Previous month:
September 2018
Next month:
November 2018

October 2018

A Genealogy Fair in Lorraine - Le Salon de Généalogie à Lunéville

Salon 10

France does not have one of those national, gigantic genealogy gatherings on the scale of a National Genealogy Society Annual Conference or a RootsTech. This is for two reasons, we posit: firstly, there is a strong opposition among family historians to the commercialization of genealogy and, secondly, France does not really do massive extravaganzas of any type (except, perhaps, those Quatorze Juillet military parades that so impressed Old Man Potter).

However, there are many regional events that are, though smaller and less commercial, perhaps more interesting and less filled with sales pitches than the larger, American events. The only commercial presence was a stand for Filae, run by very polite people.

Filae

If you attended our recent course, you will have learned that Filae has purchased access to a number of extracts of some parish but mostly civil registrations from some regional genealogy associations around France. For a fee, you can access them and search them on Filae, bearing in mind that it is only a small part of the country's many such extracts published by the genealogy associations.

Understandably, the associations that have done this work, (all voluntarily, mind you), are quite proud of their accomplishments. They are keen to share and these regional fairs are one of the main ways to benefit from that. Most of the tables or stands at these fairs are not people selling access to commercial genealogy websites, they are local genealogy associations selling their own, highly specialized publications and offering to do free searches on their impressively complete databases. So, most of the people visiting are not professionals, but keen family historians bringing their brick walls and getting free help and solutions.

Free searches

It really is rather lovely, if much slower and pokier than research online. One meets experts in local family names, local history and local variations in palaeography, as is reflected by the proper name for this event: Grand Salon de Généalogie, Histoire, Patrimoine à Lunéville.

There were, obviously, stands of local Lorraine genealogy associations, but also those from Corrèze, Saône-et-Loire, neighbouring Vosges, Côte-d'Or, Nord, and plenty of others. Each had brought their computers loaded with the databases of all of their extracts (and some associations have completed extracting and indexing ALL of their department's parish and civil registrations) and people were queuing  for free searches. You can begin to see why Filae and other commercial genealogy services might be viewed with hostility at such events. In fact, we have been told (in an interview to follow) that professional genealogists are often banned from having stands at such salons, (which, by the way, are also almost always free to attend).

Should you ever find yourself doing a bit of genealogy tourism in France, check on Geneagenda to see what is on in the areas you will be visiting. Show your support by joining a couple of associations and purchasing some publications. Perhaps you will break down some brick walls. Then, enjoy the entertainment:

Salon 7

Salon 6

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Sad Archives Municipales of Epinal

AM Epinal Brochure

This has to be one of the saddest and most neglected of all the archives facilities we ever have visited. It is clear that municipal archives have not yet landed on France’s golden list of improvement projects. A dozen cities or more now have fabulous tram systems. Nearly all of the Departmental Archives have received new buildings, many of them close to one of those luxurious tram stops. Public spending is something in which France glories and we really do wish that they would spend on municipal archives.

AM Epinal Entry

The sad municipal archives of Epinal are house, literally, in a garage. It is the city’s garage for its service vehicles, so there was a great, stinking rubbish truck next to the entry when we arrived. At the sight of it, we suddenly understood why our efforts by e-mail to make an appointment to visit the archives had been brusquely rebuffed.

The archives website said it was open but could be visited by appointment only. We wrote and asked for an appointment. No, we were told. We wrote again asking to see those documents pertaining to religious history in the town. No, we were told, and it was suggested that we try the Departmental Archives of Vosges. We tried one more time, asking for a series that is almost always in municipal archives and not others, the passports issued by towns during the Terror in 1793 and 1794. No, again.

We went for a walk. We looked at the town. As we walked, that unwarranted rejection niggled, so we strolled up to the garage, braved the smell and opened the door marked archives. Grim stairs were to be climbed. We arrived in a tiny, electric purple entry that was also the reading room. One desk, one chair and shocking purple walls constituted the most remarkable reading room we have yet tried.

AM Epinal reading room

Stunned at our arrival, the assistant rushed to our aid, while her superior bellowed orders from her office but did not come round the corner to see us. In this tiny space, it seemed ludicrous. Yet, when she overheard that we were asking about a specific series, she came bounding out with unexpected enthusiasm and was most helpful. We were able to book to see the cartons that afternoon.

When we returned after the lunch break, there were smiles all around. The cartons were ready, the extremely helpful assistant had gone online and printed off numerous pages related to and most helpful for our research. Her boss had retreated around the corner and was again shouting comments without coming out.

The research was not entirely without result. We took some photos and asked permission to put them here to show to you, Dear Readers, as nice nineteenth century examples of passports issued by French consulates. For the first time ever, permission was refused

“Ask at the town hall,” came the bitter shout. The assistant smiled apologetically. We thanked her and left, carrying with us the impression not that this was wilful obstruction, but that we had that day witnessed an extreme case of professional despair, one most warranted, at that.

Dear Readers, should you ever find yourselves in Epinal, do two things:

1) Visit and use the Municipal Archives, and

2) Visit the town hall (a five minutes’ walk away) and leave a written complaint at the bad treatment and housing of the archives, while praising the archivists.

Perhaps we can help to bring about an improvement.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Alsace-Lorraine Junket

Gare de l'Est 2

 

Oh, Dear Readers, apologies all round. Has The FGB ever endured such a hiatus? We cannot recall one so long but for those of you who attended our online course, we do hope that you feel that the silence here was counterbalanced by the effort at erudition there. Many thanks to the VIGR for inviting us to give the course and to Michael Hait for hosting it so nicely. Most of all, many thanks to those of you who attended the course. The next presentation, in February, is to be on French notarial records using a single family as a case study. The types of notarial records discussed in depth will be estate inventories, marriage contracts and wills, followed by an explanation of how to find them online.

Now, Dear Readers, back to The FGB, to which we return with enthusiasm as we take you with us on a junket (how we do love our junkets) to, at long last, Alsace-Lorraine. We departed from the newly glitzy Gare de l'Est in Paris and plan to visit the Departmental Archives of Vosges and Haut-Rhin, possibly those of Bas-Rhin, as well as some municipal archives facilities and some genealogy associations. There may be a genealogy show or two on the way. It is our intention to report to you, our Dear Patient Readers, every step of the way.

Send your comments while we are on the road, please! (Next day:) Many thanks for all of your comments. One of the subjects on which we will be concentrating is the Mennonites.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy