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Paris Research - Les Calepins du Cadastre


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Genealogical research on those who lived in Paris can be tough. Recall the failure to do a census until 1926, for it would have been too difficult to manage, even after Haussmann eliminated many of the streets and shoved the poor out of the centre. It was also too difficult to establish a land registry for the City of Light until 1974. Recall that a fire during the Paris Commune destroyed the parish and civil registrations of the city's people up to 1860. For those seeking to find their Parisian ancestors, the hunt takes them to many peripheral document collections that have gained in value by reason of their containing some listing of names or details about people. 

The Calepins du cadastre are a case in point. Properly, these are called matrice-rôles, or tax rolls, and the bureaucrats consider the more commonly used term of calepins du cadastre, meaning land registry notebooks, to be "abusive", though we think someone may be overreacting here. Looking for the middle road, it seems, the archivists at the Archives de Paris, where the calepins are held, refer to them as the Calepins des Propriétés bâties, and they are in the finance section under Contributions directes (codes D1P4 1 through 1237). 

Genealogists, along with everyone else,  may dread the tax man of the present, but bless those of the past for their diligent record keeping on the lives of the citizenry. The calepins du cadastre of Paris were an effort to know how many properties were owned and lived in so that they could be taxed. Today, those living in France pay two property taxes: the taxe foncières which is a tax on all properties owned, and a taxe d'habitation, which is a tax on all properties one does or could use, including holiday homes, empty flats, etc. . The calepins reflect this thinking in the information gathered about the owner of the property and about those who inhabit it.

Rue truffaut no 48

(click to see a larger version of the image)

The image above is of the first page of the notebook for no. 48 rue Truffaut, in the 17th arrondissement. The upper part of the page is for details about the property owner, in this case someone named Longuet, and his or her address, if elsewhere, as it is here, being rue de la Chaussée d'Antin, number 30. The section and plan numbers, the type of property (house), the taxable revenue, the total number of windows and doors for the ground, first and second floors (twenty-nine) and for the third floor and above (eighteen).

The lower part of the page is for details of those who live in the property  and there are no two ways about it, it is a mess. Most of the calepins are. People seem to have moved often. The notebooks were made in 1852 and updated or supplemented in 1862, 1876 and 1900. The many changes are reflected in the names lined out or added. The heads of the columns of this part ask for:

  • The full name of the persons renting and, if they do not live where renting, their addresses
  • The professions of the renters (laundress, spectacle-maker, fruit-seller, etc.)
  • A description of the property (shop)
  • The rent paid
  • The value of the space rented
  • The tax bracket,  rental tax base, and further tax calculations

It is not a census. Family members are not listed. Age, race and nationality are not given. Still, it is just about the only way to see most of the people living in a building or on a street in Paris in the nineteenth century. 

©2013 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy