on a computer for patrons to use, but there are multiple copies of the index books to consult.
On finding the correct code for a register, one fills out a card in duplicate. The archivist puts one copy into a pocket on an intriguing board of about ten centimeters by thirty, covered in green velvet. These boards, each with one card, were collected by a quiet bespectacled gentleman, who then thundered a trolley at a mad dash, disappearing down a corridor. He returned with the same wild thundering a few minutes later with the requested books and boxes of files. In spite of the racket, this delivery system was the fastest of any in all the archives we have visited. It was also the most entertaining.
Doubs is one of the four departments of the region in eastern France of Franche-Comté. The others are Jura, Haute-Saône and the Territoire de Belfort. The region has a unique history of being a part of Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Spanish empire before, in 1678, it finally and definitively became a part of France. The archives have a very small online presence. Their parish and civil registrations are not all online so, in order to research thoroughly a family from Doubs, we went there.
The archives are in a suburb of Besançon, easily reached by the city buses. Within, one must as in all archives register and receive a user's card. The facility is quite modern, and security is good. (This was not always the case, it seems. In the past, archivists and patrons took home what they pleased, somewhat ransacking sections of the holdings.) There are about a dozen microfilm readers, four of which can print copies of images. The index to the civil and parish registrations is available on computers and in binders on top of the microfilm cabinets. It is a small facility, but quite up to date, with knowledgeable and very kindly staff.
Perhaps the greatest asset is the resident genealogy enthusiast, Yvette, who is most keen to answer any and every question on anything to do with local genealogy. She even offers to do record lookups and send the results via e-mail. This is one of those archives that works in complete coordination with the local genealogy cercle in an effort to provide the best service to their most numerous users. Bravo!
We went on a little research junket to Rouen recently, and spent a few days in the Archives Départementales de Seine-Maritime. This is one of the most modern of archives facilities, with nice carpets, beautifully arranged finding aids, banks of shiny new terminals and microfilm readers, and some very jazzy printers. Over the past five years or so, the archives have been running a major programme to scan and index not only the états civils, but census records, photographs, land records, succession registers, and not one image is available in the internet. To view the records, one must visit the archives. So we did, and will do so quite a few times more in the near future.
One of the most important collections here, so far as descendants of emigrants are concerned, is that in sub-series 6P and 7P. From the end of the 1600s, lists were made and kept of the crew and passengers for every boat - whether naval, merchant, fishing or pleasure - that sailed from Le Havre or Rouen. They are arranged chronologically, then by the vessel's name, and all have been microfilmed. Indices have been made that allow for a search by year and destination.
As an example, to search for a person who sailed from Le Havre to New York in 1840, it is not necessary to search through the hundreds of lists for that year. The index of destinations for 1840 showed that only eight ships sailed to New York:
That makes the search much easier, though it is still a hard slog with the microfilm reader. The archives are on the river, within easy access of public transportation. Entry and use is free, but one must register first and present a form of photo identification. Photocopies are 30 centimes each. It is required to put all but cameras, papers and pencils in one of the lockers provided. These require a €1 coin, which is refunded. All is new and elegant, making for a very nice working environment, which is, in part, why these archives are very popular and crowded. Go early to get a seat with a terminal.
Each time we visit our country farmhouse, we pay a courtesy visit to our neighbour across the dale, the indomitable Clemence. It is ever a pleasure to enter her immaculate kitchen and be welcomed by her into a house full of cousins and grandchildren. Clemence and her husband run a smallholding on which they breed cattle for milk-fed veal. It is an exact science to ensure that the calves have no access to any food but their mother's milk, involving what look like muzzles on the little ones. Our family have grown accustomed to the heart-rending lowing of the mothers when the calves are sent to market.
Clemence has a macabre sense of humour, to our vegetarian mind, and she does enjoy trying to upset us. Often she has invited us round for a morning coffee but, on our arrival, she will come bursting out of her little cabin that serves as a slaughterhouse, her apron covered in blood, as will be her arms up to the elbows. "Sorry!" she will say breathlessly. "I have just been killing some geese and taking their livers for foie gras. Would you like some?" We know how to steel ourselves and smile no thank you. It was a bit more difficult the day she offered us a bowl of freshly amputated frogs' legs. When she is not chuckling at what she perceives as our foolishness about eating animals, she generously fills baskets of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and begs us to accept this bounty from her garden.
On a recent visit, we told Clemence we were to visit the archives for our department, Dordogne. Perhaps she would like us to look up something for her? We were only being polite, but she delightedly wiped the blood from her hands and rummaged in a drawer of papers. "Please find what you can about cousin Cyprien," she asked. She cares for her elderly mother-in-law and rarely can leave the farm for even a few necessary minutes, and certainly cannot go away for hours of luxurious archival research. We took Cyprien's details and another basket of enormous fresh lettuces and promised to do our best for her.
The Departmental Archives of all departments are in or very near to the capital city of the department. Those of Dordogne are in Périgueux, and are fairly typical of them all. Modern, staffed by intelligent, well-educated archivists who are very helpful, the archives are nicely organized, easy to understand and easy to use. As ever when in France, one must follow the rules: show identification and receive yet another user's card, and arrive in good time before lunch or closing. Lockers for valuables are provided. No pens are allowed in the reading room, but cameras, pencils and notebooks are.
Clemence wanted us to find what we could about Cyprien Lachaud, who had been born around 1850 in the commune of Granges d'Ans. Recall that the civil registers are arranged by parish or commune, then chronologically. In the small communes, such as this one, a single volume, divided into sections, will have all births, deaths and marriages for two or three years. A city might go through many such books in a year.
The registers are no longer kept on shelves in the reading room, but in appropriate archival storage. Standard procedure is to use one of the many computers available to search the catalogue for the register desired and to note its reference number. In this case, we were then required to go to one of two computers used for ordering the books from storage. We had to swipe the user's card through a reader, then type the reference number into the request form on the screen. One is allowed up to three requests per hour. The wait is approximately 25 minutes. We thought we would while away the time by reading the news on the internet on one of the unused computers but from out of nowhere a firm but polite archivist popped up and told us that was a no-no.
We had requested registers from the 1850s. They arrived and we immediately opened them to read down the tables annuelles looking for a Cyprien Lachaud. These are the first place to look when seeking genealogical information in the civil registers. Each register book across the nation has had the births, deaths, and marriage listed alphabetically at the end of each year within the book. A register book for the nineteenth century may look like this:
Within it, a table annuelle may look like this:
Very quickly, we found that Cyprien had been born in 1856 and were able to turn to his birth (on the right hand page below):
As can be seen in the photograph, additional information, such as the marriage or death of the person, may be added in the margin by the birth. (Since 1897, marriages have been added to margins; since 1886, divorces have been added; since 1945, deaths have been added; since 1955, adoptions are noted.) On these pages, for example, in the upper left is a stamp for entering the death. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the margin for Cyprien. However, by guessing his probable marriage and death dates, using the tables, and given the fact that the town was so small that the search was not arduous, we were able to find those for Clemence.
Photocopying the registers is not permitted, but photographing is. A table with extra lighting is provided for this purpose. It was in use, so we just plopped the registers on the floor and snapped away. No archivist popped up at this.
Some materials may be so fragile that they are available on microfilm only. Copies of images are possible and are not expensive. Most facilities -- but not Dordogne -- have this process automated as well and the copies are purchased using a card bought from a machine for that purpose.
All departmental archives also have a collection of plans cadastraux or napoléoniens. These are often the first records to be digitized and put online. They are the equivalent of the land registry, being drawn maps of boundaries of all property, each parcel numbered. For genealogical research, they are a most valuable land record. In Dordogne, an enormous book was brought out by the archivist and spread across half a long table for us to view the numbered plots of Granges d'Ans. We may have been among the last to have this privilege, for the entire collection of Dordogne's plans napoléoniens, some 6593 sections, are now available online. In most facilities, once the digitized version is available, the original is no longer so.
We printed our photos and took them to Clemence a few days later and she was pleased. She gave us a couple of tins of homemade paté de foie gras for those non-vegetarians in the family.
Over the next five years or so, all of the Archives Départementales will probably have their tables annuelles and décennales, états civils, and plans cadastrals napoléoniens online and fully indexed, (they are listed in the panel to the left) making visits to the facilities less necessary for the average genealogical search. Until then, we hope the above explanation may serve as a general guide.
The Boleat Family 1560-1912 Research by Marc Boleat on the origins of two brothers who moved from Brittany to Jersey in the 1870s, and their descendants. It will be of particular interest to anyone researching relatives in Jersey with a French origin.
Récits et Souvenirs The mémoires of Henri Soudée and of his parents. Soldiers, Communards, and immigrants to Martinique and the United States, their tales are fascinatingly gathered by our Dear Reader, Françoise Becker.