Before the French Revolution, local government was in many cases a function of the parish assembly and its decisions were recorded in notebooks or sometimes in the parish registers by the curate. Just before the Revolution, in 1787, the election of officers for local government was permitted, and their decisions also were recorded in the délibérations municipales, the minute books of council meetings.
Many Departmental and Municipal Archives have digitized their délibérations municipales and put them on-line. Some that have done so are the departments of Loire-atlantique, la Vendée, Calvados and the cities of Grenoble, Lyon (from 1416!), Romans-sur-Isère.
They are quite the gold mine, particularly those of the past two hundred years. They have not only the decisions and laws announced by the central government, but plenty for the diligent genealogist, such as:
- Names of local officials
- Names of those applying for internal passports
- Names of the men enrolled in the military
- Names of criminals arrested
- Discussions of what to do with orphans
- Tax collections, giving names, addresses, and some descriptions of the property
- Deliberations over disputes between citizens
- Reports on suspect citizens
They are not always easy reading. The information is, obviously, entered chronologically. Some have a Table chronologique, or chronological index, written afterward.
If you know the town where your ancestor lived and when he or she lived there, reading the relevant délibérations municipales can provide a wonderful view on life at the time, and maybe more genealogical detail as well.
©2010 Anne Morddel