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February 2016

Find Your French Protestant Ancestors in Eighteenth Century London


We wandered off topic and, lo and behold, were brought round again most pleasantly. While researching one aspect of our next book, we discovered the lovely pages of London Lives 1690-1800 - Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis. This is no commercial genealogy website that takes your money, blinds you with flashing, vulgar ads, and dumps on you a heap of results like a whale's bellyful of plankton that take two hours too filter down to....nada. This website is clean, sane, intelligent, set up for researchers and run by academics with a tight focus on those who were not wealthy or powerful or even honest, e.g. the hum, scrum and scum of eighteenth century London.

The data comes from 240,000 manuscripts in:

  • parish archives
  • criminal records
  • coroners' records
  • hospital and guild records
  • directories
  • tax records
  • workhouse registers
  • Marine Society Boys
  • pauper lists

There is a link to the National Archives Wills collection as well. Searches can be on name or keyword, on all documents or just one set.

For those of you whose ancestors went to London during the Protestant diaspora after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, this website could be of great help in finding them and/or learning more about their lives. We did a sampling by searching on some of the many names of Huguenot ancestors you, Dear Readers, have said you are seeking and all of the following yielded results on London Lives:

  • Delafons
  • deBoos
  • Pele
  • Brunet
  • Jaunay
  • Henon
  • Rocher
  • Gaston
  • Cormier
  • Gaudet
  • Delorme
  • Desbats
  • Gile
  • Lapierre

We hope that you will give it and try and have happy results.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Signing On the Archives nationales SIV

SIV form

After our previous post, a few of our Dear Readers have written that they have had problems creating a user's account with the Archives nationales Salle des Inventaires Virtuelle. Such an account is essential to being able to order copies of records in the archives. The problems seem to be less with the AN than with confusion about the tricky ways of forms completion in France. We give above a screen print of the form, with a translation of how to complete it. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Bonne chance!

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 5 - Edme Gervais, traiteur parisien

Petits Soins


We have received the following query from Monsieur Gervais, who has done quite a lot of research already:
I have traced my Gervais ancestors from Louisiana to St. Domingue and now to Paris, where it looks like they lived in the parish of Saint-Jean-en-Grève, which I believe was part of the parish of St. Gervais (perhaps where my family took its name?). My St. Domingue ancestor was Jean Francois Gervais.   His father, Edme Gervais  is the oldest ancestor I can trace back.  He apparently died in Paris around 1783.
I know the difficulties about finding information on one's Parisien relatives, but I am wondering if there are any resources on Edme through his profession.  Edme Gervais was a "maître traiteur ancien" or something like that.  I am told loosely translated that he was a "master caterer". 
In a procuration that his son Jean had drawn up in St. Domingue, Jean gave a person named Francois Michel Jeanniot the power to govern certain affairs of the probate of Edme Gervais.  Francois was called "officier de bouche" which I am told under the Ancien Régime was a general name referring to a variety of positions in the royal court involving serving at the King’s table, for instance, cutting meat.  It leads me to believe the Gervais has some friends in high places in the catering/food world of the Ancien Regime! haha.
So I am wondering if there are any leads on information on my ancestor through his being a master caterer, and possibly linked to persons with positions in the royal court. Are there any royal court documents surviving that might tell if he held a position at the court or did work for the court?   Was there perhaps a guild or association of caterers?  Was his profession/standing a likely way for up and coming people like him to get obtain land in St. Domingue and maybe that is why one of his sons was out there on St. Domingue?  The thoughts continue......
He provided the following links to document transcriptions online at the website of the University of Florida, and to the 1783 Paris document found online at Geneanet, and indexed by Projet Familles Parisiennes.
He also sent an excellent piece of work by an unnamed translator and researcher:

June 7, 1783

Marguerite Guebert, widow of Edme Gervais, former master caterer in Paris, appeared before me. In the attorney’s office, Widow Gervais sincerely and truthfully affirmed the contents of the inventory taken on May twenty-seven et seq. for the donation which occurred on June four by Mr. Fieffé, Esq., who has the official record in his attorney’s office in Paris. At her, Widow Gervais’, request and on her behalf due to the communality of the assets between her and her husband, the late Mr. Gervais, as is custom in cases of communality, for lack of an inventory at the present time, and according to the custom to which she [?] or [?] also in this Island Claude Louis Charles Seguin, master caterer [?] and 2nd husband and [now? son-in-law?] and [?] of Catherine Gervais, the oldest daughter, widow of Claude Philibert Mavault, her husband, on behalf of and as guardians and real estate trustees for [Anne?] Gabriel Danet and Jean Pierre Danet, emancipated minors, [?] present at [?] the king’s Joyeux Cout, representative of the king’s prt, who has also been authorized, who have been summoned due to the absence of Jean Edme Gervais me [?] and because Jean François Gervais is in St. Domingue. Jean Edme Gervais, Jean François Gervais, and Catherine Gervais, widow, represented by Claude Louis Charles Seguin, are each hereby deemed heirs to one-fourth of the late Edme Gervais, their father and [?]. In steps and presentation of depends also on him [?] Gervais Louis [?] sons of Jean Pierre Danet, hereby deemed [B…] [?] heirs to the last fourth of the late Edme Gervais, their maternal ancestor. Since the inventory considered completed on June six, one thousand seven hundred eighty-three was [?] it on that day and the comments made on [La…] on that day on June six that Widow Gervais appeared before me and affirmed [?] correct.

Transcriber’s Notes:

The document refers to the post-mortem inventory of the assets of Edme Gervais on May 27, 1783. The inventory can be found in the records and registries of attorney Éloi Fieffé (office XXVI).

Fieffé was an attorney [or notaire] in Paris from December 10, 1776 to September 5, 1789.

The document also refers to the daughter, Catherine Gervais, and the son-in-law, Claude-Louis-Charles Seguin. I was able to find a later document referring to them, which helped confirm the lineage and spelling of the names. See the post-mortem inventory for Claude-Louis-Charles Seguin, d. January 11, 1819, and for Catherine Gervais, his wife, d. January 1, 1816; March 2, 1819.


Monsieur Gervais does not say that he obtained copies of the documents found by the transcriber/translator, but to our mind, this would be the next thing to do. Both documents are "post-mortem" or probate inventories and both would almost certainly name all legal heirs, for they all would have had to be present or represented at the inventory. Their full names, ages, professions, addresses and relationship to the deceased may be given. Membership to an association might also be given. References to other documents that could be requested may also be given or the documents may even have been copied to go with the inventories.
To request notarial records from the Archives nationales is not at all difficult anymore. We have explained here before about the much improved website of the AN, the Salle des Inventaires, or SIV. You must create an account, Monsieur Gervais, and sign in. From the menu, choose Recherche multicritères, and then choose Rechercher dans les minutes de notaires.
Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 16.36.40
 The translator's links to the probate inventory for Edme Gervais goes to the information page about it and gives the date of the document: 27 May 1783. You must then go to the list of the notaire, Maître Fieffé's, cartons of minutes in the archives and find the one containing records including that date. Click on that and the description, if any, with code, comes up. The code in this case is : MC/ET/XXVI/714. Back to the Rechercher dans les minutes de notaires page to type this code into the box labelled cote. You will then be offered the possibility to request a copy of a document. Type in the probate inventory title and send the request. The Archives nationales will send a bill. They will then send, by e-mail if you wish, copies of the document. It takes about three weeks. Get both of these inventories and see what they reveal!
We noticed that, on the wonderful site of Projet Familles Parisiennes, there are indexed two documents concerning one Edme Gervais Trianon, maître rotisseur, dated 1744 and 1754. These could be worth investigating as well.
As to a professional association such as that for bakers and pastry chefs, you may wish to look at the site of the Compagnons du Tour de France.
Lastly, to learn more about Edme Gervais's profession, we suggest two special issues of Nos Ancêtres - Vie et Métiers:
You have many possibilities, Monsieur Grevais!
©2016 Anne Morddel
French Genealogy

Les Déportés

 Iron Ring

France has been doing more and more to recognise and acknowledge the facts concerning the deportation of French Jewish people to the Nazi death camps during the Second World War. Les déportés were mostly Jewish and Roma people, but also included those who tried to help them and were caught, and resistance fighters who were caught. As the generation that did not want to know shrivels, their grandchildren are bringing the subject more into public discussion. Includes French citizens and citizens of other countries resident in France. The Departmental Archives of Orne are presenting an exhibition of drawings of the camps by some of those held there. Students who interviewed camp survivors for a school project were awarded a national prize.

Since 1985, with the loi 85-528, the French government has slowly been publishing the names of those who died. After confirming the identity of the person and the date and place of death, they publish lists. Most importantly, with each confirmation, a death registration is created, noting mort en déportation, and a marginal note of the same is place on the birth registration. This is more than symbolic, for it gives any heirs the necessary legal documentation to begin to pursue a claim. Periodically, new lists are published in the Journal Officiel and can be seen on the government website Legifrance. To date, about sixty per cent of the estimated 115,000 deported have been listed.

The difficulty for the genealogist seeking a name is that each list contains dozens of names, running to many pages and the lists are legion. There is no index. Where to look?  If the date and place of birth is known, seek the birth registration to see if a marginal note has been added; then, based on the information given in the note, request the death registration. If there be no marginal note, this is not conclusive as the work described above is in progress. There are a number of online resources to try next.

One of the first places to look is the website of Yad Vashem, "the Jewish people's living memorial to the Holocaust". There, one finds a database that can be searched, which takes its names from a number of sources, official and personal.  Even so, this is the collection with the most combined sources. For those seeking living relatives, the Pages of Testimony are particularly valuable. Unfortunately, we have noticed a number of mistakes or discrepancies concerning some of the French names, so information discovered there needs to be confirmed with more research.

The website Les Morts Dans Les Camps attempts to be an index to the lists of French victims from the Journal Officiel. (We recommend against using the English version of this website, to save your sanity.) Here, the names can be searched by surname, place of birth within France, place of birth outside of France, or by the list published. It is a clunky and slow website to use, but invaluable.

We have previously presented a guest post about the SHOAH Memorial in Paris. Its website continues to increase its content concerning the names and fates of victims, now including some photographs. Its search page is accessible in English.

The website of, Anonymes, Justes et Persécutés durant la période Nazie dans les communes de France is more than a collection of names. It contains memories, stories and photographs about the victims and the people who managed to save some, including Jewish, Roma and Spanish Republicans, as well as Jewish Resistance fighters. It is an effort to capture first-hand memories before all those who have them will have died. It is possible to search by name (in the upper left-hand corner of the page) and by commune. 

By using all of these websites together, and cross-checking facts as much as possible, it may be possible to trace French victims from your family, and possibly to connect with a relative.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Genealogy Circle Reincarnated in Alsace

Reincarnated Circle

Pertinent to our recent post on dying genealogy circles and good news for those researching Alsatian ancestors, the Centre Départemental d'Histoire des Familles (CDHF), which we reported as being on its last legs here, has been born anew as the Centre de Recherches sur l’Histoire des Familles (CRHF) and will reopen its doors on the 12th of February.

How did this come about? How did they find a way to survive, when their funding from the department was stopped? Is there something to be learned here by other genealogy circles and associations? As the CRHF tell it:

  • They have had to reduce their opening hours, but will be open to the public from 1.00pm to 6.00pm on Fridays and from 9.00am to 5.00pm on Saturdays. Staffing will be by volunteers.
  • Publications may again be ordered by post. The list is on the old website. For the time being, payment may be by cheque (in euros, on a French bank) only.
  • The CRHF will do some research in Parish and civil registrations -- on request and for a fee. They will no longer be able to transcribe or explain them.
  • The old CDHF website remains accessible to all, though some databases are for members only. Access codes are sent to members by post.
  • Money is still urgently needed. If anyone knows of a person or organisation that might be able to contribute, please contact them and encourage them to empty their pockets! The new incarnation has received its charitable status and donations are, thus, tax deductible.*
  • Membership form is here.

 Excellent news!

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

*Probably not for Americans, as the IRS does not recognise French charities.

Whatever Is To Become of Les Cercles Généalogiques?


Dear Readers, we seem to have been going against the grain, swimming against the current, bucking the trend, and so on and so forth. For some time, here on the FGB, we have been urging, nay, importuning you to do your best to support the French genealogy circles and associations. Our reasoning has been that they are worth saving as they are filled with impassioned experts who will share their expertise for a pittance. They are the local historians who know volumes of details about the hamlets whence came your ancestors. We are a firm believer that no database or sytem will ever match the beautifully synthesizing memory of one of these experts.

This view, however, seems not to be held by many others here in France. A few months ago "Tom Prat" said they simply should be put out of their misery. "They are completely archaic," he moaned, explaining that membership can be paid only by cheque and access to the extracts they have painstakingly made is possibly only at their clubhouses or at a price to high online. He says that the circles make the claim that many of their members do not have the access to the Internet, so putting everything online would not be fair. Though he admits that this may be true, he seems to find it hard to believe. He goes on to say that they are too elitist but worst of all, they are completely out of touch with the new generation of genealogists.

No less illustrious a writer than the president of the Fédération Française de Généalogie, J.F. Pellan, asks whether the genealogy associations should not be "Uberized" (cute, eh?) instead of euthanized. He points out that the old economic model (seems a bit over determined to use that here) of the genealogy circles was based on an income from low membership fees and the sales of their booklets of extracted details from the parish and civil registrations in their area.

Essentially, the Internet has undercut those booklets, whether via an outlet of their own, such as Geneabank, or via an online commercial genealogy database, such as Geneanet, or whether via the surge in free, collaborative indexing that the Departmental Archives are adding to their websites. Their income was always at risk as, though their booklets of extracts may have been proprietary, the documents extracted are available free to view. The moment that free access to those documents became almost universal, the genealogy circles should have begun looking for a new way to make money.

Mr. Pellan's best suggestion was that they add photos of individuals to their booklets of births, deaths and marriages. This seems to lack a certain dynamism to us. We would like to suggest that they make available on their websites the many expert and informative articles about various families that have appeared in their journals and newsletters. Really, some of the family genealogies go back ten generations and some of the articles are quite thorough and scholarly. Put those online as pdf documents that can be downloaded, set up an index that can be searched on the website of all of the names mentioned in them, have a simple payment system to sell the articles individually, and start collecting money.

That is our suggestion for the day. What say you, Dear Readers? Kill them off or help them find a way to carry on?

© 2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

See this post's comments here.