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Find Your Ancestor in the Registers of the Bureaux des Hypothèques

Hypotheques 2

We have had quite a few happy successes in locating all of a person's heirs in France by using the the registers of the bureaux des hypothèques. Literally, the word hypothèque means mortgage in English, but the function of the bureaux covers more than that. Much has to do with property taxes and there are many columns for figures and calculations in the registers under scrutiny here. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, columns of figures drive us to dizziness and nausea very quickly so, if we can have successes with these registers, anyone can.

The bureau des hypothèque is a registration centre of all land and buildings, the names of all owners, the taxes levied on the property, any laws and ordinances pertaining to it, any leases or mortgages concerning it, any transfers of ownership or leases or debts. (No title search issues in France!) The bureaux des hypothèques were a creation of the French Revolutionary government, to take the control of land out of the hands of the crown and aristocracy and put it into the hands of the new government. They were abolished in June of 2010 and replaced by a section of the tax authority, which carries out the same function.

It is the function of recording the change of ownership or names on leases or mortgages, coupled with another law, that makes the bureaux des hypothèques  so useful to the French genealogist. That other law is enshrined in the Civil Code and mandates that, when a parent dies, no child may be disinherited and that all children must receive equal shares of the parent's estate. This was and is so rigid that, as we have written before here (with a photo of one of the Parisian shops we most love to hate), many people did not bother to write a will. When there is no will but there is property,  or even a lease, is when the registers of the bureaux des hypothèques can be so helpful: all of the children and the surviving spouse will be named in the register called the Mutations par Décès when the death of an owner or lessor is reported.

The picture above is of the first paragraph of an ordinary entry that is a good example. Each declaration, in the column on the left of the page, must give:

  • The full name of the deceased
  • The place of residence of the deceased
  • The date of death

  Hypotheques 3

Then, all of the heirs must be named. Thus, on the first of June 1822, the heirs of Claude Joseph Bounot, who died at Solemont on the fourth of December 1821, made their declaration of his death at the bureau des hypothèques in Pont-de-Roide, Doubs. Roughly translated, the paragraph reads:

"Appeared: Jean Baptiste and Aimable Bounot, brothers, farmers at Solemont, representing also: Gabriel, Constance, Josephine and Virginie Bouvalot, all children of the late Françoise Bounot who, when alive, was the wife of Jacques Joseph Bouvalot of Solemont, and who say that Claude Joseph Bounot, their father [of the declarants] and grandfather [of the Bouvalot clan] died at the said place [Solemont] on the 4th of December 1821 ....." 

Something of a jackpot in a single paragraph, non? We explain how to find the entries in the registers here. Increasingly, the indices to the registers of the bureaux des hypothèques are being put on the websites of the Departmental Archives (listed with links in the column on the left of this page) so your ability to access them will get better and better.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy