Salon de la généalogie Paris 15e

Salon entrance

We have intended for some time to attend this annual event but the fates colluded with one another and conspired against our innocent plan. Until now, the fifth year that it has taken place, when we have at last succeeded in attending, twice. It was most impressive.

The "Grand salon de la généalogie" takes place in the Town Hall, or Mairie, of the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris, in two rooms on two floors of that imposing building. The rooms were far too small for the crowd that was there on a Thursday afternoon, much more comfortable for the slightly smaller crowd that showed up on Saturday, when we were able to attend with Madame O. It seems obvious that new accommodation will be required sooner rather than later.

There are moments when, in our intrepid reporting for you, Dear Readers, we feel that intense scrutiny may not be the best approach. We then take another approach to studying a situation, of standing aside and observing said situation (or, room, in this case) in its entirety. We found a spot up a few stairs, giving us an excellent view. What we observed at this salon was a presence of the same exhibitors of local genealogy societies or cercles, the same offensively oversized publicity posters of the commercial genealogy companies, the same professional genealogists at their tables as are always present at the Congrès national de généalogie we have described to you so often.

Salon

Yet, here, in this salon, there was more vibrant interest, more keen participation than, sad to say, we have ever seen at the Congrès event. As we continued our observation, it became apparent to us that one individual seemed to be moving everywhere, at times with the speed of a cockroach on amphetamines, speaking to everyone, instructing those at the very long table selling the publications of Archives & Culture (the sponsor of the salon, by the way), adjusting signs, seating, and anything else that was not perfect. We have never met Marie-Odile Mergnac, doyenne of genealogy publishing and author of about half of the books produced by her company, that selfsame Archives & Culture, but there was no mistaking the fact that this dynamo could be no other than she.

Salon Archives et Culture

We were awed as we watched her manipulate and manage the presenters and salespeople, all those with stands, with a quick and quiet efficiency. It would appear that she is also able to do this with consideration and finesse for we looked closely at the faces of those she instructed to see their reactions after she walked away and saw nary a negative one. Can the obvious success of this salon, seemingly so superior to the increasingly sad Congrès national de généalogie, really be down to the impressive skills of one woman? May we dare to add that the salon's success may also have been due to an element of that impetus so despised and reviled by the French: seeking to make a profit? As a large percentage of the exhibitors were also authors of books published by Archives & Culture, this is not an unreasonable supposition.

We decided to speak to some of the people we know who had stands there in order to test our theory. "How do you find this event in comparison with the Congrès?" we asked each. A disdainful "Pfffft!" was the general reply, meaning "No comparison," accompanied by just the slightest hint of that famed, French shrug. We then asked our key question: "Why do you think this event is so much livelier and better attended?" We expected some comment about the organizer or about business versus voluntary activity, which would support our theory, but no. Each gave us the same quizzical look, as if do say "Do you really need to ask?" Then they blurted the obvious for this poor foreigner: "C'est Paris!" ("It's Paris!")

Paris, Dear Readers, depending upon what kind of French person you may be, is either the heart and soul of France, or no part of France at all. In either case, the city seems to be able to add a frisson to all that takes place within her walls.

Paris

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Seeking a Sailor in the French Navy in World War II

French Navy

Because of legal restrictions to access, it is rather difficult to research the men and women who fought in the Second World War in France. For those who fought in the Resistance or secretly, it is even more difficult, as documents were destroyed, or may exist only under an unknown nom de guerre, or never were created in the first place. As the participants age and leave this world, memories and secrets are lost forever. Many have established associations or organizations to preserve camaraderie and their memories. Unfortunately,  their websites and their use of social media are not always the most sophisticated, so their laudable work often is missed.

For those of you seeking a parent or grandparent who served in the French Navy during World War Two, a bit of understanding of history is most necessary. Essentially, France was conquered and divided. Neither half was free. Occupied France was under Nazi rule and Vichy France was neutral and independent, but only so long as it complied with Nazi instructions. The French Navy's history during the war reflects this division. Part of it followed De Gaulle and part of it remained with Vichy France. It cannot have been an easy choice. (Should you wish to know more, we suggest that you read an extremely detailed defense of their positions by Rear Admiral Paul Auphan and Jacques Mordal, The French Navy in World War II.) 

Once you have done your homework and understand the French Navy at that time, you will then be better equipped to research the website of ALAMER, of primitive design and much valuable information. It is dedicated to preserving the memories of all those who were at sea between 1939 and 1945, with a recent addition of information on World War One. It is not an official site of the Marine française but one created by those who were there and, more recently, by those researching them. Here, you will find:

But the website is more than lists and ALAMER does more than just create those lists. There are photographs, of individuals and of vessels, and there are PDF versions of all issues of their publication, Faisons le point.

Excellent resource.

Other posts on naval research: 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Napoleon Called Them "My Soldiers"

Napoleon 1

Whatever else may be said of the man, Napoleon cared deeply for his soldiers. He rode with them, fought with them, spoke to them from the heart, planted shade trees for them along the roads they had to march. Perhaps that loyalty that he felt for them was felt just as deeply on their side for him, and that may be why so many of you, Dear Readers, generations later, still write of your ancestor having been in "Napoleon's Army", of having "fought with Napoleon", and why you are so determined to prove that service. It is getting a great deal easier.

One really must praise the role that Geneanet is assuming in French genealogical research. If FamilySearch remains utterly bogged down in nothing more than French parish and civil registrations and Filae is at the forefront in increasing access to other French records such as census returns, the Bulletin des Lois and numerous collections that have already been indexed or extracted in some way, Geneanet is staking out the territory of deeper research, new scans of documents and collaborative indexing. The more interesting work can be found by clicking on "Projets" in the menu, then on "Autres projets" (Other projects).

Geneanet menu

There, you can find Matricules Napoléoniens 1802-1815, the astonishingly ambitious project of indexing the entirety of the registres matricules (muster rolls) of the Imperial Guard and the infantry of the line from 1802 to 1815. The muster rolls have been available for some time on the website Mémoire des Hommes, as we explained here, but they are not indexed on that site. One must know the regiment of the person sought and then trawl through the many, many pages of muster rolls. The only other way to find this information  has been to visit the relevant Departmental Archives and search through any surviving First Empire conscription lists.

This indexing project, which has already indexed over 600,000 names and is headed by the rather intimidating Alain Brugeat, will transform Napoleonic military research, for it will break through the barrier of Departmental Archives isolation, (the research equivalent of a virus breaching the blood-brain barrier). Once complete, it will, in effect, provide an index that will link to images of the national, military, regimental muster rolls (on Mémoire des Hommes) as well as, in some cases, to the Departmental Archives' First Empire conscription lists (images digitized and held on Geneanet). 

Now, Geneanet just needs to upgrade its capacity for searching these muster rolls. At the moment, they can be searched by name only. For genealogists to be able to exploit this new resource fully, a much more sophisticated search must be possible.

Kudos all round for this.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Improve Your French Genealogy Vocabulary With YouTube

Vocabulary

 

Many of you, Dear Readers, are keen to learn more French, and we applaud your ambition. Yet, few classes in French concentrate specifically on the vocabulary necessary for genealogical research. Our own glossary lists words found in the documents, records and archives that you will discover, but what about the vocabulary necessary to discuss your research and to develop your research skills? As you progress, you will want to communicate about your genealogical research in French with archivists, or fellow researchers or even cousins. 

We propose that you listen to the pithy little lectures on the YouTube channel of Archives et Cultures. There are now one hundred and seventeen of these small lessons in genealogy. Most are about two and a half minutes long; the longest reaches all the way to four minutes. An uncredited presenter of some charm discusses all manner of genealogical and historical subjects, with good enunciation. About half are on subjects relating to daily life of long ago, discussing such delights as the washer, the iron, wooden shoes, soft toys, Father Christmas, and so on. The other half covers solid topics in genealogy, such as censuses, ten-year indices, military records, cemeteries, archives, etc.

When next you are feeling sluggish and discouraged with your French genealogy, do try one of these snippets that should both divert and educate.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

We received this lovely comment with interesting suggestions by e-mail from Mme. E.:  Bonjour, Anne,
As we are in the throes of Mardi Gras, I have not had time to listen to one of those "pithy little lectures" to which you refer in the latest post. But I would like to recommend that those who want to learn the catch-phrases and vocabulary of French genealogy, subscribe to a French society list and just lurk, reading all the questions, réponses, and discussions. It is also a good lesson in French internet etiquette. My free subscription to the GHC-Liste these past decades has been worth it's weight in 'ti sou. Of course the spoken word adds another dimension. And then there the are genealogy publications...
I look forward to every one of your blog posts and devour them with great delight. Thank you!


Geneanet's New Palaeography "Tool"

Palaeography

Well, Dear Readers, we have finished our course on French notarial records and wish to thank heartily all of you who attended. As is always the case, a teacher learns a great deal from her pupils. Your questions and comments, along with your impressive assignment work, taught us a great deal and took us down new paths of discovery.

One of those paths, after a student's asking for more help with those older and very difficult to read notarial records, took us to Geneanet's boast of a terrific new aid in deciphering documents. In its "Projets-Registres" menu, once a country (say, France) a department (say, Ille-et-Vilaine) and a location (say, Gévezé) and document (say, the notarial Minutes Hardouin) have been selected, the tool bar on the left contains a new icon that looks something like a scroll in a cartoon.

Palaeography tool

Click on that and a nice little sample of letters pops up.

Palaegraphy aid

You still have to wade through the document on your own. Our own personal dream of a palaeography expert robot we can yell at has not yet been invented. Our belovèd offspring assured us that the free open source OCR tool was the next best thing. (How adorable is the faith in technology of the young.) We tried the above paragraph and were rewarded with the following transcription:

° = ? , ; “ k | .
gout Bu FRE Ge aitu 19 Sets |
Guañ (ve (y f Ps 7 1249 2OAT À etoh?) à? {y Fpue Ji !
: . / - .
Laururcais D De vusrl Ho fo fr Arha 24f f'ute: t
SF 2e pré 94 Conhosr' A? dec 2 aputr els %:
ctogrud HN Poulpatite) rl Y ricite gg» pue
Ponutn faut) duuf/r. YÆOHSOUATS y |

So, Geneanet's images for comparison (one can hardly call them a tool), along with your own brain power, are certainly better than that.

While Geneanet's new aid for palaeography is only mildly interesting, the ever increasing number of documents uploaded onto the Projets-Registres section is very interesting, indeed. So much has been added by volunteers, and from such diverse archives, that it is now worth adding this section to the checklist of places to search when beginning a project.

Do have a look.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

 


Labour of Love - Listing Isolated Soldiers' Graves

U - WWI Brothers

The standard place to look to find the grave of an ancestor who died fighting for France is the War Graves page, Sépultures de Guerres, on the Mémoire des Hommes website run by the Ministry for Defense. For the names of many who died in World War I, but not their burial places, one can resort to the listing of names from Monuments aux Morts on Mémorial GenWeb. What, however, to do if your ancestor died for France but not in a great battle and was not buried in a military cemetery? Thousands of such men and women are buried in town cemeteries all over France and the Ministry for Defense has not listed them.

A gentleman named Jacques Seynaeve is attempting to redress that failing with his own website of a most long-winded name: SÉPULTURES COMMUNALES INDIVIDUELLES DE MILITAIRES DE TOUTES ÉPOQUES ET DE MORTS POUR LA FRANCE (hors nécropoles nationales, cimetières et carrés militaires). He now has over eight thousand names and photographs of graves. Hundreds have been contributed by people from all over France (and a few other countries) and continue to be added.

Usefully, he also has a section of "Noms Associés" that is, names of spouses and relatives of a deceased person, which may help in location and identification. Would that Mémoire des Hommes would do something like that! You may be able to find your ancestor's grave via this website and we do hope so but hurry; these pages personnelles on Orange tend to disappear without warning and without a trace.

Bonne chance!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Interviews With the Last of the Paris Communards on RetroNews

Communards

 

Mostly, as French genealogy researchers, we tend to revile the Communards for having burnt the Paris town hall and destroyed hundreds of years' worth of parish and civil registrations. We tend to forget that they were the desperate poor. We tend to forget that they had endured a siege so long, so horrific and in such cold that Parisians were eating dogs, cats and rats, when they could find any still alive. We tend to forget that France had just been invaded and lost the Franco-Prussian War and was saddled with a very heavy bill to be paid to the victor.

The Communards saw themselves as freedom fighters driven by desperation, hunger and poverty to create a new order by smashing the old. Whether we agree with their ideals or not, we cannot help but sympathize with their sufferings and this may help us to understand. (Who among us has not lost judgement when forced to desperation by whatever unendurable suffering life has thrown at us?)

These memories recounted to the press by some of the last survivors of the Paris Commune are fascinating. If your ancestor were among them, it may open your eyes to more of their world.


Paris Cemetery Records Online!

Montmartre Cemetery

Very good news, indeed, from the Archives de Paris for anyone seeking to know where in Paris an ancestor was interred. Parisian cemeteries are overcrowded, as our photograph of Montmartre above shows, making it almost impossible (however delightful the stroll on a sunny day may be) to happen by chance upon the grave one seeks. It could be impossible, due to the French habit of digging up untended graves, tossing the bones into an ossuary, and reselling the plot to someone who will take better care of it. This is how graves are supposed to be tended:

 

What has long been needed by family genealogists is access to the interment registers, showing all entries, even of those long ago dug up. And now you have them online, on the website of the Archives de Paris, here. There is also a clear and complete explanation of the twenty current cemeteries of Paris. Through links at the bottom of that page, you can examine the annual burial lists for each cemetery or the daily burial registers for each cemetery.

The first set helps to locate the physical grave. Clicking on répertoires annuels d'inhumation, (the annual burial lists), takes you to a search form in which you can select a cemetery to search, and  supply a name and range of years to search within that cemetery (the concept is identical to the way that civil registrations are searched by arrondissement, record type, name and date range on the same website). The results are each a string of images within the alphabetical range to search. Click on the eye and start looking. 

Search Paris cemeteries

You will then see the pages of the register for that cemetery and be able to find out where your ancestor's grave is (or was).

 

Paris cemetery register

 

Remember the month abbreviations!

  • 7re - September
  • 8re - October
  • 9re - November
  • Xre - December

You want to note the exact date of burial, as that is how you will search in the second set, the registres journaliers d'inhumation, the daily burial registers. On this search screen, you will select the cemetery from the drop down menu (we chose Bagneux), then enter the date of burial, date de l'inhumation.

Remember the European style of writing dates!

The tenth of July 1892 is written 10/07/1892

As before, you will get a string of the date range in the register to search. Click on the eye to see the pages and to read along to find the correct date. On the fifth page of this particular string, the tenth of July begins:

 

Bagneux cemetery

Here, you can discover the full name of the person buried, his or her age at the time of death, and the arrondissement where he or she died (this last allowing you to find the death registration, if you could not do so before). This register also tells exactly where the grave is. The registers styles and column headings vary from year to year and from one cemetery to another but they generally give the same information. If the remains were dug up and removed you will find in the "Observations" column the word "Repris" followed by the date of that sad administrative decision.

BEWARE!

All is not as it seems. For our test search, we checked each cemetery's annual burial list for a particular name for the year 1845. The name appeared in none. We also found that, while many of the cemeteries were operational that year, the registers that early are not available online. Then, we began to check the daily burial registers and there, in Batignolles, we found our burial. Though the annual register existed and is available online, the original indexer had  missed the entry. So, try both registers, if you have a date or at least the year of death. If the register for the year is not online but the cemetery was in existence, keep checking back for new additions to the registers on the website.

Have fun with this hunt!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Bye-Bye Bigenet

No more BIgenet

Sad to report, Dear Readers, that the drab but very useful website, Bigenet, is no more. Recall that this was a website with indexing to some seventy million parish and civil registrations done by enthusiastic volunteers of nearly sixty genealogy groups across France. In November, its death throes amidst squabbles were reported by Guillaume de Morant in a way that annoyed the president of the Fédération Française de Généalogie,  who denied any squabble, implying that their meetings over what to do to save Bigenet were civil discussions. In short, the site made no money and the FFG decided not to put money into it, and that is that.

The economic struggles of genealogy associations in the face of the rapid expansion of the commercial genealogy companies, such as Filae and Geneanet were described here a couple of years ago. It is one of the many ways that the Internet is changing the economy, it seems. One can only hope that the various genealogy associations that were selling access to their work can do a good deal with Filae or Geneanet, or even Ancestry, so that they will receive enough money for their associations to survive. The real loss would be if they were to disappear.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The French View on "Recreational DNA Testing"

Child

Well, Dear Readers, CNIL is having an "I told you so" moment on the question of what they like to call "recreational DNA testing". They have published a long, explanatory post on their position since the announcement by GlaxoSmithKline that they will now be using the DNA results acquired from people by 23andMe (something WIRED says the latter planned all along, which makes us feel a right punter). Briefly, laws in France prohibit the publication of private information about other people or even about one's self if that then is also private information about others. "Private information" includes medical details (this is important here; recall that, in France, while civil registrations of birth, marriage and death are available to the public after seventy-five years, medical records are not available until they reach one hundred fifty years, as explained here). It is because your inherited health characteristics are also inherited by others and because your DNA test results can lead to the identification of others and their health problems (how this is now the case even if you have not uploaded your test results is neatly explained in the WIRED article) that the French authorities are opposed to this recreational DNA testing.

Yet, they are not Luddites or fools. The CNIL article, written by Régis Chatellier, indicates an unhappy awareness of the huge business beyond its borders in genealogy DNA testing kits. Even facing a fine of over three thousand euros for taking the test, many French have done so by post (we explain how that is done in this post). It goes on to say that maybe, just maybe, France will consider allowing such testing here, but only if the government maintains a tight control. "Organising the market allows us to control it", writes Monsieur Chatellier. This is France as we love her most, in full Xerxes at the Hellespont mode; she would love to whip and will try to tame that sea of Anglo market forces. Bonne chance.

Opposing the restrictions are numerous French genealogists campaigning fiercely to have the bioethics law relaxed so that they can take those DNA tests here legally. The bioethics law is up for review and revision this year. The Fédération Française de Généalogie had organised an important all-day conference on Genealogy and DNA for last December but this was abruptly cancelled by the authorities as part of the clamp down on public assembly in response to the Yellow Vest folks. Certainly unaware that this cancellation would happen when it went to press, the genealogy magazine "La Revue française de généalogie" opened its December 2018-January 2019 issue with a long article on the whole subject, with a prominent advertisement for the conference.

The bioethics law is the real focus. It was first passed in 1994 and has been revised regularly since then. It represents France's effort, in compliance with European law, to grapple with the terrifying collapse of ethical thought and behaviour caused by nitwits misunderstanding and crooks misusing the exponentially increasing multitude of technological advances. Never before in all our sorry history has the disparity between humans as creative geniuses and humans as mere plodding animals been more painfully obvious. This law deals with all sorts of ethical questions in biology:

  • Stem cell research
  • Genome sequencing and predictive medicine
  • Organ donation and transplants
  • Personal health data and privacy
  • Robots and artificial intelligence use in health care
  • Neuroscience and imagery techniques
  • Scientifically assisted procreation
  • Assisted death

Given the gravity of some of the issues, it may be possible to imagine that our longing to know more about our ancestry may not always come first on the lawmakers' list. Given France's history of "protecting the family" by silencing all those born outside of it, we suspect that there still may be a very large number of people who do not want to open the Pandora's Box of DNA surprises, people who view all those American television presentations (dubbed, of course) of mystery parents found with gagging horror.

Let us see what happens.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy