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Early Nineteenth Century Military Records

Chef de Famille

We have recently returned from a research junket at the Departmental Archives at Doubs. Besançon remains a very pleasant small city and the archives continue to improve their service. The indomitable Yvette, resident genealogist volunteer, continues to offer assistance to any and all and the archivists clearly rely upon her extensive knowledge. 

We spent quite some time investigating military records and discovered all sorts of little treasures previously unknown to us within the series 4R. As we wrote recently here, the French military loomed large in a young man's life during the nineteenth century. As early as 1804, authorities were conducting a census of men eligible for the draft. The document shown above is an example of such a one. It was a census of heads of families and people living alone, and a list of the sons and grandsons in the household. The example is for Nicolas François Normand, a limonadier -- a type of grocer who sold the cast-offs from the kitchens of the grand -- in Besançon. He was born on the 10th of September 1749 in Avoudrey. He was married with four sons and (possibly) four daughters. He paid taxes. He was five feet and four inches tall. The comment about him and his political opinions states that he was quiet and beyond reproach. As to his four sons, all born in Besançon:

  • Victor Marie, born the 23rd of September 1762. He seems to have been a judge in "Leybak" [Laybach, now Ljubljana, then the capitol of the Illyrian Provinces, under French rule]
  • Louis Armand Desiré, born the 5th of January 1785, a farrier in the Cuirassiers.
  • Etienne Jean, born the 28th of February 1788, a limonadier, like his father, and apparently unsuitable for military service.
  • Félix , born the 16th of August 1799, a pharmacology student, planning to join up.

These forms document Napoleon's never-ending demand for men to fill his army's ranks. They are individual sheets, filling a number of cartons, in which they are placed alphabetically by surname. A hidden resource on males in family groups during the early nineteenth century.

Series 4R contains other treasures and the contents vary from one Departmental Archive to the other but all concern recruitment for the many corps of the army, even from among orphans and the elderly, as the wars wore on. Check the online finding aids, inventaires, to see what the Departmental Archives central to your research may have.

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy