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November 2015

XXIII Congrès national de Généalogie - Encounters


One of the pleasures of the professional conference is, as everyone knows, the opportunity to hobnob. We hobnobbed and in doing so, encountered some impressive professionals with areas of specialization which we think could be of interest to our Dear Readers. Thus, we introduce:

Monsieur Philippe Christol (pictured above), whose lecture we had attended a day or two earlier. Monsieur Christol is an expert on Polish immigrants to France and all Francophone countries (Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, etc.), including those who may not have stayed in France but gone on to other countries. He asks that we be sure to state explicitly that he does not research immigrants to countries other than France. He is fluent in English and has worked with William Fred Hoffman, author of Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, and with Matthew Bielawa. We have found him most helpful and courteous.


Cappart & Hierro

Mesdames Marie Cappart and Liliane Hierro are colleagues from Belgium. Madame Liliane Hierro is an expert in using the Internet for research in Belgian genealogy. Madame Cappart, a cheerful soul, is fully trilingual in English, French and Flemish as can be seen on her blog. Both have helped a number of English speakers to research their Belgian roots.

N.B. Madame Cappart has written to ask that we disambiguate: she and Madame Hierro are friends but hold separate companies.


Cosson 1

We have written about Monsieur Stéphane Cosson and his excellent palaeography service previously. His fame preceded him and his stand was somewhat crowded with seekers of aid, each clutching a copy of an indecipheable document. Monsieur Cosson dealt with each with politesse and aplomb. 


Cosson 2

Monsieur Cosson is also very much involved with the genealogy course at Nîmes. The course is now available online and its directors are actively seeking participants. Monsieur Cosson also assured us that many of the professors are fluent in English and that the course can be adapted for English speakers. Should you wish to learn French genealogy from those who know it best, you would do well to investigate this course.

Nice people, all, and all willing to be of help.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

XXIII Congrès national de Généalogie - Weather Disasters of Poitiers

La misère

At the conference, we attended a talk by  Monsieur Jean Hervier entitled "La météo à Poitiers sous la Révolution". It covered a broader time period, the forty years from 1776 to 1816, and every one of them interesting. Too often, Dear Readers, we look for an emotional, religious or political cause for ancestors having left France: a broken heart, a duel, a family quarrel, a staunch aristocrat during the Revolution, a staunch Communard fleeing the reprisals after the Paris Commune, the Protestant escaping persecution, but the reality is that the cause is just as often economic.

Recall that, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the world, France included, was largely agrarian and each small farm teetering on the edge of ruin at every climactic irregularity. We have written before of how disease of farm animals could bring ruin and ruin could lead to emigration. We are must indebted to Monsieur for presenting plenty of other reasons why some living in Poitiers may have given up and gone elsewhere, among them:

  • 1776 - The rivers were blocked with ice floes and did not flow, delaying spring planting. When the ice began to break up, many boats were destroyed by it.
  • 1781 - A June hail storm destroyed property and early crops
  • 1784 - There was a very hard winter, with snow for six weeks, for two weeks of which it snowed non-stop, to a place that did not normally have much snow at all. Farm birds and wild birds died of the cold, the hay ricks were ruined, houses collapsed from the weight of the snow. Markets and fairs did not take place as transport was impossible and it was too cold for many.
  • 1787 - Though not directly a weather issue, during this year there was a measles epidemic that killed many.
  • 1788 - A July hailstorm was so severe that the hail stones killed livestock. The summer storms were so heavy that there was flooding, which brought mudslides.
  • 1789 - Before the storming of the Bastille up in Paris France experienced one of her worst winters ever recorded. In Poitiers it was so harsh, with two months of temperatures below zero, that the rivers froze and farm animals died, as did fruit trees. When they thawed, the blocks of ice were so big and the water rushing so fast that the blocks smashed up bridges, watermills, boats, trees and houses.
  • 1803 - July hailstorms again killed livestock.
  • 1816 - This was "the year without a summer" around the world. On the 10th of April 1815 the volcano, Tambora, in Indonesia had erupted, filling the atmosphere with ash that blocked sunlight. In Poitiers, temperatures dropped to freezing in August, there was no harvest and almost no fruit, nothing in family vegetable plots had enough sun or warmth to ripen. 

These weather disasters were too often followed by epidemics, famine and ruin. At the same time, from 1789 to 1815, France was almost always at war. It must have seemed, to many, as if the Apocalypse had come. The only wonder is that more did not make the decision to walk to the coasts and take whatever leaky vessel they could to whatever land would offer them hope and opportunity. Most of us are proud of our migrant ancestors. If your ancestor left France during the period above, it may have been due to the bad weather, and all the consequences thereof.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Paris - 13 November 2015

French flag

We wish to thank all of you Dear Readers, who wrote to ask as to our safety after the dreadful attacks in Paris last week. We and our family are all well, as are our friends, but not their friends, some of whom are among the wounded. Like everyone else, we send our sympathies to the families of those who were killed.

Glibness comes easily for us, but we can find no words to express what we think and feel about this aggression and tragedy. We give here the words of our son, which come very close to what we feel.

Today I am French.

Although I did not learn the language until I was ten years old, my father was born in Normandy in 1943, two years and a stone’s throw from D-Day. Although I still speak it with the accent of an outsider, it is how I speak to half my family. To me it is, always has been, and always will be a language of love.

Today I am Parisian.

Although Paris is but one entry in the long list of cities in which I spent my childhood, it was in Paris that I witnessed 9/11. It was Parisians who, upon hearing my American English, approached me to tell me how deeply sorry they were for the suffering my country had endured. It was Parisians who stood in solidarity by my side when I, and the world, witnessed the dawning of the modern age of terrorism.

Today I am a witness.

Although I am a child of France and Paris, last night I watched from afar. I saw horror, and then I saw love. I saw liberty, equality, and brotherhood overtake fear within minutes. I saw a city still under attack literally throw open its doors to strangers, refusing even for a moment to cower in fear. I watched‪#‎PorteOuverte‬, and my heart sang in the midst of tragedy.

Today I am human.

Although I am angry, although the rage that shakes me so that I can barely type feels like a force of nature, I will not direct that anger at innocents. The refugees who seek sanctuary in Europe are fleeing exactly this violence in their own countries. They are the victims, not the perpetrators, of these attacks. They are us, and we are them, and we must protect that knowledge in the face of our own anger.

Although the personal connection I have to Paris gives these events an immediate resonance, they are one example of myriad tragedies in the world today. Whatever action they galvanise must be on behalf of all humanity. There is no ‪#‎PeaceforParis‬ without ‪#‎PeaceforAll‬

Today I am human, because we all are.
Today I am a witness, because we all are.
Today I am Parisian, because we all are.
Today I am French, because we all are.

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Toujours. )






XXIII Congrès national de Généalogie - Maps of French Florida



At the conference, we had the choice between a discussion of a Quebecois family, an introduction to French genealogy blogs and Daniel Rocchi's "Les Cartes normandes des XVIème et XVIIème siècles et la Floride, l'apport des cartes de Verrazane (1529),  Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1564/1591), Jacques et Pierre de Vaulx (1583/1584 et 1613)". Naturally, we selected the last, for we admire those whose intellectual passion can make them oblivious. Monsieur Rocchi confessed to have prepared his talk originally for the International Conference on the place of French and Francophone Culture in Florida, which was given "as a part of the continuing celebration of the 450th anniversary of French heritage in Florida." We did not mind being among those to hear it on its second run. 

Verrazano, a Florentine born in Lyon, mapped much of the eastern coast of North America, and even named what is now New York Santa Margherita Angoulemme to please the French king. 


Unfortunately, he was killed and eaten somewhere in the Caribbean.

Gaspard II de Coligny, one of the most important of Huguenot leaders in the sixteenth century, sent Protestant colonists to Brazil. They were removed by the Catholic Portuguese. He also aided in sending Protestants with Laudonniere to found Fort Caroline in Spanish Florida; they were slaughtered by the Catholic Spanish in 1565. A French escapee was Jacques le Moyne de Morgues, painter and mapmaker. Unfortunately, all of his paintings, drawings and maps were burned in the Spanish attack. After a voyage back to Europe that nearly killed him (they got lost), he repainted some of the lost works from memory, opening the door to the creation of fraudulent works attributed to him, and spent his remaining days as a superb botanical artist in London.  


The de Vaulx brothers were both pilots from Le Havre. Jacques de Vaulx was one of the Dieppe School of mapmakers, went on a voyage to Brazil, where he visited Fort Coligny, and produced an atlas. He also wrote a treatise on navigation. His younger brother, Pierre, left a single work, a truly exquisite map of the Atlantic Ocean, done in 1613, showing, with much more, Florida.

De Vaulx

After all of those luscious images, Monsieur Rocchi left us.

For those who wish to know more on the early French colony in Florida, we recommend Chroniques de la guerre de Floride : Une Saint-Barthélemy au Nouveau Monde (1562-1568) and Le Huguenot et le Sauvage, by Frank Lestringant. 

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 4 - Laurent Desnoyers

Petits Soins

Monsieur Conroyd wrote:

I have several ancestors who were apparently in the French military, but I will pick one here, of whom I seem to have enough information to make a little bit of an interesting story, though I actually have more about his wife.  I have not been able to find his certain origin or baptism and would like to.  I suppose I am hoping that military records might unlock something about him, but I don’t know how to pursue them...

Laurent De[s] Noyer[s]  

  • abt 1697 born, perhaps native of Dain in Artois, bishopric of St. Omer [This is from a book by Winston Deville giving his wife’s origin]
  • "native of Dain in Artois" diocese Saint Omer [Saint Omer existed from 1559 - Revolution; 1801 merged with Arras] [Artois Province or County contained cities: Arras, Saint-Omer, Lens, & Bethune; now in Pas-de-Calais dept.] Dainville?, Pas-de-Calais?, just west of Arras; 54 km from Marconne (wife's native village)
  • [Natchez Post founded in 1716]
  • Perhaps about 1715-18 entered the French military, navy?
  • abt. 1718 married in France (marriage record not yet found, but a
  • baptism found for a apparently legitimate daughter Marie Angelique Desnoyers on 26 Dec 1718 in Marconne, France, dying 11 days later.) “fille legitime de Laurent” was inserted into the text.
  •  [1718, May 7 New Orleans founded]
  •  1720 Aug 20 departed France aboard the ship L'Elephant apparently with wife Angelique, sergeant in the Navy Regiment with hope of becoming Ensign, for New Orleans
  • 1722 Aug 15 a second sergeant at Yazoo[Mississippi], witnessed a testament of Father Nicholas Arquevaux a native of Verdun, Lorraine, aged 34 years [La. Museum, N.O., on-line, document 32 with signature of DeNoye[?]
  •  1729 Adjutant Major and manager of the Terre Blanche concession at Natchez. 
  • 1729 Nov 28 Slaughtered by the Natchez Indians at Fort Rosalie, later Natchez, he only arriving [perhaps returning] that morning, and like all the other French, not aware of the Natchez ruse: acting friendly, borrowing French guns claiming to go hunting, then upon signal using them to kill almost all the un-armed French men, and many women and children at close quarters instead.
  • He apparently married [no marriage record yet found in Hesdin or nearby Marconne, wife’s origin] Marie Anne Angelique Charton and had possibly 4 children; 1 in France, 3 in French Louisiana or Mississippi territory.

It is our experience that these very early settlers have been thoroughly researched and that what has not yet been found is not going to be found. Still, in genealogy research one must never say never, so here is what we suggest:

  • We spoke with the representatives of the Association Généalogique du Pas de Calais, who were very generous with their time and expertise, at their stand at the Congrès national de Généalogie in Poitiers. They checked their databases for the entire department and found no Laurent Desnoyers at all. They checked various spellings but found nothing. (They did find a great deal on his wife, Marie Anne Angélique Chartron, who, along with about twenty other women, is reputed to have been the inspiration for the story of Manon Lescaut. Monsieur Conroyd already has the Chartron information.) Mind, the content of their databases is what people have extracted from parish and civil registrations and one tiny variation in spelling means that a name could be missed. We would not continue searching the parish registrations with much energy without more clues.
  • All at the stand scoffed at a village named Dain. "There NEVER was such a place!" they all agreed. Possibly Dainville or Houdain (both of which Monsieur Conroyd has already searched) possibly -- based on the idea of pronunciation -- Dohem (which is in the modern arrondissement of St. Omer). Dohem's registers are not big and it would not take long to search them, bearing in mind that the spelling would probably be other than Desnoyers.
  • Desnoyers and Chartron my have had a marriage contract. If so, even if they married elsewhere, it may have been written in or near her home of Marconne or in St. Omer. Her father may have left a will. Checking the répertoires of the actes of the notaires who served Marconne for the relevant years, say 1715 through 1718 for the marriage, could reveal something that has not been found by others yet. A complete list of the notarial records for the department can be found here and it can be seen that not many go back as far as is required, so it would not be that much of a difficulty to look through them. However, only the finding aids are online. The search would have to be done in person at the Departmental Archives of Pas de Calais.
  • No search of the records for Louisiane and Natchez on the IREL search engine for the Archives nationales d'outre-mer brings up anything for Laurent Desnoyers. However, there is a great deal on Louisiana and Natchez, with quite a lot of correspondence, not all of which has been indexed online. Much of it is, however, digitized and can be viewed on the website. Reading the letters and reports for Natchez during the relevant years could yield something on Desnoyers.
  • The same holds true for correspondence and other documents held at other facilities, all of which are listed on the excellent government website La Louisiane française, under the heading Resources Documentaires. 
  • The Compagnie des Indes search page on Memoire des Hommes has the passenger and crew lists for ships to Louisiana from 1720, though these are not always complete.
  • It seems unlikely, given his military rank, but should Desnoyers have been one of the prisoners or his wife one of the women rounded up in Paris, then their names could appear in the records of the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal


This will be a tough one for, as we say, it is unlikely that all of the above have not been combed by many researchers over the years. Nevertheless, we wish Monsieur Conroyd the best of luck. As always, suggestions from our Dear Readers would be most welcome.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

XXIII Congrès national de Généalogie - The Purpose of Archives

Didn't make it to an archive

The talk that Monsieur Benoît Jullien gave so expertly seemed to be aimed at explaining the purposes and functions of archives to genealogists, many of whom may tend to see only their own requirements concerning archives. He began by explaining the administrative reasons for their initial establishment by the fledgling Republic. There had to be some place to store the originals of laws passed and judicial decisions handed down, as well as all of the debates, discussions and ministerial procedures and operations that had taken place in the running of the government at every level. Lest we forget: to those who established archives and manage them, the historical or genealogical value of their contents must come second to their administrative importance to the operation of government.

Ever so gently, politely and entertainingly chastened, we listened on as Monsieur Jullien discussed the

  • Problems of conservation, particularly as concerns those documents sent in electronic form;
  • Decisions concerning value and what to keep or not, giving an example of the date on a manuscript in the Departmental Archives of Vienne being the year 540, which would make it the oldest document there, except that it is a fake from the 11th century, (the oldest document that they have is dated 780) but now the fake is so old that it has some historical value as well;
  • Issues of organizing the information, especially after a complete restructuring of government administration in the 1980s, the first such in two hundred years, e.g. does one reorganize the archives to reflect the new structure or create ever more convoluted finding aids to guide those from the future to the past?
  • Problems of burgeoning: in 1812, the Departmental Archives of Vienne had 150 linear meters of material; in 2013, they had 27,000, which leads to...
  • Problem of location. Everyone would like the archives to be in the centre of town, within easy access, but this would be exceedingly expensive, considering the amount of space now required. Thus, throughout France, archives, as they expand, are being relocated away from city and town centres. (Seemingly by way of compensation, snazzy architects are offered up: Bruno Dumetier, Zaha Hadid, etc..)
  • Need to balance uses of and rights to the contents of the archives: the right to access vs. the new right to be forgotten, the government's memory, free speech, the right to discover and know one's origins (Interestingly for genealogists, he pointed out here that for those whose ancestors were slave on Saint Dominique, the records may not only be there, but in the property tax records of the department where the slave owner originated. Thus, the Departmental Archives of Vienne property tax records from the early nineteenth century contain lists of people held in slavery on Saint Dominique.)

Monsieur Jullien then broached the touchy subject: the right to access archives as opposed to the demand to publish, reproduce or sell them. (See our previous post.) He made the important differentiation between the form of the documentation (microfilm, paper, electronic, etc.) and the information it contains, saying that the issues being fought so furiously at the moment -- those of copyright, ownership, payment, etc. -- must apply only to the former and never to the latter, which must remain open and free to all. We believe that many who rant on this subject should reflect on that point. Lastly, he almost begged for there to be a concurrence on this subject among all archives facilities in France. "We need a solution."

After much applause, there were questions from the audience, all of which seemed to focus on the private family archives people had amassed and would like to donate, but would they be accepted. The answer was a resounding affirmative.

©2015 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy