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November 2014

Bon Jour de l'action de grace!

Turkey 2014

It has come to our attention that, increasingly, the French are aware of and mildly curious about the American Thanksgiving. Ever ready to compare a new cuisine to their own, which they know is the best the planet has ever had to offer, many have, on their travels to America, tried the famous fare. 

"Not bad" has been the consensus of opinion among those we know. They know turkey well and often serve it at Christmas. Many really like traditional pumpkin pie very much, though some do not and prefer the "chiffon" version. Cranberry preserves are accepted and known since, for some time now, cranberry juice has been on sale in France for its healthful properties. Stuffing is frowned upon as gooey, tasteless and unnecessarily fattening. Sweet potatoes seem to be tolerated, but only if cooked as boiled potatoes, with a bit of salt, pepper, and herbs. The killer is corn bread. No one, absolutely no one with a French palate will touch the stuff.

However, one aspect of the holiday is very well understood - that of sharing. For every French person, a meal is not a meal if it is not shared. In spite of all the suffocating formality in some homes, at its core, every meal is an act of sharing and every invitation to a meal is an invitation to partake. They do it very well and consequently, appreciate that about Thanksgiving.

The superb American tour guide in Paris, Richard Nahem, has created a French Thanksgiving Vocabulary, which he has very kindly allowed us to reproduce here:


Thanksgiving - le jour de l'action de grâce
autumn, fall - l'automne
colony - une colonie
feast -   un festin, un banquet
football - le football américain
grateful (adj)  - reconnaissant
harvest  - la récolte
horn of plenty  - la corne d'abondance
native (adj)  - natif
(Native American) Indians  - les Indiens (d'Amérique)
November  - novembre
parade  - un défilé
Pilgrims  - les pèlerins
settlers  - les colons
to share  - partager
Thursday  - jeudi
tradition  - une tradition
traditional (adj)  - traditionnel
treaty  - un traité
tribe  - une tribu

For the Thanksgiving feast .... here are some traditional dishes.

food  - la nourriture
corn  - le maïs
cranberries  - les canneberges
gravy  - la sauce au jus de viande
mashed potatoes  - la purée
pumpkin pie  - la tarte à la citrouille
stuffing  - la farce
sweet potatoes  - les patates douces
turkey  - la dinde
yam  - un igname

Read Richard's delightful blog, Eye Prefer Paris,  to know more about life in Paris, and book one of his Christmas in Paris tours.

Happy Thanksgiving!


©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Researching an Ancestor in the Carignan Regiment


Vertical Vincennes

The Carignan Regiment, also known as the Carignan-Salières Regiment, was sent by France to Canada with the mission of quelling the Iroquois who were fighting to protect their homeland from the invaders. Seven shiploads transported the men of the regiment to New France between June and September of 1665. They were welcomed by the French residents either as saintly saviours or as ill-behaved and ill-mannered ruffians

They were interesting characters whatever their character and they left children whose descendants delight in the connection, both reasons for the substantial amount of information about them prancing about the Internet.  Two of the best websites about the regiment are:

  • - which includes a swarm of detail buzzing about its pages, including some full genealogies of men, copies of some documents, and biographies of individual soldiers.
  • - a remarkable website on many aspects of La Rochelle's emigrants, which has slightly less information that the above, but does not entirely duplicate it.

For those who wish to go deeper into French archives to learn more from original sources, there are also:

  • Correspondence and lists concerning Military Officers in the service in Canada, Ile Royale and elsewhere, from 1659 to 1774 in the Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM), under the code: D/2C/49
  • Also in the Archives nationales d'outre-mer, under the code: D/2C/47 are correspondence, memoranda and lists concerning the troops sent to Canada and Ile Royale from 1658 to 1771. 
  • To find those who were heads of households in the 1666 census of Nouvelle-France, see code G/1/460 and for the census of the year 1699, see code G/1/466, both also at ANOM. 
  • In the military archives at the Service Historique de la Défense in Vincennes, under Series A of the Army archives can be found documents concerning the Carignan Regiment from 1643.

Go now and find your man!

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Finding Your Poilu


Mort Pour La Patrie

Tomorrow, the eleventh of November, is noted in French calendars as Armistice 1918, the day when the the Armistice to end hostilities between Germany and the Allies was signed in a railway carriage, allowing the  beginning of negotiations to end the Great War. Traditionally, on that day, every city, town and village has a small ceremony before its Monument aux Morts. Flowers are placed at the base of the monument and a minute of silence in remembrance of those who died in the conflict is observed. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of that war and, as we have related, all of France, it seems, is remembering or commemorating in some way.

Among genealogists and archivists, there is a major effort to find and preserve as much information as possible about the men and women involved and to make that information available to the general public. 

One of the most important of these efforts has been that of the Ministry of Defence for the fallen of all French wars, Mémoire des Hommes.  On the page dedicated to the First World War, the Ministry announces that it has added 95,000 names and details of people who died but whose names, for some bureaucratic reason or other, were not included among those 1.3 million who officially died for France, Morts pour la France.

Additionally, last year, the Ministry set up pages for collaborative indexing and annotation of entries in the database, so the value of it will be increasing. Sophie Boudarel has made the indexing her theme for the month of November, encouraging her readers to participate in the *correction below indexing campaign, 1 Jour, 1 Poilu (a soldier a day). 

Fallen 1

On another archival front, the Archives nationales d'Outre-Mer (ANOM) have put online the enlistment records for those who served in the Great War from :

  • Algeria
  • Madagascar
  • Comoros
  • The French Coast of Somalia
  • Reunion
  • Guyana
  • French West Africa
  • French Polynesia
  • Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon
  • New Caledonia

If you are seeking an ancestor or cousin from France or one of her colonies who fought in World War I, do look at the new developments on these websites. As many, many Departmental Archives have added the enlistment records covering the years 1914-1918, be sure to check those too.

*Correction - 1 Jour 1 Poilu is independent of the Ministry of Defense and not, as we reported mistakenly, a part of it..

©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Probate Genealogy in France


Window 2

In Article 745, the Civil Code of France states that, if there be neither spouse nor children who can inherit, then "collateral relatives beyond the sixth degree may not inherit", which has been taken to mean that said collaterals up to the sixth degree may do so. Article 716 of the Code Civil states that "the ownership of a treasure belongs to the person who finds it among his or her possessions; if the treasure is found among the possessions of another, then half belongs to the person who found it and half to the person in whose possessions it was found.

Et voilà!  From these two articles, you have the birth of the profession of la généalogie successorale, French probate genealogy. How does it work?

Firstly, one must know how to determine relationships to the sixth degree as it is accepted in the Civil Code. Between the deceased and any relative who would be an heir, one must first find the common ancestor whom they share. One then counts the number of generations between the deceased and the common ancestor and between the potential heir and the common ancestor and adds the two together. If the result is six or less, a share in the jackpot is possible; if it be more than six, no luck.

For example: between an uncle who has died and a niece who hopes to inherit is the common ancestor of the uncle's parent who is also the niece's grandparent. The number of generations between the uncle and his parent is one; between the niece and her grandparent is two; the degree of relationship between the uncle and the niece is three. The niece is an heir.

Probate genealogists in France generally are contacted by notaires who find themselves with an estate that cannot be distributed as heirs cannot be located. They must find all possible heirs and any legatees named in a will, if there were one. If they miss a single person who has a right to a portion of the inheritance; all distribution will be invalid. In their genealogical research, they do much as we have explained here (and in our book):

  • Beginning with the death registration, they find all relevant marriage, birth and death registrations of all relatives to the sixth degree.
  • Will of the deceased's parents, grandparents and siblings are read, to identify possible heirs in the family.
  • Military conscription lists, the registres matricules, are read to find any men or women who served in the military and to obtain more detail about them.
  • Recensements, the census returns, are also examined.
  • In a pinch, they have been known to chat up the neighbours for gossip, especially helpful in finding children born out of wedlock.
  • As a last resort, they might use a private detective, but as the two professions are often at daggers drawn, this will usually only be to have the investigator find an address, never to allow him or her to become involved in the genealogical research.

In the above list, important differences in the modus operandi of the probate genealogist that are not followed by the family genealogist are:

  • We try not to rely on gossip.
  • We usually have no call for a private investigator.
  • We usually do not have a notaire to gain for us the permission to see civil registrations that are less than seventy-five years old.

Speed is essential, for the law in France is that estates must be settled within six months of the death. Probate genealogists may, however, request an extension to that if they can prove that they are not dawdling but are truly hot on the trail of an heir or two.

This is an unregulated profession in France, but when questioned about it, probate genealogists assure one that they are très sérieux. Their work comes from notaires, who are regulated; and they take out professional insurance, which seems to us to be neither here nor there insofar as regulation is concerned.

It is an old profession, having begun in about 1830. It is also small, with only about one hundred probate genealogy offices in the country, employing about five hundred genealogists. It is also a proud profession, with its members seeing it as something along the lines of a para-legal profession and certainly not commercial. "You will never find us knocking on someone's door trying to sell a family genealogy tree," snipped one probate genealogist in an interview. Those trees do, however, appear in the documentation concerning disbursement of the estate, as explained here.

The essential point, naturally, is the fee, which the unwitting heir must agree to pay (unless he or she were to renounce all claim to inheritance) before being told about  his or her connection to the person who left the estate. It can range between ten and forty per cent of each heir's share (calculated after the taxes and notaire's fee are paid), and up to sixty per cent if the estate be very large. According to our calculations, the remaining inheritance should rarely rise above forty-five centimes.

We are, lastly, stumped by the claim of the probate genealogist to comply with Article 716, for that hefty sixty per cent is more than the half of a treasure allowed by the article. That same Article makes it very clear that the definition of treasure is "anything hidden or buried which no one can claim as his property and which is discovered purely by accident."

Watch a probate genealogist in action:




©2014 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

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