Genealogy Event at the National Archives - Géné@2010
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Electoral Lists - les listes électorales

Metro mural 18 small

We have been rereading Flaubert's Dictionnaire des idées reçus, which we prefer to anything else he wrote. It has all of his best traits: wit, impatience, mockery, general grouchiness, and a searing ridicule of the banal. A few of our favourites are:

  • WINDMILL - Looks well in a landscape.
  • SPLEEN - You can run faster if it has been removed. No need to know that this operation has never been practiced on man.
  • STEADY - Always followed by 'as a rock'.
  • MELODRAMAS - Less immoral than dramas.
  • LEGION OF HONOUR - Make fun of it , but covet it. When you obtain it, always say it was unsolicited.
  • DEICIDE - Wax indignant over it, even though the crime is somewhat infrequent.
  • DREAMS - Any lofty ideas one doesn't understand.

And, one that leads us to today's subject:

  • SUFFRAGE (UNIVERSAL) - The summit of political science.*

As everywhere, suffrage in France has had a chequered development, gradually going from only men of some substance having the vote to all of the adult population having it. Lists of voters were kept, and it is these that are of genealogical interest. Briefly, based upon who had the right to vote and what kind of list making was in fashion, here is what to look for during what time period:

  • From 1791 through 1847 - The electoral lists give no information other than the name, which will be only of adult men of some wealth, and not those who were  indigent, dependent upon others, insane, accused or convicted of a crime, servants or foreigners.
  • From the 5th of March, 1848 - The vote was given to all men from the age of twenty-one. The electoral lists were made annually and contain for each voter: his name, address, profession, date and place of birth and, if he moved, his new address. In Paris, the lists are alphabetical.
  • From 1946 - When women were finally allowed to vote (though the law giving them this right was passed the 21st of April, 1944), the lists will also contain their names and the same information as above. They will  ALWAYS be listed by their maiden names and, often, "wife of" will be added afterward, where relevant.
  • From 1960 -  the electoral lists are updated every three years, continuing with the same information as from 1848.

The lists are available to be seen at the Town Hall, or Mairie, by any French voter, on the presentation of his or her voter's registration card. Older lists -- which may be seen by anyone with permission to use the archives -- are held at the Departmental Archives (in series L for the Revolutionary period, and in series M afterward) or, in some cases, the Municipal or Communal Archives (in series K). To date, the only electoral lists available online that we know of are those of Nantes, and can be viewed on the website of the Archives municipales de Nantes. We expect, however, that many more will be online in the future and available on the websites of the Departmental Archives.

Their use for genealogy may seem supplementary as, to find a person in an electoral list, one must know all ready his or her name, where he or she lived and when. Yet, they can provide just what is needed to bring things together, such as a date or place of birth. We have seen some which also give parents' names, which can be hugely helpful. Thus, we recommend you keep your eyes open for newly digitised electoral lists to appear, and be ready to plunge into them.

©2010 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



*From the 1976 Penguin Classic Edition of Bouvard and Pécuchet with the Dictionary of Received Ideas, trans. by A. J. Krailsheimer.