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January 2019

February 2019

Labour of Love - Listing Isolated Soldiers' Graves

U - WWI Brothers

The standard place to look to find the grave of an ancestor who died fighting for France is the War Graves page, Sépultures de Guerres, on the Mémoire des Hommes website run by the Ministry for Defense. For the names of many who died in World War I, but not their burial places, one can resort to the listing of names from Monuments aux Morts on Mémorial GenWeb. What, however, to do if your ancestor died for France but not in a great battle and was not buried in a military cemetery? Thousands of such men and women are buried in town cemeteries all over France and the Ministry for Defense has not listed them.

A gentleman named Jacques Seynaeve is attempting to redress that failing with his own website of a most long-winded name: SÉPULTURES COMMUNALES INDIVIDUELLES DE MILITAIRES DE TOUTES ÉPOQUES ET DE MORTS POUR LA FRANCE (hors nécropoles nationales, cimetières et carrés militaires). He now has over eight thousand names and photographs of graves. Hundreds have been contributed by people from all over France (and a few other countries) and continue to be added.

Usefully, he also has a section of "Noms Associés" that is, names of spouses and relatives of a deceased person, which may help in location and identification. Would that Mémoire des Hommes would do something like that! You may be able to find your ancestor's grave via this website and we do hope so but hurry; these pages personnelles on Orange tend to disappear without warning and without a trace.

Bonne chance!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Interviews With the Last of the Paris Communards on RetroNews

Communards

 

Mostly, as French genealogy researchers, we tend to revile the Communards for having burnt the Paris town hall and destroyed hundreds of years' worth of parish and civil registrations. We tend to forget that they were the desperate poor. We tend to forget that they had endured a siege so long, so horrific and in such cold that Parisians were eating dogs, cats and rats, when they could find any still alive. We tend to forget that France had just been invaded and lost the Franco-Prussian War and was saddled with a very heavy bill to be paid to the victor.

The Communards saw themselves as freedom fighters driven by desperation, hunger and poverty to create a new order by smashing the old. Whether we agree with their ideals or not, we cannot help but sympathize with their sufferings and this may help us to understand. (Who among us has not lost judgement when forced to desperation by whatever unendurable suffering life has thrown at us?)

These memories recounted to the press by some of the last survivors of the Paris Commune are fascinating. If your ancestor were among them, it may open your eyes to more of their world.


Paris Cemetery Records Online!

Montmartre Cemetery

Very good news, indeed, from the Archives de Paris for anyone seeking to know where in Paris an ancestor was interred. Parisian cemeteries are overcrowded, as our photograph of Montmartre above shows, making it almost impossible (however delightful the stroll on a sunny day may be) to happen by chance upon the grave one seeks. It could be impossible, due to the French habit of digging up untended graves, tossing the bones into an ossuary, and reselling the plot to someone who will take better care of it. This is how graves are supposed to be tended:

 

What has long been needed by family genealogists is access to the interment registers, showing all entries, even of those long ago dug up. And now you have them online, on the website of the Archives de Paris, here. There is also a clear and complete explanation of the twenty current cemeteries of Paris. Through links at the bottom of that page, you can examine the annual burial lists for each cemetery or the daily burial registers for each cemetery.

The first set helps to locate the physical grave. Clicking on répertoires annuels d'inhumation, (the annual burial lists), takes you to a search form in which you can select a cemetery to search, and  supply a name and range of years to search within that cemetery (the concept is identical to the way that civil registrations are searched by arrondissement, record type, name and date range on the same website). The results are each a string of images within the alphabetical range to search. Click on the eye and start looking. 

Search Paris cemeteries

You will then see the pages of the register for that cemetery and be able to find out where your ancestor's grave is (or was).

 

Paris cemetery register

 

Remember the month abbreviations!

  • 7re - September
  • 8re - October
  • 9re - November
  • Xre - December

You want to note the exact date of burial, as that is how you will search in the second set, the registres journaliers d'inhumation, the daily burial registers. On this search screen, you will select the cemetery from the drop down menu (we chose Bagneux), then enter the date of burial, date de l'inhumation.

Remember the European style of writing dates!

The tenth of July 1892 is written 10/07/1892

As before, you will get a string of the date range in the register to search. Click on the eye to see the pages and to read along to find the correct date. On the fifth page of this particular string, the tenth of July begins:

 

Bagneux cemetery

Here, you can discover the full name of the person buried, his or her age at the time of death, and the arrondissement where he or she died (this last allowing you to find the death registration, if you could not do so before). This register also tells exactly where the grave is. The registers styles and column headings vary from year to year and from one cemetery to another but they generally give the same information. If the remains were dug up and removed you will find in the "Observations" column the word "Repris" followed by the date of that sad administrative decision.

BEWARE!

All is not as it seems. For our test search, we checked each cemetery's annual burial list for a particular name for the year 1845. The name appeared in none. We also found that, while many of the cemeteries were operational that year, the registers that early are not available online. Then, we began to check the daily burial registers and there, in Batignolles, we found our burial. Though the annual register existed and is available online, the original indexer had  missed the entry. So, try both registers, if you have a date or at least the year of death. If the register for the year is not online but the cemetery was in existence, keep checking back for new additions to the registers on the website.

Have fun with this hunt!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy