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Websites of the Departmental Archives
(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. Being added in stages are the all-important notarial document registers.
(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. Incredibly helpful people when contacted by e-mail; they really go out of their way to help further one's research.
(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, land records, parish registers and civil registers from the 16th century to 1890. Military conscription lists from 1867 to 1921.
(09) Ariège Capital: Foix. Finally! Online: Parish and civil registrations from 1551 to 1892, with ten-year indices up to 1902, and military conscription lists from 1884 to 1918.
(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. Online: parish and civil registrations from 1547 to 1872 and some ten-year indices. Just up: military conscription lists.
(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. As with many, but not all, you must create an account. This will gain you access to parish and civil registrations, censuses, maps, military enlistment registers and indices to them.
(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 and the lists themselves from 1867 to 1921, court and judicial records, administrative records,maps, tables to notarial records, succession tables
(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: historic maps, ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations and census returns. These last are due to be indexed by FamilySearch, so keep checking that website as well.
(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. Very helpful staff. Parish registrations from 1772 to 1909 have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(30) Gard Capital: Nîmes. Difficulties abound. Online: No genealogical records are online at the website of the archives. However, TéléArchives at Brozer.fr now have the municipal archives of Nîmes and a large number of archives for Gard.
(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. The 1872 and 1886 census returns for Toulouse are being indexed by FamilySearch.
(32) Gers Capital: Auch. Online: Finding aids, historic maps, military conscription lists and census returns. Parish and civil registrations are not expected to be online before late 2015.
(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, military enlistment registers, WITH a surname index to them! Do not waste your time contacting by post or e-mail, as they brusquely refuse to be of any help at all.
(45) Loiret Capital: Orléans. Online: Civil registrations from 1833 to 1902 are gradually being put online. About one third of all communes have been added. However, there are some that will never be online, for they were destroyed during the Second World War. Many communes have their own websites with their parish and civil registrations found online there.
(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. Online: Historic maps, parish and civil registrations and ten-year indices, military conscription lists. Click on moteur de recherche, then on état civil. There is a nifty little video explaining how to use the search engine. Paris registrations from 1533 to 1906 for some towns have been indexed on FamilySearch.
(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.
(56) Morbihan Capital: Vannes. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, military conscription lists, maps, photos, 19th century local newspapers.
(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 conscription lists (recently updated to include the soldiers of WWI), parish registrations and civil registrations are completed.
(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, civil registrations, military conscription lists through 1921 with alphabetic indices through 1935, 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, parish and civil registrations, censuses, historic maps, local histories, seals, photographs of WWI, and.....(drum roll) a user's guide in English. Just up: military conscription lists.
(81) Tarn Capital: Albi. Online: some parish registers, civil registers, ten-year indices, land records. It is necessary to register to use the site. Poor Tarn has recently had the sad distinction of becoming the first French archives site to be the victim of an attack by Anonymous, during which access to civil registrations and other digitized records was blocked. This seems to have been in protest of the planned construction of a dam at Sivens.
(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, ten-year indices, finding aids, maps census records from 1836 to 1906.
(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 site with plenty online: parish and civil registrations, censuses, military registrations, and historic maps. 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, historic maps, and 184 village and town histories written for the 1900 Paris Expo, as well as indices to notaires' minutes.
(92) Hauts-de-Seine Capital: Nanterre. Online: maps; ten-year indices to the civil registrations through 1912; civil registrations from 1792 to 1912; census records for 11 towns, from 1891 to 1911. Expected in 2015: further census records and the parish registrations.
(93) Seine-Saint-Denis Capital: Bobigny. Online: no genealogical records are online, but there are lots of postcards and photos.
(94) Val-de-Marne Capital: Créteil. Online: parish and civil registers, ten-year indices, historic maps, finding aids, census records from 1795 (!) to 1906. Nice, easy site to use. Wonderfully interested, knowledgeable and helpful staff.
(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. New! Military conscription lists from 1889 to 1921.
(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.
Inside CARAN, every Wednesday afternoon, it is written that it is possible to visit la Bibliothèque Généalogique et d'Histoire Sociale, "a private centre of documentation and genealogy that contributes to the safeguarding of the national heritage of family history...with a catalogue of 385,000 surname studies, which has been exhaustively indexed."
We were keen to see this collection and duly presented ourselves on a Wednesday afternoon. After a complete tour round the entire entry hall in search of this vast library, we were baffled to be directed to a small glass cubicle in which two elderly gentlemen were quietly chatting. How foolhardy we were to enter!
"Ah? Yes?" greeted the more elderly of the elderly gentlemen. A thin, curled-over man, he was wearing an immaculate, crisply pressed, dark, three-piece suit and had a full head of flowing, white hair.
"This is the library?" we asked, confused at the nothingness of the space.
"We are able to request a book to be here for you next Wednesday afternoon," he explained graciously. "What do you seek?"
"Would you by any chance have a directory of eighteenth century equerries, les écuyés?"
"Oh!" he winced and groaned. "You are American? Écuyés were nothing. Nothing!" How pained and irritated he was to be confronted with what he assumed was yet another American hoping to find nobility in her ancestry. We, on our side sighed, for we have met this type of geriatric, snappily dressed fonctionnaire before. Perhaps it would not hurt to digress from genealogy to tell a bit of current French documentation practices, for they cast a light on the thinking that surely inspired past practices.
Our children were born outside of France to a French father and an American mother. At each birth, their father immediately took their birth certificates to the French embassy, which entered their names in the Livret de Famille (the family book, a required document for all French families) and issued them with French passports. As they grew, they were able to renew their passports without any problems. When we came to live in France, they required national identity cards, cartes d'identités, the main form of identity in the country. We made an appointment at the Mairie, or local Town Hall, and took all of their documents as well as new photos for the cards. We were stunned to be told that none of what we had proved that they were French and so they could not receive identity cards. This is the equivalent of being denied a Social Security number in the United States.
We were sent to a remote office in another Mairie to apply for them to receive Certificats de Nationalité Française, certificates of French nationality.Once they would have those, we could apply for their cartes d'identités. At the top of the building, in a glass cubicle very like the one at CARAN, was just such an extremely elderly gentleman, with just such an impeccable, three-piece suit, just such an hauteur, and even just as much white hair.
"How can all of these French documents not be enough to prove our children's French nationality?" we asked. We were exasperated, frazzled, frustrated.
"Ah, you see, they were born on foreign soil of a foreign mother."
"But their father is French. The embassies gave them passports. They are in the Livret de famille."
"Their father could have surrendered his French nationality when he married a foreigner."
"We do not know that."
"He will sign an oath, before a notary."
"You Americans have a very different system. You believe everyone tells the truth. We French do not. We must have proof."
He asked for more documents, the birth, marriage and death records of the past three generations of the family of children's father. When these were supplied, he asked for more documents, the school records of their father and the baptism records of his parents and grandparents. Twice a month, for nine months, he asked for ever more documents. Each visit, with gritted teeth, we sat through his lectures on American legal naiveté.
We lost all hope and faith, yet continued to find for him the randomly requested documents, gradually coming to realize that the entire process was not about French nationality but catholicité. What my elderly tormentor was trying to determine was if the children's father had come from a Catholic family and if he had renounced the Catholic faith when he married a foreigner, for it is a very rigid and completely unwritten rule -- one that would be as vigourously denied as it is vigourously applied -- that to be French is to be Catholic.
Finally, long after we had developed a somewhat zen approach to the entire effort, our erudite and elegant, old inquisitor looked at our latest stack of documents that he had requested, retracted his talons and said: "I think you have tried hard enough." We held our breath in disbelief and, we admit, indignation, as he signed the papers that approved the nationality of our children.
We had tried hard enough. There is no law or rule book, nor has there ever been, of how hard is hard enough, but every French bureaucrat ensures that every supplicant citizen is made to try hard enough, and non-Catholics can expect to have to try doubly "hard enough". Bear that in mind when searching French records and, should you happen upon a wonderfully thick file about one of your ancestors, pity the poor soul who was made to provide its contents.
In the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the article on genealogy states that "Two forces have combined to give genealogy its importance during the period of modern history: the laws of inheritance, particularly those which govern the descent of real estate, and the desire to assert the privileges of a hereditary aristocracy." Little has changed. No one wants to be descended from the rat catcher. (See above.)
In France, where the people chopped their royals, one would expect a certain attitude of scorn toward them. Instead, genealogy here is often about proving that one is related to them. Innumerable books and CDs have been produced about the descendants of various famous, aristocratic, noble or royal persons. Genealogies of the Bourbons, the Condé princes, the kings of France, the Dukes of Bretagne, of the Louviers etc. are supplemented by genealogies of less well-known families. A recent example is a new publication of all 178,000 descendants of the ancestor of many kings of France, Hugues Capet. (The first name is pronounced "EUG" which, by the way, is what French-dubbed Indians in old American Westerns say when they hold up their hand in greeting: "EUG".)
While Americans want to know who their ancestors were and where they were from, since each generation may have relocated some distance from where born, that sort of search is generally unnecessary for the French. Every French person all ready knows who their ancestors are and where they are from because they are still there. All one needs to do is visit the grandparents' graves and the previous ten generations are probably right there next to them. This is exactly what we did in researching one Norman family that never moved. The entire family, but for one fellow who went to New York, were in the parish registers and cemeteries of a single little commune. All we had to do was go there and make copies. If anything, many French are not seeking to know their ancestral lines, but to escape being suffocated by their undying rules and traditions, though few ever do.
It is those French who do not mind history but love it who enjoy genealogy. They can find their ancestors quickly, but then want to flesh out the details of their lives, try to place them in the history of the region and country. This is why the genealogy books and magazines are so thick with historical detail in comparison with the practicality of North American publications.
As for the force of the laws of inheritance, those are written in stone in France: by law, all children must inherit equal shares. No child can be disinherited, no child can be favoured. Each couple, on their marriage, is issued with a Livret de Famille. A legal document, it is a small book in which are written the details of the marriage and the births of all children. With this and the actes de naissance, inheritance is simple, clear, and secure.
Yet, there exists in France even today, a type of professional genealogist who makes a living out of the inheritance laws. In a quite remarkable amount of speculative work, a genealogist may ferret out the whereabouts of a wealthy old person without family. They will then do extensive research until they find a relative, and wait. It may be a long wait. When the wealthy old person dies, the genealogist will then approach the relative, who has no idea that he or she stands to inherit a fortune. The deal struck for providing the name of the deceased and the proof of relationship is usually 50/50. "There is nothing dishonest in this," writes Pierre Durye in La Généalogie, "because they are selling a secret acquired by the means of their patient accumulation of genealogical information," without even knowing if there would be no will!
Masson, Agnès, editor: Sur les traces de vos ancêtres à Paris Produced and published by the Archives de Paris, this is a 2007 update of the 1997 publication of the same title. It is, in our opinion, the best book available on genealogical research in Paris. ISBN 978-2-86075-011-0 (*****)
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.