Well, Dear Readers, following on from our last post, Les Bleus, as the French national football team is known, have won the World Cup. The final match was rather thrilling and, as one would expect, the country was delirious. Parades on the Champs Elysées, Legion of Honour medals for the team and, in front of every home, the French flag proudly flying in a fashion that one normally sees only in America. Great fun. We have always appreciated the way that a nation's participation in the World Cup can, if for a few days only, unite a country in a non-combative form of pride and competition. During our childhood in California, we saw how the World Series or the Super Bowl could unite citizens of a town in shared enthusiasm, but the entire nation? For a sport? No, we never saw that.
Pulling a nation together is hard, to be sure. Currently, there is much discussion of an American broadcast personality and his comments on the racial identity of many members of the French team, which brought him a letter from the French ambassador to the United States. We watched the video of him reading it aloud and disputing it and we groaned at the layers of misunderstanding on both sides. To our mind, the misunderstanding hinges on how the two societies think about equality and how they try to ensure it for their citizens. In America, individuals celebrate their racial, ethnic and religious identities above their Americanness. In France, equality is ensured through every citizen's Frenchness. Differences and individuality are celebrated (and the team's racial and religious diversity was much vaunted in the French press, by the way) but one is always French first. Thus, in France, to say, as the personality proposed, that someone could be both "French and African", would be to dilute his or her equality.
Like America, France has a past of glory mixed with shame, including a horrific civil war. The War in the Vendée was fought in 1793 and, as with all civil wars, it was vicious and at times barbaric. Thousands were killed and generations remained bitter. Less known was the Chouannerie, a guerrilla war that lasted from 1792 to 1800, in the west of France. (In both, les bleus referred to the Republican Army and les blancs to the Royalists. Thus, calling the French football team les bleus carries a greater connotation and more historical context than merely the colour of their uniform; they represent the Republic.) The department of the Côtes-d'Armor was in the thick of it and, with defeat, suffered greatly and for long afterward. For those of you with ancestors from Côtes-d'Armor, know that issues of inclusion and euqlity have been thorny subjects for a couple of hundred years or more.
Yet, researching their genealogical lineage is easier, thanks to the excellent website of the Cercle Généalogique des Côtes d'Armor. It has taken the French genealogy associations a while to let go of Minitel and its software, to find new software that would accommodate all of their data, and to create new websites to present it on the Internet. They are achieving their goals and the resulting websites are quite helpful. One of the best, to our mind, is that for the Côtes-d'Armor, particularly as it links to the website of the Departmental Archives and serves as a quick index to images there. It goes well beyond just the search for birth, marriage and death records. It also has:
- Links to archival lists of notaires, with their locations and dates
- Links to collaborative indexing pages for the parish and civil registrations
- Links to an in-progress index of names in wills
- A list of property place names known as lieu-dits
- A growing list of property owners, linked to a map
- Family trees that can be searched for connections to your own line
- Transcriptions of such hard to find information as marriages in Pondichéry, sailors from a certain town who died at sea, natives of the department who died in a hospice in Nantes
- Links to a number of pages about military service and World War One
- A wonderfully searchable extract of the entire 1906 census
A more generous organisation than many of its kind, this has many pages that may be used by anyone, member or not, while others do require membership. If your answers be there, join, for Heaven's sake! Plenty to work on, here and, as the next World Cup is not until 2022, plenty of time to research.
©2018 Anne Morddel