The Census - Les Recensements

Using Local History for Genealogical Research

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We enjoy reading history. It is one of the most pleasurable aspects of genealogical research. We find that local history books are quite useful; they often are written by people from the region, they give a much more intimate understanding of a place, and they occasionally name many local people or give lists of names, making some of them genealogical resources as well.

Usually, these works are so small and specialized that they do not appear on the Internet. They are not found via Google and they are not on Amazon, but many of them are on the websites of the Departmental Archives. They are a bit hidden, being found under the headings boutique, service éducatif, service pédagogique, or publications. Those that are most useful may be published books (livres), or they may be PDF documents prepared by the archivists for visitors or school groups (dossiers éducatifs or dossiers pédagogiques). 

We have done a trawl of the Departmental Archives websites and give a list below of those that have such local history works available. Links to each of the sites are in the column to the left on this page, entitled "Websites of the Departmental Archives". 

  • Allier - has an online boutique with works by a local historian
  • Ardèche - has the papers of local historian Albin Mazon and have put online  - as the Encyclopédie d'Ardèche - with a search facility, all those relating to the department. Anyone with nineteenth century ancestors in Ardèche should search them in this collection.
  • Aube - has a pretty large boutique. Most of the work are fairly general, but a couple are about daily life or workers, and could name names.
  • Corrèze - has a boutique with a number of books by one local historian.
  • Hérault - has one local history publication available
  • Loire - has a small boutique selling indices to the holdings
  • Lot - has a catalogue and order form that can be downloaded. There are perhaps ten local history works, including a diary and a collection of letters.
  • Manche - has a number of excellent books for sale, including local biographical dictionaries. Click on Service éducatif to find them.
  • Haute-Marne - has a boutique of publications which includes a local historical and political atlas.
  • Mayenne - under the heading Dossiers d'histoire gives the details of a number of good local history publications.
  • Morbihan - has a boutique with eleven books of local history.
  • Moselle - has a few books of local history for sale, including one on local tanners and tanneries from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. Click on Service éducatif to find them. 
  • Nord - has a boutique, with about a dozen local history books.
  • Oise - has a few interesting works, including published war letters and memoires, often rich resources for the genealogist.
  • Pas-de-Calais - wins the prize for the most works. Click on Activités culturelles to find them.
  • Puy-de-Dôme - has works that are both online and for sale.
  • Hautes-Pyrénées - has a number of online dossiers of local history. One on migrations looks quite good.
  • Pyrénées-Orientales - has a PDF list of local history publications and prices.
  • Rhône - has a list of publications, mostly by J-F Martin.
  • Haute-Saône - has a publications list that includes local history and a biography of one of the leaders of the local watch-making industry.
  • Saône-et-Loire - has a list of local history publications and community histories.
  • Savoie - a place with a quite different history from the rest of France, has a very useful list of online dossiers du Service éducatif.
  • Haute-Savoie - has a small list of publications that can be bought via post that includes a work on Savoyards who migrated.
  • Paris - has a small list.
  • Seine-Maritime - has a few local history publications for sale.
  • Seine-et-Marne - has a boutique with mostly general works.
  • Yvelines - has a boutique with a history of the young ladies of Saint-Cyr from 1686 to 1793, among others.
  • Deux-Sèvres - has four dossiers pédagogiques for sale, one being on the schools of the department during the nineteenth century.
  • Tarn - has about twenty dossiers pédagogiques available, some online, some on paper only.
  • Var - has two local history works for sale in its publications category.
  • Vienne - has a few dossiers pédagogiques, repeated at different levels for students, that can be downloaded.
  • Haute-Vienne - also has a few dossiers pédagogiques, including one on the local porcelaine industry.
  • Yonne - has a few dossiers pédagogiques, repeated at different levels for students, that can be downloaded.
  • Essonne - has local history booklets for children for sale, as well as a number of dossiers pédagogiques about local history.
  • Val-de-Marne - has a significant list of books and dossiers pédagogiques, including the early twentieth century community histories, at just under €20 each.

 Perhaps your ancestor will be mentioned in one! 

©2011 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy