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May 2017

Picard on Jules Lion - A Study in an Altered Identity

LaFayette passenger list

Some time ago, we were contacted by the art historian, Sara M. Picard, to help with research into a French immigrant to Louisiana named Jules Lion. It was such a fascinating case that we were more than happy, nay, keen to be involved. We hunted through cemeteries, French passenger lists, Consistoire registers, naturalisation files, commercial directories, notarial records, and many more. Dr. Picard quite brilliantly combined the French research with her much larger amount of research into American records to prove a remarkable point -- that historians had mistaken the racial background of Jules Lion. 

Her article, "Racing Jules Lion", appeared recently in Louisiana History, the Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association. Dr. Picard very kindly has obtained permission from that publication to allow you, Dear Readers, to access and read the article in its entirety here. If you have ever been puzzled by aspects of an ancestor's identity in your research, or if you simply want to have an amazing read about one of Louisiana's earliest photographers, do read this excellent study.

Many, many thanks, Dr. Picard, for allowing us to publish the link on The FGB.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

"Amnistié" on a Birth Registration

Infanterie de la Garde Royale 1815


Monsieur M. wrote in to ask what "Amnistié" meant when written as a marginal note on a birth registration. The word means "pardoned". Thus, the person was either condemned as a criminal, possibly a political prisoner, or was found guilty of desertion from the military and then was pardoned. How to find out more?


One must look in the Archives de justice in the Departmental Archives for the dossiers on condemned political prisoners of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The would be in the archives of the courts in Series U. They could also be in the police archives in Series M. The Archives nationales, in the Sub-Series BB/18, has a large number of dossiers on condemned anarchists, from 1890 through 1955.


Ordinary criminals' trial records will also be in Series U of the Departmental Archives, while prison records are found in the Departmental Archives in Series Y, arranged by the name of the prison. In Paris, the police archives could have more no a case.


The Archives nationales, in  Sub-Series BB/21-24, have all applications for pardons and whether they were granted or refused. They are indexed in a somewhat complicated way, which is explained in the excellent Archives nationales document here. There was a general pardon of the Counter-Revolutionaries in 1791, and another of the Communards voted on the 11th of July 1880.


The military in France during the nineteenth century was hard. It was hard under Napoleon and it was hard during various conscription regimes. Desertion was common, so common that there have been occasional general pardons. When a deserter was pardoned, he received a Certificat d'Amnistie, which he then showed to mayors and officials where he was born and/or where he lived, to be accepted as an honest member of society once again. To find out if an ancestor was a deserter, start with the military conscription lists to see if he was supposed to serve, then check his record. 


When a full pardon is granted, the conviction is annulled and any prison term commuted, and full civil rights are restored. In most cases, a full pardon would be noted on the birth certificate. Recall that, in France, one must constantly supply copies of one's birth certificate or show the portable, official copy in the Livret de Famille. This means that the marginal note, "Amnistié" will ensure that the person will not be treated as a criminal or re-arrested.

Many thanks for this one, Monsieur M.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy




Study to Become a French Genealogy Expert


The bilingual, English/French diploma course in French Genealogy at the University of Nîmes was inaugurated a few years ago. A year and a half ago, we discussed here its plans for improvement and were grateful to receive your enlightening comments and suggestions. We passed those on the the eminent French Genealogist, Monsieur Stéphane Cosson, and the others working with him to revise and improve the course. We find it more flexible and the explanation to be more focused. Whether you may be interested in voyaging to France to study or in the distance learning course, we think that this course could prove invaluable.

Monsieur Cosson has sent us the description of the new course and we are happy to present it here, hoping that some of you budding French genealogists will take the opportunity to learn how it is done by those in the know. The application period for the distance learning programme is open now!


A French Degree in “Genealogy and Family History”

Offering adequate training in research techniques is crucial and should be made available to all genealogists regardless of their personal level of experience: indeed, Genealogy is not just about computing a collection of dates. There is a world of exciting data waiting to be discovered, far more informative than the collaborative indexing or scanned documents that can be found on the Internet, on websites for Departmental Archives, etc. To really uncover the lives of our ancestors, one must learn where to look in order to make new discoveries and how to better understand the past.

With this in mind, the University of Nîmes is offering several college degree programs, which you will find listed below. Our objective is to offer the most complete training possible in Genealogy, whether you consider yourself a beginner or a professional. To achieve this goal, the team of University Professors is supplemented by Mr. Stéphane Cosson, a professional genealogist since 2000, who brings his expertise to our programs and shares his experience with our students.

Internship opportunities :

Students who wish to do so are welcome to do an internship while registered for our program. However this is not a requirement, as it is not part of our program description. Those who intend to do an internship will obviously acquire additional professional experience in the field. Note that finding an internship is the student’s responsibility; it needs to be directly related to Genealogy, and the internship must take place during the current academic year (ending no later than 30 September). Please let your head professor know that you plan do an internship and contact the “Formation Continue” department so they can deliver the necessary training agreement. After the internship is completed, students will be expected to report to the university, either verbally or in writing, depending on his or her geographical constraints. 

The University of Nîmes’ History Department offers a University Degree program (called D.U. in French = Diplôme Universitaire) in Généalogie & Histoire des Familles, specialized in Family History and Genealogy. It includes theoretical and practical classes, the details of which can be found on the website of the University (, "training").

Our Training Programs :

There are two different sessions available:

  1. Face-to-Face Program: classes are held on Fridays (all day) and Saturday mornings, from January to June 2018. Prospective students must apply online during the month of October prior to each session (on the site). A Selection Committee meets in early November and admission results are known in mid-November.

Note : Toward the end of the semester, students of our Face-to-Face Program gather in small groups for 5 days of intensive research at the Archives Départementales du Gard; they are required to establish the (most) complete genealogy of a local historical figure and need to work on this project as a team. This work is specific to the Face-to-Face Program.

Applications are to be submitted online between October 1st and 31st, 2017 on the university’s website at: ; the Selection Committee meets in early November.

All classes are held from January to June 2018.

Registration fees for the Face-to-Face Program:

  • Unimes students (initial training): €150
  • Students without funding (personal training): €1,200
  • Students with funding (continuous training): €1,600
  1. Distance Learning Program: training takes place remotely with access to courses online via a dedicated digital teaching platform. However the presence (remotely) is desired during some planned group sessions (usually Friday afternoons) for courses that require hands-on learning. Courses can also be provided in writing or filmed in advance.

The presence of students on the university site of Nîmes is required at the beginning of the session (for a first gathering and presentation), as well as for the exams which will take place in January (on consecutive days). If students residing abroad or in the DOM-TOM, wish to take the exams near their home, they will be able to do so at their own expenses. Please contact your nearest French Consulate or the French Alliance to enquire.

Applications are to be submitted online between May 1st to 31st, 2017, on the university’s website at: ; the Selection Committee meets in early June.

Classes are held from September 2017 to January 2018.

Computer and Technical Prerequisites before applying for our Distance Learning Program:

This distance learning program insists on a few prerequisites that are essential for you to make the most of your classes. To better assist you in your studies, your digital identity UNIMES (ID + password + email will be issued before your first classes. This will allow you to benefit from the services we offer (i.e. dedicated website, videoconferencing…) throughout the University calendar year.

Moreover, during the initial gathering in Nîmes, a specific learning session will introduce you to all the UNIMES training tools that will be used during your online and remote classes (e.g. the teaching platform and video-conferencing tool). You will also be taught how to navigate on the dedicated website, and where to find data so you can start studying at your own pace.

Below are all of the necessary and mandatory elements to be able to follow this online training:

Computer knowledge :

We would like to draw your attention to a few fundamentals in order to ensure the success of your e-learning:

  • A good knowledge of your environment, Windows or Mac
  • Being comfortable with internet browsing and peripheral devices (keyboard, mouse, microphone headset and webcam)
  • The ability to install and update traditional software programs
  • The ability to set up and use a webcam
  • The ability to set up and use a microphone headset

Equipment :

  1. Your internet connection must have a sufficient flow to allow you to follow this training online smoothly and in a comfortable way. A 512 kbps ADSL connection is the minimum required.       Connecting your computer to your internet network must be wired in remote clusters and remains highly recommended when interacting with the platform of UNIMES online courses (the Wi-Fi is to be avoided).
  1. A PC or Mac (or laptop) computer with the following items:
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1 card his
  • 1 output for wired connection to the internet
  1. An up-to-date operating system:
  • for a PC: Windows system with a version 7 to 10 but no Windows XP version
  • for a Mac: the Mac OS has a version of 10.8 to 10.10.
  1. A headset with a microphone : headphones with built-in mic, avoids the effects of echoes during your speech in grouping to distance and limited background noise which can interfere with other users.
  1. A webcam

Up-to-date software and plugins:

  • Adobe Flash Player (minimum version: 11.2): to attend online classes
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (up to date): to open PDF documents
  • VLC: to play the videos online or downloaded
  • an Office suite with at least:
  • a word processor (Word, free Office Writer, Open Office Writer or Page for Mac)
  • spreadsheets (Excel, Open Office Calc, Open Office Calc or even Numbers for Mac)
  • a presentation software (Power Point, free Office Impress, Open Office Impress, or Keynote for Mac)

At least the two following browsers (with the latest updates):

- Google Chrome (strongly recommended during group classes in video-conference)

- Firefox (if Chrome has failed)


The objective of this degree, whether in face-to-face or at a distance, is to offer a complete training, both practical and theoretical, in the science of Genealogy in order to allow all those who exercise it, in a private setting, to gain in effectiveness, and on the other hand to facilitate students in Law and History with their arrival on the labor market.

Educational Objectives:

Theoretical training revolves around three axes:

  • A general training in French Modern History to ensure that students acquire the knowledge fundamentals needed to navigate through our past;
  • Training in law, more particularly in the history of Family Law;
  • Training in historical sciences: Paleography, Onomastics, and Heraldry.

Practical training: it will be up to each student to conduct specific research at their local Archives on the history of a person or a family, using all records available, including: military, judicial, administrative, school, etc.


Each training unit, theoretical and practical (personal research project), will be sanctioned by a grade. A final grade will be calculated using specific coefficients for each grade. Admission to the University degree will be made by obtaining a score greater than or equal to 10/20.

The Distance Learning Program in “Genealogy & Family History” destined to English-speaking students can only be conducted if a minimum of 15 students are registered.

These classes provide training and knowledge to an English-speaking audience interested in learning the tools to search for their European roots; among other items, methodology sheets, lexicons, and summaries of classes will be translated into English and supplied to students to help them move forward on their genealogy projects, even when dealings with sources in Old French and Latin.

Exams taking place abroad will entail extra costs that will be charged to students.

Registration fees: €1,700 per semester.


Of course, should any of you make the journey to pursue the course here in France, do contact us to meet for a coffee!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy