A work in progress and an exciting one, this. The Archives nationales have begun to digitize and make available online at no cost the personnel files of the officers of the Marine. "Personnel" is to be understood loosely here. These are not modern human resources files, full of identical forms and warning letters. Basically, these are any surviving documents with a name of anyone who was in the French navy before the Revolution. They are arranged alphabetically by surname and can include not only officers but captains of merchant vessels or of privateers, surgeons, ordinary seamen, women who owned vessels, and heaven knows whom else.
There are men who fought in the American Revolution, men from Saint-Domingue, men who were in the Compagnie des Indes. Spelling was a creative art at the time, so if you do not find someone whom you believe should be on the list, you can read the entire thing (not recommended - there are over thirteen hundred pages) or try searching on such terms as may be applicable:
- capitaine, or other rank if you know it
- the name of a vessel
- guerre en amérique (for the American Revolution)
A dossier may contain only a single page or quite a few (one has sixty-eight pages). It may be in other languages, including English, Russian, or Spanish. They are beautifully filmed. At the moment, the hundreds of files available cover only those surnames beginning with the letters from A to D. We await with baited breath for the rest to appear.
To access the files, go to the main search page of the Archives nationales (which we have explained how to use in this case study) and search on the surname, but this can bring up much more than you want unless you narrow the search with many more words. Alternatively, go directly to the finding aid on the website of the Archives nationales and search on the name; this can bring annoying results, each of which has to be opened, if the name be a common one. Lastly, we have uploaded the PDF of the finding aid here which, using "control F" can be searched for a variety of words and on which each name has a link directly to the images of the file.
©2018 Anne Morddel