2017 Challenge A-Z


Every year in June the French blogger, Sophie Boudarel, launches the genealogy writing encouragement, Le Challenge A-Z. Every year June surprises us and we wish we had been more organised, more prepared and ready to participate, but we never quite are. Those who do participate, however, are writing increasingly interesting blog posts on French genealogy. This year, the best of them all, to our mind, are those by the students on the genealogy diploma course at the University of Nîmes. 

It starts off with great pertinence to you, Dear Readers, with A Comme Amérique, and tells of the research into the life and antecedents of French immigrant to California, Sylvain Bordes. Another, P Comme Pierre Justin, du Jura à la Caroline du Sud, also discusses a French immigrant to America. Other posts discuss the course itself and its director (C comme Cosson, R comme Reprendres ses études one from the point of view of the professor and one from that of the students). There are some that discuss methodology, such as S comme Sortie du Territoire, about the Archives diplomatiques, O comme Onomastique, about the study of surnames, and H comme Hypothèques, about the land registry archives.

There are posts on priests, prostitutes, bandits and embroiderers. All are extremely well presented, with source notes where appropriate and with excellent illustrations (though they can be, at times, a bit lurid for our delicate sensitivities). Every one of them is an excellent read.


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Those Who Fought in the French Foreign Legion During World War Two

Legion etrangere

Buried among the numerous lists on the superb website of the French military, Mémoire des Hommes, is a collection of filmed pages of names of those foreigners who rushed to fight for France during the brief period from the 1st of September 1939 to the 25th of June 1940. The lists are not complete, pages are missing, there are gaps. Nevertheless, there are many, many names of men from all over the world, including from Germany, who joined this unique legion for foreigners within the French Army.

The typed lists, entitled Listes nominatives des volontaires étrangers à servir la France entre le 1er septembre 1939 et le 25 juin 1940 cover the following military regions:

  • The First, central Seine
  • The Third, just the Rennes subdivision
  • The Fifth
  • The Sixth, which includes some from Alsace but otherwise covers northern France
  • The Seventh
  • The Eighth, covering Lyon, Grenoble, Clermont-Ferrand and others in the eastern mountains
  • The Ninth, covering Marseille, Toulon and the south, including Corsica
  • The Tenth, covering Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia

In clicking on the links above, the page that results may seem blank. You must then click on the list in the column on the left.

The French Foreign Legion was notoriously secretive, allowing people to enlist under false names. These lists provide more than just the names; they also give dates of birth and nationality, which help with identification. For those researching a parent or grandparent who said he fought for France in the French Foreign Legion, this may be a good place to begin your research.

Good luck!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


French Nationality Law Through the Years

To be French

One can pen an encyclopaedia on the subject of what it means to be French but for those researching their ancestors, it is the law that matters. The laws on French nationality determined whether or not a person would have been allowed to present him or her self to the world as truly French and the law changed over the years. Thus, though we glossed over this in a post some years ago, we now give a brief history of French law on nationality.

  • During the Ancien régime, the years of kings prior to 1789, only the king could confer French nationality, with a letter of naturalisation, une lettre de naturalité. This could have been granted to a foreigner living in the country,  un aubain.
  • At the beginning of the French Revolution, the rather vile concept of one being a subject of a king gave way to the marginally better one of one being a citizen of a democratically governed country. Citizenship could be granted to foreigners who may have done something fine for the Republic, (such as Thomas Paine, who had fine ideas, or as Joel Barlow, the American diplomat and conman who seemed fine at the time) and who resided in France. Citizenship rights were also granted to the children of French people who had left the country to escape the violence of the Revolution.
  • In 1804 the Civil Code allowed émigrés and their children to return to France and to be French; and for all foreigners born in France to choose, at the age of twenty-one, to acquire French nationality.
  • In 1851, double nationality was permitted, in part, for the first time. Those born in France to a foreign parent who was also born in France could be considered as French from birth; they could, on reaching majority, choose to surrender their French nationality. This right was annulled in 1889. (At that time, those born within France to a foreign father who had been born outside of France were not French. Women who married foreigners lost their French nationality.)
  • In 1889, needing more men for the army, the country changed the laws concerning foreigners born in France such that all foreigners born in France and still living in France at the time that they reached the age of majority and who had not surrendered formally their French nationality, were French and did have to do their military service. (See here and here.)
  • In 1927, after the reduction of the male working population by approximately one and a half million, with a further two million handicapped and unable to work, needs trumped exclusivity. The many working men who had come to France to fill the gap were allowed to become French more easily. Those who had lived in the country for three years could apply for nationality. Children born to French women who had married foreigners, became French; their mothers had already acquired the right to re-establish their French nationality.
  • In 1940, the Vichy government suspended all naturalisations. This was annulled in 1944 and 1945 and the possibility to become French again reappeared.

 To know more, read the excellent Ministry of the Interior publication here.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Could DNA Testing for Genealogy Be Permitted in France?

Photo 51

Tomorrow we go to the polls again in France, this time for the run-off election for the legislature. All predictions say that the party of the newly elected President Emmanuel Macron, La République en March! (REM), will be the winner. This is expected to give President Macron (who is referred to by the press as "The Kid") a majority of supporters among legislators that could lead to many of his proposals becoming law.

President Macron is an educated man with an appreciation for sound science. While still campaigning, he issued a video in English encouraging American scientists, particularly disappointed climate scientists, to come to France, where their work would be supported, encouraged and, best of all, funded. 


Since becoming president, he has made a number of pro-science moves, including the "Make Our Planet Great Again", which offers foreign scientists four-year grants worth up to one and a half million euros each to come to France to do their research.

Is this a new Enlightenment? If so, will it open the door to DNA testing for genealogical purposes here? To date, such testing has been banned in France on grounds that it could be a violation of bioethics, as we explained in this post. Now, however, many in the French genealogy community, with the well-known Guillaume de Morant at the vanguard, have launched a petition asking parliament to review and change the restriction. Those of you who have attempted to trace French ancestors via DNA testing are aware of the shallowness of the French DNA pool in genealogy databases, (in spite of some one hundred thousand French people per year using the post to have foreign companies test their DNA). Should you wish to see this improve, we suggest that you sign the petition.

It will be interesting to see how far the pro-science stance of the new President and legislature will reach.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

New Booklet : French Notaires and Notarial Records

Booklet Cover N

We do apologise, Dear Readers, for the long silence and thank those of you who wrote with concern. There are times when, to accomplish something, one must bury the phone in the garden, draw the curtains closed, lock the door and focus on the project at hand. So we did and are pleased to announce the publication of a new FGB Booklet "French Notaires and Notarial Records". It contains over twenty posts from this blog, plus an eleven page glossary of standard terms used in notarial records, which we compiled specifically for this booklet. We give here the Table of Contents:

  • What Is A Notaire?
  • Notarial Records - Les actes notariés
  • Array of Notarial Records
  • Old French in Old Documents
  • Two Marriage Contracts
  • Defiance - the Acte de Respect
  • A Guardianship Document Examined
  • Paris Guardianship Cases
  • Two Wills
  • Estate Inventories
  • Did Your Ancestor Take Another's Place in the Army?
  • Finding Notarial Records
  • Répertoires
  • Registers of the Bureaux des Hypothèques
  • How To Find a Modern Will
  • Marriage Contract Tables
  • Follow the Trail to the End
  • Overseas Notarial Records
  • Glossary of Notarial Terms

"French Notaires and Notarial Records" has been added to the booklets list in the right-hand column on this page and may be purchased via Lulu.com (click on the cover for the link) or via Amazon.


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Picard on Jules Lion - A Study in an Altered Identity

LaFayette passenger list

Some time ago, we were contacted by the art historian, Sara M. Picard, to help with research into a French immigrant to Louisiana named Jules Lion. It was such a fascinating case that we were more than happy, nay, keen to be involved. We hunted through cemeteries, French passenger lists, Consistoire registers, naturalisation files, commercial directories, notarial records, and many more. Dr. Picard quite brilliantly combined the French research with her much larger amount of research into American records to prove a remarkable point -- that historians had mistaken the racial background of Jules Lion. 

Her article, "Racing Jules Lion", appeared recently in Louisiana History, the Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. Dr. Picard very kindly has obtained permission from that publication to allow you, Dear Readers, to access and read the article in its entirety here. If you have ever been puzzled by aspects of an ancestor's identity in your research, or if you simply want to have an amazing read about one of Louisiana's earliest photographers, do read this excellent study.

Many, many thanks, Dr. Picard, for allowing us to publish the link on The FGB.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

"Amnistié" on a Birth Registration

Infanterie de la Garde Royale 1815


Monsieur M. wrote in to ask what "Amnistié" meant when written as a marginal note on a birth registration. The word means "pardoned". Thus, the person was either condemned as a criminal, possibly a political prisoner, or was found guilty of desertion from the military and then was pardoned. How to find out more?


One must look in the Archives de justice in the Departmental Archives for the dossiers on condemned political prisoners of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The would be in the archives of the courts in Series U. They could also be in the police archives in Series M. The Archives nationales, in the Sub-Series BB/18, has a large number of dossiers on condemned anarchists, from 1890 through 1955.


Ordinary criminals' trial records will also be in Series U of the Departmental Archives, while prison records are found in the Departmental Archives in Series Y, arranged by the name of the prison. In Paris, the police archives could have more no a case.


The Archives nationales, in  Sub-Series BB/21-24, have all applications for pardons and whether they were granted or refused. They are indexed in a somewhat complicated way, which is explained in the excellent Archives nationales document here. There was a general pardon of the Counter-Revolutionaries in 1791, and another of the Communards voted on the 11th of July 1880.


The military in France during the nineteenth century was hard. It was hard under Napoleon and it was hard during various conscription regimes. Desertion was common, so common that there have been occasional general pardons. When a deserter was pardoned, he received a Certificat d'Amnistie, which he then showed to mayors and officials where he was born and/or where he lived, to be accepted as an honest member of society once again. To find out if an ancestor was a deserter, start with the military conscription lists to see if he was supposed to serve, then check his record. 


When a full pardon is granted, the conviction is annulled and any prison term commuted, and full civil rights are restored. In most cases, a full pardon would be noted on the birth certificate. Recall that, in France, one must constantly supply copies of one's birth certificate or show the portable, official copy in the Livret de Famille. This means that the marginal note, "Amnistié" will ensure that the person will not be treated as a criminal or re-arrested.

Many thanks for this one, Monsieur M.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy




Study to Become a French Genealogy Expert


The bilingual, English/French diploma course in French Genealogy at the University of Nîmes was inaugurated a few years ago. A year and a half ago, we discussed here its plans for improvement and were grateful to receive your enlightening comments and suggestions. We passed those on the the eminent French Genealogist, Monsieur Stéphane Cosson, and the others working with him to revise and improve the course. We find it more flexible and the explanation to be more focused. Whether you may be interested in voyaging to France to study or in the distance learning course, we think that this course could prove invaluable.

Monsieur Cosson has sent us the description of the new course and we are happy to present it here, hoping that some of you budding French genealogists will take the opportunity to learn how it is done by those in the know. The application period for the distance learning programme is open now!


A French Degree in “Genealogy and Family History”

Offering adequate training in research techniques is crucial and should be made available to all genealogists regardless of their personal level of experience: indeed, Genealogy is not just about computing a collection of dates. There is a world of exciting data waiting to be discovered, far more informative than the collaborative indexing or scanned documents that can be found on the Internet, on websites for Departmental Archives, etc. To really uncover the lives of our ancestors, one must learn where to look in order to make new discoveries and how to better understand the past.

With this in mind, the University of Nîmes is offering several college degree programs, which you will find listed below. Our objective is to offer the most complete training possible in Genealogy, whether you consider yourself a beginner or a professional. To achieve this goal, the team of University Professors is supplemented by Mr. Stéphane Cosson, a professional genealogist since 2000, who brings his expertise to our programs and shares his experience with our students.

Internship opportunities :

Students who wish to do so are welcome to do an internship while registered for our program. However this is not a requirement, as it is not part of our program description. Those who intend to do an internship will obviously acquire additional professional experience in the field. Note that finding an internship is the student’s responsibility; it needs to be directly related to Genealogy, and the internship must take place during the current academic year (ending no later than 30 September). Please let your head professor know that you plan do an internship and contact the “Formation Continue” department so they can deliver the necessary training agreement. After the internship is completed, students will be expected to report to the university, either verbally or in writing, depending on his or her geographical constraints. 

The University of Nîmes’ History Department offers a University Degree program (called D.U. in French = Diplôme Universitaire) in Généalogie & Histoire des Familles, specialized in Family History and Genealogy. It includes theoretical and practical classes, the details of which can be found on the website of the University (unimes.fr, "training").

Our Training Programs :

There are two different sessions available:

  1. Face-to-Face Program: classes are held on Fridays (all day) and Saturday mornings, from January to June 2018. Prospective students must apply online during the month of October prior to each session (on the unimes.fr site). A Selection Committee meets in early November and admission results are known in mid-November.

Note : Toward the end of the semester, students of our Face-to-Face Program gather in small groups for 5 days of intensive research at the Archives Départementales du Gard; they are required to establish the (most) complete genealogy of a local historical figure and need to work on this project as a team. This work is specific to the Face-to-Face Program.

Applications are to be submitted online between October 1st and 31st, 2017 on the university’s website at: https://aria.unimes.fr/aria/ ; the Selection Committee meets in early November.

All classes are held from January to June 2018.

Registration fees for the Face-to-Face Program:

  • Unimes students (initial training): €150
  • Students without funding (personal training): €1,200
  • Students with funding (continuous training): €1,600
  1. Distance Learning Program: training takes place remotely with access to courses online via a dedicated digital teaching platform. However the presence (remotely) is desired during some planned group sessions (usually Friday afternoons) for courses that require hands-on learning. Courses can also be provided in writing or filmed in advance.

The presence of students on the university site of Nîmes is required at the beginning of the session (for a first gathering and presentation), as well as for the exams which will take place in January (on consecutive days). If students residing abroad or in the DOM-TOM, wish to take the exams near their home, they will be able to do so at their own expenses. Please contact your nearest French Consulate or the French Alliance to enquire.

Applications are to be submitted online between May 1st to 31st, 2017, on the university’s website at: https://aria.unimes.fr/aria/ ; the Selection Committee meets in early June.

Classes are held from September 2017 to January 2018.

Computer and Technical Prerequisites before applying for our Distance Learning Program:

This distance learning program insists on a few prerequisites that are essential for you to make the most of your classes. To better assist you in your studies, your digital identity UNIMES (ID + password + email prenom.nom@etudiant.unimes.fr) will be issued before your first classes. This will allow you to benefit from the services we offer (i.e. dedicated website, videoconferencing…) throughout the University calendar year.

Moreover, during the initial gathering in Nîmes, a specific learning session will introduce you to all the UNIMES training tools that will be used during your online and remote classes (e.g. the teaching platform and video-conferencing tool). You will also be taught how to navigate on the dedicated website, and where to find data so you can start studying at your own pace.

Below are all of the necessary and mandatory elements to be able to follow this online training:

Computer knowledge :

We would like to draw your attention to a few fundamentals in order to ensure the success of your e-learning:

  • A good knowledge of your environment, Windows or Mac
  • Being comfortable with internet browsing and peripheral devices (keyboard, mouse, microphone headset and webcam)
  • The ability to install and update traditional software programs
  • The ability to set up and use a webcam
  • The ability to set up and use a microphone headset

Equipment :

  1. Your internet connection must have a sufficient flow to allow you to follow this training online smoothly and in a comfortable way. A 512 kbps ADSL connection is the minimum required.       Connecting your computer to your internet network must be wired in remote clusters and remains highly recommended when interacting with the platform of UNIMES online courses (the Wi-Fi is to be avoided).
  1. A PC or Mac (or laptop) computer with the following items:
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1 card his
  • 1 output for wired connection to the internet
  1. An up-to-date operating system:
  • for a PC: Windows system with a version 7 to 10 but no Windows XP version
  • for a Mac: the Mac OS has a version of 10.8 to 10.10.
  1. A headset with a microphone : headphones with built-in mic, avoids the effects of echoes during your speech in grouping to distance and limited background noise which can interfere with other users.
  1. A webcam

Up-to-date software and plugins:

  • Adobe Flash Player (minimum version: 11.2): to attend online classes
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (up to date): to open PDF documents
  • VLC: to play the videos online or downloaded
  • an Office suite with at least:
  • a word processor (Word, free Office Writer, Open Office Writer or Page for Mac)
  • spreadsheets (Excel, Open Office Calc, Open Office Calc or even Numbers for Mac)
  • a presentation software (Power Point, free Office Impress, Open Office Impress, or Keynote for Mac)

At least the two following browsers (with the latest updates):

- Google Chrome (strongly recommended during group classes in video-conference)

- Firefox (if Chrome has failed)


The objective of this degree, whether in face-to-face or at a distance, is to offer a complete training, both practical and theoretical, in the science of Genealogy in order to allow all those who exercise it, in a private setting, to gain in effectiveness, and on the other hand to facilitate students in Law and History with their arrival on the labor market.

Educational Objectives:

Theoretical training revolves around three axes:

  • A general training in French Modern History to ensure that students acquire the knowledge fundamentals needed to navigate through our past;
  • Training in law, more particularly in the history of Family Law;
  • Training in historical sciences: Paleography, Onomastics, and Heraldry.

Practical training: it will be up to each student to conduct specific research at their local Archives on the history of a person or a family, using all records available, including: military, judicial, administrative, school, etc.


Each training unit, theoretical and practical (personal research project), will be sanctioned by a grade. A final grade will be calculated using specific coefficients for each grade. Admission to the University degree will be made by obtaining a score greater than or equal to 10/20.

The Distance Learning Program in “Genealogy & Family History” destined to English-speaking students can only be conducted if a minimum of 15 students are registered.

These classes provide training and knowledge to an English-speaking audience interested in learning the tools to search for their European roots; among other items, methodology sheets, lexicons, and summaries of classes will be translated into English and supplied to students to help them move forward on their genealogy projects, even when dealings with sources in Old French and Latin.

Exams taking place abroad will entail extra costs that will be charged to students.

Registration fees: €1,700 per semester.


Of course, should any of you make the journey to pursue the course here in France, do contact us to meet for a coffee!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Notre Huitième Anniversaire!

8th Blog Birthday

Time to break out the Veuve!  We have been writing The French Genealogy Blog for eight years. In that time, we have offered up to you Dear Readers:

  • Over six hundred posts, nearly every last one of them on French genealogy (all but for the Identity Wars series)
  • One book
  • Nine booklets
  • Eight pretty dresses
  • Eight Free Clinic Case Studies
  • Reporting from four national French genealogy conferences and numerous smaller conferences and individual talks
  • Answers to the hundreds of queries sent to us

As with our previous birthdays, we would like to thank you all for your loyalty by offering a token of our appreciation. This year, it is our own French Genealogy Glossary, with an emphasis on the words most often found in parish and civil registrations. (A link to it in the right-hand column, under "More!" will remain permanently.) We hope that this will help you in your research and that you will continue reading and telling others about  The FGB for another eight years. 


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

For Researchers of Huguenots - FamilySearch Adds Scans From the SHPF

Protestant La Rochelle

Things are in a bit of a tizzy today as all of France goes to the polls for the first round in electing a new president. Here, there is still sanity in the procedures. There are two rounds of voting. In the first one, all candidates have their name on the ballot; there are eleven this year. When the votes are counted, the winner would be whoever were to receive more than fifty per cent of the votes. As it is rare for that to happen, the two candidates with the most votes then go to the second round or run off  and the winner of that will be France's new president. 

As to publicity and marketing, that too is quite civilised. There are debates on television. The candidates tour the country and make speeches. One of them this year got quite a lot of publicity -- but no increase in support -- by giving one speech in a number of places at the same time via hologram transmission à la Princess Leia. As to posters and advertising, each town puts up a board on which each candidate's supporters may put up one, just one, poster. They are all the same size. Currently, they all have the same amount of defacing. A few days before the election, each registered voter receives an envelope that contains campaign material: for each candidate there is one, just one, A3 size sheet, folded to make two pages, printed on both sides with their slogans, claims and manifestos. No one is allowed more, all decidedly equal and fair. Such a sedate affair compared to the madness in our homeland.

Now, to genealogy. We have been asked lately and repeatedly by readers to visit for them the Bibliothèque de la Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme français in Paris. We do adore the place, which we have described here, and we would never turn down an excuse to go there, where the staff are so kind and helpful. However, it seems that many of you, Dear Readers, are unaware that large numbers of their manuscript holdings are now online, free of charge, on FamilySearch, in a jumbled and irrationally made list. These are available digitally only and not on Family History Centre microfilms. For the large part, these are Protestant baptisms, marriages and burials from registers found all over France, including Paris.

We would never deter anyone from visiting the City of Light but it is now no longer necessary to do so to see these registers. Have at them!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy