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Did Your Ancestor Take Another's Place in the Army?

Voltigeur

At the beginning of the summer, which seems so long ago, almost an age of innocence from this perspective, we wrote of the harsh demands of the French military during the nineteenth century. One of the ways for some to avoid serving was, of course, to emigrate. Another way was to pay someone to serve in one's place, to hire a remplaçant.

During the period from 1800 to 1872, the French Army permitted those called up for service to find  -- or "buy" -- a replacement. The replacement had to be of the same age and he had to be approved by the recruitment bureau. If he were approved, the man being replaced had to pay something toward the replacement's uniform and equipment. 

A formal approval of replacement might have been filed with the prefecture. If so, that would be found in Series Q in the Departmental Archives. Registers of replacements may be found in Series R. If a formal contract happened to have been made, that would be in the notarial archives in Series E (except for those of Paris, which are held in the National Archives.) Unless you have the name of the notaire, finding this last could be a long hunt through each notaire's chronological list of acts written, his répertoire. It could, however, be worth it, in terms of rewards for your genealogical research, particularly if in Paris, where few of the military lists survive.

Remplacement 1

 

We came across a replacement contract of 1822 in the National Archives in Paris (carton no. MC/ET/960) in the notarial acts of Maître Grenier. It tells a tale:

Jean-Baptiste Amam (or Hanant), a gardener, contracted to pay Pierre Lablanche, a mason, to replace the former's son, Guillaume, in the army. Both young men were in the same recruitment list of 1821, but Lablanche had been released, while Amam's number was called. They said that there were friends. It was agreed that Monsieur Lablanche was to serve the full term -- with honour, no less -- that the army required of him. In return, said Lablanche would receive 1700 francs, in instalments, from Amam's father. There follow three pages explaining when and how the money was to be paid. Payment was to be made by "metal money only".

The contract does not name other family members, but it does give the addresses of Amam/Hannant and Lablanche. The call-up age was twenty, so it can be estimated that both young men were born in about 1801 and probably in Paris.

The different spellings of the gardener's name are an interesting secondary topic. Throughout the document, the notaire spelt the name Amam, while the man whose name it was signed it, Hanant. Neither version is at all common in France today. Why did the notaire insist on such a variant? Was it arrogance? Did the gardener have to present a document and, if so, was that the spelling on the document?

Hanant et Lablanche

That 1700 francs was quite a sum. Calculating monetary values across eras is tricky, but we have given it a shot using the website of Professor Rodney Evinsson, of Stockholm University, which converts based on the value of gold. According to his site's calculations, 1700 francs of 1822 have the value of nearly 17,500 euros today. That would have been the full payment for six to eight years of military duty. Is that a fair price, do you think?

 

©2016 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

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