Your Genealogy Tour de France
Book Review - Unnaturally French

Emigrant Visas From Bordeaux


Voyage of chance


Currently, among professional genealogists, there is much grumbling about the clumsy mess that has made of its search facility and the "ridiculous results" that come up. Many long for the now banished "old search" on that website. We suspect that we know what went wrong somewhere in the hinterland of Ancestry's labyrinthine corridors.

We trained as a librarian and have worked with many computer/information/programming professionals of various ilk and can verify that the emphasis of the two in aiding researchers is quite different: librarians are trained to structure every aspect of their work toward the retrieval of the specific information sought by the researcher; while the computer programmer longs to deliver the entire universe at the touch of a button. The latter sounds very cool but is useless, while the former requires quite a lot of planning but brings the desired result. In many ways, the French, with their eternally beloved logic, have done a better job, and usually offer it gratis. This is good news for those with French ancestors to research, and it has just got a bit better.

There is a beautiful new addition to websites where one can search at no cost -- and with a certainty of logical, clear, possibly relevant results -- on those who emigrated from France via the port of Bordeaux. We have written in the past about the burning of the archives of the Port of Bordeaux, a great loss indeed. We have also reported here on the easily searched passport database maintained by the Departmental Archives of La Gironde. Today, we write of a rich, new resource that complements the latter.

A group of not only dedicated but apparently literate and even intelligent genealogy enthusiasts have been indexing correctly (unlike those elsewhere, who seem to be guilty of indexing while under the influence, to judge by the ludicrous results) a number of records from the archives pertaining to Bordeaux that are not online. An emigrant leaving France had to obtain not only a passport, which would have been issued by the authorities where the emigrant-to-be resided, but then had to obtain a visa to leave and this was issued by the authorities at the place of departure, in this case, Bordeaux. Lists of visas and passports, as well as some passenger and police surveillance lists, are the sources for the information.

These enthusiastic indexers have created the website Les visas en Bordelais : l'émigration au départ de Bordeaux au cours du 19e siècle. With pages in English, Spanish and Portuguese, they allow for searches on:

  • Visas issued, by name
  • Ships, by name, but you must also have the month and year of departure
  • Passengers, by name
  • Emigrants, by name, but this is a very small database, taken from a few police and other records, such as we have described when discussing a passenger list
  • Travelling companions, by name, extracted from the documents but not specifically listed in their own right
  • Destinations of ships, but not all ports of call will be included, only the expected destination

The results give as much detail as was found in the documentation:

  • date
  • full name
  • age
  • place of birth
  • passport details
  • names and ages of travelling companions
  • destination
  • relevant archives series codes and document numbers
  • details of the ship, if any

If your ancestor were from or passed through the southwest of France and left the country during the nineteenth century, there is a good chance of finding him or her in this wonderful labour of love of a website.

The only word of warning necessary: the site is slow and, once discovered by the descendants of emigrants, will likely get slower still. There is also a survey, or sondage, asking how you like the site; since one does not pay, it would be only fair as well as a courtesy, to complete the form by way of thanks.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy