The proper name for this series in the Archives diplomatiques is Correspondance consulaire et commerciale (1793-1901) (CCC) and we have recently discovered that, in some cases, it is a dandy resource for researching French in foreign lands, especially:
- Bonapartists, after 1815
- Deserters from French naval vessels after 1815
- Refugees from Saint Domingue
The reason for the first two is that, after the fall of Napoleon and the First Empire, the restored royal rulers pursued Bonapartists and deserters with vindictive enthusiasm. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued orders to all consuls around the world to keep an eye on any Bonapartists and other French exiles and to attempt to note the names of sailors who jumped ship, deserting from the French navy. Consuls also noted the names of some of the refugees from Saint Domingue arriving in their cities and, later, helped them with the documentation necessary to apply for compensation for their losses from the French government.
The volumes of the CCC are full of dispatches from consuls to the Minister in Paris containing lists of names and surveillance reports. These could be of help in identifying the moment of arrival of your French ancestor and in finding more detail about his or her origins. The consuls varied in their competence and efficiency. That in New York, d'Espinville, was a diligent and enthusiastic reporter. He wrote a valuable list of sixty Saint Domingue refugees who voyaged from New York to France on the Normande in 1820. Most do not appear in the lists of colonists who received compensation, so this may be the only source connecting them to New York or to Saint Domingue, or naming them at all.
A number of sailors deserted from the Normande and D'Espinville made more than one list of their names:
Such ordinary and not at all illustrious people as these sailors are often quite hard to trace. A list such as this, giving the place of birth, could significantly advance one's genealogical research.
D'Espinville, an aristocrat who lost all in the Revolution, was especially keen at surveillance of Bonapartists, not all of whom were well-known and have Wikipedia articles about them.
But beware, not all consuls were as industrious or conscientious as D'Espinville. The consul at Baltimore for the same period, the early nineteenth century, wrote no consular correspondence at all from 1803 to 1838. Prior to that, he wrote a great deal about the refugees from Saint Domingue generally but almost nothing specifically. His only list is one naming the refugees who had died.
The CCC is partially microfilmed but, to our knowledge is not at all available online. One must visit the Archives diplomatiques in La Courneuve and use the old but very reliable finding aid.
Then, one must really hope that the consul for the city researched did his job!
©2018 Anne Morddel