We wrote sometime back about the ghastly database ETAREP. It consists of the filmed images of the annual lists of their work that notaires made. For every acte or minute (contract, payment note, loan agreement, transfer of goods receipt or confirmation, will, probate inventory, marriage contract, promissory note, etc.) written in a notarial office or étude, an entry is made in a chronological list. The entry gives the type of acte, the date and the names of those involved. The répertoires, as these lists are called, make for dull but incredibly valuable reading. If you know that your ancestor had some sort of contractual agreement drawn up, which notaire he used, and the approximate date, you will be able to find it in the notaire's répertoire. With the precise date from the répertoire, you are then able to request the correct carton from the archives and see the document.
Notarial records are normally kept in the Departmental Archives, however, those for Paris are not in the Departmental Archives of Paris but in the Archives nationales on rue des Quatre Fils. ETAREP concerns only the notarial records for Paris. The ideal way of working was to study the répertoires at home on ETAREP via the Internet. Then, one could book the file and viewing date with the Archives nationales online, and go see them. The problem with ETAREP was that outdated programmes and Internet search engines were required. These programmes are no longer maintained and cannot be downloaded onto newer computers, so ETAREP became very difficult to access. However, with determination and patience, once could access it.
Now, the site has been shut down and the images of the répertoire pages are being transferred to that Archives nationale's Salle des Inventaires Virtuelle (Virtual Finding Aids Room), or SIV. SIV is an absolutely brilliant way to search the holdings of the Archives nationales, but we grieve for the loss of the old Salle des Inventaires, which was a real room full of shelves of printed finding aids and is now an office. The books and printed finding aids have been transferred to a cavern of a room at the Pierrefitte site.
We saw no reason why the lords of the Archives nationales needed to abolish the room at the Paris site when they began to digitize its many wondrous indices and finding aids. It was more than a place to look up codes. It was a well-lit, quietly industrious space where a researcher could go for a brief spell of thought-collecting, whispered discussion of research goals with others on the hunt, or the serendipitous discovery. How technology, for all its glories, has smothered serendipity!
It will take some years before all of the images of the Parisian notarial répertoires will be online at SIV, as it will take some years before the contents of all of those magnificent finding aids to be included as well (if that is even planned). The Salle des Inventaires and clunky ETAREP should be available throughout the process, so that users could still find things but in true cart before the horse fashion, the resources have been removed before the new version is fully in place, leaving the user stranded.
©2015 Anne Morddel