(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.
(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: ongoing adding of parish and civil registers. The records of 51 more communes have just been added.
(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. 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.
(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. The archives are closed to the public from September, 2012 until some time in 2013, when the new location will open. A temporary Readers' Room has been set up. Online: No genealogical records are online as yet. 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, with more promised soon.
(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. New website just up, with maps, postcards and historic photographs but not yet any parish or civil registrations.
(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.
(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. Online: finding aids only. Hints are that the registers will be online by 2012. Okay, 2013.
(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. Bravo!
(70) Haute-Saône Capital: Vesoul. Online: Land records and census records. Just up in May 2010: civil and parish registrations, conscription registers and bureaux de succession registers are all now online. 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.
But for a few cases that were of brief duration, France did not have identity cards until the Second World War when, for the first time, everyone over the age of sixteen was required to have one. In Occupied France, these were issued by the German authorities. In the so-called Free Zone, they were issued by the Vichy government.
Above is a card from the Vichy régime, issued in 1943. It contains every possible way known at the time of identifying a person: a photograph, a detailed description, and fingerprints. Additionally, it gives the bearer's profession, date and place of birth, and her parents' names.
Things have not changed much. The war is over but the card still is required for all citizens and children usually get theirs when they start school. As to appearance, the modern carte d'identité has dispensed with the physical description and the fingerprints. These still exist, but in a database. Our own identity card shows our grim mug, gives our name, date and place of birth, and our address. There is an odd, computer-forged signature that is supposed to be ours. We would never be able to use it to cash a cheque. The rest of the card is a dizzying array of codes and holograms and colourful microprinting.
It looks much more jolly than the one above, as if bright colours would cheer us into forgetting that an identity card exists for an authority to keep track of a person. In France now, as it probably was during the war, no one leaves home without his or her carte d'identité. It is one of the first things young French children learn when they begin to go outside on their own: they must carry their carte d'identité with them. This is because, should anyone be stopped by the police, they must provide identification. Other forms of identification will do, but a person who cannot provide his or her identity card is immediately suspect, so everyone carries theirs.
Sadly but perhaps rightly, the identity dossiers are not available in any of the archives for genealogical research.
We have picked up a military discharge certificate, un congé de libération, on one of our acquisitive junkets, and we find it most instructive. It was delivered at Privas on the thirty-first of December, 1860, and presents a goodly amount of information about its recipient, Sergeant Henry Joseph Beaumel.
He was born on the thirtieth of September, 1833, in l'Argentière, Ardèche
His parents were Antoine [Beaumel] and the late Victoire Blachère
He served in the Twelfth Infantry of the Line
His physical appearance is fully described
His profession was that of hairdresser
He lived in Lyon
He married Adèle Poreau on the twelfth of November 1860 in l'Argentière
His military inscription number was 4715 and he enlisted on the sixteenth of October, 1854
(click on the image to see a larger version)
But for his personal description (no. 4) and the fact that he was a hairdresser (no. 5) , each of the points listed above can lead to further research.
Knowing his date and place of birth (no.1), you can go to the online website of the Department of Ardèche (the link is in the list to the left of this page) to find his birth registration, or acte de naissance. While there, you can look for the death registration of his late mother (no.2), most likely in l'Argentière, between the years of 1833 (his birth) and 1860 (the date of the congé), for the banns and possibly marriage of his parents prior to 1833, and for his own marriage (no. 7) in 1860.
On the same website, you can see if his mother left an estate. The Bureaux de Succession appear in an online map which you can search to find the one for l'Argentière, now Largentière. (Best to line it up with a Google map of the region.) With the bureau identified (fortunately, Largentière had its own office) you can then search the list of names by year. Recall that you must search by his mother's legal name, Blachère.
Unfortunately, you cannot search for his enlistment record (no. 8) online, for at the moment the records for 1854 are not up. However, should you have the opportunity to visit the Departmental Archives, retrieving the information would be quick, as you already have the date and his enlistment number.
Should you wish to pursue his military career -- perhaps even researching the files of his regiment at the military archives in Vincennes -- enough information is given in the lower right hand corner:
Much is possible in terms of research from this one document. Should you find yourself in possession of a congé de libération for an ancestor, your only disappointment might be that you would find the subsequent research to be too easy.
We wrote about passe-ports in a previous post. We described an internal passport but were not able to display any of our many photographs of them, due to the high fees required by the Departmental Archives for the use of images of their holdings (fair enough for them to charge fees but as this blog charges none, we attempt to keep our costs low). A few days ago, on our trundlings through the premises of various brocantes, we found a passport for sale, à vendre, and happily snapped it up. But for a couple of creases, it is in rather good condition, enabling you to read it easily.
As we described before, the French passport of the 19th century was a sheet of paper that separated into two parts along a curved line. One part was kept by the voyager and constituted the passport. The other part was kept by the issuing authority. The issuer for an internal passport, such as this one, was the adminitrative centre, the chef-lieu, closest to where the person lived, in this case, Belloc in Haute-Vienne. Its copy of the above passport, if it has survived, would be found in the Departmental Archives of Haute-Vienne.
The genealogical value of such a document is basic. One might learn a full name, and a date and place of birth that were not yet known. Then, it would be possible to go to the archives or to write to the commune to obtain a copy of the birth registration, which would reveal a bit more. We find the true value of an internal passport to be in that it provides personal details about the individual, revealing more of the human being than even the largest collection of administratively required data can do.
In this case, a rather short, illiterate (his passport shows that he could not sign his name) sixteen-year-old boy who has a big nose, grey eyes, a wide forehead and a scar over his right eye-brow is on his way from the town of his birth to Crecy. He would be travelling from a village of about 2000 people, where a dialect of Occitan would have been spoken, far north to Crécy. Why? It was 1807, during the Premier Empire and the Napoleonic Wars and he was of an age for military service. Perhaps he was going north to join a unit. Perhaps he was going north to escape the service. Perhaps to visit relatives or to find work. The passport does not give a reason for travel, but it does give an image of the boy, making him not just another name in an ever-growing genealogy data-base, but a person.
As we wrote earlier, we have been attending various vide-greniers, sales of old or unwanted items, and picking up examples of family documents to show you, our Dear Readers. Our most recent find is one family's ration cards. Most come from the Second World War and the years of austerity that followed it. One, however, shown above, comes from the previous World War and its aftermath. They illustrate not only a bit of history but also how even a simple document can help clarify an identity.
The enemy occupation of France during World War II gave rise to an almost immediate rationing of food, clothing and other essentials. The population received the minimum possible, while the maximum was sent to feed and clothe the victor's army. Each individual was issued with a ration card for food, termed la carte individuelle d'alimentation. There were two main categories: adults and children or jeunes , which were refined over the years. This family lived in Périgueux in the department of Dordogne and -- for reasons unknown -- saved their ration cards of three generations of people.
Two are for a woman and a child. The first, shown below, was issued in 1946 to a woman named Marie, born in 1909.
The second was issued on the same day in the same place to a child of thirteen, Colette, who had the same surname.
Another type of ration card, for clothing and textiles, la carte de vêtements et d'articles textiles, was also issued during the war years. The one below was issued to Jean Francois, born in 1900.
There are a total of four cards, for those who appear to be four different members of the same family, for they all have the same surname, Lajoinie, and they all live at no. 21 avenue Bertrand de Born in Périgueux. It would appear that Elie was the eldest, being aged fifty-four in 1919. Jean François may have been his son, married to Marie and they seem to have been the parents of Colette. Some of the information on the cards can be confirmed on the websites of the archives of the two relevant departments, Dordogne and Corrèze. Some, occurring later, cannot, for most Departmental Archives have not put online the civil registrations dating later than 1902.
The value of documents such as these is in that they provide:
Address of residence
Date and place of birth, which may be more recent than such information that can be found on the websites of Departmental Archives
Unfortunately, they can also contain mistakes, as in the date of birth of Elie. The year put is what was the current year. However, his age was given as fifty-four, and his birthday as the twenty-ninth of December, so his birth registration could be found in the 1864 civil register online for Objat, on the website of the Departmental Archives of Corrèze. The birth of Jean François is given on his ration card as the twenty-fifth of August 1900 and this can be confirmed in the civil register online for Périgueux, on the website of the Departmental Archives of Dordogne.
Their names on the birth registrations are quite diferent from those on their ration cards. This brings us to a number of questions we have received from some of our Dear Readers, most recently from Monsieur E, who is researching an ancestor with the names Jean Charles Thibeau on documents after immigration, but he can only find documents matching date and place of birth for a Jean Thiebaud. Could Jean Thiebaud be Jean Charles Thibeau? The answer is maybe.
The first of the ration cards shows an Elie but the birth registration that matches the date, place and surname gives the forenames as Jean Baptiste Hélie. The marriage registration for the same person was not very difficult to find and it gives his names as Jean Baptiste Elie. The ration card for his son gives the names Jean François. The birth registration for him gives the forenames François Louis Elie Jean Baptiste.
We have often come across the use of just one of a person's many given names, as in the case of Elie, but not so often have we seen such a rearrangement of names as made by Jean François. Then again, given the kind of error with the date on Elie's card, we cannot rule out the possibility that the ration card for Jean François also may contain mistakes. Monsieur E's ancestor was a near contemporary of Elie's, though from a different region of France. His case is not the use of just one forename or the radical rearrangement of forenames but the addition of a forename, Charles.
In truth, in all three cases, while the identities and relationships seem likely, they cannot be said to be certain without more documentation. Carry on, carry on. The hunt never ends.
We present here a very simple will from 1920, which is not all that different from one of 1822, examined here previously. Wills in France are usually short affairs. By law, a person must leave equal and set portions to each of his or her children -- including adopted but not step-children -- and this cannot be changed. Thus, most people simply add a few notes. If there are no children, there are requirements as to the relatives who may then inherit. (The European Union has just given a ruling allowing ex-patriates in France to bypass this law, which they find so evil.) If they have all predeceased the testator, as would seem to be the case of the will presented here, there is a bit of choice.
In November, 1920, Marie Martin, a widow seemingly without children, in good health and of sound mind, appeared at the office of her notaire with four witnesses and dictated her will. She left everything to her niece, also named Marie Martin.
The beauty of even the simplest will can sometimes be the witnesses. They are not always relatives. Here, they are four gentlemen of various professions, all who live in the same town as the notaire and not in that of the testator. Perhaps she did not even know them; perhaps they were called in from nearby offices or workshops by the notaire. Perhaps in your genealogy research it is actually one of them you seek and not Marie. Unfortunately, few archives have put together an index of all people named in notarial documents, so there is no way to know in which document to seek your ancestor as a witness. (Some genealogy groups, such as Projet Familles Parisiennes, have an ongoing project to do just this.)
The best opportunities for such a search will come to those whose ancestors were in a small town that happened to have a resident notaire. If such be your case, we recommend that you trawl the notaire's minutes for the years during which your ancestor lived. As a witness or as a named relative, your ancestor could appear and you could learn much more about his or her real existence.
We have been reading Anna Funder's very good book, Stasiland, and are thoroughly chilled by the excesses of tyranny she describes and the nit-picky, robotic enslavement of people via dozens of little documents that a certain rigid type of mind seems to worship. In France as well as in Germany, lives have been thoroughly documented by bureaucrats for a few generations. Is it too much? Does it matter? We sit uncomfortably on the fence. As a genealogist, we are quite pleased when we come across an old document, and study its every detail; yet as an individual in the modern world, we detest that same documentation for it strips us of privacy and of the comfort of anonymity. But here, we are the genealogist, so on to personal documents.
These pages are from a mobilsation card for a Jean Faustin of Périgueux (click on each image to see a larger version). Such cards were part of a man's military papers and, as military service was compulsory for many years, there are many of these cards in existence.
It shows his date and place of birth, his profession, his parents' names. For the voyeur in us all, there is the tickle of reading his physical description: a bit under five foot two, with a pointy nose.
Every French family has a kitchen drawer or an old box under the bed with dozens of such documents. Identity cards, passports, military cards, old ration tickets, driving permits, cards for the health service, cards for school, cards for retirement. Somehow, when a relative dies, the documents get tossed in the family heap. It can be a rotting mess, eroded with glue and old crumbs, but if such a heap has survived in the papers of your French ancestors, consider yourself fortunate.
We know of no site that explains and shows them all, but many individuals in France have put photos of their own family's documents online. They can be used as a learning tool, after a fashion. A particularly good one is geneanneogie's page of vieux papiers. The dealer website, Toupapier.com, has a section of old documents with good images and some description.
The value of notarial records in French genealogy would be difficult to overstate. We have discussed them before (see the category "Notaires" in the column to the right) and give here an example of a modern (e.g. post-Revolutionary) marriage contract, in full. It was written on the sixth of July, 1929, a generation or so later than the one described here, but showing the standard structure.
It begins by identifying the parties. Firstly, we have the groom, his full name, his profession, his place of residence, then, his place and date of birth, the full names of his parents, their marital status, the fact that they are alive, their professions, their place of residence. They are present for the signing of this contract. Secondly, we have the bride, with all of the same details about her.
The contract then goes on to say where the marriage is expected to take place and then, in the first article, the régime matrimonial chosen by the couple, a crucial choice.
The régime matrimonial determines what is community property in the marriage. If a couple marry and have no contract, the law applies the régime of la communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts, which is to say that each person preserves as his or her separate property what each possessed before the marriage, whatever each may inherit, and personal effects. The community property shall include all goods, property and income acquired after the marriage. Most people do not like this régime and choose another, which requires the signing of a contract before a notaire. Currently, these other possibilities are:
régime de la communauté universelle
régime de la communauté de meuble et acquêts
régime de participation aux acquêts
régime de séparation des biens
There is a tidy little video in which a rather stern-looking actress (could she be a real notaire?) explains all on pratique.fr, one of those sites that will explain the entire world, its meaning, purpose, and probably future as well.
Our young couple did accept the the standard régime of la communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts, but with certain exceptions.
In the event of death, the survivor will have the right to continue with his or her share of the community property. This means, among other things, that any heirs cannot force a sale to get their inheritance, which might make the survivor homeless. The bride brings to the marriage the sum of four thousand francs. The groom brings one thousand francs, a rifle and a bicycle, bless his cotton socks.
If the first pages were not genealogical joy enough for you, the signatures should be, for they usually include more family members. In this case, we have the bride's cousin.
(Click on any of the images to see a larger version.)
Even the simplest of contracts can reveal so very much for the genealogist. It really is worth the effort to find notarial records.
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.