Is It a Surname or a Place?

French names

Rural France abounds with villages (villages), hamlets (hameaux),  and properties (lieux-dits) that have charming or peculiar names, as the case may be. Most were attached to a parish before the French Revolution, then to a commune afterward. They are notoriously difficult for the researcher to locate. Some, such as La Bachellerie, occur all over France. Some, such as Bleigeat, seem to occur nowhere except in the imagination of an immigrant in Louisiana who gave it as his place of birth (though it really does exist).

We have discussed how to use the Cassini maps and the hundreds of online Napoleonic era maps to find some of them. We have shared Professeur B.'s lecture on micro-geography and lieux-dits. We have also given an example of the case of a tricky place name found on a Natchitoches document that required help from French archivists for clarification. There are numerous websites that attempt to list all such names in France that you could try.

What to do when these place names turn up as part of a surname? We are not referring to surnames that are also place names, such as Bourges, or Paris, or Loire. Nor are we referring to "dit names", which are nicknames that, over time, became family names, such as Le Bon, or Le Sage, or Le Grand. ("Dit names" exist in France but are found much more often in Québec.) We also are not discussing here aristocratic names that are compilations of titles and locations. We are referring to the recording of a place name near to a surname in a register and the confusion that it can cause the researcher.

For example, a child whose name appears to be Léonard Farge du Piager was born in Saint-Martial-de-Gimel in Corrèze in 1813.

Du PiagerArchives départementales de la Corrèze, http://www.archives.cg19.fr/recherche/archiveenligne/

 

His parents are Jean Farge and Marie Puyrobert. Is his surname Farge du Piager, and the officer simply shortened his father's version of the name, or is his surname simply Farge and he is of a place called Piager, (which must be within the boundaries of Saint-Martial-de-Gimel to appear in this birth register)? In the search for that ever elusive comfort, certainty, you might try reading a few pages of the register. In this example, you will find that the name of each child has such an extension and the words are different. This suggests that the officer is indicating in their names where they were born, as the form offers no way to do so. Seeing this practice, you could then check one of the many lists of Corrèze's lieu-dit names for the village to verify that this is what the officer is doing.

In another town, in the same department, Espagnac, the recording officer tried to solve the problem of indicating the place, La Rivière, by putting it in the margin in the birth register.

La RivièreArchives départementales de la Corrèze, http://www.archives.cg19.fr/recherche/archiveenligne/

 

This would only cause confusion to the researcher when initially reading down the margin, assuming that the place names were surnames, as those are usually what one finds in the margin. Eventually, the penny would drop and one would see that these are not surnames of a few remarkably prolific families but place names of scattered communities.

Again in Espagnac, a different approach was tried a bit later. Here, the officer put both the surname and the place name in the margin of the birth register. In this case, it is immediately clear that the children are not all with grand monikers as the name in the registration is different from that in the margin. In the margin, the child's name appears to be Antoine Borie du Coudert, but in the registration, it is simply Antoine Borie.

Borie du Couderc

Archives départementales de la Corrèze, http://www.archives.cg19.fr/recherche/archiveenligne/

To verify that the surname is not Borie du Coudert, you could check the table annuelle at the end of the register for the year. It shows that the name is Antoine Borie, tout simple.

Espagnac naissances 1818Archives départementales de la Corrèze, http://www.archives.cg19.fr/recherche/archiveenligne/

To verify that it is a place name, you would have to check maps and lists of place names for Espagnac, as well as read through more of the register to determine the officer's procedures.

We hope that this brings no disappointment, that none of you are having to let go of a name that seemed grand but is more plain and honest. If so, try to remember that some of these place names bring no glory. Du Marais, for example, means "from the swamp".

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A French Stumbling Block on Your GPS Road

Paris-Vienne 1902

A few years ago, we attended the excellent online study session run by "Dear Myrtle" on the book "Mastering Genealogical Proof" by Thomas W. Jones. We published our own little booklet on trying to align French documentation with the Genealogical Proof Standard. After the second session, we wrote:

      • Civil, as opposed to parish or religious, documentation in America went from almost nothing in the earlier years to documents with an increasing amount of information. In many places, birth, marriage and death records were not kept until the mid-nineteenth century. Remoter places without churches or other religious establishments had no parish records either. In France, in spite of a few revolutions, there has been a steady recording of births or baptisms, marriages and deaths or burials since the sixteenth century.
      • In America, each state, once it decided to record information about individuals, determined what to record and how. There can be at least fifty different types of birth registration, and many more when the differences at the county level are taken into consideration. In France, the department is merely an administrative division, not a separate state with its own rights that is part of a federation. France is a republic with one and only one government, directed from Paris and the directives carried out at the departmental, arrondissement and communal levels throughout the country. Thus, all civil registrations at any one time follow the same format. Historically and still today, that format for a civil registration generally contains a great deal more information than a civil registration does in America.

This means that a researcher in America has to deal with a lack of civil registration that must be supplemented with other types of documentation (such as tax records, court records, etc.) and that much of the documentation, especially if it were created in a remote area with little administration,  may not be trustworthy.  Thus, much of the emphasis of the Genealogical Proof Standard is on the quality of the source and the source of the information. In France, however, civil and legal documentation tends to be more trustworthy for the simple reason that one always has had to show a document to make a document, e.g. to show an authenticated and official copy of one's birth registration or baptism registration (or now, one's identity card) to enroll in the army or to marry.

Primary, Secondary and Indeterminable Information

This requirement enhances the trustworthiness of French documentation -- by the criteria under discussion -- significantly. One panellist, Kathryn Lake Hogan, recounted a tale of a man who, on applying for a marriage license, gave an incorrect name for his parent. This would be unimaginable in France as both of the couple must present official copies of their birth registrations in order to marry, and those birth registrations give their parents' full names.

Perhaps in that last paragraph we were a bit blithe. In the past couple of years, our research has taken us down some tiny paths into the documentation of small communities and baffling families and we have come across an odd phenomenon that would seem to be rooted in some sort of grief or madness or obsession or serious cerebral limitation. What we have encountered is, essentially, a child assuming (or having forced upon it) the identity of a deceased older sibling. The procedure seems to follow something like this:

  • A child, say Antoine, is born in 1820 and dies in 1822.
  • Another child, say Léonard, is born to the same parents in 1825. He has no middle names.
  • No other male child is born to this couple.
  • Throughout his life, Léonard gives his name as Antoine but his date of birth as in 1825. He also gives his parents' names, birth dates, marriage date and death dates correctly.
  • On the census returns, Léonard appears with his family as Antoine, with his age corresponding to his birth year of 1825.

We have just come across our fifth example of this form of resurrection (of the dead child) or soul murder (of the living child) and find it quite remarkably unusual in the way that it is outside of the pattern of love of conformity that is the hallmark of the French civil servant's mind. While it may be fascinating to wonder about what was happening in those peoples' lives to drive them to this, as genealogists, this poses a serious problem with normally reliable French documentation.

It really does seem likely that Léonard born in 1825 is using the name Antoine; and we will want to assume that when Léonard marries using the name Antoine and gives his birth in 1825 and we find the birth registration in the name of Léonard, we can use it. Only we cannot, if we are going to adhere to the Genealogical Proof Standard, because we have nothing, absolutely no documentation, to say that Léonard called himself Antoine. What we must do is build a case with a great deal more research.

  • Every census return must be examined to see all possible children
  • The research must be extended to siblings and cousins of the parents to see if, actually, this may not be a cousin Antoine with the same date of birth and with parents of the same names (not at all a rarity) and, actually, that Léonard died in a different commune.
  • The saint's day for Antoine and for Léonard must be identified for the year 1825 and for 1820 to see if any logical use of the names can be discovered.
  • Church records will have to be pursued, not an easy task for post-1792 records, as they are not in archives or public records but belong to the Church. Copies of the baptisms of both children and of the burial record of the first Antoine must be requested from the local diocesan archives to see hnow the names appear.
  • The wills and death inventories of the parents of Antoine and Léonard should be requested, to see clearly the names of their surviving children.

Certainty of identification will probably be denied the researcher. In a case such as this, we suspect that a probable identification will be the best that one can achieve.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Our Tenth Birthday! Notre Dixième Anniversaire!!

10th blog birthday

Really! What sort of blogger sleeps through her own birthday!! We shall claim an excess of celebration for we have reached our tenth birthday! Over those years, we have received from you, Dear Readers, some quite lovely words of support:

"I am not even sure how or when I first glommed on to one of your blog postings; at least 4-5 years back, I believe.  What I clearly know is that I can never just skim one of them.  There is always depth for which a skim would be an insult.  There is, also, not every time your blog pops into my inbox, but frequently, a sardonic paragraph or two of which the two sides of your life-experience, the two sides of your audience are the pillars. So, all that you provide by way of factoids to be followed, and commentary to be consumed, is appreciated." Monsieur C.
 
"First of all, I love your blog and never skip a post, even those that seem to have no immediate application to my research. I also took your online course on notarial records in February and found it useful when translating the 1831 marriage contract for my 5X great-grandparents..." Madame F.
 
"I saw your site recommended on the FB group ... French Genealogy. It’s a great site, and congratulations ...!" Madame Y.
 
"Very much appreciate your blog, and the information you share." Madame L.
 
"I love your blog! So much great information." Madame S.R.
 
"Hi Anne, thank you for your informative posts, which have helped me to understand the shifting nationalistic propriety over the Alsace Lorraine region." Madame H.
 
"Great blog, thanks for your hard work on it." Monsieur G.
 
"I bought your book French Notaires and Notarial Records and have found some useful information, thank you." Madame N.
 
"I just discovered your blog and saw some of the books you’ve written. All very impressive." Monsieur S.
 
"Je suis très honoré et plus respectueux de vous informer que j’ai obtenu des informations utiles grâce à vos instructions pour obtenir les certificats de mon ancêtre de Pondichery de l'Inde Français. Je suis très reconnaissant pour cette aide apportée à toute votre administration." Monsieur A.
 
"This is a brilliant find! Thanks so much for sharing. Your blog is really the most helpful one I read -- always actionable information and useful "where-to access" pointers that are not evident when trying to research from abroad." Madame L.
 
"I do love reading about your adventures, they are always so interesting and good humoured! Your observations are priceless and make my day!" Madame H.
 
"Whenever I do or advise people on French research I start at your webpage. Many thanks for all the help you have given me over the years." Madame G.
 
"Enjoy your stimulating blog." Monsieur B.
 
"I have been a keen follower of your blog posts for some time. You have given so many tips which I have found so useful in my own family history research." Madame S.
 
"Always enjoy your blog & recommend it to all working on their French ancestry." Madame O.
 
 
Many thanks to all of you, Dear Readers, for giving us a grand first decade!
Anne

Hunting Armenian Refugee Ancestors in 1920s France

Camp Oddo Marseille

After the 1915 genocidal attacks on Armenians, authorized and orchestrated by the Young Turks Party of the dying Ottoman Empire (disturbingly, we once lived in what had been the home of one of the Three Pashas), thousands of the survivors made their way to France in the 1920s. The largest group were to be found in Marseille where, in 1922, an old military camp, Camp Oddo, was made available for housing them. In 1923, there were four hundred people there but the number quickly rose to over three thousand. Paris also had a large community of Armenians. France welcomed them, especially men with skills who might help to replace the men lost in the First World War. Many Armenians, however, did not stay, but moved on to settle in other countries.

This makes researching them quite difficult. Without a life event, such as a marriage, birth or death, with which to begin the research, it may be daunting to try to find a person in the French civil registrations. The hunt is further complicated with the variations in the spellings of the Armenian names. (For example, a Dear Reader has written of an ancestor for whom the surname was spelt: Dalkyrians, Dalgiranis, and Dalkiranes but which the French seem to have spelt Dulguérian.) No life event and no name do make research in French records almost impossible but there are a few avenues one can try.

The first place to try is the website of the Association pour la recherche et l’archivage de la mémoire arménienne (ARAM). They have digitized three crucial lists:

  • The names of the 5541 refugees who passed through Camp Oddo, not in any order. This is like a census, with families named together, full names given, relationships to one another given. Also noted are each person's age, place of birth, sex, marital status, date of arrival in the camp and the date of departure, profession. In the notes (observations) are often given the towns where they were sent to live.
  • The list of Armenians in the Marseille region who requested a Nansen passport
  • The list of baptism certificates issued by the Armenian prelate in the south of France

Spend some time on this website as there are also various single family documents uploaded. As always with such a website that gives you so much at no charge, make a donation if you can, in money or, should you be so lucky, copies of your own family's documents.

Next, brave the obnoxious guardians at OFPRA if you think that your ancestor may have applied for a Nansen passport. Their archives begin a tad late for this research, in 1924, but they could prove very useful. They have written an explanation of how to use they fraudulently term a "service" here (in French). We do know people who have had success with them, so do not let our irritation with them put you off.

After that, and if you think that one member of the family may have taken French nationality, look up the family name on Filae, which has indexed naturalization announcements (not the actual applications, which are in the Archives nationales) from the Bulletin des Lois

Lastly, if some of the above have resulted in you finding a life event that happened in France and/or you found where the family were living, you can go to the website of the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône or that of the Municipal Archives of Marseille to look up the event in the civil registrations and to look up the family in the 1926 census.

Many thanks to Dear Reader, Monsieur D. for setting us on this journey.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Departmental Archives of Ille-et-Vilaine

Archives Ille-et-Vilaine

 

Why, we ask ourself, did we wait so long to go to Rennes and the Departmental Archives of Ille-et-Vilaine? By train, it is an hour and a half from Paris and the archives are fifteen minutes from the station by the Mètro and bus. We finally did go and, considering that this is yet another Departmental Archives that lost so much thanks to the Allied Bombing, it was really rather successful.

The building is modern, designed by that unknown group of architects who have left their unpleasant stains on so many of France’s archives, including Pierrefitte. We suspect kickbacks occur somewhere in this history, as there can be no other explanation for a design that shows such a clear disdain for the people who use archives: massive doors too heavy to open, lockers in rolling cases that mean only one bank may be accessed at a time (causing a queue when there are only four or five people), black walls creating the gloomiest of atmospheres, poorly marked glass barriers inviting the unwary visitors to brain themselves and, lastly, a floor covering on which every type of shoe squeaks loudly with every step, repeatedly shattering concentration. We honestly feel that the bureaucrat who awards the contracts for such designed should have every aspect of his or her finances subjected to a thorough tax audit.

AD Ille-et-Vilaine

Procedures are the same as in all Departmental Archives. We enrolled as a reader, at no charge, and received a reader’s card (with our name misspelt) a key for one of those rolling lockers, and we were assigned a seat in the Reading Room. We had done our homework and studied the finding aids online and so, entered the Reading Room armed with a list of codes of cartons to request.

Staff, as we have grown to expect in all Departmental Archives, were extremely helpful. We found it touching that some wore white lab coats by way of a professional identification. Behind that threatening glass wall, we were introduced to the internal system for requesting items and had its many quirks explained, and away we went. Only three items may be in use and/or on request at a time, so once the first three are requested, one used and returned, it becomes a race against the clock to keep requesting a new item the minute one is returned. As no requests are taken for an hour and a half at lunch time, much calculating goes into this process in order to have no time wasted in that dreadful archives doldrum of having to wait for the next carton while having nothing to examine at hand.

Some of the notarial records have not been classified and the archivist went to great lengths for us to find the codes. Afterward, she kept checking back with us to see how our research was going and if we needed any more help. (Really, archivists in France are so very solicitous. Why can this skill not be taught to other professions in France, to Parisian waiters or clothing shop salespeople, for instance?) The Reading Room is quite large, with the Help Desk, where the archivists answer questions and provide guidance, at the opposite end of the room from the long desk where items are delivered and returned. Much galloping back and forth, squeaking loudly, recall, is undertaken by each and all.

Our particular hunt was for a Frenchman who had been a sailor on a privateer out of Saint Malo during the First Empire. It took most of the day but we found him on a crew pay list that not only survived the bombing but is a beautiful document.

Should any of you with Malouin ancestors be planning a trip to Paris, do remember that you can go to this archive and research your ancestors on a day trip. Very nice excursion. This is also the only Departmental Archies to give a little gift bag with a pencil, notebook and brochure.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Book Review: L'Emigration française

Emigration

This book is not new but we are newly discovering it, so it gets its review. We begin by not beating about the bush: it is brilliant. The contents are a collection of scholarly and very well researched and fully sourced essays on emigration from France to Algeria, Canada, and the United States. Each article covers a very specific group and era. We give here the Table of Contents, which are not easy to find on all the mentions of the book:

  • Le "voyage organisé" d'émigrants parisiens vers l'Algérie
  • L'Emigration française au Canada (1882-1929)
  • Les milieux d'origine de l'émigration aveyronnaise vers l'Amérique dans le dernier quart du XIXe siècle
  • Une émigration insolite au XIXe siècle, Les soldats des barricades en Californie (1848-1853)
  • Les passeports délivrés à Bordeaux pour les Etats-Unis (1816-1889)
  • Conscrits en Amérique. Le cas de l'arrondissement de Sarrebourg (Meurthe) 1829-1870
  • "Comme un oiseau sur la branche..." Emigration aux Etats-Unis et retour des Basques des Baïgori
  • Les voyageurs français et l'émigration française aux Etats-Unis (1870-1914)

Before jumping in with all the glee that this excites in us, we remind you that the French view history very much as a social science, science as in lots of statistics and social as in society, with never a thought of or interest in the story of history. Thus, these essays will give you a picture (with lots of charts and tables) of group behaviour but no gossipy revelation of someone's life, loves and losses that might have been discovered in the archives. Bearing that in mind, if your immigrant ancestor falls into one of the groups studied, you will receive two invaluable things: an understanding of the forces that may have influenced your ancestor to leave and, in the notes, a very good guide of where you could find the documentation about your ancestor's departure.

The two essays that we have put in blue text are concerned specifically with the poor workers of the Revolutions of 1848, discussed in the previous post. We have written about the workers' convoys to Algeria here. The essay about them in this book studies them in great detail. Pointing out that many of the workers in Paris had come from the countryside, hoping for work. The author, Yvette Katan, charts their origins. Most, it seems, came from the northern half of France. She quotes the reports of one of the doctors who accompanied the workers; he wrote that their poverty was extreme. Many had no shoes or coats. They had pawned everything they could, even their beds, in some cases. The government decree that authorized sending them had promised to each "7 to 10 hectares of land to farm, a house which the state would pay to build, free transport all the way to their new land, food for the entire family for the first three years." What starving worker would not accept such an offer?

The second essay we have marked in blue discusses those sent to California. Again, this was just after 1848. When the news of the discovery of gold in California was heard by the French authorities, they must have thought that the gods intended to smile their societal troubles away. Here was a way to get rid of even more of the Parisian malcontents and at less cost: hold lotteries, make certain that most of the winners Paris's poor, and ship them off to California. This, too, is incredibly thorough and gives a very deep understanding of these emigrants.

It does not, however, list the names of the emigrants to California, not even the lingotiers. To our knowledge, no published book gives their names. We are wondering if we should not write one ourselves. Dear Readers, do you think there could be an interest in such a list? Do let us know your thoughts.

 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

Fouché, Nicole, ed. L'Emigration française : Etude de cas, Algérie, Canada, Etats-Unis. Série Internationale no. 24. Paris : Publications de la Sorbonne, 1985.


The Revolutions of 1848 and Your Immigrant Ancestor

Pantheon

 

In February 1848, after the Industrial Revolution had increased the poverty of many people, especially in Paris, where thousands were starving, an uprising of the working and non-working poor overthrew the government that had been in place for eighteen years. It had been a repressive government, prohibiting political gatherings and allowing the vote to no women and to only about one percent of the men, landowners all. Crucially, most men in the military, in various guards and police forces did not have the vote. Modern history has shown that poverty and disenfranchisement can pretty much be counted on to bring about a revolution and so it was in Paris.

It was a time when the railways were being built to connect Paris with each of the Hexagon's frontiers and when the beautiful passages, or shopping arcades, were being built while, at the same time, the areas of the Marais, around the Louvre and in the Faubourg Saint Antoine were slums. Horne describes how Paris was a public health nightmare at the time: raw sewage poured into the Seine, which was the source of drinking water for the poor and where they tried to wash their clothes, there was no rubbish collection, the stench in the City of Light was vile.

On the 22nd of February, students and workers started barricading the streets with trees they cut down and paving stones they pulled up, and with carriages they turned over. They were dispersed, without fighting, by the army and Paris Municipal Guard, made up mostly of poor, disenfranchised men, just like many of them. The next day, the revolutionaries were back in larger numbers and in a more aggressive mood. After a tense day, during which the government began to crack, a group of soldiers finally opened fire on demonstrators, killing fifty, and the Revolution of 1848, the "February Revolution", began.

On the 24th, troops were ordered to fire on demonstrators, which they did. Then, losing heart and feeling more sympathy with them than with their officers, they stopped. It is said that some even gave their guns to the workers. A few days later, the king and his family ran off to England, the government fallen. The July Monarchy (1830-1848) was over and the Second Republic took its place. Many of the day wrote that the workers’ legitimate claims had been co-opted by louder and more radical people; they urged the mobs, when victorious, to ransack the palatial private apartments of the departed royals, to the shock of many (does this bit sound similar to recent news reports?).

In April, national elections in which most men (but still no women) could vote were held. As in the French Revolution (and as it is today, some might say), Paris found itself much farther to the left than the rest of the country. Parisian radicals were distressed to see that most of the newly elected from the rest of the country were conservatives. How could the workers of Angouleme or Nice or Colmar not have voted with them? So, again, Parisians demonstrated, some 100,000 taking to the streets and (again, reflecting Parisian bullying of the legislature during the French Revolution) dissolved the Assembly. In June, outraged at the continued inequality between the rich and the poor, Parisian workers began another uprising in the Faubourg Saint Antoine quarter in eastern Paris.

Those who held opposing views, (and the power) had had enough. On the 25th of June, the government began to respond. Over 120,000 armed men from the Army, the National Guard and the Mobile Guard, in the west of the city, began to move across Paris toward the Faubourg Saint Antoine in what was called, literally, a “cleansing”. The “June Days Uprising”, les journées de juin,  was a ferocious battle every inch of the way. Houses were raided, battles were fought at barricades in the streets. When it was over, some four thousand revolutionaries and sixteen hundred guards or soldiers had died, and bloodied Paris was not pretty. The workers, of course, lost.

Promptly, the surviving revolutionaries and their supporters were rounded up and imprisoned, eleven thousand of them. The worst offenders were transported to Guyana for fifteen years. More than four thousand were transported to Algeria. The complete files (this links to the finding aid) of their arrests and the decisions about them are held in the Service Historique de la Défense at Vincennes. Many of the soldiers, guards and others were wounded or for some other reason merited compensation, and the files (another finding aid) on their applications and awards are in the Archives nationales.

Over the next couple of years, French people were offered the opportunity to emigrate to Algeria (see our post on this revolution and the workers' convoys) or to try their chance in the California gold fields (see our post about French gold miners). Unsurprisingly, nearly all of those accepted by the various schemes were from the volatile poor of Paris.

If your ancestor left France in 1848 or quite soon thereafter, you may now have an inkling as to why, especially if he or she were from Paris. As a matter of fact, if your ancestor happened to have been a French worker or journalist who emigrated in 1848 or 1849, it is a good guess that he was from Paris.

You can do more than guess. You can look to see if your ancestor were among those prosecuted and/or deported. Two excellent websites have listed all of those arrested after the June Days Uprising, Inculpés de l’insurrection de Juin 1848 and those who were arrested for opposing the subsequent 1851 coup d'état, Poursuivis à la suite du coup d’État de décembre 1851. As with the database of French judiciary, these two were created under the auspices of Jean-Claude Farcy, and they have the same basic format. If you are seeking a particular name, the quickest way to find it is to click on "Recherches" in the menu, then on "Liste nominative" in the drop-down menu. That takes you to an alphabetical listing that is easy to navigate.

We remain in awe of Dr. Farcy's prodigious productivity, all of it most helpful to French genealogical researchers.

N.B. We are much indebted to Monsieur L.....D. for starting us on this sojourn and for introducing us to the Rohrbough book.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

Bibliography:

Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris : Portrait of a City. London : Pan Books, 1998.

Mansel, Philip. Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 : Monarchy and Revolution. London : Phoenix Press, 2005.

Rohrbough, Malcolm J.. Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848–1854. New Haven : Yale University Press, 2013.

Numerous Wikipedia articles.


Book Review : Archives diplomatiques : mode d'emploi

Archives diplomatiques

The Archives Diplomatiques in La Courneuve, in spite of the ghastly travel route necessary, is one of our favourite places in which to research. There is an order and cleanliness to the place that belies the chaotic world events, the wars and migrations and occupations that fill the papers it holds.

Not only does one learn of France’s policies toward aiding the few who escaped the Battle of Culloden, for example, or the government’s instructions to France’s diplomats around the world. One can discover a great deal about the citizens of France who left for climes new, in the civil registrations, the overseas census, the consular notarial records, and in the various consuls’ reports from all over the world. We find the discoveries to be numerous and thrilling.

As we wrote in our last post, the genealogy publisher Archives & Culture is rising in dominance and prominence. One of their newest publications is a guide to using these wonderful archives, entitled Archives diplomatiques : mode d’emploi (The Diplomatic Archives; How to Use Them). It seems to have been very much of a team effort by all of the archivists, for about twenty-five of them are named, with their full job titles given. (Laudable that they want to be sure that everyone receive the credit he or she deserves, but are they aware that this serves as a directory to the archives administration and that, now, the contributors may be inundated with letters demanding help with research?)

Filled with attractive photographs and with a coloured border on each page, as is the house style, the actual content of this guide is most informative and useful. It is divided into three main parts:

  1. The history, structure, and purpose of the institution, the laws and regulations that cover it, the services provided by the archives and library
  2. The contents of the archives, the funds and collections, with each major archives series described, as is the library collection
  3. A very clear guide, with examples, of how to research in the collections

Though we know many of the series fairly well, we learned of a couple of new possibilities for genealogical research. For all those of you thinking of making a visit to the Archives diplomatiques, we suggest that you, firstly, study this book and, secondly, study the PDF finding aids of the website, in order to be fully prepared when you arrive.

This is definitely one of the better among the productions of Archives & Culture. It is thorough in its coverage, simple and clear in its writing, and practical in its explanations.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Guest Post - a Grand Genealogy Fair in the South of France

Mauguio 1

We could not get to the south of France for this wonderful genealogy event, much as we longed to be there, so we are very pleased and grateful to be able to give you a full and complete report on it from Marie-Luce Lauer.

 

 

Mauguio - 23-24. March 2019

Spring seems to be a good season for genealogy events. This weekend the Journées Généalogiques et Historiques de Mauguio took place for the 18th time in the Espace Morastel : not an official building but something very typical of the southern wine-producing Languedoc, the old, converted winegrower’s cooperative. Initiated in 2002 by 2 members of the substantial Cercle Généalogique de Languedoc (CGL - created in 1978 and now with about 1000 members) and a passionate Cultural Attaché of the municipality, this fair cannot be missed by the genealogists and local historians.

 

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Friday is children's day: the local schools organize with the CGL a reflexion about family and roots and the results can be seen in the very creative family trees on display during the Salon.

 

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Saturday 9 AM, the exhibitors are almost ready: of course all the southern associations have answered the call, coffee and some cakes are kindly waiting for them at the refreshment bar and local radios or TV channels start interviewing the organizers.

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Outside, no sign of the crowd as you could see in Paris one week ago… OK, the weather was suddenly summery (20°C at 9 AM) and people hesitated between a day on the beach (6 kilometers from the exhibition) and a picnic in the fragrant pine forests. But on Sunday afternoon a lot of them realized that they no longer had time left and hurried to Mauguio,

Inside, the Cercle Généalogique de Languedoc occupy an important space, divided between their local sections of Montpellier, Haute Garonne, Gard and Paris, their databank, their thematic space and their local history research section.

More than 40 other exhibitors are present. Most of them stand for a well-defined region, and most of them are old acquaintances, sometimes also even old friends, meeting in all genealogical exhibitions and with friendly cooperation in their common passion, genealogy… Really? Yes, would you like an example? Last year, the Cercle Généalogique du Pays Cannois came to us Généalogie Algérie Maroc Tunisie, and explained that it would be possible to select in their data bank all people who were related to those in our data bank and asked if we would be interested; as we left, we had got three files kindly offered by them.

 

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It could be the touchstone for the difference between two Salons that are so close in the calendar and so dissimilar in their nature: the commercial aspect here is not so significant. As a proof, the great flagships of the French genealogy world are not to be found here. Of course Archives et Culture are present, with all their new publications: where else could you have the possibility to verify if a new book will help you in your research and to decide to buy it or not? But you can walk along all of the aisles, and you cannot find the commercial genealogy companies of FILAE, Geneanet or even Heredis, the “local hero”;  they are notable by their absence.

This familiar aspect can also be noticed in the apéritif dinatoire that takes place on Saturday evening: the exhibitors don’t escape; they all stay for this convivial moment (admittedly, it’s easier here than in the capital city). After the welcome speeches of the CGL, the Mayor and the cultural attaché reaffirmed their support of the Salon. In this nice atmosphere we all shared the specialities brought by all the members.

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Another important point to pick up. The Archives Départementales de l’Hérault take a very active part in this Salon. Some five people from the archives attended the Salon the whole weekend, including their Director. If you ask her about their motivation for coming to the Salon for what is now the eighth time, she says "There’s no better occasion for us to meet and know our “clients”". Of the four talks, two were given by the Archives Départementales. One related to their current work, their projects or improvements, and the other one to a specifically genealogical theme: this year “How to find the history of a house through time”.

It’s not impossible that the people at the Salon de la Généalogie Paris 15° who answered you “It’s Paris” would comment about Mauguio that “It’s the provinces” with a slightly disdainful tone, but do they forget that almost all the Parisians were, not so long ago, provincials themselves?

 

Photo credits : * Michel Manilève - Cercle Généalogique de Languedoc

Guest post author: ◊ Marie-Luce Lauer - Généalogie Algérie Maroc Tunisie

 


Guest Post - Preserving and Restoring Your Old Photographs

Photograph restoration

We were contacted by people from a company in Germany called InstaRestoration, asking if they might submit a guest post. Normally, we refuse all such promotional efforts, but this submission does give some useful advice, so we decided to accept it. Please be aware that we do not know any of the company's employees and have never used its services but that we do think that the advice given below might help you, Dear Readers, to preserve your photographs (by not, for example, spilling  pasta sauce all over such treasures, as we once did).

 

I am Peter Rosenkranz from InstaRestoration.com a professional online photo restoration service with instant quotes. We are able to repair all kinds of damages such as watermarks, scratches, cracks or even photos torn into pieces. The image above was sent to us by a French Lady. She found the photo in an old box after her mother had passed away. Although she is not certain who that man is, she strongly believes this could be her father, who she has never met or seen before. We digitally restored the only photograph of her parents to its original state.

About 80% of all our restoration works are old family photos. An estimate of 60% of these photographs have suffered severe damage because of improper storing or displaying. In this tutorial, I would like to explain to you how to properly archive your old photographs and thereby save your family history.

First of all, you have to understand that the process of deterioration is very very slow. Most things that harm your photograph won't become visible today or tomorrow but eventually, they will. Keep in mind that the way you store your prints affects them day by day, year by year.

Here are some simple guidelines you should apply to guarantee proper archiving of your family photos.

1. Use acid free and bleach free materials.
When buying boxes or archiving sleeves to store your prints make sure that they are approved for archiving. Although paper sounds pretty natural it's often produced by using acid and bleach.

2. Temperature and humidity
This one is the most important one. Make sure that your photographs are stored in a dry and cool place. Most people store them either on the attic, which is too hot, or in the basement, which is too humid. High humidity causes mold and fungus and high temperatures bleach your photographs.

3. Photos only!
We literally have seen it hundreds of times. People storing their photos in boxes full of stuff that doesn't belong there. Every time you move the box the objects inside scratch the sensitive surface of the photographs, slowly worsening the damages. Put photographs in a photograph only box. No necklaces, no rings or any keepsakes. If you want to make things as safe as possible put each photograph in a single archive sleeve.

4. Ultraviolet light
The number one reason for faded and bleached out photographs. As much as sunlight hurts our skin it hurts photographs. Always try to hide your family photos form direct sunlight. If you display them in your living room or office make sure to use frames with UV blocking glass. The safest way is to only display a copy of the photo and store the original.

5. Adhesives
Most of us are guilty of this one. They might come in handy and are easy to use but those sticky strips and other adhesives often include chemicals that will slowly deteriorate the quality of your prints. Never use those things on one of your original photos.

6. Air pollutants
This one might sound silly but don't store your photos next to paint thinners or aggressive cleaning agents. What makes you dizzy makes your photographs dizzy as well.

7. Framing
When framing your images make sure to buy good quality frames. Quite often humidity and temperature cause your photograph to stick to the frame's glass. This is pretty much the worst thing to happen. To prevent that from happening buy either frames with a distance between picture and glass or use a special transparent plastic sheet in between glass and print.

8. Create digital copies
Always create digital copies of your images.

Apply these simple steps and you're good to go.
If any of your images are already damaged and you'd love to get them repaired check out our website.

 

 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy