Find Your French Protestant Ancestors in Eighteenth Century London


We wandered off topic and, lo and behold, were brought round again most pleasantly. While researching one aspect of our next book, we discovered the lovely pages of London Lives 1690-1800 - Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis. This is no commercial genealogy website that takes your money, blinds you with flashing, vulgar ads, and dumps on you a heap of results like a whale's bellyful of plankton that take two hours too filter down to....nada. This website is clean, sane, intelligent, set up for researchers and run by academics with a tight focus on those who were not wealthy or powerful or even honest, e.g. the hum, scrum and scum of eighteenth century London.

The data comes from 240,000 manuscripts in:

  • parish archives
  • criminal records
  • coroners' records
  • hospital and guild records
  • directories
  • tax records
  • workhouse registers
  • Marine Society Boys
  • pauper lists

There is a link to the National Archives Wills collection as well. Searches can be on name or keyword, on all documents or just one set.

For those of you whose ancestors went to London during the Protestant diaspora after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, this website could be of great help in finding them and/or learning more about their lives. We did a sampling by searching on some of the many names of Huguenot ancestors you, Dear Readers, have said you are seeking and all of the following yielded results on London Lives:

  • Delafons
  • deBoos
  • Pele
  • Brunet
  • Jaunay
  • Henon
  • Rocher
  • Gaston
  • Cormier
  • Gaudet
  • Delorme
  • Desbats
  • Gile
  • Lapierre

We hope that you will give it and try and have happy results.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Gallica Does the A-Z Challenge and It Is A Treat!


Genealogy blogger, Sophie Boudarel, who writes La Gazette des Ancêtres, has been running the Challenge A-Z for a while now. We last wrote about it in 2013, when she had fifty participants. The Challenge of 2015 began earlier this month and Madame Boudarel wrote of the breathless anticipation of this year's Challenge among French bloggers: "The tension is mounting for participants and their readers as they prepare for an intense month" of genealogy writing. Perhaps idle interest more than tension. Unbounded imitation of American promotional style can lead one to writing like a pre-Internet sports journalist at a boxing match.

The Challenge is now up to seventy-five enthusiasts and they are having a bit of a struggle. French records are often so nicely structured and organized that it can be hard to find anything new to say about them. To be sure, there is a certain amount of subject repetition among the bloggers taking part, with quite a few writing on :

  • Common first names or surnames in a family
  • Actes d'état civil (civil registrations) for the letter E
  • Cousins 
  • Ancestors
  • Brief biographies of family members or histories of towns whose names begin with the next letter in the Challenge

While some of the more peculiar cover:

  • The history of the baby bottle
  • Manure
  • Dogs
  • Bicycles

A few people have given up already -- the Challenge is up to H and some have stopped at C or even A. 

Ms. Boudarel's coup was to snag the blog of the website of the Bibliothèque nationale, Gallica, as a participant in the game and their contributions are brilliant. Team Gallica have chosen to give for each letter a book or other resource useful to genealogical research that can be found on their website. To date, they have introduced:

Gallica's contributions to the Challenge should continue to be truly revelatory to the genealogist and we are keen to see the rest of the resources they will propose.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

French Studies of the Revolution and Empire, 1789-1815


We are trying to make sense of these websites and to recommend them, we really are, but the owners do not make it easy in the least. The Société des Etudes Historiques Révolutionnaires & Impériales (SEHRI) seems to have become the Association d'étude, d'histoire et de patrimoine sur la période 1789 à 1815. There are websites under both names with mostly identical information, and both are dreadfully organized. In some cases, they link to one another, but not in all. The site of the Association has a large number of irritating pop-up ads. Both sites are littered with flashing ads for all sorts of things, from furniture to ladies' undergarments.

Nevertheless, the Association has a very large collection of documentation about the military, politics and society of France during the Revolution and the Napoleonic era. They also have many biographical dictionaries uploaded and a number of genealogical aids. They are particularly strong on people in the regions of Alsace and Lorraine and the department of Ain during that period.

  • There is a forum, with much genealogical discussion
  • There is a link to a collectors' corner of small ads (along with all of the others)
  • There is a blog (and good luck getting past the ads on that one!)
  • There is a "virtual museum"

The key site is that of the Archives Numérisées en ligne, which has:

There are also a lot of dead links. Someone is clearly in over his head.

If you have the patience, there is much on offer here that could help with your research on an ancestor who fought with Napoleon, was imprisoned by him, or merely survived those wild years. 

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

Slick New Site on WWI



In November of 2013, all of the archives of France took part in the Grande Collecte, in which they asked everyone to look in their attics for letters, photographs, diaries, drawings and any other material from their ancestor's participation in the First World War. The result was a huge haul. 

The newspaper, Le Figaro, together with a group of television companies and two quite gifted film makers,  Andrés Jarach and Kévin Accart, has taken some of that material and created a very slick and attractive new website on World War One entitled Générations14 Mémoires intimes de la Grande Guerre. It links to the Mémoire des Hommes database of the some 1.3 million French who died in that conflict, which makes it repetitive for genealogical research, but it offers so much more.

Initially, one can type in a surname, then add more details to find a soldier from the Mémoire des Hommes, and to see the card on his death. Then, there is the possibility to upload documents relating to him, and to see what others have uploaded. 

G 14

There are ten beautifully made short films about people, men and women, military and civilian, using some of the family archives gathered during La Grande Collecte. A nurse, a disfigured soldier, a wife and mother, a woman who wrote letters to soldiers, an artist soldier, a photographer, etc.  -- the story of each told simply and honestly. This is not hero-worship or propaganda, it is a presentation of real lives and the cataclysmic effects the war had on them.

This site is not only collaborative, but calls itself a "participative documentary". It could help to link descendants and families, as well as serve as a growing online archive. If it lasts, and it is not clear how it will. This is, in effect, high-end marketing. Will it be gone in ten years? Will the contributions that people upload disappear? That would be a pity.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

New Newspaper Toy

Newspaper Toy

The European Library has been digitizing old newspapers, indexing them and making them available to the general public at no charge. (Taxes are high over here, but one is rewarded with so many goodies such as this.) This is a project entitled Europeana Newspapers and is funded by the European Union through 2015. The newspapers come from the national libraries of:

  • Wales
  • Slovenia
  • Serbia
  • Croatia
  • Luxembourg
  • Spain
  • Iceland
  • Poland
  • Finland
  • Latvia
  • Estonia
  • The Netherlands
  • France
  • Austria
  • Turkey
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • The Czach Republic
  • Belgium
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia

Germany's contributions come from the Berlin and Hamburg State Libraries. 

Nearly a million and a half pages have been uploaded and can be searched thoroughly. They can be browsed by date, by country, and by newspaper title. Alternatively -- and here is how to find an ancestor -- they can be searched for a word. As with Gallica, the search refinement is rather clumsy, so a search on a common name will yield too much and it will be hard to filter usefully. If, however, you have an ancestor who went by an oddly spelt or slightly unusual name, you have a very good chance of finding him or her.

We have spent the past couple of days testing this new toy. We have been researching an American who lived in France in the nineteenth century, and who travelled quite a bit. We thought we knew all of his ports, but a search on these newspapers brought the discovery of two more countries where he had travelled. A second test was to search on the quite unusual name of a family from Montauban on which we have worked and this brought some very interesting new material as well, revealing a country not known to have been visited by one member of the family, and a discussion of his work there. A third test on a name that is also a common word was hopeless: over 300,000 results that no amount of filtering could reduce by more than a third or so

Though larger numbers of newspapers seem to have been contributed by Spain, it would appear that those from The Netherlands and Germany have more robust indexing, for no matter what name we put in the search box, the majority of the results were in Dutch, with many in German. To turn a language not known into gibberish, one can always stumble along with Google's translation effort.

Try this new newspaper toy!

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Brozer Flips French Genealogy

So much information!

Imagine if, instead of building a family tree based on traditions, stories, gossip, and other peoples' online trees and then trying to find the documentation to prove it, you could reverse the process and start with the documents that concern your family. This really would not work with the often quite scanty birth, marriage and death records of many countries, but it would work very well with the French records that are so often lushly bedecked with detail. (Click on the example above to wallow in that wealth.)

This is the premise for the start-up (yes, Virginia, there are start-ups in France) Brozer. Essentially it is based on the same concept of document-based genealogy versus person-based genealogy as is Clooz, but the Brozer software was written by Nicolas Lawriw specifically for French documentation. The goal of Lawriw's Brozer is to have on the site a single, universal family tree, built collaboratively by volunteers who index documents that have been uploaded on Brozer's TéléArchives site. Thus, no one uploads a personal family tree. Instead, users upload their documents and enter all the details and the software works to identify the persons named and match them with other references to them from other records. An indisputable, perfectly sourced, single family tree is envisioned.

Will it work? It is such early days yet that the collaborative part is not yet operating. It will not be cheap to join this human genealogy tree project; the annual charge is to be twenty-five euros. An extravagant number shall have to join and work with energy and proper diligence to enter enough detail for the tree to take shape enough so that others will wish to join and contribute as well. 

We suspect that this glorious cooperative effort flies in the face of many people who pursue genealogy precisely because it is something that they can do on their own, and precisely because they hope to beat others to some discovery or other. What fun would they have if research were not necessary and all of their ancestors were indubitably presented on Brozer's tree?

Monsieur Lawriw may be the man who transforms genealogy from an art to a science, but there are those who have their doubts that this approach will be able to resolve the conundrums that come about when there are many people of the same name at the same time in the same place and all have claim to being one's ancestor. Brigitte, of Chroniques d'Antan et d'Ailleurs, discusses just this point on her blog. Dominique Chadal thinks things will only become more confused.

However Brozer may fare, TéléArchives is off to a rip-roaring start and there is no debate as to its usefulness. Not only have a number of genealogy cercles and associations uploaded images of documents, but the city of Nîmes has uploaded images of all of its civil registrations from 1793 to 1910 and its census returns from 1813 to 1911, basically using TéléArchives rather than bothering to maintain its own website, and gaining the possibility of indexing in the bargain. Brozer has uploaded a large number of records for the department of Gard (and many, many thanks to our Dear Reader, Madame F, in Australia for bringing this to our attention).

One must register to use TéléArchives, but they are free and fascinating. We suggest following Brozer on Twitter, as it is there that they announce new uploads and developments. Seeing just how Brozer develops will be very interesting, indeed.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Marseille Marriages



We were in a foul mood. We have been thundering away on a research knot, one of those little unknown details that is not exactly a brick wall, more like a knot in  one of those thin chains for a necklace after a child has played with it. When confronted with such a tangle, our true nature tells us to yank the thing to pieces, to play Alexander with his sword slicing through the Gordian knot. The hard lessons of life have, of course, taught us a modicum, and no more, of patience and we know now to take a tiny pin and loosen the knot until the chain falls free.

With knots in our genealogical research, we tend to go through the same process, possible now only because of the Internet. Firstly, we bash at it with Google searches of every angle and variety, sometimes finding bits of quite interesting but usually tangential information. Then, with a sigh, we remind ourselves to do things patiently and thoroughly. Really, at this age, we should know better.

The problem in question was a marriage of a lady to an unknown man. We had a town and a name and nothing more. We found it, via a nice new addition to Geneanet's cache of archives and other collections, this one being of details on marriages in Marseille. They come from yet another rash of digitization of the Fonds Coutot.

We wrote some years back about this rather astonishing achievement, but give here again the story. In 1830, a young clerk, Amédée Coutot,  who worked for a notary began making copies of civil registrations (actes de naissance, de marriage, de décès) from all over France, and using them to compile genealogies in line with his work to find heirs for the notary. The enterprise continues to this day as the Archives Généologiques Andriveau, with over 200 million records stored in some 15,000 volumes. They are of particular interest to those searching Parisian ancestors but are useful for research on ancestors from other regions as well. 

It is taking some time to digitize parts of the collection and to transcribe details for indexing. Different  genealogy services tussle to include the collections -- which they refer to as the Fonds Coutot -- on their websites with exclusivity. Ancestry.fr has on its website the marriages of Paris from the Fonds Coutot (and precious little else). And now, providing aid to us in our hour of need, Geneanet has enhanced its Coutot collection , which now contains:

  • Optants
  • Paris marriages 1860-1902 (so much for exclusivity!)
  • Paris suburbs - Deaths  1860-1902
  • Paris - Deaths 1893-1902
  • Paris "reconstituted" births, marriages and deaths  1798-1902
  • Marseille marriages 1700-1809
  • Marseille marriages - bride's names 1800-1915

Working with the last on the list, we found what we sought and had to bash no more. 

We probably will not live long enough to see all of the Coutot treasures digitized and online, but we will diligently check Geneanet to note each new addition with joy. It would behove you to do so too, Dear Readers.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

The Failings of Généalogie.com



We wrote recently about the positive, if maladroit, developments on the website Généalogie.com. It is generally to the researcher's benefit that they are adding the extracts (or relevés) made by the various genealogy associations around the country of hundreds of thousands of parish and civil registrations and other documents. Eventually, the result will be very close to a national index of those registrations, something that will help in the incessant digging for the truth that genealogists do.

However, as we have stated before, genealogy is history and as such must be written with reference to verifiable sources. If not, all of our efforts to write family histories are open to ridicule as fabrication. Useful as it may be, an extract is not a source; it is a tool to lead us to the source. Increasingly, on Généalogie.com, the extracts give no source and so, cannot be verified, which makes them tantalizing but useless.

Two cases in point:

  • A number of extracts of births, marriages and deaths relating to Paris have been added by an association that cannot be traced and that does not name its sources. Some of the information can be verified in the Departmental Archives of Paris, but not all. We tried to find out the full name of the association as only the  acronym is given, in order to be able to contact them and ask for a source. In spite of going to the Fédération française de Généalogie and to a number of groups and fora, as well as contacting Généalogie.com's staff, we could find no one able to identify the association or explain the acronym. In one group, there was an argument as to who it was not but no one could say who it was. 
  • An identified association was responsible for data on a seventeenth century birth in Paris. Again, no source. We went back to the Departmental Archives of Paris but could not really understand the claim about this birth, for it matched none of the sources there. The archivists were consulted and they, too, were stumped. We wrote to and even visited the offices of the association, asking for the source of the information. In the end, the president became incensed at out request and told us this: "This document is not in our possession and we have no way of obtaining it. It belonged to a person who died a long time ago and we don't know what happened to his papers. Don't ask again!"

Where did that information come from? Who are the mystery associations? How much more of what is being added to the Généalogie.com website is unverifiable and, therefore, useless?

We should be able to see or be told where to find the source for every bit of information given on a genealogy website. We must be able to confirm the data and to quote the source. There is a real risk that Généalogie.com will become too sloppy in terms of what it allows to be added and what it requires for verification. The result could be a degradation so severe that the reasonable reputation of the service will be destroyed. 

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



The Golden Tangle That is Généalogie.com


Golden Tangle

Both Généalogie.com and Geneanet.org have been adding to their collections online at a feverish pace. It is quite a competition and all to the good for the French genealogist. Thousands of pages from the Archives nationales and from many of the Archives départementales have been added to one or the other company's website, usually with the help of genealogy associations, or cercles, who also are doing the collaborative indexing. We take our hat off to those heroic indexers, for if some of our Dear Readers have noted that it is difficult to index a nineteenth century census form in English, how much more so to decipher seventeenth century French that looks like this:

Decipher this

The problem with Généalogie.com's website is that they clearly have no way to unify all of the various indices, and the result is a terrific bore for researchers. To explain: a simple search, on the main "Recherches Généalogiques" page:


will go through a number of collections but not all. We were searching for a Jean Gascq who went to Saint Domingue (now Haiti) in the eighteenth century. He did not come up in the search. Yet, we knew that he had gone and that the wonderful association, Amitiés Généalogiques Bordelaises (AGB) had published a number of booklets of data extracted from the Archives départementales de la Gironde, including one on those people going to "The Islands" documented in the passenger ledgers and passport requests of 1713 to 1787. A massive undertaking, it contains nearly 18,000 names. For anyone researching French ancestors of Saint Domingue, the Embarquements 1713-1787 index, Passagers pour les isles de 1713 à 1787 is a most precious resource. 

Passagers pour les Isles

One used to be able to write to the AGB to ask them to look up a name and they would send a photocopy, later a screen print, of the details, which can be significant, as this small sample shows:



They no longer provide this service because they have allowed Généalogie.com to extract the information from their works and add them to their collections. However, can we find our Jean Gascq searching there? Not very easily, but here's how.

At the very bottom of the Recherches page, along with the very basic links to histories of French names, is a link to "Archives Historiques". 


This brings a search page with a list of many more collections:

AH Search



We put in our Jean Gascq, got some names, found our man and got this tidy result:


It really should not be so awkward, but now one must use the two searches, at least, on Généalogie.com. An extra thrill comes with using this information to go to the website of the Archives départementales de la Gironde. Click on the icon for the Amirauté de Guyenne to get the entire finding aid. Unlike with its searchable nineteenth century passports collection, the AD de la Gironde has not put a search facility with  this collection. (Yet.) Thus, it is a bit of a hunt.

In the column on the right, keep clicking the plus sign (+) to open categories: 

  • Amirauté de Guyenne
  • Attributions administratives
  • Passeports et soumissions

The indexed data from the AGB via Généalogie.com says that Jean Gascq left on the 4th of March 1771 on the Artibonite. Clicking each of the categories under the heading of Passeports et soumissions gives lists of years. Under the first heading, Certificats d'identité et de catholicité, we tried 1771-1774. Clicking on that brought up digitized images of the original documents. On the third page, there was our man, Jean Gascq:

JG image



It would be very nice if Généalogie.com would offer a single search facility across ALL of its collections and then a link to the original image, but that is a researcher's dream.

Read the comments on this post here.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Emigrant Visas From Bordeaux


Voyage of chance


Currently, among professional genealogists, there is much grumbling about the clumsy mess that Ancestry.com has made of its search facility and the "ridiculous results" that come up. Many long for the now banished "old search" on that website. We suspect that we know what went wrong somewhere in the hinterland of Ancestry's labyrinthine corridors.

We trained as a librarian and have worked with many computer/information/programming professionals of various ilk and can verify that the emphasis of the two in aiding researchers is quite different: librarians are trained to structure every aspect of their work toward the retrieval of the specific information sought by the researcher; while the computer programmer longs to deliver the entire universe at the touch of a button. The latter sounds very cool but is useless, while the former requires quite a lot of planning but brings the desired result. In many ways, the French, with their eternally beloved logic, have done a better job, and usually offer it gratis. This is good news for those with French ancestors to research, and it has just got a bit better.

There is a beautiful new addition to websites where one can search at no cost -- and with a certainty of logical, clear, possibly relevant results -- on those who emigrated from France via the port of Bordeaux. We have written in the past about the burning of the archives of the Port of Bordeaux, a great loss indeed. We have also reported here on the easily searched passport database maintained by the Departmental Archives of La Gironde. Today, we write of a rich, new resource that complements the latter.

A group of not only dedicated but apparently literate and even intelligent genealogy enthusiasts have been indexing correctly (unlike those elsewhere, who seem to be guilty of indexing while under the influence, to judge by the ludicrous results) a number of records from the archives pertaining to Bordeaux that are not online. An emigrant leaving France had to obtain not only a passport, which would have been issued by the authorities where the emigrant-to-be resided, but then had to obtain a visa to leave and this was issued by the authorities at the place of departure, in this case, Bordeaux. Lists of visas and passports, as well as some passenger and police surveillance lists, are the sources for the information.

These enthusiastic indexers have created the website Les visas en Bordelais : l'émigration au départ de Bordeaux au cours du 19e siècle. With pages in English, Spanish and Portuguese, they allow for searches on:

  • Visas issued, by name
  • Ships, by name, but you must also have the month and year of departure
  • Passengers, by name
  • Emigrants, by name, but this is a very small database, taken from a few police and other records, such as we have described when discussing a passenger list
  • Travelling companions, by name, extracted from the documents but not specifically listed in their own right
  • Destinations of ships, but not all ports of call will be included, only the expected destination

The results give as much detail as was found in the documentation:

  • date
  • full name
  • age
  • place of birth
  • passport details
  • names and ages of travelling companions
  • destination
  • relevant archives series codes and document numbers
  • details of the ship, if any

If your ancestor were from or passed through the southwest of France and left the country during the nineteenth century, there is a good chance of finding him or her in this wonderful labour of love of a website.

The only word of warning necessary: the site is slow and, once discovered by the descendants of emigrants, will likely get slower still. There is also a survey, or sondage, asking how you like the site; since one does not pay, it would be only fair as well as a courtesy, to complete the form by way of thanks.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy