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October 2009

The Law on Archives and Genealogists



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.

Download Archives law letter



Bonne chance!


©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


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.

Paris Hospital Archives

After a long and frustrating day at CARAN, when the normally very efficient microfilm room seemed to fall to pieces, we wandered a few streets to the east to investigate the

Archives de l'Assistance publique - Hôpitaux de Paris,    

(the archives of the public hospitals of Paris.)  Our arthritic pins were weary and we were daunted by the entry:


Entry to Archives de AP Hopitaux de Paris

Still, we made the climb for we have been researching a family some of whose members died during an epidemic of influenza (la grippe) that swept Paris in 1889, and we hoped to be able to find out more, possibly even some patient records. The reading room was tiny:

Reading room in Archives des Hopitaux

but what a  treasure this place is! The collection began in the 17th century as the archives of the Hôtel-Dieu, a most ancient charitable hospital in front of Notre Dame, was then burned with the Hôtel de Ville in 1871, and was begun again with a massive hauling off of all archives from all public hospital administration offices in 1905. It has been in its current location since 1941, as the stairwell above surely proves.

The collection contains:

  • what could be reconstructed from the burned archives, which went back to the 13th century;
  • hospital administration records from the 19th century onwards;
  • a collection of photos of hospitals, doctors and patients beginning in the 19th century;
  • a library, of which more below;
  • and, what is of most interest to genealogists, medical archives, including patients' files, from the 18th century (unfortunately, not for the hospital we were seeking).

Small and simple, it is nevertheless a facility both easy to understand and to use. Binders contain lists of what is available from each hospital, whether as paper or microfilm. Comfortable chairs and tables with good lighting are provided for the researcher (see above).

Best of all, we thought, was the little library, especially its unique and excellent collection of 18th and 19th century books on the disturbing problem of enfants abandonnés (abandoned children). Information and statistics about such children is now scattered across all twenty arrondissements and various government offices. This little collection of books surely has to be one of the best resources for statistics and cases on a national level. For anyone researching the subject, please note.

Books on children

Access to the library is free. As always, one completes a form, shows identification, must lock all belongings in the locker provided, and use only pencil to take notes. A library card is issued and the wonderfully knowledgeable and competent librarian is ready to assist.


Archives de l'Assistance publique - Hôpitaux de Paris

7 rue des Minimes

75003 Paris

telephone: (+ 33) 1 40 27 50 77

fax: (+33) 1 40 27 50 74

hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 to 17.30

e-mail:  [email protected]


métro: Chemin-Vert or Bastille




©2009 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy