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March 2012

Attic Treasures in Cantal

Newspaper door 1 small

We found the door shown above in an attic, where it had opened to a servant's miserable little room. It is encrusted with newspapers from 1869, presumably for the combined purposes of insulation and edification. To the owner, it was rubbish; to us it is a minor treasure. Attics are still releasing treasure, even in this day of cameras and snoops and treasure hunters everywhere, and recently a joy for genealogists has come out of the cobwebs in Cantal.

On the 21st of January, the archives of the diocese of Saint Flour, in the department of Cantal, turned over to the Departmental Archives of Cantal a set of parish registers for a few towns, ranging in dates from the early 1600s to 1803. They had sat in an attic for more than two hundred years. No one knows why. Somehow, when the government after the Revolution gave the order to all dioceses to give all parish registers to the newly created Departmental Archives, these were not handed over but were placed (hidden? dumped?) in an attic. The imagination soars: a priest wanted to defy the sacreligious government, a drunken caretaker left them there and forgot them, a family with a lot to hide hid them,  someone was hoping to sell them, they were bundled and ready to be sent but the cart had all ready left. Oh, the story possibilities are endless, but the truth remains unknown.

Cantal surely merits another prize for, in less than two months, they have filmed all of the registers and have placed them online. Here is the list of communes and the years of the registers:

  • Apchon - baptisms and burials from 1632 to 1633 and baptisms, marriages and burials from 1667 to 1669
  • Boisset - baptisms, marriages and burials from 1663 to 1705
  • Condat - baptisms from 1613 to 1624, from 1655 to 1661 and for 1707; burials from 1613 to 1629
  • Girgols - baptisms, marriages and burials from 1664 to 1695
  • Ladinhac - baptisms, marriages and burials from 1790 to 1800 (including the secret baptisms performed by Abbot Delport)
  • Leucamp - baptisms for 1653 to 1668 and baptisms, marriages and burials for 1674 to 1693, 1790 to 1792 and for 1799 to 1800
  • Madic - baptisms, marriages and burials for 1687 to 1792
  • Mentières - an index for baptisms, marriages and burials from 1780 to 1800, baptisms and marriages from 1794 to 1800
  • Montmurat - baptisms, marriages and burials from 1639 to 1778
  • Saint-Saury - an index of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1770 to 1792
  • Sauvat - a copy of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1716 to 1717, an index of baptisms, then of births, for 1716 to 1717, and indices of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1741 to 1803
  • Le Vigean - a copy of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1632 to 1700, indices for the same from 1700 to 1792
  • Secret baptisms, marriages and burials performed by the priest of the parish of Moussages from 1795 to 1799 and including the parishes of:
    • Jaleyrac
    • Mauriac
    • Méallet
    • Chastel-Marlhac/Le Monteil
    • Moussages
    • Sourniac
    • Le Vigean

From the number of registers of secretly performed rituals, we can make a more likely guess as to the reason the registers stayed in the attic for a bit.

If your ancestors came from any of these towns, this could be your lucky day. We do hope so.

©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

The Glorious Eleventh Will Never Rise Again


We have a deep love and respect for encyclopaedias. Indeed, we collect them, where finances allow. One of our small pleasures in life is to examine the articles from each in our collection on a subject and discover how views differ from one decade to another or from one country to another -- and each so confidently authoritative. We now learn that one of the greats, which we had hoped would return one day, will never do so.

We have mentioned here before the Glorious Eleventh, the eleventh and most perfect edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1910 and supplemented in 1922. It was the last edition to be published with that belief that now seems whimsical -- that it could "treat of everything that can be learned by man in this life."

We are fond of the three supplementary volumes, which are mostly fascinating, often bitter, first-hand accounts of the First World War, by people still shell-shocked and not fully able to understand the cataclysmic changes that war wrought. The era of pure scholarship being any sort of a social force died then, though that was not understood for a while. The time when one could believe that all knowledge, assiduously gathered from experts across the globe (including many from France), could be assembled in one work, an encyclopaedia, was gone. The company was sold to Americans. It continued publishing, trying to keep up by inventing a "Macropedia" and then by going online, but now, after two hundred and forty-four years, it has given up the ghost. As reported on the website of the New York Times, the Encyclopaedia Britannica has ceased publication.

There are some French who will claim that they invented the encyclopaedia, citing the Lebreton work to which Diderot contributed. That work was the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, and began, as the Glorious Eleventh tells, as a translation from English into French by John Mills and Gottfried Sellius of the Cyclopaedia of Ephraim Chambers which was published in London in 1728. (How we wish our collecting funds would run to a set of either of those!) But the effort to assemble all knowledge in one place was not originated by anyone. There were dozens of encyclopaediae in one form or another, from Pliny to the Chinese encyclopaedia of 5020 volumes that took two centuries to create, to all the piddling little encyclopaedias of this and that published today.

The encyclopaedic mission  -- to embody all knowledge, presented by those who understood it best for the benefit of all -- was a beautiful dream that lives on, in a bastardized and chaotic form, in the very World Wide Web that killed this and so many other publications. Yet, now, the striving for the definitive has given way to the acceptance of the amorphous. Wikipedia? Look carefully and you will see that it contains, faithfully transcribed, many large passages from the Glorious Eleventh.

©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

Affiches, Annonces et Avis Divers

Affiches, annonces

Affiches, Annonces et Avis Divers was the name used by a number of publications throughout France during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Generally, they were published weekly, were approximately A5 size and only eight or ten pages. They were a summary of public notices of such events and items as:

  • Estate sales
  • Burials
  • Theatrical performances
  • Houses for sale or rent
  • Courses offered on a variety of subjects
  • Objects lost, sometimes with a reward offered
  • Currency exchange rates
  • Housing or items wanted
  • News
  • Book reviews

Should one be able to find them and willing to slog through them, they can yield a sumptuous harvest indeed, as in the announcement pictured below of an estate sale in Le Mans that names not only the deceased but the heirs in the paternal and maternal lines. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)

Vente de biens

Only a few of these seem to be online. Some are on Gallica. Some are on Google Books. Some are on the Internet Archive. The physical objects are found in libraries and Departmental Archives. The Bibliothèque nationale at the Tolbiac branch has a near complete set of those for Paris (in which , by the way, the burials are given in supplements, not in the main publication.)

An ongoing project of Fred and Alain Raisonnier with FranceGenWeb is to index all of the burials listed in the Affiches, Annonces, et Avis Divers for Paris.  As so many Paris records were burned during the Commune, this is a great help for those tracing Parisians. To date, the Raisonniers have indexed issues from 1751 through 1779, some 24, 573 burials, and the information is on a database entitled Enterremens, which can be searched by surname. The results are in a chart with the column headings:

  • Surname
  • First names
  • Date of burial
  • Parish of burial
  • Age
  • Marital Status
  • Spouse's first name
  • Spouse's surname

The one bit of information not included in the index and almost always included in the announcement is the name of the street where the person died. We do not know why this was omitted, as it could be helpful in identifying a person.

We did a sample search on Marie Anne Gaubert and got the following results (again, click on the image to see a larger version):

Screen shot 2012-03-15 at 21.02.59

Note that it gives not only people named Gaubert, but variations of the name and those whose spouses had the name. Our Marie Anne died in 1761, aged one hundred. She was buried in the parish of Saint Eustache. Her husband was Jean Baptiste Ferillion. 

At the top of the page of results, one can click on a tiny line: Les dates de parution des fascicules et références. This arrives at a page with the years. Click on a year to get the publication date, usually a week or two after the burial. Then click on voir les cotes des affiches, to go to a page with the call letters for the physical volume in the Bibliothèque nationale. Then, trundle over to Tolbiac to see the actual page and burial notice. Below is that for Marie Anne Gaubert.

Gaubert enterrement

 That is quite a lot of extra work to do to discover that she died in rue de la Cossonnerie, but it could be the magical tidbit needed in your research.

The estate sales, to our knowledge, are not indexed, and this is where the slogging begins. Just read on through the next year or so of issues to see if there may not have been one. Even if not, the details are quite amazing, so much so that the Affiches, Annonces et Avis Divers have been used by art historians at auction houses and museums to prove the provenance of works.

©2012  Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


When Savoie Joined France

At times, a bit of nicely potted history can be quite useful. The Archives nationales in Paris is a drab place on the whole, with a grim, grey, hard-edged entry that seems intended to drive away researchers. It reminds us of Sixties architecture in Africa. Periodically, the folorn soul given the job of producing enlightening displays for the entry creates a series of posters to slap up next to the vending machines. They always contain mistakes which the visitors mockingly correct, making an already shabby display look even worse.

Yet, sometimes, a display is actually rather interesting, as is the case with the current one, which gives the history of the annexation of Savoie by France. In previous posts, we have discussed Savoyard genealogy and Savoyards in Paris. The response from you, Dear Readers, would indicate that many of you have roots in La Savoie and would appreciate more on the subject. Thus, we take the risk of presenting here photographs of the entire display. They are large, with a plethora of pixels, so click on them and you will be able to read them as well as if you were standing in that sad foyer.

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  Savoie Joins France 2 small


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  Savoie Joins France 4


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Whew! That took a day and a half to upload. Enjoy!

©2012 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy