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Solving Riddles With Géopatronyme

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Sometimes, things are not as they should be. We have been researching some distant cousins, miscreants who spelt the name with only one d. Mostly, they appear on various genealogy databases as in the west of France, which is indeed where they seem to have originated. We knew that they had spread to other parts of the country and we were hunting those born in the twentieth century.

As many e-mails from you, Dear Readers, have indicated quite a lot of you are hunting relations who, like those I sought, were born in the twentieth century. You will have found that, while more and more civil registrations and the indices to them are being put online at a galloping pace (Paris has just added birth registrations to 1912 and marriage registrations to 1940) most of what Departmental Archives have online stops at 1902. This is not due to indifference, laziness or malcontent but to limited funds.

One way to advance your research into twentieth century births is with clunky old Géopatronyme, which we covered long ago here and then, shame on us, left to languish without our attention. Really, for this area of research, it is quite helpful, as the following two examples illustrate.

In the first example, we were searching a member of the Mordel clan born in Paris in the 1970s. We did not know the exact year or which arrondissement. The Paris archives have put online the indices to birth registrations (table annuelles and table décennales) through 1932. So, we had no way of finding our Mordel on that website. We could have requested the registration online from each of the twenty Paris arrondissements, but that would have been the kind of time-consuming, indirect and messy search that we do not like at all. So, we went back to Géopatronyme which, recall, presents a map of some births in France for any given surname in the following date ranges:

  • 1891-1915
  • 1916-1940
  • 1941-1965
  • 1966-1990

 Searching there for Mordel and clicking on the last date range showed that fifty-six people were born with the name in France during that period:

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One was born in Paris. By clicking on Paris in that list, we were shown that the birth was in the thirteenth arrondissement. So, that is where we directed our research and found the birth registration that we sought.

The second example again concerns Paris, and a mistake in the index. We knew the name for the birth registration we sought and the parents' names, as well as the exact date in 1919. We checked the tables décennales on the Paris Archives website covering that year for every arrondissement in Paris, with no luck. We checked again under the mother's surname, again finding nothing.

It is never a good idea in genealogical research to assume, without good reason, that people lied about their basic facts. All documents we had concerning this person were consistent as to the birth being in 1919 in Paris. We also do not like to jump to the conclusion that the normally near-perfect French records could be flawed but it seemed to be the case here.

So we tried Géopatronyme for the period covering 1916 to 1940. It showed that thirteen people with the surname were born in Paris during those years, but they were in only three arrondissements, the fourteenth, the thirteenth and the sixth. With the births of those with the surname already found in the previous research in the tables décennales, we were able to rule out those born in the thirteenth and fourteenth arrondissements, leaving only the sixth.

Thus, we had the contradiction of the tables on the Paris Archives website showing no birth of a child with that surname in the sixth arrondissement but Géopatronyme showing at least one. We wrote to the town hall of the sixth arrondissement, asking for a copy of the birth registration and stating that the birth was not in the tables. Sure enough, they found it.

It is by no means infallible, but Géopatronyme can be most useful in this narrow area of twentieth century births. If that be where your brick wall lurks, perhaps Géopatronyme will have the answer. 

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy