Notarial Records Online

Frieze Ile de Re

We belong to a group about French genealogy in the godforsaken world of so-called social media, a group in which there has recently been some discussion and confusion concerning the presence or not of notarial records online. Time for clarification, we opine.

Our booklet on the subject explains much about notarial records and we do not intend to repeat it all in this post, but differentiation seems to be required; specifically, differentiation between a minute and a répertoire. Understanding the process a notaire and his or her clerk followed makes this quite simple.

For a client, a notaire wrote an acte, such as a will or a marriage contract or a contract of a sale of property, etc. The clerk made copies of the acte for each of the parties and, in some cases, for registration with a government bureau that may, at the time, have required copies of certain actes. The clerk also copied the acte into the notaire's minute book, this copy being termed a minute. (Later, the minute book gave way to the notaire's copy being a separate document in a folder or with a cover, but it was still termed a minute.) Like the other original copies, the minute was signed by all parties. Because this was done as the work occurred, the minutes were written chronologically, which makes them very hard to locate again for those without total recall. Thus, the clerk also wrote, in the last pages of the minute book or in a separate book, the briefest of summaries of each acte, giving the type of acte, the names of the parties (often written larger than the rest of the summary), the date and, in some cases, the page number, into a répertoire. Thus, the répertoire is not an index, as it is still chronological, but is more a sort of table of contents.

Quite a few of the Departmental Archives (and, for Parisian notaires, the National Archives) have digitised the répertoires and put these on their websites. Members of the group on social media were confused and thought that these short summaries were the minutes but they are not. In your research, the online répertoires are a tremendous help but they are far from ideal as they are not indexed.

Thus, to find a minute, you must know the notaire your ancestors used. This is not always the one closest to their home. The notaire for a marriage contract, for example, may have been the one preferred by the bride's parents. A notaire who was a relative of one of the parties may have been preferred -- or avoided -- regardless of location. We have found that some people used one notaire for family documents, such as wills or probate inventories, and another for business dealings. If you do know the name of the notaire and the approximate date of the acte, you can then hope for some success in searching the répertoires online. Once you find the summary of the acte, you must discover from the website how to request a copy of the full document. Given the correct code and the details of the acte, most of the archives will, for a fee, copy the minute and send it to you. 

Excitingly, a very few Departmental Archives have also begun to digitise the complete minutes. For Paris, those online tend to be minutes concerning persons of historical interest. For Pyrénées-Atlantiques and, most recently, Vienne, those online tend to be the oldest and most fragile documents. Even more exciting, once digitised, these are being indexed, though only by the notaire's name, location and type of acte, not by the names of the parties. (No discussion of notarial records online can be complete without mention of the fabulous work of Odile Halbert, which we discussed in this post.)

So, the key is to know what it is your are seeing when you begin researching on a website: is it a répertoire or is it a minute? And then...commencez!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Aristocracy Comes and Goes

Grandmother

Our grandmother (pictured above) used to remind us that "the only life worth living is the life of the mind" and that "the only aristocrat worth knowing is an aristocrat of the intellect". She was always a tad disappointed in us but she would have applauded France this week for financing the relocation to this country of some very fine aristocrats of the intellect indeed. Eighteen scientists from around the world, including thirteen from the United States, will be leaving their de-funded research departments and bringing their brains, research and discoveries to France. Will they stay, the author of the article at the link above wonders, or will they finish their projects and then go?

Two hundred years ago, France lost rather a lot of the more traditional type of aristocrat when the Revolution and Terror, having made life very precarious, prompted thousands of them to make a run for it. As a group, they became known as the émigrés (literally translated as emigrant, but for that meaning in English the French use migrant, which in English means migrant, but for the same meaning of that word the French use migrant économique, which, at last! means the same thing in English). Some managed to take money or valuables out of the country with them; very few had the prescience to sell their property before 1789; most simply abandoned all in their dash for safety. After a while, the motherland missed her émigrés and, in an invitation not unlike that to the scientists, began a campaign to lure them back home.

The Archives nationales estimate that there were roughly 150,000 émigrés, in two waves:  those who left before 1792 (ruled as traitors and their names listed by the police) and those who left during the Terror (this fleeing mob included people of all classes). In 1802, they were offered a general amnesty and many returned. However, they were not offered the opportunity to try to get their property back until 1825, ten years after the fall of the First Empire.

For those of you with a French aristocrat among your ancestors, the documentation of the émigrés has recently become much more accessible. When they began to return, they submitted requests to the police asking that their names be removed from the lists of those who were traitors and that the confiscation of their property be annulled. The files of these requests of returning émigrés, dossiers nominatifs des demandes de radiation et de main-levée de séquestre, are what are now possible to search on the system of the Archives nationales known as SIV. They are arranged -- like so much in France -- by department. However, the entire finding aid may be searched for a name. A few of the dossiers, those on people of historical importance, have been digitised and may be searched and viewed at no charge here, a search yielding a result looking like this:

Aristocrats

If you find the search facility, with its results seeming always to be either zero or in the hundreds, to be difficult or frustrating, it is also possible to see the entire PDF list of names here, and find the name you seek using the time-honoured Command-F on your keyboard.

This really is a very exciting new availability of an old resource. Should you have an émigré among your ancestors it may be that you will be able to find him or her here. If so, you may then request a copy of the file from the archives and discover, we fervently hope, that he or she was neither dolt nor duffer but an aristocrat of intellect or talent who brought as much to France as those eighteen scientists may do.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Win a Prize for Your Genealogy Write-Up

Genealogy writing prize

We have had the pleasure of reading many of the excellent family histories written by you, Dear Readers. Some of them have been so good that we urge you to submit them for the top genealogy literary prize in France, the 2018 PRIX FLOUCAUD DE LA PÉNARDILLE - Dr DU CHALARD. Entry requirements are that:

  • The work be in French
  • It be your first work of genealogical or family history writing
  • It's length be at least one hundred pages, of which at least seventy pages must be of the body of the work
  • It must contain at least one genealogical tree

The value of the prize is 1500€. Is there anything nearly as large in the Anglophone genealogical world, we wonder?

Judgement criteria are based upon:

  • The quality of reference works and sources
  • The quality, placement, use and relevance of illustrations
  • The quality of the genealogical tree or trees
  • The correctness and completeness of any heraldic emblems (a common stumbling block for many in the Americas, but not of you, Dear Readers!)
  • The precision of the name index

The competition is open to all. To enter:

  • Send two typed or printed copies of your manuscript or publication, by post (one copy will be for the judges and one for the library of La France Généalogique)
  • Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for acknowledgement of receipt (you can buy French stamps online and print them at home here.)
  • You must agree, if you win, to the publication of a chapter on the sponsor's website

The deadline is the 18th of March 2018.

The postal address is: 12 rue Vivienne, Lot 3, 75002 Paris

The e-mail address is: contact@cegf.org

We urge you to give it a shot!

CEFG

La France Généalogique is the sponsor of this prize so we thought we would give an update on their website, which is dismal in design but useful as to content. Please read our earlier post on the website, for not much has changed in the last seven years. The website where there is much to help you with your research is called Numéric

Those sections that we find have been improved or new are:

  • Courses and talks offered
  • Much more assistance and help via the question and answer service
  • Links to what they have shared with FamilySearch
  • A members' service helping with palaeography
  • A list of agnatic (male line) names in their database, with a list of all names of spouses linked to each agnatic name. Very useful.
  • A members' service to look up and copy parish and civil registrations in the Archives de Paris.

So, if you have ancestors who lived in Paris, we strongly suggest that you join to take advantage of their excellent genealogical help. If any of you is an expert website designer in France, you might like to offer your services.

 

2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Book Review - Revolution in the French Navy

Revolution

This book was published in 1995 so not a new one in the least but it is new to us and we are mightily pleased to have discovered it. Revolution and Political Conflict in the French Navy by William S. Cormack is an expanded doctoral thesis but only just barely reads like one. Considering the subject, it is concise: ten chapters in three hundred pages, with a decent index and an excellent bibliography.

What happened to the French navy during the French Revolution and the First Empire is a history told almost exclusively from the point of view of the British or at least agreeing with that point of view. Cormack departs from that and it results in blessed clarity. Gone the comparisons of the Marine Royale with the Royal Navy or the French marin with the British tar or the Admiralty with the Ministry of Marine. Cormack looks exclusively at what happened to the French navy in the context of French history and it is enlightening.

Early chapters describe the state of the navy and its officers and seamen just before the Revolution, including their stellar contribution to the American Revolution. He covers in great detail the key disastrous events the so unsettled the French navy: The Toulon Affair of 1789, the mutiny at Brest in 1790-1791, the surrender of the Mediterranean fleet in 1793, and the Quiberon mutiny of 1793. His thesis is clear: that the new concept of the Will of the People could not be reconciled with the functional requirement of naval authority.

The works of previous historians on the subject are discussed and examined and given a fresh analysis. It is a bonus that the -- at times -- shambolic political events of the day are explained neatly and that two centuries of over-simplified characterisations are washed away. Confusion is removed from the complexities of the time; we certainly acquired a greater understanding not only of the navy but of the Revolution and Terror generally from this detailed account that is never turgid, always extremely interesting. 

We have often written here that good genealogy requires a good knowledge of history. For those of you with ancestors who were in the French navy at this incredible time, this book is essential reading. You will come away with a better idea of why an ancestor who was an officer may have deserted (and he may not have been a royalist!) or why another may have been guillotined. You will have a better understanding of the old and new ranks and of how some men moved back and forth between the merchant navy and the navy of the Republic.

An absolute must.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Exciting News About Parisian Genealogy

La Parisienne-Collage

Very exciting news has been announced by the City Council of Paris yesterday. After deliberating the proposal, the mayor has signed the approval of a project for FamilySearch to digitise the very weary microfilm of the "reconstituted" parish and civil registrations of pre-1860 Paris. 

As dedicated readers of this blog will know, the Paris archives, along with quite a lot more, were torched by the Paris Communards in 1871. (Read that story here.) Something between five and eight million records, dating as far back as the 16th century, were destroyed. If your ancestors were from Paris and lived there any time from 1515-1860, their records – in some 5,000 bound registers - were destroyed.

Immediately after the fire, a group of researchers was formed and given the job of finding ways to recreate the information. They worked for 25 years. Copying parish and religious records, they managed to make a nearly complete reconstruction of the information for the years from 1802 to 1860. Working backward, it became much more difficult to find alternatives to copy. Roughly, 2.7 million registrations, or actes, were copied, in this breakdown:
 
  • 1802-1860 2.4 million actes
  • 1700-1801 2.4 million actes
  • 1600-1699 5000 actes
  • 1550-1599 5 actes
In the middle of war, 1941, the Paris archives began another reconstitution effort to find all available information on all Paris citizens since the Middle Ages not all ready found by the first reconstitution. This brought 200,000 mentions of people, mostly from lawsuits and other judicial records. As people who went to court tended to be those with money, these records preserve the identities of the wealthy and noble more than of everyday folk.
 
For a while now, it has been possible to search online the index cards to these reconstituted registers on the website of the Paris Archives, as in this example:
 
Sample reconstituted acte index card
However, it is not possible to see the actual document without going to the Paris Archives and looking at the microfilm. These microfilm rolls, we assure you, are getting exceedingly tattered and the images murky, as you can see:
 
Sample reconstituted acte
 
So, this news is exciting in that the images on the microfilm will be preserved for longer via digitising and they will be accessible online on both the FamilySearch website and the website of the Paris Archives. A boon for those researching Parisian ancestors. (Now, this must be something of a black eye for Filae, who are very keen to expand their offerings, and for Geneanet, who host the images of hundreds of Parisian court records. We suspect that the former will work out an indexing deal with the Paris Archives.) Sadly, we have no idea when this will take place but it is terrific news!
 
©2017 Anne Morddel
French Genealogy

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to Those of Our Dear Readers Who Celebrate It

Dindon

 

Forgive us, Dear Readers, if we repost two of our past musings on this very American of holidays (with updates in blue).

Here is the more cheerful one:

It has come to our attention that, increasingly, the French are aware of and mildly curious about the American Thanksgiving. Ever ready to compare a new cuisine to their own, which they know is the best the planet has ever had to offer, many have, on their travels to America, tried the famous fare. 

"Not bad" has been the consensus of opinion among those we know. They know turkey well and often serve it at Christmas. Many really like traditional pumpkin pie very much (even though most think it is made of almonds, not pumpkin), though some do not and prefer the "chiffon" version. Cranberry preserves are accepted and known since, for some time now, cranberry juice has been on sale in France for its healthful properties. Stuffing is frowned upon as gooey, tasteless and unnecessarily fattening. Sweet potatoes seem to be tolerated, but only if cooked as boiled potatoes, with a bit of salt, pepper, and herbs. The killer is corn bread. No one, absolutely no one with a French palate will touch the stuff.

However, one aspect of the holiday is very well understood - that of sharing. For every French person, a meal is not a meal if it is not shared. In spite of all the suffocating formality in some homes, at its core, every meal is an act of sharing and every invitation to a meal is an invitation to partake. They do it very well and consequently, appreciate that about Thanksgiving.

The superb American tour guide in Paris, Richard Nahem, has created a French Thanksgiving Vocabulary, which he has very kindly allowed us to reproduce here:

Thanksgiving - le jour de l'action de grâce
autumn, fall - l'automne
colony - une colonie
feast -   un festin, un banquet
football - le football américain
grateful (adj)  - reconnaissant
harvest  - la récolte
horn of plenty  - la corne d'abondance
native (adj)  - natif
(Native American) Indians  - les Indiens (d'Amérique)
November  - novembre
parade  - un défilé
Pilgrims  - les pèlerins
settlers  - les colons
to share  - partager
Thursday  - jeudi
tradition  - une tradition
traditional (adj)  - traditionnel
treaty  - un traité
tribe  - une tribu

For the Thanksgiving feast .... here are some traditional dishes.

food  - la nourriture
corn  - le maïs
cranberries  - les canneberges
gravy  - la sauce au jus de viande
mashed potatoes  - la purée
pumpkin pie  - la tarte à la citrouille
stuffing  - la farce
sweet potatoes  - les patates douces
turkey  - la dinde
yam  - un igname

Read Richard's delightful blog, Eye Prefer Paris,  to know more about life in Paris, and book one of his Christmas in Paris tours.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Park

And here we are in our gloomier mood:

We left the homeland more than thirty-five years ago. We were young and adventurous and happy to go. We were abandoning the New World and its slightly stale raw energy, giving up America's global bullying that was the sad result of a previous generation's heroism. We moved in the opposite direction from that of our European ancestors, going to instead of from the Old World, to London, literature, theatre, affordable opera and, most of all, history. It was supposed to be for a year or two, not life. It was supposed to be an extended vacation, not emigration. Many years ago, a wise woman whom we shamefully wronged said to us that life cannot be planned. How very right she was.

Like many people who wake up one day and are surprised to discover that they will probably never go home again, we have tried to make the best of it. There have been enough grand moments to ensure that it was not always very difficult to do so. We did not always miss the homeland so much. Oh, we miss family and the lake, but not really the homeland as itself. Except on Thanksgiving, and on that day, every year, our heart breaks.

Some expatriated Americans can create Thanksgiving wherever they go. But for us, the food, when transplanted, tastes dry as dust and the feast seems unreal. True ritual loses its beauty and meaning when dislocated and becomes nothing more than a ragged troupe of costumed folk dancers on tour. Humanity's deepest, dearest traditions cannot live outside of native climes. 
 
Over the years, we have tried alternatives, American style restaurants in London or Paris or São Paulo that put on a special menu for Thanksgiving. Perhaps it was the local ingredient substitutes, but those meals tasted about as much like a Thanksgiving meal as a singing e-card sounds like real music. One year in Istanbul we invited a group of French friends who had all lived in the U.S. and liked Thanksgiving. Well, when we prepared the feast, it turned out that they detested corn bread and cranberries and pumpkin and yams. That meal turned into a French event and became a very serious competition of guess-the-wine that lasted over two hours. All we are good for is telling red from white. These French feasters were way beyond that, and none of this guessing the varietal namby-pamby either. The winner of each round had to name the wine by region, the chateau, and the year. And they could. It was impressive. It was not Thanksgiving.
 
Nor did it feel like Thanksgiving when we tried to cook the traditional meal in November in Brazil, when it was too hot to breathe and everyone is at the beach. In every place we have lived, it is just an ordinary school and work day. There is no festivity in the air, no one is sharing the excitement. Is that what it was like for your immigrant French ancestors? Were they generally happy in their new lives, but broke down or become sad at Toussaint, or could not adjust to Christmas on the morning of the twenty-fifth instead of midnight on the twenty-fourth? For us, we gave up long ago and have settled into our own, we suppose bizarre, outside of America, Thanksgiving tradition: we order Chinese take-away and watch "Broadway Danny Rose" and cry.
 
Usually, the crying starts early and lasts most of the day, as we try and fail to push away memories of loud and happy Thanksgivings around a big table when it is snowing outside. The homesickness is overwhelming on that day and on that day we are very American. We know that much of the world hates our country. Much of the time, half of the country itself seems to hate the other half, but not on Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, we are one. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Id, various New Years, are all exclusive in one way or another, but every single soul in America can celebrate Thanksgiving. Whatever religion or tradition or culture people have, they can join together for Thanksgiving, since it is pretty easy for everyone to have a moment of gratitude for food. It is the all-inclusiveness of the day that makes it so wonderful. There was always more than family at the table during our childhood Thanksgivings. The day is not about family; it is not tribal and closed; it is about sharing openly. On that day, once a year, we open our arms to invite and welcome others with old-fashioned generosity.
 
Now, as we sit through Woody Allen's mediocre film, our mind is full of memories of the many Thanksgivings of our childhood when we had the classic meal as best our mother could afford (there were great years and not so great) and of the many people we invited. Sometimes they were foreigners, students, new people in town, exhausted new parents, the isolated elderly, and many, many old friends. (Once, it was a visiting French professor who is now a member of the Académie française. We wonder occasionally if he recalls that event.)  There is a need that we all feel to make sure that no one is alone on Thanksgiving that we find so beautiful in our people. We will knock on the door of new neighbours who may be total strangers to invite them for Thanksgiving, as it is unthinkable that anyone should be alone on that day. 
 
We have seen a group of homeless people celebrate the day together, each contributing a sandwich or bread or an apple, surely each holding a precious memory in his or her head, sharing. We recall being with a group of students who could not get home for the day and who made a grand table of odd dishes together. We remember the glowing joy in the face of an elderly woman we knew in the 1960s as she told of Connecticut Thanksgivings with her huge family in the 1880s. They welcomed friends and strangers then, as well.
 
It is the last scene of the film that is the clincher. I think that this scene, more than any other version of the holiday on film, epitomizes the sharing and community that are Thanksgiving.  In a grubby room, some lonely old men with take-away food come together to share and be thankful, because that is what you do, that is what everyone does, on Thanksgiving.
 
Happy Thanksgiving to you all, wherever you may be, Dear Readers.
 
©2017 Anne Morddel

More Revolutionary Geography - Sections

Tumbril

In 1790, democracy marched onward in France and voting was organised by commune and, in larger cities, by section. Properly speaking, sections were electoral districts, but they were also used informally by name or number as part of an address. Section names or numbers turn up at times in early civil registrations and can be very confusing. In property records, they are maddening.

Paris

The most well-known sections are those of Paris, for they were really the berserkers of Revolutionary radicalism. There were forty-eight sections revolutionnaires in Paris. When first established in 1790, they had names that linked to local landmarks, buildings or roads, such as Section du Temple (referring to the centre of the Knights Templar) or Section de la Halle-aux-Blés (referring to the grain market). In 1795, some names were changed the better to reflect the ideals of the Revolution, and such names as Section du Contrat-Social (Section of the Social Contract) and Section des Droits-de-l'Homme (Section of the Rights of Man) appeared. By 1811, many of them had reverted to old neighbourhood, or quartier, names. Wikipedia lists the Paris Revolutionary sections, with their names in 1790, 1795 and 1811.

The difficulty is in knowing exactly where they were. Using a modern map of Paris and the 1811 column from the Wikepedia page, you can get an idea, but as the sections were so much smaller than the modern arrondissements, it will be only a vague idea. As street names and names of squares, or places, also changed (for example rue de Richelieu was rue de la Loi) it is not always possible to use street names to find the location of a section. The history website, Emerson Kent, has a map created by the wonderful Stanfords for Cambridge University Press that shows the sections, with both the 1790 and the 1795 names, on a map of the old faubourgs.

 Other Cities

Less publicised and so, more difficult, are the sections of other cities. Marseille had thirty-two sections. Though the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône writes that they had names, we cannot find a list of them anywhere. It seems that they were most often referred to by number. A map of the Marseille sections may be seen at the moment on page 42 of Michel Vovelle's "Les Sans-Coulottes marseillais: le mouvement sectionnaire du jacobinisme au fédéralisme 1791-1793" on Google Books.

Brest began with seven sections in 1790. Like in Paris, they had names linked with local identity:

  • Pont-de-Terre
  • La Place-d'Armes
  • Champ-de-la-Fédération
  • Saint-Louis
  • La Pointe
  • La Fontaine
  • Carpont

In 1793, they were changed to:

  • Egalité
  • Liberté
  • Sans-culottes
  • Raison
  • Montagne
  • Marat
  • Le Peletier

In 1794, about forty streets were renamed, just to complicate things.1 

To find the sections of other cities will be a struggle. The best sources that we have found are scholarly tomes about a city during the Revolutionary period. Quite a lot of these were published around 1989, as part of the commemorations of the two hundredth anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. Should any of you have found the sections of other cities, do let us know!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

1. Philippe Henwood and Edmond Monange, Brest : un Port en Révolution, 1789-1799, (Editions Ouest-France, 1989), p267.


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


The French Genealogy Blog 2018 Calendar is Out!

2018 FGB Calendar

After many of you, Dear Readers, requested a new calendar, this one going from January to December unlike our calendar of four years ago, which went from April to March (seemed like a good idea at the time), we have complied and announce the French Genealogy Blog 2018 calendar.  

It contains:

  • many important dates in the history of France that relate to genealogical research
  • modern French holidays
  • dates showing the months of the French Republican calendar

Instead of our stunning photographs, the illustrations are of twelve of our equally stunning collages

It may be purchased via Lulu.com should you wish to help keep The FGB free of ads.

Merci

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Municipal Archives of Dieppe

Dieppe mediatheque

We have been working on our own research of late. It took us back to the Departmental Archives of Seine-Maritime and, for the first time, to the Municipal Archives of Dieppe. These are not easy to find. They have no website and most of the entries on genealogy websites refer to a facility that no longer has the archives in it. There seems to be no telephone or e-mail address specifically for these archives either.

Dieppe has been an important port for centuries, home to many immigrants from Britain and a few from the United States. Dramatic stories of daring privateers pepper its history. We had an intense yen to see those archives, so we determined to try what looked the most likely place: a médiathèque. Médiathèques are libraries with mixed media in that along with books to loan, they have compact disks, videos, computer games and such items to loan as well.

The Médiathèque Jean Renoir seemed our best hope, so we took the train from Rouen to Dieppe and walked five minutes to the most unprepossessing entry we have encountered in quite a long time (see above). Ugly it may be but we were pleased to learn that somewhere in the building were the archives, entitled the Fonds anciens. After a pleasant wander through the library section, we found in a back corner the entry to the archives.

AM Dieppe entry

We sensed a lack of proper respect for and appreciation of local history, perhaps. Down the stairs, we at last came upon the long-sought archives. Notice the pipes overhead?

Dieppe archives

Some municipal archives have more than others. As we have written often, the Allied bombing of Normandy and Brittany damaged, even obliterated some archives. One never knows what one will find, or not. We found that the Dieppe archives are a little treasure trove, maintained and managed by keen staff.

The archivist was a kindly gentleman with a nicotine addiction that caused frequent disappearances. When he was in the room he explained to us the finding aids then dashed out to search for the cartons we requested as soon as we had written down the requests. He returned carrying in his arms a stack of cartons so high that it surely blocked his vision. He could not bring us enough. Barely had a query left our lips before he was off again to bring another pile of cartons. Never before have we had archival access with such abandon.

As ever, it is in municipal archives where one finds the internal passport registers of the early nineteenth century.

Passports

We find these to be particularly wonderful for their descriptions of an individual, such as this of Captain John Skinner, Junior of Boston, aged thirty-five, about six feet tall, and who had light brown hair, a low forehead, light blue eyes, a long nose, a big mouth, round face, and an oval chin with a scar.

Skinner

 

Municipal archives also will have any local census that may have been taken. We found one for Dieppe from the Republican year An XIII, 1805 to 1806, some thirty years before the first French national census. Happily, we found the family we were researching, living on the street around the corner from the médiathèque. Additionally, these archives hold a superb collection of early nineteenth vessel accounts, with the names of each of the crew and what they were paid, and lists of the licensed fishermen from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries. 

Excellent!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy