Colonial Penal Colonies - Les Bagnes Coloniaux
Departmental Archives Updates

Secrets of the Archives nationales d'outre-mer



Interesting things are being digitised and put online by ANOM, the Archives nationales d'outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence. These archives used to be in Paris and everyone moaned loudly when they were relocated to the south of France (except, perhaps, the sun-loving members of the staff), as we all moan now at the planned relocations of more archives to outside of central Paris. Generally, the response of the bureaucrats is something along the lines of "go to Hades, you annoying citizen," for the concept of service is not taught to public servants here (or to anyone else, for that matter). The folks at ANOM, however are a decidedly different kettle of fish.

They do not publicise all that they are doing, possibly to avoid the wrath of lazier colleagues, but they seem to be doing quite a lot that is of interest to genealogists. Just a few days ago, we reported here on the new database on the bagnards, those sent to penal colonies overseas. Their work of digitising the parish and civil registers of baptisms, births, marriages, deaths and burials of ex-colonies now includes those for:

  • Algeria
  • French Guiana
  • Ile Royale in Canada
  • Martinique
  • Saint Domingue (now Haiti)
  • Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon in Canada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Saint-Lucie in the Antilles

It seems that it will be a long wait until they get around to putting up those for Biloxi, Kaskaskia, Fort de Chartres and New Orleans, let alone the dozens of locales in Indochina. (Their map allows one to keep up with their work  on the registrations.)

Yet, they are not limiting their digitising to just parish and civil registrations and prisoners. A look at the detailed lists, the inventaires détaillés, shows that they are also putting up an enormous amount of correspondence and personnel files from the consulates, local prefectures of colonies, and the Ministries of Marine, Interior, War, State and Colonies.  Click on any of the lists, and the next page is a description of the collection, with links at the bottom to the sub-categories. Even better, it is possible to search this list in other ways: chronologically, by location, or by the ministry or other organisation of authorship.

Search possibilities

Best of all, it is possible to search all of this additional material that is online, (thus, excluding the parish and civil registers, but including the bagnards) with a simple search screen that allows one to search by name or content. There are even prompts for all of the names. We typed in Nouvelle Orléans and got a list of ninety-three files on individuals who had been in New Orleans in the 1700s. They included soldiers, doctors, civil servants, and ordinary citizens. Their entire files are online. 

A search on the word Cambodge brings up the names of twenty notaires in Cambodia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the minutes have not yet been put online. A search on the word Inde, brings up 361 files on those who were in French India from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Again, the personnel files have been digitised, but not yet the notarial files. 

We find this an increasingly exciting resource. Every month, the archivists at ANOM seem, ever so quietly, to upload another bit of their wonderful collection. Keep checking it.


©2011 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy