In one of our previous incarnations, we worked for British Aid in Entebbe and there met a southern belle quite out of her element. Cookery is often the refuge of a woman in distress (as we ourself learned later) and so it was for her, cranking her unhappy days away at a pasta making machine. Among life's mysteries is not that she ended up in Paris, a Cordon Bleu graduate, food author and caterer, but that we bumped into her in a cafe and recognised her. In the ensuing conversation of reacquaintance, she said that she had a country home in Nièvre. "Nièvre as in never go there; it is the coldest place in central France and totally boring," she announced somewhat bitterly, we thought.
Cold and boring Nièvre may or may not be, but its Departmental Archives deserve warm praise for being the first, perhaps the only, of their ilk to digitise and put online their collection of déclarations de grossesse, pregnancy declarations. This is a boon to researchers of women in French history as well as to genealogists researching their Nivernais ancestors.
It has been some time since we explained pregnancy declarations here, so we will summarise. Unwanted babies have a way of turning up dead more often than societies would like. One French plan to prevent this was to record in legal documentation all pregnancies, thus starting a monitoring process of mother and child and of any future disappearance of the latter. Few of the sixteenth century declarations survive; and the project was impracticable. By the eighteenth century, it was only those women who were unmarried or widowed who had to declare before a local authority that they were pregnant, and many of these declarations do survive.
Those in the Departmental Archives of Nièvre cover the years from 1758 to 1790. They are in Series B, under the code of 2 B 815. The fine folk in the archives have not merely made these pregnancy declarations available, but have worked with their local genealogists and palaeographers who have contributed their excellent skills to help online researchers to read the documents. Early documents are notoriously hard to read, but here, names have been transcribed and located. To read any particular name, hover your mouse's arrow over the green bubble and a screen with details will appear:
To view the image without indexing, click on the red letter i at the top of the screen. In the drop-down menu, click on "Afficher/masquer les index".
To find these fascinating records, go to the website of the Departmental Archives of Nièvre and click on the box for genealogy searches in the upper right-hand corner of the screen:
In the ensuing screen, type the word grossesse in the subject line:
You will then see a list of the record groups. To view one, click on the little eye to the right:
One could find a duller way to spend a rainy afternoon.
©2015 Anne Morddel