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December 2018

Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale - an Excellent Resource

CCC-New York
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.

SD refugees

A number of sailors deserted from the Normande and D'Espinville made more than one list of their names:

Deserters

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.

Surveillance New York

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.

Refugee death list Baltimore

 

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.

CCC

Then, one must really hope that the consul for the city researched did his job!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Bibliothèque historique des postes et des télécommunications

BHPT

Excellent discovery today, Dear Readers, excellent discovery. We began the day with a visit to our doctor on Avenue Paul Doumer, where last Saturday's rioters had smashed a few shop windows and burnt a car right in front of the clinic. (And many thanks to all of you who wrote messages of concern for our safety.) The clean-up was instantaneous; there was no graffiti, no trace of a burnt car, no broken glass. There was a toppled traffic light and one board covering one shop window. Clearly, the authorities intend to give the hoodlums, les casseurs, no opportunity to admire their work. Even cleaner was our bill of health and our doctor congratulated us on having taken better care of the weather beaten and badly engineered body than usual.

We left the clinic in a jaunty mood and took about four Métro trains to get from the sixteenth to the twentieth arrondissement, from the Trocadéro to east of Père Lachaise, from posh Paris to the not so. The purpose of the journey was to visit the newly reopened Bibliothèque historique des postes et des télécommunications, or BHPT. At the gate of a block of flats, one rings and the lock is released in reply. One crosses the courtyard and descends the drive to a low box of a building that looks very much like a cleaned up example of one of those old blacksmith or carpentry workshops that once existed at the backs of hundreds of Parisian courtyards. Most have been torn down but a tiny few remain. Many have been bought and converted to beautiful homes, the owners having kept the exterior in its original, grubby state to fool the taxman. We know of an exquisite, four-storey house hidden at the back of a courtyard on Avenue Mozart that looks from the outside like an empty warehouse about to fall down. This little box of barred windows that we approached today had nothing to hide.

Dear Readers, all those of you seeking or researching people who lived in France in the twentieth century, take note - this remote and obscure library is probably the last and only repository open to the public containing nearly all of the telephone directories ever published in France, her territories and her overseas departments. Almost all of them. They may be viewed on microfilm. They are particularly useful for researching the years for which the census returns are not yet available to the public.

The second precious collection of this little minx of a library is its history of the postal service. The first French postal service was created in 1576 and for the next four hundred twenty years or so, was a public service that functioned remarkably well. Why would the French genealogist care? For the maps, Dear Readers, for the maps. Long have we harped on about the value of maps showing waterways and roads used for transport in the past. They show where you might realistically expect your ancestor to have been able to travel, a valuable piece of knowledge to have in one's family research.

The BHPT has a lovely collection of maps of the post roads. The post roads were, before the railways, the most likely land routes your French ancestor would have followed. Some of the BHPT maps are digitized and may be viewed online. Whether you use these to see a possible route for your ancestor to a port of emigration or a town where work was found or where a marriage happened, they will bring a greater clarity to your understanding of your ancestors and the times in which they lived.

Good website, excellent little library -- with intelligent and helpful staff -- and superb resources. What more could one ask?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


More and More Online - But You Have to Separate and Regroup the Sources

Strands to separate

A brief update on crucial indexing resources becoming available to you Dear Readers, albeit in the most chaotic way imaginable. Recall that we have explained many times that France's birth, marriage and death registrations, whether parish or civil, are created locally, in a commune or parish. When they reach a certain age, they are stored a little less locally, in Departmental Archives. The hold parish registrations up to 1792 and civil registrations from 1792 onward. To research your ancestor, you must know the commune or parish where the event was recorded so that you can know in which Departmental Archives the event has been stored so that you can research on that Departmental Archives' website. The trick for many, of course, is finding that parish or commune in the first place.

As we have reported here before, the race has been on between commercial genealogy websites, genealogy associations (or cercles) and a few Departmental Archives to index as many parish and civil registrations as possible in order to be seen as the best and most centralized database of French registrations and thus to win the prize of lost of paying subscribers. No one website has an nation-wide index to all registrations, but the main  contenders are:

  • Geneanet
  • Filae
  • Ancestry France (back in the game after a long snooze)
  • Bigenet (which is scheduled to shut down next month)
  • Geneabank

Where does this leave the hapless researcher? It can be very easy to search an ancestor on a website, find nothing and wrongly believe that there is nothing. They certainly will not tell you that they have indexed only a few departments' registrations and that you should also try their competitors. Once you have tried them all, how do you know that you have researched all the locations that you wanted to do? Well, the best thing to do is to check their source list before you start. Here's how:

On Geneanet, click on "Search" and, in the drop down menu, on "Genealogy Society Indexes"

Geneanet 1That takes you to a page with another drop down menu that lists all of the Genealogy Societies whose indices they present.

Geneanet 2

 

 

On Filae, scroll to the bottom of the page to "Ressources Généalogiques":Filae 1

 

If you click on "Archives départementales" you do NOT get a list of departmental archives represented on Filae, somewhat misleadingly to our mind. What you get is a page of information about each departmental archives, with the address, a link to the website and then, the names of any associations whose indices are on Filae, identified as "partenaires" (partners). Here is the page for the department of Bas-Rhin:

 

Filae 2

Going back and clicking on "Associations de généalogie" will take you to the same pages for each department as in the example above. Filae certainly seems to have the most agreements with the many departmental archives and even have managed to snag the Municipal Archives of Bordeaux ever so recently. However, the images that they show online seem to be almost exclusively civil registrations. They do have associations' indices of some parish registrations but check the page for the department to see if they have indices for the area of your research.

On Ancestry, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "partenaires",  (they do not make it easy)

 

Ancestry France

 This brings a small but not insignificant list of associations lending their work to Ancestry:

Ancestry 2

 

On Bigenet, you have both a map and a list showing the departments covered:

 

Bigenet 1

To know what associations' indices they have, click on "associations généalogiques" at the top of the page:

 

Bigenet 2


This takes you to a complete list of all the associations having indices on Bigenet:

 

Bigenet 3
 

 Lastly, on Geneabank, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "la page des associations":

 

Geneabank 1

This takes you to their complete list of associations:

 

Geneabank 2

 

N.B. Nearly all of these lists are in numerical order by the number assigned to the department. Use the list in the left-hand column on this page to know the numbers of the departments.

In each case, if the region or department in which you are researching is not in that website's list, neither will your ancestor result in a search on that website. Save yourself confusion, frustration and time wasted. Verify that the website covers your department or region of interest before you start researching their database.

Forewarned is forearmed.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Guest Post - Joyous Genealogy Tourism in Montbéliard

Montbeliard tourism 1

Cherith Chapman-Flowerday read our posts about the excellent genealogy tourism offerings of Montbéliard and planned her voyage. She tells of the adventure in today's guest post.

If you have roots in Pays de Montbéliard, France, then it is the best place you could ever go for a genealogy tour! You are likely to leave with a family tree of your lineage and a deep appreciation for the rich history and culture of what was its own country for over 400 years! My mother, age 70, sister, age 43, and myself, age 45, had casually dreamt of visiting the town of our ancestors in France for many years. When we had the opportunity to go to England this summer (my first ever trip to Europe!) we decided we must add a trip to Montbéliard, France as part of our itinerary. We had two pieces of information that guided this choice. First, word of mouth that my great-great grandmother was from a town called Montbéliard, France. Second, two of my aunts had traced the history of 10 other relatives who were born in Montbéliard and passed away in the USA. This is all we had to go on but it was enough to get us to book a hotel in Montbéliard and buy train tickets to get there from London.

It then became apparent that we needed to know something about where we were going and to have a plan. I spent many evenings trying to figure this out until I stumbled upon The French Genealogy Blog. This encounter definitely led us to the trip of a lifetime. Much to my surprise there was a blog post  that said Montbéliard, France was one of the best places in France to do genealogy tourism! The post suggested we contact Evelyne Boilaux of the Montbéliard Tourism Office. I called the tourism office and was put in touch right away with Evelyne. She and the person on the phone spoke English, which was so helpful because I speak no French at all. Evelyne helped us craft a 3-hour private tour of our ancestral town, Valentigney, including a visit to the cemetery, church, museum, lunch with locals, and much more!

As part of the visit Evelyne hoped to help us find some relatives. To aid in this endeavor she encouraged me to communicate with the René Vermot-Desroches at the Genealogical Society of Montbéliard. I had never done genealogy research before, but with the 11 names I gave René and his colleague Alain Acolat they were able to trace over 400 relatives going back 500 years in the area! The genealogy office has extensive records of birth, death, and marriage. And because they worked very hard to make it digital, it is easy to track if you have somewhere to start. Our 11 relatives of whom we had birth and death info was enough for him to do a solid amount of research. Granted, there was a lot of duplication of names over the years, so you really have to carefully compare not just names, but any possible records of birth, death, and marriage. In the end Evelyne and René helped us meet with two relatives. We were able to visit with one relative at her home, which interestingly smelled like my grandmother’s home - a smell I hadn’t experienced since her passing 10 years before. And, we enjoyed a long afternoon of coffee and delicious French pastries with our other relative and his wife.

Pays de Montbéliard joined France in 1793, at the end of the French Revolution. We learned we are from a country that, prior to joining France, had been a part of Wurtemberg for four centuries, with its own castle (now a museum) and ruling family who were loved by the locals. This family brought Lutheranism, and provided education to both boys and girls of low-income families almost 300 years before it was required by the country of France. We stayed in the oldest hotel in town, the Hôtel de la Balance. It sits at the base of the castle on the first street to ever exist in town. It was built in the 1500’s and was recently beautifully restored by a local citizen. We also learned that our family is related to the Peugeot family, who’s factories and legacy still lives on locally. It seems the Peugeot family was well loved by the community and provided health care for all employees and their families well before this was a common practice.

The area has a lot to offer with delicious food, charming streets, its own breed of cow (vache montbéliarde), a famous cheese (comté), a castle, several museums full of rich local history, archives, the ruins of a Gallo-Roman theater, outdoor activities nearby, and more. The people were lovely, the hospitality exceptional, and the connection to my past both enriching and inspiring. I thought this would be my only visit to France in my lifetime, but I have to go back again. There is so much yet to be discovered! My only regret (not really) is that it was so exciting and fun that I left worn out rather than rested – but that was my fault!

I have to say a very special thank you to Anne Morddel for this blog, Evelyne Boilaux for her hospitality and friendship that was above and beyond, and to René & Alain for their wisdom, experience and extensive support in the genealogy search process. See you all again!

 

Cherith family with Evelyne

Contact Information:

Genealogical Society of Montbéliard

Aprox. $50 cost for extensive support

 

 

Evelyne BOILAUX

RP & Communication

OFFICE DE TOURISME du PAYS DE MONTBELIARD

Aprox. $150 for 3-hour tour

1 rue Henri Mouhot

25200 MONTBELIARD

Tél. 03 81 94 16 07/ 06.44.28.85.99

evelyne.boilaux@paysdemontbeliard-tourisme.com

www.paysdemontbeliard-tourisme.com

 

 

Many thanks, Cherith, for sharing this with our Dear Readers. We hope there will be more happy stories to come.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy