As with all archives in France, those of the Municipal Archives of La Rochelle are divided into two major groups: those records created before the establishment of a new form of government after the French Revolution, the Ancien régime, and those created afterward, termed modern records. As we wrote in our previous post, we like police records in archives of both pre and post -Revolution for their lists. In the oldest of the modern police records, we found a great haul of register books showing internal passports issued to people travelling out of La Rochelle during the Reign of Terror and the War in the Vendée, which was very close at hand.
These are simple register books, not exact copies of the internal passports. They would appear to have been made in haste, giving the impression of people rushing to leave the city in a panic or, perhaps, to join the fight to the north. There is no index, so one must simply page through them; each volume took us about an hour, for they are large, with four entries to a page. If the officer took the time to complete it (which he usually did not), each entry gives:
- The passport number
- The date, in the Republican Calendar
- Place of birth or nationality, including city, district and department
- Colour of hair and eyebrows
- Place of residence
- Signature of the recipient
As can be seen in the image of a page above, not everyone was in a panic. Passports were issued in mid-1794 to Thomas Haywood, Samuel H. Dolby and Benjamin Earle, three young Americans from Philadelphia, off on what would appear to be a mountaineering holiday. Or not - perhaps they were much more deeply involved in the events of the time, as Mistike's comment below reveals.
©2016 Anne Morddel