Politicians are creatures of reaction and rarely of action, as much in France as elsewhere. When the Paris Commune burned the Hôtel de Ville, or Paris City Hall, in 1871, all birth, marriage and death records were destroyed. The livret de famille was inaugurated in 1877 to give people the official, documentary proofs of their civil status that they needed. It seems to us that only Parisians needed this and only for a few years, until a new generation should be fully documented in a new procedure. Not so. The leaders did not consider this book to be a replacement of documentation for those who had lost theirs in the fire, but a sort of third storage place for the data (after the registers of the town or city where a birth, marriage or death took place, and the clerk's duplicate registers). Thus, everyone in the country needed to be in a livret de famille.
It is issued to a couple upon their marriage. In it are then recorded the births of all children, their deaths if before adulthood, and the deaths of the parents.
Family life being as mutable as every other aspect of life, the livret de famille has moved with the times. It also records divorces. It is not issued to couples joined by civil union unless there be a child; and it is now issued to single parents of either sex, upon the birth of a child.
New terminology was required with new family formations, with livret de famille being replaced by livret uniqe for the recording of children of "the same mother and the same father". Children of other unions will not be in that book but in another book. A parent with four children from four different unions will have four different livrets uniques. (Really, it begins to seem less like a family book and more like a biological identity book.) With the legalization of same-sex marriages, the speed of change in modern life finally outpaced the bureaucrats who -- perhaps weeping in despair and frustration -- tossed out the window the words father/père, mother/mère, husband/époux, wife/épouse, and replaced them with the digits 1 and 2.
©2015 Anne Morddel