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Hunting Down Your French Freemason Ancestor




The fichiers (indices on cards) have been coming online fast and furious and another fine one for genealogists is available. The Fichier Bossu contains 130,000 biographical cards about French freemasons from the eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. It is probably the largest biographical collection of any single, French national group.

Some very exhaustive studies of regional groups of freemasons have been published, including those on:

However, only the Fichier Bossu covers members throughout the country. Importantly, it also includes foreigners who joined French lodges, including British prisoners of war and détenus of the Napoleonic era, American businessmen, Hungarian princes, ship captains on shore leave.

The cards vary greatly in the amount of information they contain, but many  give:

  • The person's full name
  • The lodge of membership and its location
  • The person's profession
  • The person's "masonic career"

It was the life's work of one Jean Bossu, who then left it to the Bibliothèque national de France, where it was kept pretty much out of most people's reach. Now, it is available online, on the BnF's website of digitised works, Gallica, in 324 sections. Each section is a scan of about 500 cards, with no page numbers, so be prepared to trawl. As is usual with Gallica, results do not appear in any order, but we give here the Fichier Bossu results in correct order, to make things slightly easier for you. 

To read further on the subject than our previous tiny post on French freemasons' signatures, there is always Wikipedia, but we suggest you try the website, Renaissance Traditionnelle  and the blog of Pierre Mollier. An article by Raphaël Baumard explains clearly where and why the masonic archives of France are scattered. This article in English gives an insider's explanation of freemasonry during Napoleon's years of power.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy