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October 2014

Archives d'Etat de Genève - A Guest Post


Our good friend, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, has been doing more work in Geneva and sends this on the Archives d'Etat de Genève, the State Archives of Geneva:

Remember, we met a few weeks ago in the old town of Geneva while visiting the International Museum of the Reformation on rue du Cloître. From this point, our steps take us today around the historical Cathedral Saint Pierre, a regional landmark, then past the Jet d'eau, and we follow rue de la Taconnerie and turn right entering rue de l'Hôtel de Ville. At the corner with rue du Puit Saint Pierre, we arrive at the ancient Arsenal where its five canons proudly stand in memory of Geneva's fortifications - and we enthusiastically climb the stairs to the Archives d'Etat de Geneve (AEG) where are to be found the Archives of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.


The access to the consultation room is easy : while we are supposed to leave our belongings outside in the corridor, there is no control and we are pleasantly welcomed by the archivist in a cosy room full of history and not only that in the archive documents. We fill a form with a few details about our search subject and title and here we are, ready to order the registers we need and guided by a helpful archivist.

Before starting a search, it is wise to check the file of all the family names - available online - studied in :

  • The seven volumes of Notices généalogiques sur les familles genevoises by J.A. GALIFFE
  • The three volumes dedicated to Geneva in Recueil généalogique suisse, les Généalogies genevoises by A. CHOISY
  • Les Filiations protestantes by E. BUNGENER.

Manuscript genealogies – not always reliable! - are to be traced in the Fichier des Manuscrits historiques.

Very helpful also is to check the website of Swiss family names, which lists the families who held in 1962 citizenship of a Swiss commune (village, town or city). It gives for each family name the following information:

  • The commune of origin and if a member of the bourgeoisie
  • The date of bourgoisie acquisition
  • The previous place of origin ( France or other location, ex. NE for Neuchatel)

Place of origin is important in Switzerland. Even today, it is not unusual for every administrative form to ask for the person's origin, even for Swiss people. This focus on origin in documentation can help the genealogist.

A Swiss person is a bourgeois of a commune and canton (state) before being a Swiss citizen. (Read an explanation of the bourgeois status as it was applied in Paris here.) This right is transmitted by heritage and a Geneva inhabitant whose ancestors have been in Geneva for generations can still hold his origin from another commune (in Argovie or Apenzell, for example) even though his family has not been living there for a century. The Registre des Familles of this commune will indicate the birth of his children without the parent or children ever having touched its soil. Some families have more than one communes d'origine.

For Geneva genealogy, an interesting tool, the Registre unique de tous les citoyens, constitutes the basis of the citizenship rights for all families installed in Geneva (in both the city and the surrounding area) (Bourgeoisie A 15, available on line). The Genevian revolution of 1792 abolished all differences between citizens, bourgeois, natives, inhabitants of the city and subjects of the country and all categories were given full  citizenship in Geneva, provided that they were born of a Protestant father. Following the constitution of 1794, old and new citizens were to be registered in the Registre Unique which replaces the older livres de bourgeoisie and livres d'habitation.

Our discovery of AEG has only just started and you shall know more very soon about the resources available:

Birth or baptism, marriage, and death or burial records:

  • Registres des paroisses ( mid-sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) 
  • Registres d'état civil ( nineteenth and twentieth centuries) 

These registers have been digitized and are available up to the year 1885 on the AEG Adhemar database

  • Registre des familles 
  • Répertoires 
  • Communes Réunies

Further resources :

  • Notaires (contracts and other family legal documents)
  • Juridictions Civiles (civil judgements)
  • Consistoire, Compagnie de pasteurs (Protestant church records)
  • Titres et droits (Titles and the rights to use them)
  • Cadastre, registre foncier (Land records)
  • Recensements (Census records)
  • Passeports (Passport applications)
  • Etrangers (Records concerning the monitoring and registration of foreigners)
  • Bourgeoisie, Naturalisations (Citizenship rights records)
  • Militaire (Military conscription records)
  • Archives privées (Private archives)

Archives d'Etat de Genève

Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville 1

Case postale 3964

CH-1211 Genève 3

Tel. +41 22 327 93 20 - fax +41 22 3279321


Thank you again, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Municipal Archives Newly Online

  Every Little Town


Someone has pointed out to us that it has been well over three years since we last wrote of developments in the online presence of Communal and Municipal Archives. These are an important complementary source to the websites of the Departmental Archives. At times, they duplicate one another, but in many cases, the Departmental Archives do not have the parish and/or civil registrations of the larger cities and the only place to find them will be on the websites of the archives of those cities.

The past couple of weeks have brought the announcements of the launches of or additions to the websites of the Municipal Archives of Bordeaux, Lille, and perhaps most excitingly, Metz. The list is ever growing. The two best sources for the discovery of new Municipal Archives remain the map at GénéInfos, which includes Departmental Archives as well, and the list provided by the website of Archives de France, which provided the base for the one given below.

So, if you thought that you had found everything with the websites of the Departmental Archives and now have no more to do, think again and get back to work! And good luck to you.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Marseille Marriages



We were in a foul mood. We have been thundering away on a research knot, one of those little unknown details that is not exactly a brick wall, more like a knot in  one of those thin chains for a necklace after a child has played with it. When confronted with such a tangle, our true nature tells us to yank the thing to pieces, to play Alexander with his sword slicing through the Gordian knot. The hard lessons of life have, of course, taught us a modicum, and no more, of patience and we know now to take a tiny pin and loosen the knot until the chain falls free.

With knots in our genealogical research, we tend to go through the same process, possible now only because of the Internet. Firstly, we bash at it with Google searches of every angle and variety, sometimes finding bits of quite interesting but usually tangential information. Then, with a sigh, we remind ourselves to do things patiently and thoroughly. Really, at this age, we should know better.

The problem in question was a marriage of a lady to an unknown man. We had a town and a name and nothing more. We found it, via a nice new addition to Geneanet's cache of archives and other collections, this one being of details on marriages in Marseille. They come from yet another rash of digitization of the Fonds Coutot.

We wrote some years back about this rather astonishing achievement, but give here again the story. In 1830, a young clerk, Amédée Coutot,  who worked for a notary began making copies of civil registrations (actes de naissance, de marriage, de décès) from all over France, and using them to compile genealogies in line with his work to find heirs for the notary. The enterprise continues to this day as the Archives Généologiques Andriveau, with over 200 million records stored in some 15,000 volumes. They are of particular interest to those searching Parisian ancestors but are useful for research on ancestors from other regions as well. 

It is taking some time to digitize parts of the collection and to transcribe details for indexing. Different  genealogy services tussle to include the collections -- which they refer to as the Fonds Coutot -- on their websites with exclusivity. has on its website the marriages of Paris from the Fonds Coutot (and precious little else). And now, providing aid to us in our hour of need, Geneanet has enhanced its Coutot collection , which now contains:

  • Optants
  • Paris marriages 1860-1902 (so much for exclusivity!)
  • Paris suburbs - Deaths  1860-1902
  • Paris - Deaths 1893-1902
  • Paris "reconstituted" births, marriages and deaths  1798-1902
  • Marseille marriages 1700-1809
  • Marseille marriages - bride's names 1800-1915

Working with the last on the list, we found what we sought and had to bash no more. 

We probably will not live long enough to see all of the Coutot treasures digitized and online, but we will diligently check Geneanet to note each new addition with joy. It would behove you to do so too, Dear Readers.

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva - A Guest Post



Our good friend, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, sends this from Geneva:

The first Sunday of October, the last warm day enjoyable for strolling along Lake Leman. Taking the direction the old town – la Vieille Ville – while climbing the hill, we gradually walk back to the past though a maze of narrow, cobble-stoned streets in the heart of international Geneva, a city right in the center of old Europe.

Our steps take us to the Musée international de la Réforme (MIR) created in 2005 in the famous Villa Mallet built in the 18th century on the remains of the cloister where the city-republic of Geneva adopted the Reformation in 1536. The MIR is part of the Espace St Pierre which also includes the cathedral and the archaeological site. It presents the history of the Reformation up to nowadays and describes the role of Martin Luther, Jean Calvin and other Reformers through classic or high tech resources.

In the magnificent room number 4, the Salon, we comfortably watched a 15-minute multimedia show about the main aspects of the Reformation and then attended the "virtual banquet" -- where the question  of predestination was discussed -- in room number 8, the Dining Room, before enjoying some samples of Huguenot psalms in the Music Room.

During the period 1541-1590, a first wave of Protestant refugees who were persecuted in Catholic France found in Geneva a shelter and within ten years the population doubled to 5000 refugees. Among them came many talented craftsmen – printers, clock-makers goldsmiths and textile industrialists who introduced their skills, allowing the town to flourish and become a famed cultural and economic center. Some prominent French refugees were awarded the townsman's rights. By the end of the 16th century, the French Protestants were called the Huguenots in relation to the German word Eidgenosse, meaning Confederates as in "a citizen of one of the states of the Swiss Confederacy".

The second wave of mass exodus took place upon the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 when the flow of refugees running away from France through Switzerland came to the incredible figure of about 140,000 between 1680 and 1770. Up to 350 people per day entered Geneva in the year 1687. Most of them were from the Dauphiné, Cévennes and Languedoc regions of southern France. But the City of Calvin, surrounded by the possessions of the King of France and the Duke de Savoie would not offer a safe haven for long. Louis XIV obliged Geneva to limit the number of refugees and few were given citizenship as the number of emigrants was huge.

So the Huguenots would move to host countries known as the countries of « Refuge » : other Swiss cantons, United Provinces (Holland), Denmark and Germany. Some (and this is where you, my dear readers, will see light after my tedious history class)  will go further away to the United States or South Africa. An organisation supported the refugees in Geneva and the Vaud region by gathering funds for assistance or aid. You will be pleased to learn that it is possible to consult the Registres d'assistance (Aid Register) for Geneva on the website of the Refuge Huguenot Database :

  • assistance in Geneva in 1684
  • assistance in Geneva in 1685
  • assistance in Geneva in 1686
  • assistance in Geneva in 1687-1688

Should you be able to visit Geneva and the MIR, you can add to your agenda with a walk in your Protestant refugee ancestors' footsteps : on October 11, the association  In the steps of the Huguenots  will inaugurate the 78 km second stage of the Sentier des Huguenots along the Jura, from Romainmôtier to Yverdon. The final route will take you from Geneva to Schaffhouse.

For further reading, we suggest:

  • La Suisse et le Refuge, accueil et passage. La Table Ronde, Marseille, 1985
  • Fatio, Olivier, editor. Genève au temps de la révocation de l’édit de Nantes (1680-1705). Champion, Paris, 1985
  • Ducommun,  Marie-Jeanne and Dominique Quadroni. Le refuge protestant dans le Pays de Vaud (Fin XVIIe - début XVIIIe). Aspects d'une migration.


Musée International de la Réforme (MIR)

4, rue du Cloître (cour Saint-Pierre), 

Open Tuesday to Sunday
   from 10am to 5pm

Tél. 022 310 24 31


Thank you, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com 


The Failings of Géné



We wrote recently about the positive, if maladroit, developments on the website Géné It is generally to the researcher's benefit that they are adding the extracts (or relevés) made by the various genealogy associations around the country of hundreds of thousands of parish and civil registrations and other documents. Eventually, the result will be very close to a national index of those registrations, something that will help in the incessant digging for the truth that genealogists do.

However, as we have stated before, genealogy is history and as such must be written with reference to verifiable sources. If not, all of our efforts to write family histories are open to ridicule as fabrication. Useful as it may be, an extract is not a source; it is a tool to lead us to the source. Increasingly, on Géné, the extracts give no source and so, cannot be verified, which makes them tantalizing but useless.

Two cases in point:

  • A number of extracts of births, marriages and deaths relating to Paris have been added by an association that cannot be traced and that does not name its sources. Some of the information can be verified in the Departmental Archives of Paris, but not all. We tried to find out the full name of the association as only the  acronym is given, in order to be able to contact them and ask for a source. In spite of going to the Fédération française de Généalogie and to a number of groups and fora, as well as contacting Géné's staff, we could find no one able to identify the association or explain the acronym. In one group, there was an argument as to who it was not but no one could say who it was. 
  • An identified association was responsible for data on a seventeenth century birth in Paris. Again, no source. We went back to the Departmental Archives of Paris but could not really understand the claim about this birth, for it matched none of the sources there. The archivists were consulted and they, too, were stumped. We wrote to and even visited the offices of the association, asking for the source of the information. In the end, the president became incensed at out request and told us this: "This document is not in our possession and we have no way of obtaining it. It belonged to a person who died a long time ago and we don't know what happened to his papers. Don't ask again!"

Where did that information come from? Who are the mystery associations? How much more of what is being added to the Géné website is unverifiable and, therefore, useless?

We should be able to see or be told where to find the source for every bit of information given on a genealogy website. We must be able to confirm the data and to quote the source. There is a real risk that Géné will become too sloppy in terms of what it allows to be added and what it requires for verification. The result could be a degradation so severe that the reasonable reputation of the service will be destroyed. 

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy