Receiving FGB Posts

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed that you do not receive anymore our new posts in your e-mail inboxes. The service that organized that no longer exists. We have tried alternative services without success. Additionally, we have cancelled our accounts with facebook and Twitter, so no notices of posts have been going out that way.

We have decided that we will send links to new posts via Patreon. A membership to support the blog costs just 1€ per month. This means that only Patreon supporters will receive news of a post. In essence, the blog remains free but a subscription that informs you of new posts will cost one euro per month. If you do not wish to pay for a subscription, you can still check the blog pages regularly to read new posts for free,. However, your support would be greatly appreciated and would help to keep the blog uncluttered by advertisements. You can subscribe to the blog on Patreon here:

Thank you all for your continued support of The FGB.


Roof Tile Makers - a Look at an Old Skill

Sarlat Roof

A couple of months ago, one of our kind supporters via Patreon, Monsieur P., sent us this message:

Stateside [my ancestors] were stone masons. In France, I think I found them in the census in Delle, where their profession was marked "tuilerie" which I took to be some sort of roofing or tiling. I would like to learn more about that industry in general and what that would have meant at that time.

As we are most grateful to Monsieur P. for his support, we have a done a bit of research on the métier, or skill, of the tile-maker, le tuilier, who would have worked in a tuilerie, a tile factory (from which you now understand the name of the lost palace in Paris and the Tuileries Gardens.).

In France, a large number of houses and barns and outbuildings are made of stone and roofs are made primarily of tile or slate. (It was a bit of an adjustment for us, a native of California, where such construction is banned, because of earthquakes.  When one is reared in a place where, at any moment, not always with warning, the ground can suddenly rear up, whip and shake violently, even rip open, the presence of tile roofs and stone walls is most unnerving.)

Collapsing roof

The production of roof tiles may be more mechanized than it was in the nineteenth century, but it has not changed much. There are also some manufacturers who make the tiles in the traditional way, as millions of these are required when those old chateau roofs need to be restored, which is pretty much a constant requirement. 

Essentially, terracotta clay is kneaded, then worked into shape by molding, stretching and pressing. The tiles then must dry, then be fired. This little film gives a nice presentation of a more traditional works.

St Robert roof

Roofs need more than tiles, as Monsieur P.'s query indicates. They also require rather specialist carpenters, termed, charpentiers because they make charpentes, or frames or frameworks.

Roof Charpenterie

They also require masons, not only to ensure that the supporting walls are in good shape and can take the weight of the roof, but for chimneys and edging.

Dordogne roof

Perhaps the ancestors of Monsieur P. had a mixture of these skills while in France but, in their new home, could or wished to find work in only one of them.

©2024 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Guest Post - Was Your Ancestor a Russian Student in Switzerland?

Screenshot 2024-02-17 at 18.49.23

Dear Readers, once again our good friend, the excellent genealogist,  Isabelle Haemmerle, sends a superbly informative post from Geneva.

Archives of Swiss universities : lists of students on line 1874-1975

While assisting an American woman looking for the birth certificates of her distant cousins born in Geneva, I came across some interesting sources that could be useful in finding out more about your ancestors from the Russian Empire.

Indeed, the children in question, Sophie and Frederik, were born in 1908 and 1910 in Plainpalais - today a district of Geneva - to a couple originally from Ekarinoslav in Russia, and the father's job stated that he was a student. This was a good start for a case study in the large Russian community of the time.

During the 18th century, Russia, under the rule of Catherine the Great, was influenced by its Western neighbors and modernized its administration, education, army and technology. Aristocrats began to travel in Europe, mainly to Italy, Germany, France and England, but also to Switzerland, as part of their Grand Tour. They visited the enchanting landscape of Lake Geneva, the setting for Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Nouvelle Héloïse, a kind of literary tourism avant la lettre. In the second half of the 19th century, many Russians settled and stayed in Switzerland for an extended period. It was fairly easy to obtain a residence permit and Russians speak German and French making it easy to settle in a tranquil and neutral country. Political exiles took refuge in Geneva or Zurich, artists came in search of inspiration and a great number of young people looking for emancipation or prevented from studying in Russia applied in Swiss universities.

At the end of the 19th century, Switzerland counted seven universities for three million inhabitants: foreign students were therefore welcome to fill the faculty benches; up to 65 % of the alumni around 1890 were foreign. As the quota policy prevented the non-orthodox students to study in Russia, the subjects from the minorities of the Russian Empire – Jewish, catholic or lutherian (Germans of Russia) who were living in a restricted residence zone (Ukraine, Poland, Finland and Baltics) and who could afford it turned to study abroad.

From 1867 onward, it is interesting to note that young women from Russia enrolled in large numbers at the university of Zurich and a few years later at Geneva and Bern universities (1872) when those establishments opened to women. Then Lausanne, Basel, Neuchâtel and Fribourg followed.

The female students were deprived of a university education in Russia and most often in Switzerland they picked science and medicine studies in particular as they wish to improve the destiny of their fellow compatriots once back in Russia. At the turn of the 20th century, 80% of the enrolled female students were foreign and 85% came from Russia.

The historian Natalia Tikhonov-Sigrist studied the presence of foreign female students in western universities. She wrote: “according to my estimates, based on onomastics and place of origin, Jewish female students made up at least 62% of all female students from the Russian Empire enrolled at Swiss universities before 1920.

As I was working on the case of the cousins born in Geneva to a Russian couple, I found numerous lists of students with their nationality and their address. It indeed illustrated the fact that the Russian community lived in the Carouge area in Plainpalais close to the Arve river and known as Little Russia. Housing there was cheap and close to the university.

According to the Swiss canton, the individual rights law can affect the diffusion of online lists of students. If it is not available on line such as for UNIGE ( University of Geneva), for UNIL (University of Lausanne) and UZH ( University of Zurich) you can contact or visit the universities of other cantons and will encounter helpful archivists. You will find below, Dear Readers, the information for each one.


University of Geneva (UNIGE)

University of Lausanne (UNIL)

University of Zurich (UZH):

On Matrikeledition, you can consult the online lists in German: you can search by name and, surprisingly, there are pages dedicated to women (Frauen: sortiert nach Namen).
The listings show the student's date of birth, gender, enrolment date, subject studied, nationality and enrolment number. Even more interesting: when you click on the student's name, you get more information: place of birth, previous place of study, semesters of study, parents' names, and even dissertation title.

University of Bern (UNIBE):

Possibility to consult the lists on site at the library:

Universitätsbibliothek Bern
Bibliothek Münstergasse
Münstergasse 61
3011 Bern

 Please find below the links to the index

University of Basel (UNIBAS) has deposited its archives at the local State Archives of Basel-Staadt. Possibility to consult on site at the following address: Martinsgasse 2, 4051 Basel

Online archive catalog of the Basel-Stadt State Archives

University of Fribourg (UNIFR)

Possibility to consult the lists on site at the Archives of the university with appointment 3 weeks in advance:

Archives de l'Université

MIS06 - Bureau MIS6102
Av. Europe 20
CH-1700 Fribourg


University of Neuchâtel (UNINE):



Some more readings:

 Natalia Tikhonov Sigrist holds a PhD in History and civilization from the University of Geneva / Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

Etudiants de l’Exil Patrick Ferté, Caroline Barrera - p 105 -118

A Russian pioneer in Swiss universities  – July 27, 2021 – RTS:


Thank you SO much, Isabelle!

Did Your Ancestor Lose Property During the French Revolution and Try to Get It Back?


Lest you have come to believe, Dear Readers, that we despise the nobility and, had we been alive at the time, would have joined the rampaging sans culottes during the Revolution, permit us to assure that it is not so. Nobility and royalty, like the panda and certain other endangered species, though they have no useful purpose in and of themselves, they do serve to keep in this ugly world some beauty. The panda has an ungainly beauty; the crested crane does as well. Nobles and royals rarely have personal beauty, being as in-bred and over-bred as the pug, but they tend to possess things of great beauty and to preserve them. For this, we must be grateful. Much of the world's surviving art and architecture is with us because it was preserved by these people. They did not mean for us, the common people, to be able to see it but, bit by bit, it turns up in museums and state-owned castles for us all to admire.

Over two hundred years ago, in one sweep, it seemed, the treasures of the wealthy were confiscated by the new French Republic. Much was irretrievably lost in the mayhem. Objects of gold and silver, particularly, disappeared as they were melted down and made into ingots for a cash-strapped country to use to buy grain for its starving populace. Much, however, remained intact. Works of art went to museums or were sold at auction. Confiscated properties were sold as biens nationaux. As soon as the dust settled, many of those whose property was confiscated immediately began, through whatever legal process was available to do so, to try to get it back. A number of the dossiers of their documentation survive in the Archives nationales, in series T*. All of it is fascinating and much of it is very useful for family genealogy.

Noisy manor house

The dossiers are by family name, some four thousand of them, and are arranged into four groups:

  1. Papers Seized During the Revolution from individuals who were condemned or who emigrated, and from guilds, professional associations, secular communities
  2. Papers Found in Public Places
  3. Papers relating to Probate and Disinheritance
  4. Mixed Papers


Series T Gramont

They contain a wonderful array, going back centuries, and include, in some cases:

  • proofs of titles
  • royal charters and patents
  • family correspondence
  • military service records
  • baptisms and marriages
  • notarial acts, such as sales/purchases, inheritance, wills, marriage contracts, probate inventories

To find out if your noble ancestors made such a claim, you need only search on the family name here. Then, through the system of the Archives nationales, you can request a copy. But beware! Files can be VERY large, making the copying fee very expensive.

Very large file


Be sure to re-read our post on researching émigré ancestors.

Happy hunting!


* Not to be confused with the TT series, which concerns the properties of Protestants and Huguenots.

©2024 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Was Your Ancestor a "Lady in Waiting to the Queen"?

Versailles fountain

It is a trial for us all, Dear Readers, making ends meet in this time of spiralling costs but were we to have just a centime for every time someone tells us that they have an ancestor who was a "Lady in waiting to the queen", we would have the funds to quaff champagne at every meal. These posh ancestresses never worked for any French queen but Marie-Antoinette. One never hears of an ancestress having been the femme de chambre to Marie or Marie-Thérèse or Anne, never to the Empress Josephine and certainly never to one of the many royal mistresses, nor to any of the Madames  treading the icy corridors of Versailles. It is always and only one queen the ancestress served: Marie-Antoinette.

The genealogist descendants of this multitude of ladies in waiting, and those of us who try to help them, have a very difficult time trying to prove such a claim, especially if the ladies in question made their claims in their dotage on a farm in the wilds of Ohio or the remote marshes of Louisiana. Just tracing those ancestors to their home in France can be a chore; connecting them to Marie-Antoinette can be the burden of a lifetime that we who are passionate about family roots like to refer to as a "brick wall". Perhaps the hardest thing about researching some our brick walls that any of us may have to do is to accept that the tale is not true.

We have discovered and now give you here an excellent old resource to help you determine if your ancestor worked for anyone in the royal households and government in any capacity. In 1790, (when Marie-Antoinette and her husband, Louis XVI were still very much alive), the revolutionary government pensioned off  their entire household and government. They published a list of their names, grouped in seven alphabetical lots, or classes, based on the amount of the pension. These lists can be found on under the heading Archives parlementaire de la Révolution française and we give them here:

  1. Pensioners in the First Class
  2. Pensioners in the Second Class
  3. Pensioners in the Third Class
  4. Pensioners in the Fourth Class
  5. Pensioners in the Fifth Class
  6. Pensioners in the Sixth Class
  7. Pensioners in the Seventh Class

From Councillors of State to under-governesses to the royal children, they all are in these lists. Now, at long last, Dear Readers, you can not only find your lady in waiting, but find out how much her pension was as well. As to the brick wall, if your very own lady in waiting is not to be found here, it is time, as one says these days, to move on.

Do let us know if you find your ancestor in these lists.

©2024 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Nice Improvements at the Archives de Paris

Archives de Paris 2

Meilleurs voeux, Dear Readers. (We remind you that New Year's wishes are acceptable to the end of January. After that, as in so many tricky formalities, one is considered to be ill-bred, mal élevé.)

We have been revisiting many archives through the holiday period, the Archives de Paris amongst them. The entrée fauviste has been enlarged, as per the photo above. The sheep that grazed the fields around the building are long gone, more's the pity. However, much as we admire art and find wildlife reassuring, we were there for research.

As with any visit to any archives, if you wish it to be fruitful, you must spend the time necessary to prepare.

  • Read the websites
  • Do all online research possible, especially on the archives' own websites
  • Alanyze your results
  • Make a list of what you found and did not find
  • From the list of what you did not find, determine your research goals
  • Return to the website of the archives and read the finding aids to find which of the series is most likely to yield what you seek
  • Note the series titles and codes, along with a reminder to yourself of exactly what you hope to find in each.

Only after you have completed all of the above will you be ready to visit the archives in person.

Our research concerned  a kingpin, or king-maker, or at least a would-be rescuer of queens who owned a large amount of property in Paris. Our goal was to learn more about him through the property mortgage records. These could reveal more about his finances and provide a few more dates as to his whereabouts that we could add to our timeline about him. As did many, our person of interest had often used his property as collateral for private loans. By obtaining the notarial acts for each of these loans, we would be able to expand our knowledge of his circle of trusted friends and acquaintances. We have had wonderful success with these hypothèques in the past and were, therefore, optimistic.

In spite of all of our careful preparation, things went awry; we turned to the archivist for help. Goodness! What erudition! He whizzed through the finding aids and produced for us a new list of mortgages to examine. There were many, so many that we were fairly certain that we would not be able to see them all that day, what with the rules limiting the number of requests per day, the retrieval staff's strict observance of lunch breaks and the usual "go-slow" of the disgruntled worker. How wrong we were. The men and their trolleys laden with cartons of documents were a veritable blur of speedy activity. We went through all on our list, more than eighteen cartons, finishing well before closing time. Quite remarkable! So, Dear Readers, you may now expect vastly improved service at the Archives de Paris. 

The file we then sought, as it contained the history of a property was another, quite disappointing, matter. The file has survived two hundred years; it was not discarded or burnt. Alas, it and the entire series to which it belongs are covered in asbestos and have been placed in a sort of permanent, Purgatory-like quarantine. They may not be touched, even with gloves, by any member of the public, nor may said member breathe near them, not even if  one were to offer to sign away one's health, as we did in a moment of research fervor.

"Is this forever?" we asked, all of our begging, wheedling and cajoling having failed. "Might as well be," replied the archivist, the same who had been so very helpful earlier. "It will take at least a million euros to remove the asbestos. We do not have that kind of money." Wealthy benefactors take note. A million euros donated to the Archives de Paris to purge the property history files of their poison could open a world of historical discovery to many.

©2024 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy




Did Your French Ancestor Serve in a Foreign Army?

French in Foreign Armies

This was a happy discovery and could be of help to those of you whose ancestor left France during the Revolution and First Empire, or even before, to serve in a foreign army. Some of you have written of the difficulty of finding an ancestor's military record for such service, or even of knowing in which army, of which country he may have served. You are not alone; Napoleon wanted to know the same thing. So he issued a decree requiring all such men to report such service to the police générale, bringing us to our favourite series in the Archives nationales, the F/7 series, in the building in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. There, in cartons beginning with the number F/7/6127, one can find numerous lists of men, both those who declared their service and those who did not,  made by the police, as well as many complete declaration or investigation dossiers.

Officers in the service of Austria

Each department's police had to submit a list. Recall that, during the First Empire, parts of Italy and Belgium, as well as Germany were departments of France.

1810 list of Blegian officers in Austria

They can be simple, with only a name, as here:

Belgian officers in Austria

They can be quite a bit more informative, as this list of French officers serving Austria, Spain or Prussia, which gives a little bit of service history:

French officers in Austria  Spain  Prussia

If you are lucky, there will be a dossier on your ancestor, with much more, such as this one on Ambrozy (or Ambrosis or Abroise), an Italian serving England and who was condemned for it.

Ambrozy Ambrosis Ambroise serving England

Or this, a dossier on Louis Charles Beaufort, born in Paris, a retired major who had served in the Austrian army.

Louis Charles Beaufort serving Austria

These are not digitized, nor have the names in the alphabetic cartons of dossiers been listed anywhere. Here is how they appear in the finding aid:

Finding Aid

If you have reason to suspect that there may be a dossier on your ancestor, you can write to the archives and ask them to copy it, giving the correct code from the list above. They will either tell you there is no such file or send you a bill to pay in order to receive the copy. Unfortunately, they will not search through the lists for you.

A story in every dossier - nice find!

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 12 - Research Bits and Bobs

Marie Fouyol Signature

Poor Marie Fouyol, we have not yet found her origins or her birth place or family. However, this is not for lack of endeavour, for we have not forgotten her. Each time we visit archives where there may be a ray of hope of finding her, either in her own name or in that of her husband, Thomas, Mansell, we do look. To bring you up to date on this conundrum of a Free Clinic case, here is where we have looked during the last few months:

In the Archives de la Préfecture de la Police de Paris:

  • AA/48 - 266 - Statements and letters from the police of each of the Paris sections. (1789-1820)

In the Service Historique de la Défense at Vincennes, continuing with the dossiers on other weavers allowed to remain in Paris in the Yj series:

  • William Oswald
  • John Gillet
  • James Spencer
  • John Lane

In the Archives nationales:

  • F/7/3507 - Passports for the interior and foreigners June 1808 to Sept 1810
  • F/7/3324 - Police, requests for residence, Me-My, 1791 to 1954
  • F/7/3323 - Police, requests for residence, Lh-Ma, 1791 to 1954
  • F/12/4861 - Archives of the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers. (an III-1866)

We wrote earlier that we had checked the register of people allowed to live in Paris and that he was not there. Then, on a subsequent visit, as we wrote in our last post, we discovered that there was a register that included British with Swedish people allowed to stay in Paris during the First Empire (F/7/2250). There, we found Marie's husband, listed as Thomas Mansille:


Unfortunately, it tells us no more than we had discovered from previous sources, and nothing at all about Marie Fouyol.

And so, the hunt goes on. We think that a very good place to search, but it would be a long and difficult job, would be in the succession registers on the website of the Archives de Paris.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



Enjoying the Enemy's Elegance During War - Finding Your Foreign Ancestor in Paris

Place du Chatelet

As with every war in Europe, it seems, while battles are fought, ships filled with me are sunk, and people are slaughtered, there is always a contingent to be found partying with impunity in Paris. During the Napoleonic Wars, a rather significant number of enemy nationals, especially British, lived comfortably in Paris. Some were technicians whose expertise was so valued by the French that they were allowed to live in Paris and other cities and to practice their trade, so long as they taught all of their skills and secrets to their French counterparts. Some were so wealthy and owned so much property in France that they were friends with those in the highest realms of First Empire society (and were permitted to bribe the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the all-powerful Talleyrand) and feared neither surveillance nor expulsion. Some were prisoners of war or detenus granted parole who could afford Paris and whose requests to live on parole there had been granted. (Many such requests were not granted, others were but only for vastly less glamourous cities.)

The partying folk of wartime Paris were not limited to the British, by any means. There also were Swedish, Prussian, German, Russian, Turkish, Polish, Spanish, Italian and many more foreign nationals living in Paris under police surveillance. The Police Générale kept registers on all of those under surveillance, noting the names, sometimes the addresses, and often a few details on those being watched. Sometimes, these registers offer the only surviving documentation on a foreigner in Paris during this period (recall the fire of 1871 that destroyed so many Parisian records about people).

These police surveillance registers (codes F/7/2248 through 2254) are not online but must be viewed, on microfilm, in the Archives nationales at Pierrefitte. We will be going there in three days' time and, by way of thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we will look up your ancestor in the registers and send you as good a photograph of the microfilm as we can manage. Send us the full name and the nationality before the 16th of November. With luck, we will find the person you seek.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Geneanet's Humour Collection

Rire comme un baleine

Somehow, one gets the feeling that the people running Geneanet are a bit more intelligent and a bit wittier than the other commercial genealogy websites. They seem actually to enjoy history and genealogy rather than to be solely interested in profiting from genealogists' research needs.

They have a delightfully quirky category entitled "Archives insolites" or "Unusual Archives", which is something of a misnomer. The images uploaded are not of a single archival collection; they are images of individual parish and civil register entries that have been submitted by users either because they are oddly humourous or because they are quite unusual.

Recall that French burial and death register entries almost never give a cause of death. In birth register entries, the only comment beyond the facts is as to legitimacy. So, to find an entry that gives something more, something out of the usual pattern is unusual and interesting. For example:

A sad account, of interest to medical historians of a cesarian section, followed by the death of the mother.


A humourous account of a bishop scolding an ecclesiastic for engaging in hunts.


Unusual weather, such as snow in June, may be noted.


Often, the examples are quite sad, exhibiting the great struggles of this life. Too often, they exhibit the prejudices of the time and, in the comments, of our own time. Still, they can be both educational and entertaining, so do have a read. Perfect for a rainy afternoon.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Online Archives from the Archives Diplomatiques at Last

Arch Dip Microfilm

How long we have been awaiting this one, and it is not quite here yet, but the signs are hopeful, hopeful, indeed. For a good ten years, the Archives diplomatiques have been promising that, "very soon", the overseas civil registrations (prior to 1891) would be available online. For at least a decade, their website has held little more than a dull notice of that same promise.

No, Dear Readers, those registrations are not online (and one must still use the microfilm rolls shown above) but there is a significant new look to the website. We have noticed a new design, improved search facility and options and the beginnings of digitization of some of their wonderful archival materials.

  • Many military registration records for Tunisia are being uploaded. If you are researching an ancestor who was a French citizen, no matter where he was born, and who was living in Tunisia when he turned twenty and had to register, you have a good chance of finding him here.
  • Documents and photographs concerning the art stolen by the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War and the effort to retrieve it. Not exactly useful for your genealogical research, unless it were your family's art that was stolen.
  • Documents and photographs pertaining to the French government in exile during World War Two. Just the beginnings, here, covering a visit by Soustelle to Mexico.
  • A database of treaties signed with France. Great fun, as with this 1419 treaty between the Duke of Burgundy and the King of England. Be sure to type in the French name of your country when you search.

Ten years is a long wait, and it is not over yet. Keep checking the website and do let us know should you get lucky.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy