Wonders Never Cease Department
26 February 2010
Interesting developments indeed. The February-March issue of La revue française de Généalogie (no. 186) reports in an article entitled "Les mormons prêts à négocier" that discussions are under way to put all of the filmed French états civils on FamilySearch. The article is an interview with Dominique Calmels, president of the LDS in France, and Jean-Pierre Massela, director of FamilySearch France.
Up to now, the agreement between the French and the LDS has restricted use of the films (and over 80% of the country's états civils have been filmed by the church) to within the library in Salt Lake City. What is at issue here?
If one uses any of the websites of the Archives départementales that have their états civils online, one can see that every one of the films was made by the LDS. Most of those sites are free. It is law in France that access to the nation's history - governmental, cultural, administrative, etc. - be free to all citizens. Perhaps there was a concern in the past that there would be a fee charged by the LDS? Perhaps accusations could be made that France was selling her patrimoine? Perhaps it is more a question of timing, e.g. the états civils should not be made available via a foreign source until they are all available via French sources, until all departmental archives have a chance to put their états civils online?
Perhaps, of course, there is some pecuniary aspect. Or, perhaps the resistance has to do with language, an issue extremely close to the French heart. Currently, one can access FamilySearch.org from a French site, but very soon, the screens revert to English. If the only place some French citizens could search their country's parish and civil registrations were on an Anglophone website, this would cause not a little outrage. Yet that very point, access to the états civils via an Anglophone website, would help most of our readers immensely, and presumably most of the users of FamilySearch, like most of our readers, are English speakers.
From all of the suppositions above, it is clear that we are not privy to inside information; we can only say that something very interesting is afoot. The article contains a comment by one of the interviewees to the effect that their budget allocated for France is "under-utilized". We have a suggestion for where to spend a few hundred: how about sprucing up the Paris Family History Centre, perhaps buy a functioning microfilm reader, perhaps one with a printer?
©2010 Anne Morddel