The Law on Archives and Genealogists
25 October 2009
A reader has written and asked us to comment on last year's change in the law on archives. The law is number 2008-696 of the 15th of July 2008. What interests genealogists most is that it reduces the length of time that actes -- civil registrations -- are closed to researchers. In the past, no civil registration could be viewed by any but the person named or government officials until it was more than 100 years old. This included all birth, marriage and death registrations. (Actes de naissances, de mariages, et de décès)
According to a July, 2009 letter of clarification written by M. Daniel Barnier of the Ministère de l'Intérieur, de l'Outre-Mer et des Collectives Territoriales to M. Michel Sementery, the President of the French Federation of Genealogy, the law now states that death registrations may be seen 25 years after the date of death. For birth and marriage registrations, access is to be permitted when the acte or the most recent document in the dossier has reached 75 years, or if the 25 year limit on death registrations for the subject of the actes has all ready been reached, whichever is shorter.
The problem has been that many town halls, or Mairies, are refusing to follow the new law. We have not heard if there is any movement behind this, or any rationale other than small town stick-in-the-mudism, but there may be some sort of bureaucrats' conspiracy. Only last week, we received a letter from a village Mairie in the département of Nord saying in bold that all registrations had to be more than 100 years old before researchers could see them.
The Ministry writes in its letter that a circular to be sent to all Mairies is being prepared by the Director of French Archives. Heaven knows when that circular will go out, and when every Mairie will decide to follow it. In the mean time, the letter has been copied to every genealogical society in France with the recommendation that, if there is a problem, it be shown to the difficult bureaucrat. We attach it below for all of our readers to be able to do the same.
©2009 Anne Morddel
N.B. Our dear friend, who lived in Italy for many years, tells us that the image above is disturbing and is very reminiscent of the art appreciated by the fascists. It comes from the murals of the Ancien musée des colonies. We find the outlandish musculature to be hilarious and humour is our only reason for using the image. Please note that we are not a fascist and have no fascist leanings.