Celebratory Customs Could Reveal Your Roots
Soon - ICRC Records of WWI Prisoners of War

Did Your Ancestor Serve With Napoleon?

1813 Garde Impériale Garde d'Honneur 3e régiment 2

We confess that one of the periods of French history that we find most interesting is that of the First Empire, le Premier Empire, that time when the idealism of the new République was defended so brilliantly by Napoleon against the onslaughts of all the rest of Europe - determined to restore royalty -- then destroyed by the man himself as power went to his head rather spectacularly. It was a time of great hopes and beautiful dreams for the finest for humanity to come so close to being achieved, then to spin into madness, glory and a defeat so humiliating militarily that it tends to obscure the defeat of the ideals that might have changed all our lives for the better.

For those Dear Readers who have an ancestor who fought with Napoleon, and it would seem that there are many of you, there is an exciting new addition to the website of the Service Historique de la Défense, Mémoire des Hommes (finally, one hopes, back to full operation after multiple hackings). The enlistment records of the Imperial Guard and the Infantry of the Line of the First Empire (1802-1815) are now being put online gradually, under the title of Parcours Individuels. The title may seem something of a misnomer to anglophones; it does not mean that it is possible to search by an individual's surname. This, for the moment, is not possible.

What one can do is to search the 1191 register books which represent only thirty-eight per cent of the more than three thousand enlistment registers of Napoleon's soldiers, being those of the:

  • gardes consulaires
  • gardes impériales
  • gardes royales
  • régiments d'infanterie de ligne

The guards are grouped by the following categories:

  • infanterie
  • cavalerie
  • artillerie
  • génie
  • train des équipages
  • ouvriers d'administration
  • gendarmes d'ordonnance

The infantry of the line are in numerical order by the number of the regiment, from one to 156.

The search must be made by the unit in which the man served and by the date on which he enlisted, for that is how the registers are constructed. There is no name index to the entire collection, but there is, at the end of each register, an alphabetical index to the names therein. If you know that your ancestor served as a member of the Imperial Guard, then you need only search the indices of each volume for that guard. If you have no idea as to unit but are certain that he served in one of the above capacities, and you intend to search more than a thousand indices, then you must thank the French military for making this service free.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy