Web/Tech

Researchers of Families From Ardèche Take Note

A for Ardèche

There are so many unsung, rarely noticed and even more rarely praised yet stellar contributors to genealogical research. Sandrine Jumas is one of them. Many have uploaded onto the Internet and indexed extracts of the documents that they have found in their research but few have done so in such a clear fashion as Mme. Jumas has done on her site Relevés Ardéchois

It is small but a treasure and something that one finds increasingly. Some French family historians who have been working for years on their family genealogies then take all of the original documentation that they have found (in this case parish and civil registrations, along with some notarial records) and present that in a way that is helpful to others. We find this to be astonishingly generous and believe that all like Mme. Jumas deserve thanks.

Relevés Ardéchois is strongest on marriage registrations, (which can be sorted by the groom's name or the bride's name or the date) but includes also birth or baptism and death or burial registrations (many of which link directly to the image on the website of the Departmental Archives of Ardèche). The towns concerned are: 

  • Châmes
  • Gras
  • Labastide de Virac
  • Lagorce
  • Salavas
  • St. Maurice d'Ibie
  • Vallon

The families on which she has been working are:

  • Ollier
  • Peschaire
  • Sabatier

She also presents two massive lists of notarial records she has indexed. The first is of marriage contracts and the second of other notarial records. Both give a significant amount of information, allowing a researcher to know exactly which document to request to be copied by the archives.

If you are lucky enough to be researching ancestors from one of the towns listed above, do have a look at this website. If your research takes you elsewhere, look hard for you may find something similar by an equally generous soul who has been working on your area of interest. Look also on the arbres généalogiques on Geneanet.org where, increasingly, volunteers are entering data, taken from parish and civil registrations, for entire towns, showing the family relationships and giving the source documents. 

Add this type of website and "town tree" to your arsenal for research.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Grand Mémorial - One Site for All of France's World War One Soldiers



WWI men

The Ministry of Culture and the hundreds of dedicated French genealogy enthusiasts here have created something quite remarkable in the Grand Mémorial website. It is the central  research point for the military documentation on all who served France during World War I. It is not yet finished but is very impressive already.

It is a central search facility with links to each department's military recruitment lists for men of an age to have participated. It also links to the recruitment lists from colonies, held on the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer website and to the death registrations made by the army on the Mémoire des Hommes website of the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD). 

The site is in French but the search page has an English version. The results of a search are presented in a list that shows:

  • Surname
  • Forenames
  • Date - of recruitment or of birth, which is the only messy thing on the site
  • Place, showing the department first, then the town
  • The type of document

Click on a name and you are taken directly to the image. The French penchant for statistics is in evidence in the column to the side, which gives a summary of the details concerning the names in your search result. This is handy for genealogical statisticians, we suppose, and is rather cool. It shows how many of the results give the place or the date of recruitment, how many the place or date of birth. We like knowing how many were of a particular profession (four of those named Mordel were farmers, one was a baker, etc.) and how many could read or write or count (we must all say a prayer of thanks for universal education at this point).

 

A map shows which departments are covered and the status of their military recruitment registers being indexed and online.

Map of registres matricules

  • Dark blue indicates that the registers are online, indexed and included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Orange (pink?) indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives and are indexed but are not included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Light blue/grey indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives but are not yet indexed or included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Yellow indicates that the registers have been digitized but are not online or indexed nor are they included on the Grand Mémorial website; they may be viewed only on site at the Departmental Archives

As can be seen, about half of the country's recruitment registers are included on the Grand Mémorial website, which we find to be really quite impressive.

Key Geographical Notes for Researchers of World War I Combatants  

On that same page are some points general to such research that bear repeating:

  • The map does not include anything on people from the departments of Alsace and Lorraine (Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) because they were not, at that time, a part of France. More, what the site does not say, is that the people of those departments were, from 1871 to 1918, German citizens. Any men conscripted served in the German Army.  The records concerning those men were held in Berlin and were all destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during World War II. Thus, it is not possible to find a military record for a man from that region during that time. 
  • There will be no military recruitment registers for departments that did not yet exist: Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines.
  • The recruitment registers for the departments that existed then but that do not now exist, Seine and Seine-et-Oise, are to be found in the Departmental Archives of Yvelines.
  • As concerns registers held by the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer, those of Algeria and French Polynesia are almost all online. It is pointed out that thes registers concern only those persons who held French nationality at the time of recruitment. The registers for non-nationals are held at the SHD.
  • For recruitment registers from Morocco, they cover only French nationals born in France or Algeria and living in Morocco when they turned twenty years old;  the registers cover only the years 1913 to 1921. The recruitment registers of Moroccans are also held at the SHD at Pau.

For those researching an ancestor who fought for France in that conflict, this website would most definitely be the place to begin. 

And now, permit us, please, to present a trailer of  "The Burying Party", a film about Wilfred Owen, the British poet who died fighting in France, and in which Sid plays Siegfried Sassoon to perfection.

 

The Burying Party Official Trailer from Sine Wave Media on Vimeo.

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Obstructing Access to French Archives - an Old Problem

OFPRA

Oh, Dear Readers, we have been experiencing a series of unsuccessful moments of late. Recently, we were told that our suggestions and aids to you in your French genealogical research are "too professional for the ordinary family genealogist". Dear Readers, we take that as an insult to you and to anyone who is striving to provide the best possible history of his or her family.

We are as aware as anyone of how the initial thrill at the volume and ease of genealogical discoveries on the Internet can make us balk at anything that requires more work, and call it a "brick wall". Yet, if we build our family history on only the easy discoveries, we risk producing something so scant as to be minimalist. We are reminded, by way of comparison, of our hoydenish mother, who studied piano all her life.

She was enamoured of the difficult études and mazurkas of Chopin but was not really willing to do the work to master them. Instead, she used her considerable charm to convince her teacher to rewrite the pieces, leaving out all of the "hard notes". She then blissfully played these denuded ditties, indifferent to the fact that they sounded more like nursery rhymes than Chopin. Surely, Dear Readers, you do not wish your genealogical research to be the minimum, composed only of what was quick and easy to find? Surely, though some of the skills and procedures we explain in this blog are a struggle, some of you have found the results to have been worth it?

At the same time, we do try to help here with clear and concise explanations of how to use various French websites and archives. We make a point of testing every website before we write of it here. It was in an effort to try out a newly announced website that we ran into another unsuccessful moment. 

There have been a number of genealogy bloggers in France who have passed on the publicity concerning new access to government archives concerning refugees and stateless persons, Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides (OFPRA). This was and is an important part of the government for it is this office that decides who receives asylum and who is to be granted refugee status. In its early days, it was particularly involved with refugees from the Russian Revolution who found their way to France. 

Their archives are open to the public after a certain waiting period. For files concerning individuals, that wait is fifty years after the date of the last document entered into the file. The recent exciting announcement stated that the files concerning people who had been granted Nansen passports can now be seen online. With a modicum of fanfare, OFPRA's website encourages "Internet users, descendants of refugees, genealogists and historians" to apply to use the site and to participate in indexing the documents.

We applied. Receiving no response, we applied again. A few days later, we received an old-fashioned, possessive archivist's haughty rejection. Our "interest", we read, was inadequate. Our two applications were perceived as a devious effort to get round the barrier, though we had not suspected its existence, but a barrier does indeed exist. We reread the invitation to the public to apply. Can one find a broader term than "Internet user"?

We have the impression that the invitation and publicity were written by someone younger or perhaps by the senior managers of OFPRA and that the archivist, possibly someone much older, did not approve of the move and is doing all that he or she can to obfuscate it. Oh, how many times we have seen this innate desire to thwart! 

We urge any and all of you, Dear Readers, if you have an ancestor who had a Nansen Passport and was in France, not to take the lazy route but to apply to OFPRA for files concerning that ancestor. It clearly will not be easy but do not give up. When you succeed, please do write and tell us about it.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


What Were Your Ancestors Worth? Converting Old Money Into New

Monnaies

We cannot understand why, but countless times people have written us to ask that we help them to prove that their French ancestors were wealthy. No one seems to want their family's journey to embody the rags to riches story; all seem to prefer that their family show how the mighty have fallen. 

We have received messages from our correspondents in which they insist that their ancestors chose to abandon wealth, land and status to travel steerage and work in a new land as a butcher or a seamstress. We have tried to explain that small sums, such as thirty livres, at the time of the French Revolution were no fortune and we have been roundly told off for our efforts to adhere to the truth.

No more.

Henceforward, we shall refer all questions concerning the value of old money in modern terms to the excellent new website Convertisseur de Monnaie d'Ancien Régime, the creation of one Dr. Thomas Fressin at the Université Côte d'Azur. An admirable achievement for Dr. Fressin, it is a great toy for the family historian, straightforward and easy to use. Now, you must haul out all of those old French wills and marriage contracts and start converting. 

End of many a dispute, this, and not a moment too soon.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


At Long Last - Doubs!

Not 1st Place

The race among Departmental Archives to digitise and put online their parish and civil registrations finished long ago. The winners, Mayenne and Seine-Maritime, have had their laurels so long that the crowns have grown dusty and been relegated to a remote cabinet with indifference. Since then,  most Departmental Archives have moved on and begun filming and adding to their online collections such delights as probate and notarial indices. Spectators' spyglasses have all been pointed forward to see what new delights may appear. Pregnancy declarations? Parisian notarial records? When, lo and behold, a huffing and puffing is heard on the track and we all, in astonishment, swivel our heads and adjust our spyglasses to see. It is long-forgotten little Doubs! Performing something of a "Little Engine That Could" miracle, Doubs has finally put online its parish and civil registrations.

Well, perhaps not all but certainly a few of its parish and civil registrations may now be seen on the Internet. They still have not made their website any more user-friendly or logical. Nevertheless, a beginning has been made and praise as well as encouragement are due. Initially, the website offers three possible avenues of searching: simple, guided and expert. "Simple" searches the finding aids. "Guided", recherche guidée, is hardly that, unless eight images may be considered a guide, but that is where to begin.

If you click on the rather obscure picture of a hand grasping at a possible register book, next to Recherche dans l'état civil numérisé, you will be taken to a truly minimalist search page. There, you may enter the name of a commune (no drop-down menu of choices and no spelling aid, you had just better know or go away, or check this list) and you have the option to enter a range of years. The result will be all of the items filmed to date, looking something like this:

Sample Doubs search

Click on the image to be taken to the digitised microfilm.

Alternatively, to see all the communes, or towns, listed and what has been filmed for each, click on the words in red, Etat des fonds, next to the picture of the finding aid on the "guided" search page, below the title Recherche par plan de classement

Doubs état des fonds

This takes you to the classification of the series of Departmental Archives. Click the letter E - Communes. Seignuries. Familles. Etat civil. Notaires. Then click Etat civil. Then click Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil. Then, half-way down the page, under the bold Instruments de Recherche, click on the second, red Voir l'inventaire next to Répertoire des documents numérisés, en cours. Don't give up. Now, you are presented with an alphabet, being a list of communes or towns beginning with that letter. This is the only sure way to know if a negative result means that a town's registers have not yet been filmed or no longer exist.

As for the "expert" search, we must not qualify to benefit from it. Every time we have tried its large box, we get the same results as for the small box of the "simple" research. If the differentiation between "simple" and "expert" is thought to be a matter of the size of the query, much of the reasoning behind the Doubs delay is revealed.

Have at the Recherche guidée and good luck!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


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