Reincarnation in French Genealogy - Filae.com

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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?


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

All Descendants of Pingenot or Recroix of Alsace, Please Help

Alsatian child

We have just received word from Monsieur M., who writes the excellent blog on Alsace, Elsasser Wurtzle, asking for help from our very own Dear Readers. He is researching the village of Pfaffans, once located in Alsace, from which a number of people emigrated to the United States. He would like to know what happened to them and where they lived.

He would like to hear from anyone concerning the following surnames, especially the first two, in bold: 

  • Pingenot
  • Recroix
  • Bloch
  • Borneque
  • Cayot
  • Turrillot

The above people received French passports to travel to New York in 1862. If you think your ancestor may be one of this group, Monsieur M. would like to know as much as possible about their lives as immigrants and asks that you please send him:

  • Any family stories or anecdotes
  • Press clippings such as obituaries
  • Photographs, including those of gravestones
  • Genealogies 

Please write directly to:


To be sure, you could learn a great deal more about your family of Pfaffans! 

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


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