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May 2015

The Departmental Archives of Haute-Savoie - A Guest Post


Our good friend based in Geneva, the genealogist, Isabelle Haemmerle, who wrote here about the Archives d'Etat de Genève, the State Archives of Geneva, and about the International Museum of the Reformation, has sent us so kindly this on the Departmental Archives of Haute-Savoie:


How beautiful are our sun-bathed mountains surrounding Geneva on a lovely spring day. We have the feeling that a short 40 km drive through France to the Departmental Archives of Haute-Savoie in Annecy would be very pleasant for us and helpful to you, Dear Readers.


Bordered by Switzerland and Italy, Haute-Savoie (74) is one of the two departments with Savoie (73) which have been created after the attachment of the Savoie Duché to France in 1860 following the Turin treaty. Previously this territory was part of Maison de Savoie which ruled the Piemont-Sardaigne kingdom. King Victor Emmanuel II of Savoie gave it away to France in exchange of the support of the French emperor Napoleon III for the unification of Italy. The Savoie people were for the most in favor of the change seduced by the political and economical reforms of Napoleon III in France. From 1793 to 1814, the Savoie Duché had already been integrated with France following the Napoleanic wars and the first Empire in what is now called the first French period.

Due to this historical background, the Departmental Archives in Haute-Savoie are more recent than others in the rest of the country but offer various amazing resources such as their jewel : the Sardinian Maps (Mappes Sardes), a land register from 1728-1738.

The Archives facility is located at the entrance of the city not far from the Annecy-Nord highway exit in a very bright and modern building opened in 2000. Easy to find, and you can park for free in the private parking dedicated to visitors. For our dear friend Anne, it will be a 25 mn walk form the train station or the bus 4!

Orientated towards the magnificent Aravis mountains, the entrance gives way to the reception where you can have your visitor card issued in a few minutes with code bar. The clerk gives you a key for your locker and a little board with the same number for your seat at the tables. If you wish to take pictures, it will be proposed that you be placed closer to the high windows. Warning : before spending one day there, we would advise you to bring some snacks as the facility is not so close to shops. Drinks are for sale though.

When we first entered, we were impressed by the light and the space of the reading room. However it was very welcoming and we leisurely discovered the various displays. The Guide to the Archives of Haute-Savoie , R. Gabion, 1976 is a really useful tool and available on the spot. At the back of the room are a set of books with a focus on Genealogy in the region and on one shelf at the entrance a few guide booklets :

  • Do research in the Archives of Enregistrement
  • Do research in the land register (cadastre)
  • Do research in the Hypothèques
  • Do research on the web site
  • Visualize pictures from a code



To order a document -- three are permitted at one time (from 9am-12:15pm and 1:30pm-4:05pm) -- we found it quite simple once we had been instructed by the pleasant archivist. We used an available computer, placed our newly issued card under the bar code scanner and entered the code. After 10 to 15 minutes, a small red light lit on our table and we could pick up our order one by one at the main counter. Disappointing is the lack of WIFI access if you bring your laptop as we did. But internet access is possible on computers at our disposal.


The archives of Haute-Savoie present special series due to a few historical originalities (equally found in departments of Savoie and Alpes-Maritimes) :

  • Ancient archives : a significant amount of documents from the funds of the archives of Duché de Savoie were handed over in 1951 by the archives of State of Turin and formed the SA series (ecclesiastic funds, archives of Geneva comté (13th -14th) and Genevois apanage (15th-17th))
  • Modern archives : as the region was again part of the Piemont-Sardaigne kingdom between 1815 and 1860, the relevant archives are compiled in a special fund called the Sardinian fund (FS series)
  • Sardinian maps ( Mappes sardes) : jewel of the departmental Archives of Haute-Savoie, the famous maps represent one of the oldest cadastres of Europe as it goes back to the beginning of the 18th century when Sardinian cartography was much more advanced. Now on line -- a great job has been achieved -- it allows the searcher to find the properties of an owner in each village ( Cadastre > Utiliser le formulaire de recherche> Commune - make sure to choose the actual name and select the maps of the village you are searching), the status of the owner (bourgeois, communier, noble, forain, ecclesiastic etc.., ) which crop, etc... and you can visualize any plot on Google maps.
  • Tabellion : the tabellion of Ancien regime is on line but not the Sardinian one. Some tabellions such as St Julien en Genevois's one is at the AEG ( Archives of State of Geneva) as the records were done in Carouge which is now in canton de Genève. So you may need to go to visit Geneva !
  • On line : Etat Civil, Recensement, registres militaires, tabellion, cadastres, documents iconographiques


If you need some information about a native of Annecy in the 19th century, I would finally suggest that you have a look at the series 15 J which gathers a lot of resources about the Cotton Mill of Annecy, the main employer of the city at that time.

Departmental archives of Haute-Savoie

37bis, avenue de la Plaine

74 000 ANNECY email : [email protected]

tel : 04 50 33 20 80

fax : 04 50 66 70 49


Thank you, Isabelle!

Those who wish to contact Isabelle to know more about genealogy in Haute-Savoie and Geneva may do so by writing to her at: genhaemm (AT) gmail (DOT) com. She also is an expert on the history of the Cotton Mill at Annecy and on researching its employees.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Livret de Famille



UPDATE: We are not sure how we have misrepresented the document described in this post, but some Readers are misunderstanding. A Livret de Famille is issued by the mayor to a couple upon their marriage. It is an official document, as much as is a driver's license. It is not a souvenir book about families. It is not a genealogical presentation. It is not something that may be purchased as desired. It is not something that The French Genealogy Blog is selling. Many apologies for the confusion.


Casually, we have mentioned the livret de famille, or family book, previously, when we told of our personal trials and when we mused on French genealogy. Let us expound a bit.

Politicians are creatures of reaction and rarely of action, as much in France as elsewhere. When the Paris Commune burned the Hôtel de Ville, or Paris City Hall, in 1871, all birth, marriage and death records were destroyed. The livret de famille was inaugurated in 1877 to give people the official, documentary proofs of their civil status that they needed. It seems to us that only Parisians needed this and only for a few years, until a new generation should be fully documented in a new procedure. Not so. The leaders did not consider this book to be a replacement of documentation for those who had lost theirs in the fire, but a sort of third storage place for the data (after the registers of the town or city where a birth, marriage or death took place, and the clerk's duplicate registers). Thus, everyone in the country needed to be in a livret de famille.

Livret 1

It is issued to a couple upon their marriage. In it are then recorded the births of all children, their deaths if before adulthood, and the deaths of the parents.

Livret 2


Family life being as mutable as every other aspect of life, the livret de famille has moved with the times. It also records divorces. It is not issued to couples joined by civil union unless there be a child; and it is now issued to single parents of either sex, upon the birth of a child.

New terminology was required with new family formations, with livret de famille being replaced by livret unique for the recording of children of "the same mother and the same father". Children of other unions will not be in that book but in another book. A parent with four children from four different unions will have four different livrets uniques. (Really, it begins to seem less like a family book and more like a biological identity book.) With the legalization of same-sex marriages, the speed of change in modern life finally outpaced the bureaucrats who -- perhaps weeping in despair and frustration --  tossed out the window the words father/père, mother/mère, husband/époux, wife/épouse, and replaced them with the digits 1 and 2.

Livret Back

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

The Archives Municipales of Nantes

AM Nantes

Oh, we do love municipal archives! Their staff are kind and helpful, bringing to mind the solicitous librarians during the long, summer holidays of our childhood. The archivist in charge of the Archives municipales de Nantes was a paragon of both efficiency and knowledge of her city's history and of the archives in her care. Municipal archives are naturally smaller than the Departmental Archives, but their intense focus on collections relating to their cities results in fascinating collections. 

Nantes AM

They have newspapers; they have books and papers on local history; they have photographs; they have various administrative records for their cities (and, in many cases, they have websites and it is here -- not the relative Departmental Archives -- that you must seek parish and civil registrations). Among these last, there are odd, unanticipated, treasures, such as the enregistrements des étrangers, and the déclarations de fixation de domicile. Both of these were in the city police files and both were an effort to keep track of people in an age before identity cards with chips containing scanned fingerprints. These records both began during the Revolutionary period, when much of the population was scattered and on the run.   

Declaration de fixation

At that time, a person could not simply move to a city, buy a house and live there. They had to go to the town hall, or mairie, and state that they planned to live there. In the brief entry for each declaration, much useful information is provided:

  • Date of the declaration
  • Full name and civil status of the person making the declaration
  • Place of birth
  • Last residence and a statement that the mayor there was informed of the planned relocation

In the example below, on the 20th of June 1815, Marie Thérèse Marguerite Louise Julienne Segretier, widow of Masson de la Veronniere, born in Léogane, Saint Domingue, a refugee from the Haitian Revolution, declared that she wished to live in Nantes and had, on the 12th of April, stated to the mayor of her previous town of residence (Versailles?) that she was leaving.


 If you know of a city where an ancestor may have spent even a short time, the municipal archives can be worth a visit.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

A Visit to the Archives Diplomatiques in Nantes

Still in Nantes, we have expanded our research and exploration to the Diplomatic Archives in Nantes. First, of course, we had to find it. Address in hand, we were puzzled to find ourself in an empty street, devoid of signage.

Empty street

It seems that every effort had been made to remove any identification from the door:

Sneaky entry

We peered into every doorway and finally found it :


The security to get in is quite impressive, but those well-armed people were friendly and escorted us through some sort of compound to a lovely archives facility.

Arch Dip Reading Room

We explained much about the two sites of the Diplomatic Archives when we told of our visit to the Courneuve site. We have also described some of the wonderful records to be found there that can be of great use to the genealogical research on those French who emigrated:

 There are plans for many records such as these to be digitized and put online, though as yet, none are. Yet, aware of the intense interest of researchers in its archives, the Diplomatic Archives have greatly improved their website. The finding aids are online and it is highly recommended that any visit be preceded with hours of their study. Only by studying them in advance can one know what may be found at each facility.

That at Nantes is much better prepared to welcome the genealogical researcher, as can be seen from the binders of indices to the many birth, marriage and death records from French embassies and consular offices around the world. Our friend and colleague, who joined us on this visit, was pleased to find quickly references to her ancestors who had gone to bake in Egypt.

Arch Dip Relevés

We were very pleased to discover in the ledger of the French legation at Philadelphia some early nineteenth century request forms for men of military service age to remain where they were living overseas. This was at a time when Napoleon was running out of men for his armies and sought to cast his net for cannon fodder across this wide world. Genealogists will thank him for, as the two examples below show, the forms give some wonderful detail on migrant men of the era:

  • Full name
  • Any nickname or "also known as" (surnom) name used 
  • Age
  • Profession
  • Place of birth
  • Last place of residence in France
  • Current place of residence
  • Reason for requesting to stay overseas

JB Camus

JBJ Frutié

One member of staff was exceptionally helpful; the others were on the dour side. Retrieval time for documents requested was very quick. The number of requests permitted per day is quite low, only seven, so if you have much research, you must plan on many days. 


Update: Less than a week after we posted this, the Archives Diplomatiques at Nantes announced that they will be closing their reading room as of the first of August 2015. Requests for civil registrations of overseas births, marriages and deaths may be made via an online form. This Internet service is to be commended, but the closing of the reading room is a catastrophe. Once again, technology is used by the lazy as an excuse to destroy the opportunity for the serendipitous discovery.  

Further Update : a nice video about conservation at the Archives Diplomatiques:



©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy