Still in Nantes, we have expanded our research and exploration to the Diplomatic Archives in Nantes. First, of course, we had to find it. Address in hand, we were puzzled to find ourself in an empty street, devoid of signage.
It seems that every effort had been made to remove any identification from the door:
We peered into every doorway and finally found it :
The security to get in is quite impressive, but those well-armed people were friendly and escorted us through some sort of compound to a lovely archives facility.
We explained much about the two sites of the Diplomatic Archives when we told of our visit to the Courneuve site. We have also described some of the wonderful records to be found there that can be of great use to the genealogical research on those French who emigrated:
- The overseas civil registrations
- The registered notarial records from consular offices
- The overseas census of French citizens living abroad
There are plans for many records such as these to be digitized and put online, though as yet, none are. Yet, aware of the intense interest of researchers in its archives, the Diplomatic Archives have greatly improved their website. The finding aids are online and it is highly recommended that any visit be preceded with hours of their study. Only by studying them in advance can one know what may be found at each facility.
That at Nantes is much better prepared to welcome the genealogical researcher, as can be seen from the binders of indices to the many birth, marriage and death records from French embassies and consular offices around the world. Our friend and colleague, who joined us on this visit, was pleased to find quickly references to her ancestors who had gone to bake in Egypt.
We were very pleased to discover in the ledger of the French legation at Philadelphia some early nineteenth century request forms for men of military service age to remain where they were living overseas. This was at a time when Napoleon was running out of men for his armies and sought to cast his net for cannon fodder across this wide world. Genealogists will thank him for, as the two examples below show, the forms give some wonderful detail on migrant men of the era:
- Full name
- Any nickname or "also known as" (surnom) name used
- Place of birth
- Last place of residence in France
- Current place of residence
- Reason for requesting to stay overseas
One member of staff was exceptionally helpful; the others were on the dour side. Retrieval time for documents requested was very quick. The number of requests permitted per day is quite low, only seven, so if you have much research, you must plan on many days.
Update: Less than a week after we posted this, the Archives Diplomatiques at Nantes announced that they will be closing their reading room as of the first of August 2015. Requests for civil registrations of overseas births, marriages and deaths may be made via an online form. This Internet service is to be commended, but the closing of the reading room is a catastrophe. Once again, technology is used by the lazy as an excuse to destroy the opportunity for the serendipitous discovery.
©2015 Anne Morddel