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Notarial Records - An Inventory Examined

Small lives

Inventories after death are a complete listing, in the presence of all heirs, of the belongings of the deceased. An inventory will include every item in the home and any other property, room by room, and its value. It will also include bonds, share certificates, letters of debt or credit, and deeds, with their values. The heirs are required to state at the end that, to the best of their knowledge, everything the deceased possessed has been included. The inventory can take days and the first page for each day must have recorded on it the names of those present. When the inventory is completed and the value of the estate determined, all must sign it.

An inventory after death can give an astonishingly detailed view on the life of an individual and his or her family -- a peek behind the net curtains, so to speak. While at times the listing of smalls can make The French Genealogy Blogger blush, the listings of the titles of the books in a library or the sheet music on the piano, of the furniture, kitchenware and jewellery give a historical image of great depth of the life lived. Our belongings tell much about us.

We have selected a small inventory to examine, only seven pages long. Some go on for forty pages or more, but we fear to faint dead away at attempting such a transcription and so here present the inventory made after the death of Marie Françoise Vasseur, wife of Nicolas.

The year ten of the French Republic, the fifteenth of prairial at three o'clock in the afternoon, at the request of Nicolas Tinancourt, professor of dance, living in Paris at no. 1284 rue du Vieux Marché.

Acting firstly in his being the spouse of Dame Marie Françoise Vasseur, deceased, his wife, whom he married without having made a marriage contract, in Bresle in the department of Somme, on the twentieth of January, one thousand seven hundred ninety-eight and, secondly, in the names of and as guardian of Geneviève Françoise Egalité Tinancourt, Victoire Elisabeth Tinancourt, and Jean Baptiste Tinancourt, his three minor children with the said Dame Marie Françoise Vassuer.

In the presence of Jean Baptiste Leclerc, saddler, living in Paris at number 1223 rue de la Ville l'Evesque, secondary guardian of the said minor Tinancourt children. 

The said Nicolas Tinancourt and Jean Baptiste Leclerc, named in their said qualities as guardian and secondary guardian, which they have accepted, by deliberation with the relatives and friends of the said minors, and as approved by the justice of the peace of the first arrondissement of Paris on the twenty-fifth of germinal, year ten, and as recorded on the first of floréal following, a certified copy of which the said Tinancourt has submitted.

The said Geneviève Françoise Egalité Tinancourt, Victoire Elisabeth Tinancourt, and Jean Baptiste Tinancourt, are the sole heirs, each to receive a third of the estate of Dame Marie Françoise Vasseur, their mother, deceased wife of Nicolas Tinancourt.

In their interest, Marc Thomas Colin, member of the College of Notaires in the department of the Seine, and now at the above given address wishes to proceed with a faithful and descriptive inventory of all of the furniture and effects, silver, jewellery, and papers that formed the community property that existed between the said Nicolas Tinancourt and the said Marie Françoise Vasseur at their home in Paris at no. 1284 rue du Vieux Marché, where the said Dame died on the thirteenth of brumaire, year ten.

The objects will be explained by the said Citizen Tinancourt, who swears that nothing has been taken from the home nor has anything been hidden, in any way by anyone. 

In a room on the 2nd floor:

Two candle holders of yellow copper, a frying pan, two bars for hanging laundry, one lock, thirty pieces of pottery and glassware, the total value being 12 francs

A wardrobe of oak, a buffet of oak with 14 drawers, a commode of walnut, a small, round dining table of wood, a small writing table, six chairs with woven seats, a night stand of walnut - all valued at 75 francs.

A bed with short legs, a cover in wool, a pillow of eiderdown, a mirror, a painting, a baby's bed with two mattresses, all valued at 140 francs

In the wardrobe of Monsieur Tinancourt:

One suit, three waistcoats, two pairs of trousers, all in different fabrics and colours; one tie in mousseline, two caps in cotton, ten shirts of different fabrics, three pairs of cotton stockings in different colours, six pocket handkerchiefs of different colours, two pairs of shoes, one hat, all valued at 110 francs.

In the wardrobe of the deceased:

Two dresses of mousseline and of different colours, one camisole of cotton, one apron of cotton, three corsets, two round bonnets with lace, two pairs of shoes, eight shirts of different fabrics and colours, small clothes of a value of no more than thirty francs, all valued at 130 francs.

Household linen:

Eight pairs of curtains of different fabrics, sizes, and colours; six pillow covers; six table cloths; four napkins of linen, four kitchen towels, all valued at 110 francs.

A watch in a box with a chain of steel and a key of copper valued at 102 francs. Monsieur Tinancourt declared that, while his wife was sick, he had to sell some jewllery, another watch and a ring to pay for her doctor.

He also declared that at the time of his wife's death he had been renting the apartment where they lived for 150 francs per year and that they had been there for fifteen months. He also had the following expenses:

1) to Monsieur Candat, wine merchant - 60 francs

2) to Madame Nautai, for looking after the children, 36 francs

3) to Madame Laurent, the nurse who took care of the deceased, 33 francs

4) to Citizen Vesque, butcher, for meat, 22 francs

5) to Citizen Berger, for milk for the deceased, 50 francs

6) to Citizen Terrie, fruitseller, 8 francs 50 centimes

7) to Citizen Dida, cobbler, 12 francs 50 centimes

8) to Citizen Regny, baker, 19 francs 20 centimes

9) to Dame Marvi, interest on borrowed money, 27 francs

Citizen Tinancourt declared that he took nothing else from the community property. Citizen Tinancourt declared that he owned a small house in Bresle that he had recently sold for 250 francs and that he had used the money to pay the debts from his wife's illness.

[Nicolas Tinancourt signed at this point]

There being nothing else found to include or declare in this present inventory, which has been conducted without interruption and in the presence of the said Leclerc, whom Monsieur Tinancourt confirms as the secondary guardian, the inventory has been concluded.

And all the parties have signed. [signatures]

Recorded in Paris the twenty-second of prairial year ten. Two francs twenty centimes


Shades of Jean Valjean! Yet, as a picture of a life, the inventory is very, very clear and tells the tale of the Tinancourt family and its woes in excruciating detail.

©2011 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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