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.


A Few British Workers Discovered in the Police Archives of Paris

Mirror making 2

Image source:


Wouldn't you know it, Dear Readers, that the moment we finish our talk on finding British prisoners of war in France during the Napoleonic Wars in French archives, we stumble upon a few more. Truly, they pop up everywhere, (which was the point of our talk).

The tiny archives of the Paris police, les Archives de la Préfecture de Police, is amongst our favourites. The collection is small but always interesting and the staff are eagerly helpful. It is in such a remote place at the end of such an awkward journey, that the few researchers who succeed in completing the marathon to get there are all quite dedicated and keen, the frivolous and mildly curious having given up many Mètro stops earlier. It is also one of the few archives that has some series organized by the Sections of Paris, which is most useful when researching people of the Revolutionary and First Empire eras.

Buttes des Moulins

Here, we found police dossiers on some British people who had been living and working in Paris. Unlike so many, they were not all in the textile trades. Living in section Invalides, John Bond, aged thirty-five, and John Farrands, aged forty, both worked in a factory making mirrors on the Ile des Cygnes. [This was not the modern Ile aux Cygnes, but was a different island, where "insalubrious trades", such as malodorous tripe shops, were permitted, and that is now partially submerged in the Seine]. The twenty-six-year-old Thomas Quine was a carpenter at the mirror factory. At the other end of the economic spectrum, in the Hôtel de la Haie, on rue Saint Dominique, lived a young English gentleman named Trench, his wife and their servants.

The police took statements from them all but did not arrest them under the law of May 1803, that required the arrest of all British males in France. We wrote about these détenus here.

John Moore, however, who was living in rue de Charenton, in section Quinze-vingts with his wife, Eliza Jane Anderson, endured a different fate. He ran a factory for making tulle. A Monsieur Terlay claimed that the tools and machines within the factory actually belonged to him. In Brumaire an XIII (October 1804) the police entered and made a very complete inventory of said tools and machines, which was signed by Moore's wife.

Eliza Jane Anderson signature

Could this possibly be the same John Moore, escaped détenu, who was arrested by the French for bigamy in 1808? That would require quite a bit more research.

These little dossiers do not contain a great many such enemy aliens in France during the Napoleonic Wars but, should one be your ancestor, it could be a great find in a somewhat obscure archive.

We do like obscure archives.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



We Greatly Enjoyed the AGRA 2023 Conference

AGRA - Cambridge

We have returned from quite the junket, of which the highlight may well have been the AGRA Conference this month, at Downing College in Cambridge. It began with a gala dinner and cheery talk by Sam Willis; we had the pleasure of sitting next to the dauntingly erudite Monsieur F, who was most flattering about The FGB. The following day was one of talks, presentations and panel discussions, every one of which we found to be interesting and suggestive of applicabilities to French genealogy research.

This applicability was something rather unexpected, as AGRA's focus and membership are dedicated exclusively to archives in Britain. The first talk, by the esteemed Dr. Helen Doe, was on researching shipowners, explaining that many were local businessmen and that the records of ownership could be found in different types of archives from just those concerning vessel registration. Only recently, we have been working on French owners of privateers (more on that in a future post) and Dr. Doe's explanations gave us some new ideas of where, in French archives, to try to find similar documentation.

We followed with our own talk on how to research British prisoners of Napoleon in French archives. Perhaps it contained a bit much for the time allotted. Dr. Lesley Trotter then spoke on the migratory lives of Cornish miners. The research skills that she demonstrated for following the movements of these people were most impressive and could just as easily be applied to tracing the movements of migratory French workers:

  • Studying notices from and about those abroad in the local newspapers of their home towns, including obituaries, marriages abroad and births abroad
  • Looking at census returns for those whose children were born abroad can reveal families that have returned home and where they had lived.
  • Studying newspaper notices about women receiving aid for paupers, as these often explained that their husbands had gone abroad and stopped sending money home. We are unaware of such notices in French local papers but this tactic does inspire us to look at archival records on the subject of aid to paupers, which would give the same information.

Maggie Gaffney then spoke about a single voyage of a single vessel of immigrants to New Zealand. Many of the avenues she pursued could be mirrored in researching French vessels. Lastly, Richard Atkinson spoke with intensity about his research of his ancestors and their wickedness as slave owners in the Caribbean. This ancestry clearly was quite difficult for him to absorb but he ended on a note of quite touching reconciliation. There is much in his use of Jamaican archives that could be applied to similar research in the archives of Martinique and Guadeloupe. He implied that Britain has not yet truly accepted responsibility for the evils of slavery, for the country's vast profits from it, or for the devastating consequences of it that continue today. By way of comparison, many cities in France have begun this path of admission, notably Bordeaux and Nantes. He has written a book on the research and his discoveries, Mr. Atkinson's Rum Contract, which we immediately purchased and are reading avidly. 

We participated in the discussion on the British Merchant Navy and were a bit disheartened to discover that not a soul had ever hear of American seamen being impressed by the Royal Navy, or of the mad war fought to put an end to it. Conversely, we were heartened, indeed, by the warmth and enthusiasm of the attendees for their subject. They really were the most fun group of researchers we have encountered in a very long time.

For those of you who can manage it, we do encourage you to attend AGRA's next offering.


©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy




A Question About French Regions and Provinces, and How to Cite Them

We received the following from Monsieur G.

I have a few small questions...

1) Have you done any articles on the recording of French region names?  Are there any guides that discuss the recording of place names in French genealogy?

2) I notice that many genealogy programs include region names when mapping database entries. This can be confusing, since there have been massive changes to most across the years. Many of the actual historical records only give (at most) the commune, canton, arrondissement and department. Actually; with the exception of census records, they seem most often to give only the commune and department. Now; some departments have been re-defined and renamed, but those cases are far fewer and seem to cause fewer issues. I’m considering just recording the commune, department and country, since the region seems not to add much value.Does this make sense to you?

Monsieur G. has been grappling with this issue for a long time. Some months before the above, he wrote to us with the following:

I do have one thing that still bothers me a bit... the postal code [or] the INSEE code. They are so similar that I often get them confused. Since the INSEE code is unique to a particular city and the postal code isn’t, are some genealogists now starting to append the INSEE code instead? eg. The postal codes for Royan and for St-Suplice-de-Royan are both 17200, but the INSEE code for Royan is 17308 and for St-Suplice-de-Royan it is 17408. So what I’ve seen some do is: Royan (17308).

In one particular instance that I have, the original name in the document was simply, “commune de Baume”. Today, that location is called, "Baume-les-Messieurs”, which has two postal codes; 39210 and 39670. So; I was thinking that by using the INSEE code as in, “Baume [Baume-les-Messieurs (39041)], France”, one would remove all doubt. If the old and new names had been the same, one would use the name with the INSEE code in parentheses. Does this make sense?

Ah, Monsieur G., these are not small questions at all. Dear Readers, there are times in this genealogical life when to be "on the horns of a dilemma" does not begin to describe the citation struggle; we feel it is closer to being like a live worm impaled on a fish hook. Monsieur G. brings up more than a few issues:

  • The fact that nearly all place names in France, from the hamlets and parishes to the provinces and regions, went through not only the gradual changes of time, but an abrupt and radical change of names and boundaries during the Revolution, followed by a slight and selective return to old names. This has been followed by ever-more-often rationalizations and reorganizations that have seen many smaller towns being combined (giving them tediously long names) and larger cities being broken into more and more arrondissements, quarters or other such subdivisions, all of them producing official records that you may wish to cite. Most recently, in our last post, we explained the creation of the departments and the reorganized regions. How to correctly and clearly cite a place that changed its name from Saint-Port in the province of Ile-de-France before the Revolution to Seine-Port in the department of Seine-et-Marne in the region of Ile-de-France today? 
  • INSEE is France's National Institute of Statistic and Economic Studies. It was founded in 1946. Even before its founding, the first list of unique codes for towns, or communes, was published in 1943. There also are codes for all of the arrondissements, departments, regions, etc. The new list of codes, with all of the annual statistics for each commune, is published every year. To our knowledge, no retroactive list of codes (with or without statistics) for old town names or province names has been created. The code for the commune of Seine-Port is 77447. There was no code for the commune of Saint-Port, as that existed before 1943. So, much as we love the rationality and uniqueness of the code commune INSEE, it is not, on its own, adequate for the geographical part of a source citation for any source created before 1943.
  • The fact that most creaters of genealogy programmes should be taken out to the woodshed and appropriately chastised for their appalling laziness and their unforgivable cultural and linguistic prejudices. If they are clever enough to write software, they are clever enough to read Evidence Explained and to have the programme accommodate the geographies and record creation methods of other countries.

We have debated and discussed the citation issue numerous times on this blog and elsewhere. In essence Dear Readers, you must decide the purpose of your citation.

  • Will you publish your genealogical research? Will you be expecting other genealogical researchers to read it and to be able to trust your citations, to understand them, to know more about your sources because of them and be able to retrieve the same sources with confidence?
  • Alternatively, will you keep your research private to your family and want them to know that your research is based on sources that they can find again, if they wish?

Elizabeth Shown Mills explains very clearly the difference in goal and purpose between source analysis and source citation here. The simplest form of source citation of books, such as we all were taught in school, is simply not adequate for the many types of historical sources used by genealogists. More, those sources often provide conflicting evidence. So, Mills concludes, each source must be analyzed and that analysis must be presented in brief form in the citation. This is absolutely necessary if your genealogical research is to be published in a peer-reviewed genealogy journal. If that is not your goal but you still wish your research to be taken seriously and to stand the test of time (look at how much we sneer at much of the early and wholly unreliable DAR research), then perhaps you will write simpler source citations and include a detailed analysis only when they are in conflict.

The complexity or simplicity of source citation insofar as one wishes to apply the style of Evidence Explained to French sources and/or enter French sources into an American genealogy programme boils down to two issues:

  • Translation of the French source names in the citation, which makes it extraordinarily long
  • French geography changed radically and often and, in all its forms, it has never followed American geographical customs.

Each, if you are producing your work informally, for family and friends, requires a choice that you clearly state in your work. You can choose not to translate the French in the citation, especially if all of your readers can read French. You can choose in source citation, to follow the French standards as concerns their own geography, for documents such as census returns, parish and civil register entries, etc. , and give the town name and department name or number, with a link to the page of the soucrce online. Beware to give enough information for the source to be found should the link change.

We are not very familiar with all of the many American genealogy programmes but, considering the number of times people write to us about this problem, it would seem that they all, as concerns any French geographical location, ask for the wrong data and make it difficult to enter the correct data. To be sure, that is maddening. You have no choice, Dear Readers, but to create your own manual for how to enter the data, and then be sure to adhere to your rules forever, in the name of consistency. Here are a few possibilities:

  • For the regions, provinces and their many changes issue, Make a short list of those that you are citing, with dates and name changes (all of the information concerning regions and provinces can be found on the French Wikipedia page about each). It is unlikely that your ancestors lived in all of France's regions, so your list will not be that long.
  • Where town names changed, dates, not INSEE commune numbers,  are crucial to identifying the correct sources. You will either have to include the date, with the current name in parentheses, either in the entry. on in a compendium of some sort.

Finally, remember one important rule: never, ever change the name of a document or register or series and never, ever change the name of a place from what it was at the time the document was created. Do not "correct" or "improve" or "simplify" if it means altering the original name of the record, register or series. If you do, you are writing fiction that cannot be shown to anyone and inventing "sources" that can never be found.

Bonne chance, Monsieur G.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Departments

Departments of France

There are one hundred departments in France, grouped under eighteen (down from twenty-two) regions, and each has its own archives, where much genealogical research is done. Thus, knowing about the departments is a key first step for hunting ancestors in France.

The current departments are always listed alphabetically and always referred to with their number, e.g. Seine-Maritime (76) or Dordogne (24). When they were created, in 1790, the new system was supposed to be more rational and we are sure that, in terms of government, it was. This numbering is used in many aspects of administration. In post codes (the first two numbers are the department's number), in the old style car license plates (the last two numbers are the department's number), in each and every person's tax number (the third pair of numbers indicates the department). Children memorize the departments' names and numbers at school and use the list all of their lives. The numbering system, however, went the way of all simplistic systems meant to be the definitive, final, last, perfect, etc. version of something, and is getting messier and messier as time goes on. Even so, it is very convenient.

In the beginning, there were eighty-three departments, in an alphabetical list. Each was numbered, beginning with 1, and leaving no gaps. To look at a map, like the one above, is to see all of France with a disarray of numbers within it. Knowing the alphabet, one can sort of fumble around and guess at the name, but it is not easy. We have not studied it, but we suspect there was a political reason behind this and that the confusion was intentional. In the unstable years of the Revolution, there were many powerful families with a well-established network of government based in the old provinces. Such networks would have greatly helped any counter-revolutionary activities. The new system of departments effectively broke up those provinces and the power network of those families (of course, most of those people were guillotined as well and that really fixed them.)

Then, Napoleon conquered new territory and the number of departments went up to one hundred and thirty, but their names did not all begin with Z so, as they had to be given numbers, the alphabetic sequence was lost. Not to worry, as Napoleon was defeated and the number of departments went down to a more manageable eighty-six. A little more territory was acquired and the number went up to eighty-nine. There were reorganizations, some colonies became Overseas Departments, Paris kept growing. In an effort to keep a logical sequence, numbers were reassigned at times. Today's list of one hundred is still pretty much alphabetical until the last few. The departments, with links to the websites of the Departmental Archives, are listed in the left-hand column of this blog. The regions are as follows:

Thirteen in mainland France:

  • Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
  • Bretagne
  • Centre-Val de Loire
  • Corse
  • Grand Est
  • Hauts-de-France
  • Île-de-France
  • Normandie
  • Nouvelle-Aquitaine
  • Occitanie
  • Pays de la Loire
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Five in overseas France:

  • Guadeloupe
  • Martinique
  • Guyane
  • La Réunion
  • Mayotte

For the genealogist, especially the foreign one, this is torture. To finally find the correct department of an ancestor and then find that it has disappeared is maddening. However, not that many departments disappeared and, in most cases, the archives are still somewhere. (For example, the departmental archives of Yvelines contain those of the ex-department of Seine et Oise.) It will just require a little more effort to find them.

For an extremely thorough discussion of the administrative structure and history of France's departments, see the excellent Wikipedia article on the subject. 

N.B. This post is updated from the original that appeared in 2009.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Acte de Rectification - Changing a French Birth Register Entry

Ambiguous genitalia

We were contacted by a Loyal Reader and Supporter of this blog, Monsieur M., with the following about his ancestress: 

Have you ever heard of an "Acte de rectification"?

I have an 2x Great Aunt who's birth name was entered incorrectly in the village register. Salome Fix, born in Climbach, Bas-Rhin, in 1835. Her surname was entered incorrectly into the town register as Fuchs.

When she was 21, she sought to have a correction made, to her actual name. The actual name of FIX, and the error of FUCHS.

One would think this would be a simple matter, right? Correct a mistake? This happens all the time, no? But no.

My relative had to go to a tribunal in the nearby administrative town, and get a ruling from the tribunal, ordering that the register be altered to show her actual name. And she had to produce evidence to prove her own name, which included her father's marriage record, where the correct family name was used. So, the tribunal issued an "Acte de rectification," an Act of Rectification, and a note was duly added to her entry in the birth register.

Ever heard of this? Having never encountered it before (or the degree of legalese involved), it seems unusual to me. I googled it, and not much came up.

Thanks for your work and your blog,


He had also discussed this on Reddit, where the responses are, for the most part, quite well informed. One commenter explains the State's ownership of records of civil status; another gives this link to the Code de procedure civile, which explains how such a rectification must be made in France.

Having fought our own battle to change our name, we are most sympathetic with Salomé. It is difficult to do in any country, but the situation in France requires a bit more explanation for the genealogist than the fine folk of Reddit chose to give.

In 1804, the Code Civil was first published. It is a remarkable work. After the French Revolution, the laws and customs of King and Church, insofar as they governed civil society, were abolished. New civil laws, based upon reason, it was intended, were (and still are) the Code Civil, also known as the Napoleonic Code. Page twenty-eight clearly states that any alteration to a civil register entry must be authorized by a court.Rectification

It is preceded by the rules for birth, banns, marriage and death register entries. For the banns and marriage, each of the couple had to present a certified copy of their birth register entry. When a man reported for military service, he had to present such a copy. As did any child when registering for school. Thus, any mistake would be perpetuated; it could not, as in other countries, be altered by a customary use. Moreover, for a woman, as was Salomé, the name would not disappear when she married, as it does in other countries; as we explained here, a woman's birth surname is always her legal name in France. Thus, it is clear how important it is for a civil register entry to be correct.

Yet, while we have seen quite a few rectifications, we have seen only one case where a rectification was surely required but never made. In late December of 1877, Julien François Morin was born to an unmarried mother in Bourges. The midwife declared the birth and, the register states, presented the child, who was registered, (see image no. 421 here) as female, the word quite boldly written. A few months later, the child's parents married and recognized Julien as their son. (The marriage and recognition can be seen at image 145 here.) Was this a case of ambiguous genitalia? Of a midwife who mixed up some babies? Of a myopic or drunken civil registrar? Julien Mamet, as his name became after his parents' marriage, lived as a man, serving in the army, marrying and divorcing a woman, but his birth register entry was never corrected. The two marginal notes on it refer to his parents' marriage, which legitimated his birth, and to his own marriage. How did he manage the discrepancy each time he had to present the certified copy of his birth register entry? How was he entered in the Livret de famille? Should anyone of the mairie in Bourge read this, please let us know.

Many thanks to Monsieur M for inspiring this post.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Do You Need Help Reading Your Old French Documents?

Clerk practice


More than a decade ago we wrote here about paleography. The information in that post is still relevant, though we had to purge it of the vanished links. So, if you wish to tackle a murky old French document on your own, do read that post and also have a look at our glossary.

If, however, you find that your document was not written by someone made to practice (as above), that it is worse than murky and is utterly illegible to you, we would like to introduce the excellent transcriber, Madame Sandrine Anton-Fayard, the owner of Ancêtres et Familles. She has been of great help to us of late. By way of demonstration of her talents, she has sent two examples of monstrously difficult script which she deciphered in a trice.

Paleography 1 Extrait d’un testament de 10 pages de F.Bouhelier; Source : Archives du département du Doubs 


The following paragraph is her transcription of the above extract of the ten-page will of F. Bouhelier of Doubs:

[...]implorant sur ce la benignité du droit canon et rejectant la rigueur du droit civil et affin qu’il ayt force, vigeur et perpetuelle valeur, je l’ay faict a mectre et rediger par escriet en ceste forme par Claude Prestot et Pierre Faillard pbrestres vicaires à Damprichard, notaires publicques coadjuteures des tabellion[s] du bailly d’Amont du comté de Bourgoigne soubscriptz ès mains desquelles j’ay laché et passé cestes soubz les prévileges du seel de leurs Altesses Sérénissimes que fut faict et passé aud. Damprichard au poille de la maison presbiteralle regardant du costel de midy et soleil levant envyron les trois heures d’apprès midy du treiziesme jour du mois de febvrier l’an mil cinq cens nonante neufz (1589).[...]


Paleography 2Copie d’un acte de 1326, sur la constitution d’un muid de blé de rente foncière au profit de l’hôtel Dieu d’Amiens à prendre sur la terre de Croy.

Source : Archives familiales de la Famille de CROY, déposées aux Archives départementales de la Somme (France)

Copie des lettres des anciens seigneurs de Croÿ, datées de 1324 et postérieurement constitutive d’un muid de blé de rente foncière au profit de l’hôtel-Dieu d’Amiens à prendre sur la terre de Croÿ.


Her transcription of the above copy of a notarial act of 1326, found in the papers of the Croy family of Somme, reads:

[...]A tous ceulx qui ces presentes lettres verront ou orront Betramart, chevalier, sire de Croy, salut. Comme li maistres freres et sereurs de l’hostellerie Sainct-Jehan en Amyens [meusse] meussent poursuivy pardevant le prevost de Beauvaisis adfin que je fusse contrains deulx paier quattre muys de blé d’arrerages pour quattre années et disoient quilz estoient en saisine d’avoir chacun an ung muy de blé de rente annuelle des mes devanciers ; lequel muy de blé je avoie cessé de paier par l’espace de quattre ans et je, non bien advisés des fais de mes devanciers, niay les fais proposés contre my de par lesdis religieulx[...]

We are impressed. Madame Anton-Fayard goes quite a bit further than most in her work for clients, giving definitions of rare or archaic terms, and  providing links to further information, helping one not only to read the document but to understand it within its historical context.

Like many of us, Dear Readers, Madame Anton-Fayard became enamoured of family history in her youth. In time, she became the family historian amongst her relatives, who gave to her all of their family archives and photographs. After a career as a pharmacist, she returned to studies at the prestigious University of Nîmes, where she received the Diplôme Universitaire in Genealogy and Family History. You can read her full biography here.

She came to the rescue of one of our Dear Readers, Madame K, who could not make out this name from a 1583 baptismal record from Eure.

Nom 1

Nom 2

Madame Anton-Fayard identified it as Christofle. Remarkable!

Should you wish to know more about paleography, this page has more links than we ever have seen on the subject.

Happy reading or bonne lecture!

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Summer Reading - Researching a Breton Seaman Ancestor with "Guide des sources d'histoire maritime de Bretagne : Gens de Mer"

Gens de Mer

Warnings and caveats, Dear Readers, before we begin. This book is twenty years old. It is in French. Most of the resources it describes are not available online. It is very hard to find, having required a wait for us of two years on abebooks. In spite of all, it remains one of the very best guides on how to research a Breton seaman. Since most French seamen hailed from Brittany (closely followed by Normandy), you stand a good chance of your French seaman ancestor having been a Breton, which would make this book very useful to you, indeed.

Only one hundred and twelve pages long, no words are minced in the forty-two topics covered:

  • Introduction
  • Accident du travail à la mer  - Accidents at Sea
  • Alimentation en mer - Food at Sea
  • Armateurs et négociants - Owners, agents and merchants
  • Capitaines de la marine marchande - Merchant marine captains
  • Chirurgiens navigants - Surgeons
  • Corsaires  - Privateers
  • Décès et disparition en mer - Deaths and Losses at Sea
  • Décorations civiles et militaires - Civil and Military Decorations
  • Déserteurs - Deserters
  • Discipline des équipages - Discipline of Crews
  • Écoles de la Marine - Naval Schools
  • Enseignement maritime - Maritime Education
  • État civil en mer - Civl registration (births, marriages, deaths) at Sea
  • Femmes - Women
  • Garde-côtes - Coast Guard
  • Gardiens de phare - Lighthouse Keepers
  • Hôpitaux maritimes - Naval Hospitals
  • Hygiène et médecine navale - Naval Hygiene and Medicine
  • Invalides de la Marine - Naval Pensioners
  • Langage maritime - Maritime Vocabulary
  • Marins de la Marine militaire - Sailors in the Navy
  • Marins de la pêche et du commerce - Fishermen and Merchant Seamen
  • Migrations - Migrations
  • Mouvements sociaux - Strikes and Unionizing Activity
  • Mutineries - Mutinies
  • Officiers de la Marine militaire - Naval Officers
  • Passagers - Passengers
  • Personnel civil de la Marine militaire - Civil employees of the Navy, including Workers in Arsenals
  • Personnel de l’Inscription maritime - Employees of the Naval Draft
  • Personnel de la Compagnie des Indes - Employees of the Compagnie des Indes
  • Personnel de santé de la Marine - Health Workers
  • Personnel des ports civils - Employees at the Civil Ports
  • Pilotes - Pilots
  • Prison maritime - Naval Prisons
  • Prisonniers de guerre - Prisoners of War
  • Religion - Religion
  • Santé - Health
  • Secours et assistance - Aid and Rescue
  • Syndicalisme - Unionization
  • Troupes de la Marine - Marines
  • Uniforme - Uniforms
  • Vie à bord - Life on Board
  • Annexe : l’inscription maritime - The Naval Draft

Each section gives a brief introduction to the subject; these introductions are very clear and most informative. Then is given a list, by archive facility and written by archivists, of the series (with the code!) containing the relevant documents. Lastly, each section has a bibliography for that topic. This last may be the only part that is out of date.  The two annexes at the end explain the naval draft system and then give an incredibly helpful list of the bureaux to which the men had to report, with the names of the towns, communes, covered by that bureau.

Using this book along with the websites of the various archives, you may be able, in effect, to update it. So much is being digitized so quickly that you could look up a series mentioned in the book on the archive's website and possibly find the series is now online, or at least an index to it may be. This would allow you to search for your ancestor's name and to request the document from the archives.

A little boon to your research!

FGB posts on the subject include:

French Seamen's Records Digitizing Project - an Update

The Service Historique de la Défense at Lorient

Summer Reading - Books to Help You Find Your French Mariner Ancestor's Vessel

Summer Reading - Two Books for Those Researching a French Naval Ancestor

Your Breton Ancestors in Paris


©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Finding Irish Jacobites' Descendants in Eighteenth Century Paris

Irish in Paris

Some years ago, we explained here how thousands of Irish came to France with King James II. Though they did not plan to do so, most of them stayed. They were joined by the refugees of the failed 1715 Jacobite Rising and the failed 1745 Rebellion that ended in the disastrous Battle of Culloden (in which our own ancestors fought on the losing side). Their descendants became thoroughly integrated immigrants' children in France. Perhaps the best discussion of them is Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret"s article "Une élite insulaire au service de l'Europe : les jacobites au XVIIe siècle".

For the most part, they lived initially  in Saint Germain-en-Laye, Versailles and Paris. As you will recall, genealogical research in Parisian records is most difficult. The dogged and diligent work of the volunteers at the Projet Familles Parisiennes is beginning to yield wonderful documents, some of them full of genealogical detail about the children of the Jacobite immigrants who were in Paris. You also will find many Irish priests, monks and others who were residing in one of the religious houses or Irish colleges in Paris.

The documents  are those concerning heirs and inheritance that were filed with the court at Châtelet such as the closure of wills, or probate, and the decisions concerning guardianship, known as tutelles.  They can be found by the surnames of the people involved via the surname index of Familles Parisiennes.

Beware of creative spelling!  The name, O'Brien, for example, might be found in "OB" as OBRIEN, or under "O autre" as O'BRIEN. "Mac" may appear at the front of a name in all lower case, with a space, or in upper case without a space. It may be spelt as "Mack". So, when searching, one must be imaginative, to say the least. The reward is a link to a photographed document (hosted on the website of Geneanet but free to view) that may give the names of many relatives in both France and Ireland, places of birth, regiments in the French Army, and the names of trusted acquaintances. The Irish genealogist, John Grenham* writes that "The single most important item of information for Irish family history is a precise place of origin." Finding that place of origin, and much more, for Jacobite refugees can be greatly helped by the Projet Familles Parisiennes as its work progresses.

Bonne chance dans votre recherche!

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

*Grenham's website also has a superb bibliography on the Irish in France, though most of the books listed are almost impossible to find.

Was Your Ancestor an Internal Refugee in France?

Alsace girl

We recently attended a most interesting talk, hosted by one of those highly recommended local history associations. The presenters were François and Catherine Schunck, who spoke about the internal refugees who fled Alsace at the beginning of World War Two. 

There were two separate waves of Alsatian refugees, the Evacuees of 1939 and 1940 and the Expelled of 1940.

The Evacuation of 1939 - At least two years prior to the evacuation, a plan had been devised to evacuate people of the region in the event of an invasion by Germany. The plan concentrated on evacuating the people living in the narrow band between the Maginot Line and the border. When Germany invaded Poland, the plan was implemented and some 600,000 people were evacuated from Alsace and Moselle in September 1939. The evacuees were allowed thirty kilos of baggage and four days' worth of food. All else, including animals, had to be left behind. They were sent by train, in all types of cars, from passenger to cattle to freight, to the interior of France. Concurrent with the Battle of France in May and June of 1940 (which we touched on in this post), thousands more were evacuated.

Those Alsatians from the department of Bas-Rhin were sent southwest to the departments of:

  • Charente
  • Charente-Maritime
  • Dordogne
  • Vienne
  • Haute-Vienne
  • Landes

Those Alsatians from the department of Haut-Rhin were to the departments of:

  • Corrèze
  • Gers
  • Landes
  • Hautes-Pyrénées
  • Lot-et-Garonne

Those from Moselle were sent to the departments of:

  • Charente
  • Charente-Maritime
  • Dordogne
  • Vienne

The entire University of Strasbourg was evacuated and set up in Clermont-Ferrand.

The Expulsions of 1940 -After the Fall of France, in June of 1940, Germany annexed the Alsace region (yet again), and expelled some 87,000 people considered "undesirable". There was no plan for how to help them or where to send them.

In both waves of refugees, there was little order or plan for settling them when they arrived. There were a number of initial difficulties.

  • Language - Most of the Alsatians, especially the older generation, spoke German with little French. Not only did those in the departments where they arrived speak French, with  no German, but they viewed the refugees as highly suspect, speaking the language of the enemy.
  • Food - No one had prepared or gathered enough for the thousands arriving, tired and hungry, on the incessant trains. Later, on a more cultural level, the Alsatians did not like the local fare and missed their sausages. In time, some opened shops selling Alsatian foods that they made locally.
  • Housing - In the recipient cities, the refugees were placed in houses and apartments. In the countryside, however, they had to live in barns and farmhouses. At that time, the rural southwest could be quite primitive, without electricity or indoor plumbing. Many of the refugees were appalled.

And it was all for naught as, by 1942, all of France was occupied and there was nowhere else to go.

How would you research an ancestor who was such a refugee? Firstly, read through the superb finding aid produced by the Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin, which lists every record series concerning the topic in the department. Secondly, if you know the town to which your ancestor was sent, check the 1946 census. Even though the war was over by then, it took time for people to return to Alsace after the war (and a few chose not to do so), so there is a good chance of finding them in hat census. For those who appear in the 1946 census, the place of birth, in Alsace, will be given. This will allow you to research in the pre-war records for that town. This will also show those who married local people, which will allow you to request the marriage register entry from the mairie, or town hall.

Further reading:

Williams, Maude. To Protect, Defend and Inform: The evacuation of the German-French border region during the Second World War'


Catherine and François Schunck. D'Alsace en Périgord

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Help in Working With the Paris Census Returns

Paris census

The Paris census returns are online on the website of the Archives de Paris. They have there the census returns for the years 1926 (the earliest), 1931 and 1936. They are only partially indexed on Filae. Thus, you may have to do a long slog through many pages yourself. Since Paris has thousands of rues, boulevards, avenues, places, passages, etc., it could be a very long slog, indeed. As ever in online genealogy, you can save a lot of time if you look before you leap.

For a bit of background, we explain a fair amount about the history of Paris geography in this post. It will help you to understand some of the many changes over the years. We explain about the French census generally here. We recently looked at the 1946, post-war census here.

When you are ready to take the plunge, by all means, begin with Filae. Using the link above, narrow your search to just the censuses. Target your search by giving the spouse's first name.  Be sure to change the event being searched from Filae's default of just deaths to "All". Recall that the indexing is not complete so, if your search brings no results, that is not a definitive answer. You simply must work harder.

To search the census returns on the website of the Archives de Paris, you must know the address of the person you are seeking, for on this website the census is indexed by geography, not by names. How to find the address? Generally, people who are searching the census returns have already gathered some genealogical information, such as birth, marriage or death register entries, all of which, if French, give the addresses of the people who are the subjects of the events. If the person you are researching were a member of a professional association, its directory may be online and may have an address.

Armed with an address, go to the website of the Archives de Paris, click on "Sources généalogiques complémentaires", and then on Recensement de population. There, they explain that the 1946 census is not online yet, for reasons of privacy protection (which Europeans take much more seriously than Americans). They also explain that each of the three censuses that are online have three parts:

  1. Census of people according to their usual residence (the section most familiar to genealogists) This is Part A
  2. Census of people in group residences separate from normal homes, such as prisons, hospitals, monasteries, boarding schools, etc. This is Part B in 1926 and 1936, and Part C in 1931.
  3. Census of people in hotels, hostels, guest houses and other places of short term residency. This is Part C in 1926 and 1936 and Part B in 1931. (This is where you will find migrant workers, newly arrived immigrants, foreign students, visiting artists and such.)

The search selections are five, all with drop-down menus:

  1. Category of person, based on the three types in the Parts above
  2. Year of the census
  3. Arrondissement
  4. Quarter
  5. Whether or not you also wish the pages of statistics

Options three and four are geographical, and to make the correct selection, you need to know where your Parisian rue is. If you already have a birth, marriage or death register entry, the arrondissement will be indicated, as it will if you have the post code on a letter. The quarter, however, is not usually known. For anything about the location of the street, the Archives have a wonderful aid, the Official Nomenclature of the Streets of Paris

In the upper right hand search box, type in the name of a street. To the left, from the selection of centuries, in Roman numerals, select one. The search result will give all the information you need about the street, including the quarter, which will allow you to narrow your search of the Paris census returns to a manageable size. Wikipedia also has a nice list of the quarters of Paris, with maps; you also could look up the street on Wikipedia, to get the quarter and arrondissement, but the Official Nomenclature is altogether better.

We do hope this will help you to find your ancestor in Paris. If not, enjoy reading the hôtes de passage section of the Jazz Age 1926 Paris census. We found here, on page four, one Fernando "Sonny" Jones, a dancer from Chicago.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy