Web/Tech

Was Your Ancestor Expelled From France?

Pont Louis Philippe

Was you ancestor a Pole or a Spaniard or a Russian who came to France in the late nineteenth century and was then expelled? Or, are you aware only of the fact that he or she passed through France during that period but you do not know when? In fact, you know little? The archives of documents concerning expulsions of foreigners are scattered throughout France's many facilities. There are probably such files in every Departmental Archive. None of these files is online.  If you did not know where your ancestor stayed while in France, the research prospect can be daunting.

Historians are wanting to research the same documents in order the better to understand policies of exile, asylum and expulsion of the past and, now, their work can benefit your genealogical research. The University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne is running a project called AsileeuropeXIX (e.g. European Asylum in the Nineteenth Century) and the researchers have made their database available to the public and able to be searched on many different criteria. It is a work in progress, with data from the: 

  • National Archives of France, out at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
  • Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin
  • Departmental Archives of Somme
  • Departmental Archives of Nord
  • Departmental Archives of Rhône
  • Departmental Archives of Calvados

One expects that data from other archives will be added. It is a very nice website, with more than just the database. There are interviews with academics on the subject of asylum and exile, there is a budding lexicon of the somewhat rarified vocabulary used to discuss political exiles, asylum seekers, expelled migrants and other such. Very interestingly, there are a few maps that show the routes followed by some exiles, beginning with that of a Prussian student who, after much journeying through France, ended up in the United States.

Naturally, the section of primary interest to you, Dear Readers, will be the database search page, on which you can search on:

  • Surname
  • Sex
  • Whether or not the arrival in France were for political reasons
  • Country of birth
  • Profession
  • Whether or not the expulsion were for political reasons
  • The year or range of years of the expulsion
  • The reason (motif) for the expulsion
  • The country to which the person was sent
  • The authority that ordered the expulsion
  • The source of the data

This is pretty comprehensive. What we particularly like is that it is possible to search on any of the criteria without having to give a surname (Filae and Geneanet, take note!) This means that spelling issues can be avoided. It also means that the data can be searched in more interesting ways, such as seeking all the women who were artists from Russia, or all the students from Prussia, or all the thieves expelled from Bas-Rhin, or simply all the glassmakers. Think of all of those vague family stories that could be tested here.

There are minor flaws:

  • The itineraries of migrant routes could have more identification and dates at each point
  • The countries lists need to be cleaned and organised. Currently, there are both Empire de Russie and empire russe, Hesse Cassel and Hesse-Cassel, Grande Bretagne and Royaume-Uni. This means that you must read the drop-down lists of possibilities and search on each one that you find suitable.

 This is a wonderful resource. We have reported on other such academic databases that have withered and died at the end of the project, finally falling off the edge of the Net altogether. This project ends in 2020 and we do so hope that the database will continue to be maintained afterward. (Or, again we ask Filae and Geneanet to take note, it could be purchased and added to a commercial genealogy company's collection?)

We hope that this may help you to confirm that family story about your political exile ancestor.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


World War One Wills - a Work in Progress

WWI Soldier

This could be remarkably helpful to some lucky soul or two. 

Archivists in the National Archives of France and in the Departmental Archives of the department of Yvelines write that they have stumbled upon bundles of more then three hundred wills written by World War One soldiers. Just last month, the National Archives launched a call for volunteers to help to transcribe these wills so that they may be scanned and indexed and put online.

The website, Testaments de Poilus, already has a bit under two hundred wills available. For each will, the record shows:

  • The man's full name
  • Date and place of his death
  • Date of the Will
  • Full code of the will
  • Image of the will
  • Transcription in French of the will's contents

These can be incredibly useful, not only to know more about those men who died, many of them so very young that one knows nothing of them, but also to discover unknown relationships. Many of our Dear Readers have written to ask about men born in the early 1890s who seem to have disappeared. Some of them may be found via these wills, and their relationships to others explained via their named heirs. Stay with this project as it grows and you may be on e of the lucky ones. 

Should you feel able to contribute to the project as a transcriber, join the project here and start work.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Just Who Benefits In This?

Langue au chat

 You may recall, Dear Readers, that the Fond Coutot, being the largest private archives in France, were the creation of a professional genealogist, Amédée Coutot. He opened up business a bit over twenty years after the fires set by the Paris Commune destroyed the parish and civil registrations of the city. A lack of any birth, death or marriage records would have made his task of finding a family's heirs most trying. Using all that he could find among the records that survived and from many other sources, he and his son after him eventually built an archive of over ten million life events. These are available to the public, for a fee, online at GeneaService.

No expense was spent at all to make this a decent website and, surely, no cost, however great, or however small, was deemed necessary to convert an antiquated index card system into a database with a clear structure and a rational search facility. But for those who have a penchant for neon lime green, no thought of design or presentation was considered necessary. Nevertheless, the data is there and you can access it, eventually.

Now, Geneaservice offers a new option to its weary and exhausted users: that of uploading their family tree on their "Ma Famille" page. Here, you are encouraged to enter details from your family tree, up to your relations of the sixth degree. The enticement is that you may be discovered as an heir to a fortune. How can that be? Because the data you enter will also be available to professional probate genealogists to view in their search for heirs to estates.

We find this to be somewhat abusive, as well as a rather feeble effort at data mining. In our last post, we pointed out that French probate genealogists are heir hunters who demand a cut of the inheritance before they will put an heir in contact with the notaire in charge of the estate. We also pointed out that many such businesses are struggling to make ends meet. What better way to reduce research costs and increase the pool of patsies than to get family historians to provide their research at no cost? And there is the chance to doubly hit the dupes by charging them a percentage of a possible inheritance based on their own research.

We are a strong supporter of the superb volunteer community of French genealogists and we encourage our readers to be aware of the enormous amount of free websites and information available thanks to these thousands of volunteers' work, and we encourage you all to repay their efforts by sharing your genealogy work in return and by joining their societies or cercles. This GeneaService caper, however, is something to avoid; as the French say, ce n'est pas correct, ce n'est pas bon.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


They're Up! Paris Bonanza on Family Search!

Paris Bookshop

No slackers on this project. Barely had we announced that the City Council of Paris had approved an agreement between FamilySearch and the Paris Archives than the project was accomplished. Really, we are rather impressed.

Recall that this concerns the roughly two million replaced parish and civil registrations (l'état civil reconstitué) of the more than eight million that were lost in the Paris Communards' incendiary rampage. (They did not only burn down the City Hall and numerous other buildings where power was centred, they placed dynamite in Notre Dame and nearly blew that up.) The period covered by these two million replacements is 1500 to 1860. (Though the fire was in 1871, register books from 1861 and later had not yet been transferred to the central registry but were still in the individual city halls of the arrondissements and so, were not burnt, except for some of the 12th arrondissement.)

The index cards have been available online for years but to see the full registrations, one had to go to the Paris Archives to view the microfilm. Now, that no longer is necessary. The presentation on FamilySearch is, to our mind, utterly baffling and with no explanation whatsoever, nor do they seem to be indexed on FamilySearch. (The negative aspect of a rushed job is a lack of planning and preparation.) Thus, one must follow exactly the procedure one had to use in the archives.

Step One: Search the index cards (fichiers alphabetiques). They are arranged first by type, e.g. baptism/birth, marriage, burial/death. Within the type, they are arranged alphabetically by surname. Within the surname, they are arranged chronologically. Thus for the birth of a Maron, you first choose births (naissances), then type in Maron and, in the results, start reading through the years. Once you have found the person you seek, note the full name and the date of birth. For example: Caroline Maron, born the 29th of September 1844.

  • Use the website of the Paris Archives or FamilySearch to look at the index cards. (We really do suggest that you check both, for there are some old mistakes that seem never to have been corrected.)

Step Two: Look up the microfilm number in the catalogue. These are arranged by type (again, baptism/birth, marriage, burial/death being naissances, mariages, décès), then chronologically. Find the date span that includes yours, so, births of 29th September 1844 will be on microfilm number 5Mi 1/565. The microfilm catalogues are partially on the Paris Archives website and partially on that of FamilySearch:

Step Three: On FamilySearch, find the correct microfilm and start looking for your document. They are filmed chronologically, then by surname so, in our example, we read along to the 29th of September 1844 and then through the birth registrations arranged alphabetically by surname to Maron, Caroline. The links to the microfilm on FamilySearch are below, but now it gets annoying as some fool at FamilySearch decided to alter the system in the middle and give the titles of the rolls as dates rather than the Paris microfilm numbers (as any archivist or librarian will know, it is NOT a good idea to make partial changes to an established system) :

No, it is not a breeze, but it certainly easier than booking a voyage to the Paris Archives, superb though they may be.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Websites and Blogs to Enhance Your Alsace-Lorraine Research

Lorraine lr

Mixed media collage "Lorraine"

Recent trawls have brought us to new discoveries which we pass on to those of you researching ancestors from Alsace or Lorraine.

  • The Education blog on the website of the Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin is a small but growing collection of superb articles about the history of the region, many of them pertinent to genealogy research (such as that on emigration, or the forty page essay on childhood in the nineteenth century). They are presented as PDF documents that need to be downloaded (Télécharger) to be read.
  • The Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin have an excellent genealogy research guide that also includes much on emigrants.
  • Atelier de Généalogie de l'Arrondissement de Wissembourg et Environs - a very complete website about a small area of Alsace. There are many helpful pages. We particularly like those which have many French-German translations.
  • Généalogie d'Alsace - a rather literary and very personal endeavour with excellent pages on Alsatian palaeography. Families studied include Billiar, Büllmann, Degermann, Mertz, Seidel, and Specht. The bibliography lists publications in both French and German.
  • généalogie Origine Dorer Mietesheim - A very new blog about the Dorer family of Mietesheim with only three posts at the moment, but it looks promising as to discussions of research.
  • Généalogie et histoires lorraines - Very nice. Almost scholarly. Each post is a study of a village and all those covered are listed in a side panel. A blog to enjoy reading, with well-documented sources, many of them available on Gallica, such as Le Pays Lorrain. (See Annick's comment below.)
  • Le blog Généalogique de L'Est Républicain - L'Est Républicain is the main newspaper/news website covering eastern France. Occasional, soft news articles on genealogy-related topics are published on this blog.
  • Une généalogie lorraine - This is another personal blog about the genealogy of the Thiriet-Knidel family. Some of the posts are quite silly but others give good links that would aid anyone researching a family from Lorraine. Still others are well-written, small histories of the region. The subjects covered are what our children would term "random".

Each is worth investigating. Do let us know your opinion.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


New Possibilities in Marseille Research

Marseille

Interesting developments in Marseille online that may possibly be of use to the genealogist.

Firstly, a new website, Marius, is dedicated primarily to images taken from a number of local institutions: the municipal library, the museum, and the municipal archives, among others.The categories for the images are:

  • Images, (mainly postcards, but also photographs and paintings)
  • Books and manuscripts
  • Maps
  • Newspapers
  • Objects

It is the category of books and manuscripts from the municipal archives that is of most interest here. It is a tiny collection at the moment, but destined, we do hope, to grow. If one clicks on "Livres et manuscrits", then on "Manuscrits", one is taken to sixty-one images of death registrations ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.

These seem to have been selected for their oddity or celebrity. We came across the 1890 death registration of Featherman, a Native American born in Dakota, and an employee of the "troupe Buffalo Bill":

Feather Man Death

Feather Man

These are the early stages, but keep an eye on this site, for it may become quite useful for finding not only documents but images of ancestors from or who passed through Marseille.

 Secondly, for those searching the resting place in Marseille of a recently departed relative, the city last year put on their website a facility for searching among burials. It only goes back to the mid-1990s but one can hope that they may be inspired to add details from older records. On the cemetery map page of the city's website, in the right hand column, click on "carte des cimetières". This brings a pop-up guide and, in the upper right corner of the map, the rubric "recherche de defunts"; click on this to type in the surname and first name of the deceased, then click "OK". If your person be there, the resultant screen will show the:

  • Full name (especially useful as it shows married women's maiden names)
  • Date of death
  • Date of cremation or burial
  • Name of the cemetery where buried
  • Exact location within the cemetery of the grave

 

If only every city would do this and for all of their burials!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

 


Play With RetroNews and Find an Ancestor

RetroNews

This is fun and could be useful to genealogists as well. The Bibliothèque nationale has launched a newspaper site called RetroNews, separate from its wonderful book and journals site, Gallica, and it is grand. It boasts of having three centuries of newspapers scanned and of having an intelligent search facility. (Really, the many gadgets that are marketed as "intelligent" do reveal the very low standard of interpretation that some people have for that term.)

The site is beautifully laid out and differs widely from other such newspaper websites as newspapers.com or genealogybank.com or  The British Newspaper Archive all of which require payment before viewing anything. With RetroNews, quite a lot may be seen at no charge. We did sample searches on the words Anabaptiste and Mennonites and got hundreds of results. Some, of course, were not what we sought at all -- we now know there are French theatrical plays about Anabaptists -- but we reduced the results by half centuries and type of publication and found articles that will certainly help with our research on those subjects.

For the serious and full-time researcher, RetroNews charges more than any newspaper site we have ever seen. Four hundred fifty euros per year will allow up to five users to access all material and to use the more sophisticated search facility. It will also make it much easier to purchase publication permissions, to insert extracts into your blogs and to get a weekly newsletter. We shall pass on this glorious offer, even though this means we cannot print or download articles.

A serious flaw is that there seems to be no prepared source data for the publications. One has to go back to the first page to find out the full title. Clearly, the service is intended for libraries, research organisations and institutions, and the availability to the general public is meant as a teaser. Nevertheless, it is there for ordinary folk and it can be put to good use, especially if you may be searching on an unusual name or if you are hoping to learn more about the time and place where your ancestors lived.

We particularly are lulled by the lovely articles put together on a variety of subjects, highlighting interesting articles, giving a bit of historical context, all with lush illustrations. If you were not a French history buff before, RetroNews might yet make one of you.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


2017 Challenge A-Z

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.

Bravo!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Reincarnation in French Genealogy - Filae.com

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 15.57.03

We have held off writing about this because we wanted to give it a proper try-out. We have spent the last week or so really putting Filae.com through its paces and really are so impressed. 

A couple of years ago, we were so fed up with the mess that was généalogie.com that we had some little rants here and here on the FGB. To be sure, not all of those problems mentioned there have been cleared up, but still...what a facelift!

The search pages and results pages are much easier to see and use. Sifting results is now possible using three categories:

  • Events / Evénements
  • Sources / Sources
  • Places / Lieux 

A perky little presentation is made by Stéphane Bern, a well-known royalty journalist in France with his own website on any and all royals of the world (where the difference between La France and the rest of the world is so evident on the "Boutique" page. No shoddy T-shirts with pictures of kings and queens or mugs or books, just a single box of elegant sweets on offer).

The real excitement about Filae comes from the fact that it has formed partnerships with some Departmental Archives and, rather excitingly, with at least one major municipal archive to present their parish and civil registrations online. Indexed. It is early days yet, but this is bringing us closer to the dream of many for a single index to all of the parish and civil registrations of France, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. At the moment, those departments and the one city represented on the Filae website are:

  • Hautes-Alpes
  • Haute-Saône
  • Loir-et-Cher
  • Rhône
  • Savoie
  • Seine-Maritime
  • Touraine
  • Vendée
  • Yvelines
  • Lyon

These departments and the one city may be considered by some as traitors and by others as clever. For some years now, since at least 2010, the parent company of généalogie.com, Notre Famille (which now trades as Filae), had been fighting in courts to be able to present the same images of documents as the archives do on their own websites. To repeat what we explained here before, the commercial point of view has been that there is a market for such a unified index, while the genealogists of France have bemoaned that what has been free might no longer be so, as well as that the main source of income for genealogy associations has been their printed booklets of painstakingly extracted data from millions of parish and civil registrations. Because of this last point, even the august Fédération Française de Généalogie strongly opposed this commercialisation of the nation's heritage, as it has been put so often.

A few years down the road and it is clear that Toussaint Roze, the founder, has not and will not give up. The websites of the Departmental Archives remain free and some of them are encouraging collaborative indexing. The genealogy associations have not (yet) disappeared and have embraced the Internet as a new way to sell access to their extracts, on Bigenet, on GeneaBank, on Geneanet and yes, on Filae.

Tell us what you think.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Have You Tried LostCousins.com?

LC

This website is primarily Anglophone, primarily British, using exclusively nineteenth and twentieth century census returns...and yet.....

The premise is interesting: to enter into the website's database as many families as possible to which you are related that appear in the following censuses:

  • 1841 - England and Wales
  • 1881 - England and Wales
  • 1881 - Scotland
  • 1881 - Canada
  • 1880 - United States
  • 1911 - England and Wales
  • 1911 - Ireland

The website will match and put in touch with one another those members researching the same families, et voilà - cousins! 

We have been contacted many times by people seeking long lost French cousins. It is unlikely that Lost Cousins will put you in contact with cousins in France, but it may put you in touch with others researching a French ancestor who appears in one of the above censuses. This, in turn, could lead to sharing information with said cousins, to the breaking down of brick walls and - at last - to a French cousin or two.

Have any of you, Dear Reader, tried this? Have you found cousins? Have you found French cousins? We are curious to know.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy