Methodolgy

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


Book Review - Atlas historique des diocèses en France

Atlas

The one-woman powerhouse that is the publishing company Archives & Culture  has brought out another genealogy guide, or guide de généalogie. To anyone who has researched his or her French roots to earlier than the French Revolution, the thought of a book that explains at last the intricacies and geography of French Catholic dioceses would bring joy and immense relief. This book, by Jean-Paul Duquesnoy, the Atlas historique des diocèses en France, is, unfortunately, something of a disappointment.

The problem is that it is a bit deceptive. Civil registrations in France began in 1792. They became the legal documentation and proof of births, marriages and deaths. While parish registrations may have continued, they became, in the eyes of the law, informal and without legal validity. What is more, no religious ritual of baptism, marriage or funeral could take place until after the civil registration had been made. So, for the genealogist, civil registrations are much more important than parish registrations after 1792. 

Prior to 1792, however, the parish registrations of life events were the legal documentation and are of great importance in genealogical research. The difficulty is that identifying the correct geographical location of parishes mentioned by emigrants far from France is often close to impossible. There is much repetition of parish names throughout France and one really needs to know the correct diocese to continue research. At times, the diocese may be mentioned but identifying its location and boundaries, or even its correct name may also be problematic. (We tell a tale of the struggle here.) Over the centuries since the Christianisation of France, the dioceses have changed names, changed boundaries, been reorganised and in some cases merged. Thus, a book that could resolve the issues concerning the geography of dioceses and parishes prior to 1792 would be extremely helpful.

The Atlas is touted as just the ticket but it is not. It describes the modern, post-Revolutionary dioceses and bishoprics. It gives a list of bishoprics as they were at the time of the Revolution's beginning, in 1789. It gives the briefest of written histories of the ecclesiastical provinces and their dioceses as they were in 1789, with a tiny map of the dioceses. By page six of a ninety-six page book, this brief history is finished and the rest of the book is dedicated to an alphabetical list of the dioceses, with a brief historical account of each, mostly but not entirely from 1802 onwards. In truth, for the genealogist, this is not much help. (Additionally, it contains some serious flaws, as detailed by a comment on Amazon.fr by "Loïc Pilven le Sévellec", such as omitting the diocese of Strasbourg, among others.)

The longed for series of maps showing the historical developments and changes of the dioceses is not to be found in this little book. That is because it would appear not to exist, at least that was the case in 1965, when the excellent article on the subject, "La carte des diocèses de France avant la Révolution" ("The map of the French dioceses before the Revolution") by Jacques Dubois, appeared in Annales. Dubois gives a lengthy description of the problem of identifying the boundaries of the dioceses as they changed over the centuries. He also gives what are probably the best, simple maps of French dioceses at different periods:

  • Dioceses created from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries
  • Dioceses created in the fourteenth century
  • Dioceses created from the ninth through the twelfth centuries
  • Dioceses created under Clovis
  • Ecclesiastic provinces in the eighteenth century (showing the dates when some were created)
  • Ecclesiastic provinces during the Merovingian period

Neither Dubois nor Duquesnoy attempts to list for each diocese the parishes it contained. (For locating a parish, we describe some of the tricks we have tried here.) We cannot really recommend this Atlas because it is not what its title says, unless you are building a library and are happy to put this in a corner of it. More useful would be to download Dubois's article and, where appropriate to your research, examine the sources given in his excellent footnotes.

Would someone please write the book, complete with many maps, that we need?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The French Genealogy Blog Celebrates Nine Years !

9th blog birthday

 

Can it be that we really have been writing this blog about French genealogy for nine years? It feels but a blink. Its success is all due to you, our Dear Readers, for your comments, e-mails, support and encouragement have been extraordinary and we blush that we cannot thank you enough. You have remained with us during our rants and our mysterious, occasional disappearances. You have been kind in your praise of our work here on the blog and have suggested most interesting topics. Thank you so much.

This year, we are excited to be offering via the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research two courses on French genealogy. In early October, we will be presenting “First Steps in French Genealogy: Parish and Civil Registrations of Births, Marriages and Deaths”. The following February, we will give “French Notarial Records: A Genealogical Goldmine”. We hope that many of you may be interested to sign up for one or both of the courses.

A landmark birthday, indeed. Raise a glass of Veuve with us in celebrating our neuvième anniversaire as we thank you, Dear Readers for the grand party it has been.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Saint-Domingue Research - An Update

Tropical flowers

We have written about Saint-Domingue research before:

Much more has been made available, so we add an update today.

By far, the greatest amount that is newly available is on the ANOM website. Their digitisation programme has been going along at a snapping pace and new finds are constantly appearing. The parish and civil registers online have increased and can be searched by town, or commune, and include judgements. 

As more and more of you complete your basic fact gathering via such registrations, you have indicated that you would like to look deeper, to know more about your ancestors' lives and to find the elusive reason why they wandered the world. One of the best ways to dig deep in French archives is with notarial records. Wills, probate inventories, marriage contracts, even powers of attorney can reveal much about peoples' lives long ago. An excellent article by Robert Richard on the notarial records of Saint-Domingue may be read here. It gives a very clear explanation of notarial records in general and of those concerning Saint-Domingue held at ANOM in particular.

Having read the article, you may then go to the site of ANOM and to the page for searching the finding aids. Type in "Notaire" and select a location from the menu and all that Monsieur Richard describes is revealed. Not all of the actual notarial records have been digitised, by any means, but the finding aids are so detailed, that you would have enough information to request a copy of the file from the ANOM copying service.

Many people from Saint-Domingue conducted their business in Paris and the Archives nationales have indicated which études (notarial offices) they may have used, as in this example of Etude number thirty-one. These notes concerning études favoured by certain families or groups are incredibly helpful when one has no idea of which of the hundreds of notaires may have been used. Alternatively, search the Paris notarial records for Saint-Domingue here.

A superb bibliography and list of archival resources on Saint-Domingue has been made available online by the researcher, Dr. Oliver Gliech. On the same page, he has placed a list of the names of people who owned plantations in Saint-Domingue in 1789. Just below this is a list of heirs to plantation owners from 1826 to 1833 and of those who settled there but did not own land. 

Take the plunge!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Deeper Research via Family Chronicles - Livres de Raison

Livre de Raison

Many of you, Dear Readers, would seem to have been so successful in your French genealogy, that you have researched your families back to the beginning of parish registration and are keen to push further. We tell today of one way to do that.

In earlier days of this blog, we extolled the joys of reading local history as an aid to genealogical research and to understanding your French ancestors' lives. In the same vein, we suggest that you may be able to find more about your family, if you are very lucky, in livres de raison

These books were essentially family account books, usually of farms or businesses, but sometimes of shops. Often, they span centuries and can contain an extraordinary amount of detail, including:

  • Running accounts
  • Copies of bills paid for all sorts of items or services, including veterinaries
  • Copies of wills
  • Copies of baptism, birth, marriage, death and burial registrations
  • Lists of heirs
  • Maps of lands
  • Property ownership histories
  • Notes on local events and/or catastrophes
  • Pages from almanacs

They are highly personal, so the content of each is unique. Some go as far back as the fourteenth century. A few have been published. As they tend to be mostly agricultural, few come from the maritime departments. It seems that none from Finistère, Loire-Atlantique or Côtes d'Armor have survived, though there are some from the larger Seine-Maritime and Charente-Maritime. 

Where to find them? Some have been put online by Gallica, either as original manuscripts or published studies. (Click on Recherche avancée, type in the titre field "livre de raison" with the quotes, in Type de document click only manuscrit and monographie.)

The Archives nationales have published a comprehensive list of those held in Departmental Archives and in libraries throughout France here. Others have been microfilmed or have surfaced more recently, so check the online finding aids of the Archives nationales, SIV, as well.

Even if you do not find that your ancestor maintained a livre de raison that has survived, look at any for the location where your ancestor lived and you may find at least a mention. Your ancestor's name may appear in an invoice, as a witness at a marriage, as a godparent, as a customer of a cobbler.

Research at this level   -- far deeper than merely a list of births, marriages and deaths -- can be much more difficult and also more rewarding; and it will make your family genealogy much more informed.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Privacy Restrictions on French Documents

Town Hall

We have covered this some time ago, but recently have noticed that misinformation on the subject abounds and so, here we go again.

The French, as well as most European nationals, value and protect their privacy. The right to privacy is considered more important than the public's right to know and it is considered more important than the freedom of the press, especially where children are concerned.

Thus, in France, certain documents that contain personal details are closed to public access for a particular period of time. Since 2008, the periods of restriction on access for types of documentation have been as follows:

  • Birth registration / acte de naissance - 75 years
  • Marriage registration / acte de mariage - 75 years
  • Death registration / acte de décès - no restriction
  • Ten-year indices to the above three /  tables décennales - no restriction
  • Census returns / recensements - 75 years
  • Notarial records / actes notariés - 75 years
  • Judicial records / archives judiciaires - 75 years
  • Personnel records / dossier de personnel - 50 years
  • Medical records / secret médical - 25 years after the death of the individual or 120 years after his or her birth

Generally, these limits are calculated from the end of the year and/or the closure of the register. However, sometimes it is possible to obtain a copy of a record for which the limitation date has passed before the end of that year, if one asks nicely.

It is very important to note that public access to the record does not mean that the information may be published. This was confirmed by a court ruling recently. In that case, reported by a Le Monde journalist, a historian had researched over six thousand families, gathering thousands of birth, marriage and death registrations and published a book about them. The people who were the subjects of some of these registrations were still alive. One of the birth registrations contained a marginal note that the child had been adopted. This person was among those still alive and sued the author for having revealed the adoption in his book, which the complainant claimed was a violation of his privacy. The court ruled in his favour.

Thus, though you may request a document once it is available, you may not publish the information in it without the permission of the person it concerns, should he or she be alive. Should you be in the process of writing your French family genealogy with an eye to publishing it, beware! 

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Towns Renamed During the French Revolution

French Revolution

Geography in France during the Revolutionary period (at its briefest, 1792 to 1800; at its most extreme, 1789 to 1815), like the calendar, went through some radical changes and this can make researching your ancestors during that epoch very difficult. While it may be relatively easy to convert dates from Republican to Gregorian (we still prefer this converter), it is a bit more work to sort out the geographical changes.

All towns with religious names were changed. In some cases, such as Saint-Port to Seine-Port, the change made little difference, at least in pronunciation. When the country's administrative boundaries were altered, some communities were combined and some separated.  Of these changes, some were retained but many reverted to their old names.

If you do not know of the change, you will find it very hard to research the civil or parish registers. Thus, if you run into such a stumbling block in your research, e.g. a town that seems not to exist, it may be time to check the Revolutionary names. There are a few online lists.

  • Wikipedia's is arranged, as they all are, by department, all on the same page. Those towns highlighted in blue have retained their Revolutionary name. A third column gives a link to the commune's location on the Cassini maps.
  • Geneawiki's presents a list of the departments as links on which you must click to get to a page of just that department's towns. This makes it much harder to search them all at once, which you can do on the Wikipedia page.
  • The Internet Archive has the 1901 book, Les noms révolutionnaires des communes de France, which lists the towns by both department and in a general index. 

These lists do not agree with one another entirely. It was an unsettled time. You may have to search them all to find that, though your ancestors may not have moved a centimetre, they lived in two or three towns because of the name and/or administrative changes.

Happy searching!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


XXIV Congrès national de Généalogie - Research in Guadeloupe

Congres 2017

At the genealogy conference in Le Havre last month, one of the most informative lectures that we attended was given by a dashing young fellow from Guadeloupe, Monsieur Bruno Kissoun, come all that way to talk to us. The audience was so small that he insisted we sit around a table as he felt silly standing at a podium speaking to a near-empty room. So, we had a seminar around the table, which was even better. 

Monsieur Kissoun's co-presenter was an accomplished genealogist with a specialty in Guadeloupe, and a man with such energy and enthusiasm for his subject that he did not join us at the table but bounded back and forth across the room behind Monsieur Kissoun, lunging forward toward our table to add comments, then retreating back again in what may have been a remarkable display of extreme courtesy. 

Together, the gentlemen described and explained the resources available to those researching genealogy in Guadeloupe. 

  • There are thirty-two communes, or towns, on Guadeloupe, not all of which have complete archives. Hurricanes and general humidity have taken their toll. Additionally, while some towns were scrupulous about documenting people held in slavery, not all were. The point being that the quality and amount of holdings vary greatly.
  • Three copies of records were produced. One was retained in the town as the parish and civil registers, one was sent to Versailles and can now be seen on the website of the Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM); and one was given to the departmental clerk and is held in the Departmental Archives. 

It was pointed out that the copies do not always agree, that many contain errors and that those that were sent to France and can now be seen on the ANOM website do not have the marginal notes that may be on the originals held in the town. Examples of such copies not in agreement were presented and discussed.

When researching a family in a village in European France, one sees that people tended to take care of family matters in their own village, possibly for many generations. In Guadeloupe, we were told, a family quite often baptised a child in a village other than that where the child was born, at times even on another island. The researcher must be imaginative.

Much discussion concerned the documentation of those who were enslaved. Some towns had registers of slaves and most towns maintained registers of freed slaves. Working with the two is necessary to try to piece together an individual's identity and relatives. The register of those born enslaved could contain for each person:

  • only a first name and no surname for the child
  • the date of birth
  • the name of the owner
  • the first name and the age of the mother
  • the mother's place of residence (plantation, or habitation)

When slavery was abolished and a register of freed slaves was made, very little information was given as the real point was to assign surnames and list people, thus:

  • a first name and the surname given to the father, where known
  • the mother's first name and the new surname given to her

As families appeared under mothers' names, for they went to register all of their children at once, but any older children who had been sold outside of the town would not have appeared with their mother and would not have been given the same surname. The surnames given and their meanings remain a highly emotive subject for, in many places, the officials responsible were quite malicious. The law forbade the giving of any surname belonging to a free person to a freed slave, forcing officials to use words not normally seen as names. Some used a dictionary or an atlas to find the words, others gave coarse and vulgar words as names and thus proved that they had tiny, poisoned souls.

We were told that it is exceedingly rare to find all of the above types of register entires as well as civil registrations for an enslaved person. Further to complicate such research are the facts that:

  • Towns maintained complete slave registers for each habitation within their boundaries, which probably would have given great detail as to birth or date of purchase, parentage, country of origin, etc. However, though no official order was ever given to do so, every single one of those registers in every town was destroyed.
  • There were no passenger lists created for the people kidnapped in Africa and taken to Guadeloupe. (However, those immigrants who were free on arrival may appear in the Gazette Officielle or on passenger lists, by vessel name, on the ANOM website.)
  • The many natural disasters that have assaulted the island and its archives -- hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes -- not only destroyed some archives, but jumbled them all up and scattered them so that, for those that could be saved, all order was lost.

 Monsieur Kissoun handed each attendee a copy of the Guide de généalogie familiale en Guadeloupe, a beautifully printed leaflet which explains the above and more. It has a precious chart, listing each town, the type of archives it had that have survived, the dates those archives cover, where they are held, and if they have been microfilmed. (Click on the title to download the PDF.)

A fascinating talk on a subject that includes great sadness.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


New Possibilities in Marseille Research

Marseille

Interesting developments in Marseille online that may possibly be of use to the genealogist.

Firstly, a new website, Marius, is dedicated primarily to images taken from a number of local institutions: the municipal library, the museum, and the municipal archives, among others.The categories for the images are:

  • Images, (mainly postcards, but also photographs and paintings)
  • Books and manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Newspapers
  • Objects

It is the category of books and manuscripts from the municipal archives that is of most interest here. It is a tiny collection at the moment, but destined, we do hope, to grow. If one clicks on "Livres et manuscrits", then on "Manuscrits", one is taken to sixty-one images of death registrations ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

These seem to have been selected for their oddity or celebrity. We came across the 1890 death registration of Featherman, a Native American born in Dakota, and an employee of the "troupe Buffalo Bill":

Feather Man Death

Feather Man

These are the early stages, but keep an eye on this site, for it may become quite useful for finding not only documents but images of ancestors from or who passed through Marseille.

 Secondly, for those searching the resting place in Marseille of a recently departed relative, the city last year put on their website a facility for searching among burials. It only goes back to the mid-1990s but one can hope that they may be inspired to add details from older records. On the cemetery map page of the city's website, in the right hand column, click on "carte des cimetières". This brings a pop-up guide and, in the upper right corner of the map, the rubric "recherche de defunts"; click on this to type in the surname and first name of the deceased, then click "OK". If your person be there, the resultant screen will show the:

  • Full name (especially useful as it shows married women's maiden names)
  • Date of death
  • Date of cremation or burial
  • Name of the cemetery where buried
  • Exact location within the cemetery of the grave

 

If only every city would do this and for all of their burials!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

 


Death Announcement Cards for Genealogy

Death 1 r

We explained here some time ago the meanings and types of Faire-parts, invitations or announcements of deaths, marriages or births, but mostly of deaths. We would make the death cards something of a sub-category of the faire-part as they do not invite one to a funeral but merely inform of a death and ask for prayers, as in the card above.

For genealogical purposes, they are a bit less useful than a funeral announcement, as they usually do not name relatives. They do, however, give:

 

  • The deceased's full name
  • A photograph or drawing of the deceased
  • The date of death
  • The place of death
  • In some cases, the deceased's profession

In the case of the card above, Louis Charles Joseph d'Halluin was the mayor of Quesnoy-sur-Deûle, in the department of Nord, where he died on the 12th of June 1884.

The reverse of the card is usually religious in nature, as can be seen here:

Death 1 v

Where to find these cards? Well, we picked up ours at various vide-greniers. Dozens are available for almost nothing on the French document vendors' website Delcampe. To search that website for a death card with your French ancestor's surname, scroll down the main page to the rubric Vieux papiers and click on it.

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.50.13

Then, scroll down the categories list to Faire-part and click on décès:

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.51.56

Then, type the surname you seek in the search box:

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.53.48

We typed in the name Richelme, with the result of one card, for sale for two euros:

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 17.57.36

Happy hunting!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy