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September 2009

August 2009

Summer Radio - Le mode d'emploi d'un arbre généalogique

We are continuing our offering of  a series of pithy little genealogy comments, in French, for radio, entitled "Mon Histoire, ma famille, La Minute-Info de la généalogie", produced by SEPREM. 

Today's offering is "Le mode d'emploi d'un arbre généalogique" (How to use a family tree), a discussion with the historian and genealogist, Carène Rabilloud.

Download Arbre genealogique

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Technorati Profile

Summer Radio - Quelques conseils pour démarrer votre généalogie

We are continuing our offering of  a series of pithy little genealogy comments, in French, for radio, entitled "Mon Histoire, ma famille, La Minute-Info de la généalogie", produced by SEPREM. 

Today's offering is "Quelques conseils pour démarrer votre généalogie" (Some suggestions on how to start your genealogy), a discussion with the historian and genealogist, Carène Rabilloud.

Download Quelques conseils

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Technorati Profile

Summer Radio - Pourqoui démarrer votre généalogie?

We are continuing our offering of  a series of pithy little genealogy comments, in French, for radio, entitled "Mon Histoire, ma famille, La Minute-Info de la généalogie", produced by SEPREM. 

Today's offering is "Pourquoi démarrer votre généalogie?" (Why start your family genealogy?), a discussion with the historian and genealogist, Carène Rabilloud.

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Technorati Profile

Summer Radio - L'engoument pour la généalogie

High tension reduced

The production company, SEPREM, has produced a series of pithy little genealogy comments, in French, for radio, entitled "Mon Histoire, ma famille, La Minute-Info de la généalogie".  They contain a plug, but are still rather useful. We present them here over the next 15 days. 

Today's offering is "L'engoument pour la généalogie" (Passion for Genealogy), a discussion with the psychoanalyst, Serge Hefez, on our deep need to research our ancestry. The French still love psychoanalysis.

Relax from the high stress life and listen to the radio for these few days this summer. This is a great way to build your french genealogy vocabulary.

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Book Review - Combattre Pour la France en Amérique


Combattre cover


Friday, the 11th of September marks the launch of a phenomenal collaborative work : 
Combattre pour la France en Amérique : les soldats de la guerre de Sept Ans en Nouvelle-France 1755-1760

(Fighting for France in America : the soldiers of the Seven Years War in New France, 1755-1760)
Known as le Projet Montcalm for the three years of painstaking research on both sides of the Atlantic, this tome has 624 pages of the details of every French soldier who fought for France in North America during the Seven Years War. At that time, Nouvelle-France included not only eastern Canada but Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and much more.


Picture 2   
picture :
Research on the more than 15,600 men -- officers and soldiers, recruits and volunteers --  was conducted in the Chateau de Vincennes, the Overseas Archives at Aix, the archives of Brest, Rochefort and Québec, the National Archives in London (for soldiers taken prisoner or exchanged), and the Huntingdon Library in San Mateo (where pertinent collections of correspondence are held). Both French and Canadian genealogists were involved. The book includes:


  • a historical summary of the Seven Years War
  • pictures in both black and white and colour 
  • a summary of regiment movements from 1755 to 1761
  • statistical tables 
  • 7,300 biographical entries on soldiers and officers 
  • a chapter on the naval involvement in the war 
  Nationalities of the men are not only French but German, Swiss and Belgian. Cities of departure include: Bordeaux, Brest, Dunkerque, La Rochelle, Port-Louis, Rochefort, Saint-Martin. Regiments include: Artois, Béam, Berry, Bourgogne, Cambis, Guyenne, and many more.  Below is a sample entry.


Picture 6


It says about Jean-Baptiste Campenon: "Soldier in the regiment of Guyenne, unknown company, 1759. He was born the 11th of August, 1733, in St.-Bris-le-Vineux, Yonne, son of Edmé Campenon and Françoise-Thérèse Quatremère. He was hospitalized at the Hôtel-Dieu in Montréal the 25th of January, 1760. He was in the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris on the 2nd of April, 1761. He died in Paris (at Invalides) the 24th of March, 1788. Notes: He left from Bordeaux for Canada where he arrived in 1759 on the ship l'Aimable-Manon. He was crippled in the right knee when a bomb exploded near him during the seige of Québec in 1759. He returned to France in October, 1760."

That is a tidy sum of information, with which one could take the research in France back a generation or two. Without question, if you have reason to believe that one of your ancestors was among these soldiers, you want access to this book. It does not, however, come cheap, so you may want to press your library to buy it. 


To order in North America, contact:


La Société généalogique canadienne-française
3440 Davidson
Montréal H1W 2Z5


telephone: (514) 527 1010
fax: (514) 527 0265


price of the book, with postage: $78.50

To order in France and Europe:


Les Éditions Archives et Culture
26 bis, rue Paul-Barruel
75015 Paris


telephone: (33) 01 48 28 59 29 


price of the book, with postage : €58.00


Alternatively, you can download the order form below and send a cheque.


©2009 Anne Morddel
French Genealogy

Mort Pour La France


Those who died in battle or in any way fighting for France are grouped under the term "les morts pour la France". They are memorialized in many ways. Perhaps the most common and the saddest, is the monument in each and every village of the entire country showing the names of those who died in the First World War. The tiniest hamlet will have such a monument. It seems no village lost fewer than fifteen or twenty men. For those who died in the streets during the liberation, there are plaques memorializing them on the walls of buildings beside where they fell. In post offices, telegraph offices, libraries, anywhere where men worked, their names are listed. They are as powerful a memorial as the list of Civil War dead in the Memorial Hall at Harvard or the overwhelmingly sorrowful list of dead on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C., and every corner of the land has one.

The names of all those who died have been gathered and are now available online as a part of the same Ministère de la Défense umbrella site. This part is called Mémoire des Hommes . In the panel to the left of that screen, under Périodes et Conflits, it is possible to click on each of the First World War, the Second World War, the War in Indochina, and the Wars in North Africa.  

Picture 11

In the next screen, click Morts pour la France, and in the screen that comes up next, click formulaire de recherche. Type a name into the search box  -- we chose Tetrel -- and click Lancer la recherche. The results will resemble this:

Picture 12

On just the results list, you have the full name, date of birth, and department where born. Click on one of the names and the original form for transporting the body appears, giving more useful information:

Picture 14

Going back to the initial screen for the First World War, there is another, smaller, collection entitled Personnels de l'aeronautique militaire, those involved with the first bombers. The resultant document has quite a bit more information than the previous one, including next of kin and pre-war employment:

Picture 15

This is a growing resource, with the database for the Second World War only barely begun to be put online. Those for the Wars in North Africa and Indochina are complete. Do take time to explore this website. There are films, photos, television presentations etc. about France at War. 

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

The Military Archives at Chateau de Vincennes

Battle painting

The military archives at the wonderful old Château de Vincennes are, for the most part, the domain of military historians more than genealogists. The rule for genealogists researching an individual is: "prior to the Revolution, his file will be at the national Archives; after the Revolution, his file will be at Vincennes." However, it is not quite so simple.

A better rule might be: "For officers, search in Paris, for the rank and file, search in the département." Essentially, knowing  dates and rank are even more important. This is because files may or may not have been kept for officers or soldiers and may be in different locations. Thus, to find the military records of a person in France, we recommend the genealogist answer these questions before starting out:

  1. When did the person live?
  2. What was his name? Where was he born? Where did he live when he was aged 20? 
  3. Was he an officer? 
  4. In what branch of the military did he serve? 

The primary division in French military records, as with all French historical documentation, is before the Revolution (referred to as Ancien Régime) and after the Revolution (moderne). It is true that, generally speaking, most records of the Ancien Régime, including military records (but not records concerning the colonies) are housed at the Archives nationales and that military records from 1792 are housed at the Centre Historique des Archives à Vincennes. Yet, all is qualified by the questions above, and here is why:

  • Before 1716, except for nobility, there are no military records of individuals and it is impossible to put together a file of an individual's military career. So, if you know your ancestor was in the French military as an ordinary soldier before 1716, do not bother looking for any sort of military file.
  • From 1786, lists of soldiers began to be recorded. To find a person, you must know in advance the captain and the company name. These lists are at Vincennes and must be requested by company name and year.
  • From 1786 to 1875, alphabetical lists for each company began to be placed at the end of volumes of soldiers names, making it somewhat easier to find a name. Even when found, almost no information other than name and rank is given. These lists are at Vincennes and must be requested by company name and year.
  • From 1875, these lists are kept in the Archives départementales of the department where the company was formed.  This is why it is so important to know where your ancestor was living when aged 20, for that was the mandatory enlistment age during the nineteenth century. He would have gone to the local centre to report and his records will be in the archives of that department. Recruitment records are in Series R.
  • For all soldiers born between 1847 and 1913, the records will be at the Archives départementales
  • If the soldier were born between 1914 and 1954, the records will be in the south of France at the Bureau Central d'Archives administratives militaires  in Pau.
  • If the soldier  served in Algeria from 1858 to 1932, the records will be with the overseas archives at Aix-en-Provence. If in Algeria from 1933 to that country's independence, the records will be in Pau.
  • If the soldier died in battle during one of the two World Wars ("mort pour la France") he or she will be on a list at Vincennes. This is also online and will be described in the next post.
  • Before 1940, it was not required to keep personnel files on military personnel, so even using all of the above, unless you are seeking an officer or a noble, there will be very, very little.

If, having done all of your homework, you determine that what you seek will be at Vincennes, here is how to go about it. 

Still at home, you must reserve the files you wish, AT LEAST:
  • 72 hours in advance  for the army
  • 10 days for the gendarmerie 
  • same day for the air force and navy (but we most strongly recommend reserving at least a day in advance)
Reservations may be made by telephone, post, and e-mail. To reserve, one must have a reader's card number, or state that it will be the first visit. Reader's cards are issued, without charge, at the information office on presentation of a photo ID and the completion of a form.  At the same time, remember to reserve a place in the Reading Room, the Salle de Lecture, which is NOT air conditioned, but is, as you can see in the photo, rather charming. As at other archives, you must leave most of your things in a locker (which is free but requires a 1€ coin to be operated), putting your notebooks, pencil and camera in a plastic bag (which is provided) before entering the Reading Room.


The main website is the Service historique de la Défense. In the panel on the left of that screen, click on Archives individuelles - Guide du Chercheur to read the instructions. (Update March 2013 - the site was recently hacked and is not fully checked and back online. We have tried to update the links.)
Reading room

These are among the most complicated of archives that we know. Please do all of your preparation in advance to avoid disappointment and frustration.


Service historique de la Défense
Chateau de Vincennes
Avenue de Paris
94306 Vincennes Cedex


Métro line 1 - Chateau de Vincennes

tel: 01 41 93 20 95 or 01 41 93 20 85


©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Using the Legion of Honour for Genealogy


Napoleon created the Légion d'honneur in 1802 as one of the first post-Revolution awards for civil or military service to the Republic. It is extremely prestigious, even though it has been awarded to well over 100,000 people in its 200 years of existence. Soldiers, artists, authors and businessmen have received one of the three degrees of Chevalier, Officier or Commandant, and/or of the two dignities of Grand-officier or Grand-aigle.

The Fondation Napoléon gives a very good history of the Légion d'honneur in English.

The Grande Chancellerie de la Légion d'honneur is both the institute and museum, and the website has a virtual tour.

Our interest, however, is genealogical. Should you have any reason to suspect that one of your ancestors may have been a recipient of one of the medals, the list of recipients can be used to glean a bit of genealogical detail. The files on all recipients are held at the Archives nationales, and these are gradually being put on line. The index, with birth dates and birthplaces, is already up and can be searched. LEONORE is the name of the database of the Order of the Legion of Honour. It clearly states that not all files have been scanned yet, but do enter the site and type a surname into the box and see what comes up. The information on the index includes the full name, date of birth, place of birth, and the number of the dossier in the archives (should you be able to go there.) 

Picture 6

It is a small, supplementary resource, but can yet be of use.

To know more about the museum and medals generally, here is a link to a post and internet radio presentation (in French) about Le musée de la Légion d'honneur by its conservator.

©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy