Banns are not Marriages
Minute Books - Les Délibérations municipales

Hidden Marriages During the Revolution


During the years of the National Convention (1792-1795) and the Directory (1795-1799), the National Assembly's new laws were flying about like a swarm of gnats on a summer's eve. Many of them affected how people were permitted to enter into marriage. Some of them made it difficult for modern genealogists to find the record of a marriage. In brief, as we ever are:

  • The Loi du 20 septembre, 1792 - created the civil status. The authority for performing a marriage was taken from the church and assigned to local officials. This is also the law that created those wonderful annual and ten-yearly tables to the registrations, and set the marriageable ages at thirteen for girls and fifteen for boys (one can hardly write that they were women and men) and, thank heaven, the age until which parental consent was required as twenty-one.
  • The Loi du 4 frimaire, An II  (1793) - required that the Republican Calendar be used in all civil registrations.
  • The Loi du 13 fructidor An VI (1798) - bizarrely ordered that marriages could take place only on the day of the week called décadi AND only in the town hall of the canton (the electoral district), not in the local town or village mairie.
  • The Loi du 9 octobre, 1792 and the loi du 8 mai, 1816, established and abolished, respectively, divorce.
  • The Loi du 28 pluvoise An VIII (1801) - Revoked the loi du 13 fructidor AnVI and allowed marriages to be performed locally again.
  • The Loi du 1er germinal An XII (1803) - Raised the marriageable ages to fifteen for women and eighteen for men; the ages requiring parental consent remained at twenty-one for women and were raised to twenty-five for men.
  • The Loi du 22 fructidor An XIII (1805) - signed by Napoleon, ended the official use of the Republican Calendar, referred to by some as the son of Satan, at midnight on the last day of the Gregorian Calendar's year 1805.

Thus, when seeking the record of a marriage:

  • If it occurred after 1792, it will be a civil registration (though there may also have been a religious marriage).
  • If it occurred from 1793 through 1805, it will have been recorded according to the dates of the Republican Calendar.
  • If it occurred between An VI and An VIII (roughly 1798 to 1801) it would have occurred and been recorded in the canton to which the village or town belonged. Beware! The cantons of today are not always the same as those of the Revolutionary period. There are over fifty eliminated cantons.
  • If it occurred any time up to May, 1816, it may have ended in a divorce that would also have been recorded, usually at the end of the register of marriages.

Those must have been very confusing times during which to live.

©2010 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy