Previous month:
July 2019
Next month:
September 2019

August 2019

Italians in Nice and Marseille

Nice

Something must be afoot among those of Italian descent who stumble upon ancestors born in southern France, particularly in Nice or Marseille. We usually receive a trickle of queries on the subject but they are increasing of late, not quite to flood level but, shall we say, to the level of a mighty river in full flow. What is the cause, Dear Readers? We cannot say but we can explain the presence of some of  these Italians in southern France that seem so bemusing to you.

Succinctly, both cities are on the Mediterranean Sea; Marseille, a major port,  has been French since the fifteenth century, while Nice, on a beautiful bay, was a part of the Duchy of Savoie from the fourteenth century and did not join France definitively until 1860. The culture and language of Nice were so Italian that, after 1860, a serious process of francisation was considered necessary by the authorities.

The Wikipedia article explaining that delightful word does not do justice to the concept; it limits it merely to language. We find that francisation is so much more than simply replacing a word with its French equivalent, something the sainted Fowler abhors; it is making someone or something French. Vessels can undergo francisation, wherein they are not merely sold but are treated as if they were built in France. We think a case can be made that the new, French, birth registrations created for naturalized citizens may be said to be a form of francisation. In the French mind, places, people and objects, can be transformed, by francisation,  into someone or something completely and originally French. We asked our friend, the scholar Monsieur B. about this. Over a glass of pinot, he explained the ever so precise French definitions of pays, état, et nation, country, state and nation. "Le pays est le territoire": a country is a geographical term, a place defined by its territory.  "L'état est l'administration": the state is the administration and institutions. "La nation est le peuple" : the nation is the people. The francisation of Nice would have been, he explained, across all three and, therefore, thorough and absolute. A century and a half ago the character of Nice changed dramatically as the city and her people became French, while Marseille, though as polyglot as any great port, has been very French for six hundred years.

Their close neighbour, now Italy, has had intertwined histories with both cities. Turin and Nice were part of the same duchy for hundreds of years, for example, trading comfortably with one another. Marseille has consistently been a place of refuge for Italians, some of whom we wrote about here. In the late nineteenth century, more than ninety thousand Italians migrated, often temporarily, to Marseille, seeking work. Thousands more spread across the region. So, many northern Italian families have branches in Nice and many migratory Italian families had one or two children born in Marseille.

To research Italian ancestors who lived in and near these cities, different procedures are necessary for each. Those of you with established skills in French genealogy will find Nice more complicated but not impossible. We have explained Nice research and given more history here and here . We have written about Marseille Marriage records online, and about our visits to the Municipal Archives of Marseille and the Departmental Archives of Bouches-du-Rhône. Should you be able to visit this last for your research, a number of different record series contain information on Italians in and around Marseille:

  • Police surveillance records
  • Census returns, including in some towns, special censuses of Italians
  • Tenement inspections by public health officials
  • For those who remained and took French nationality, they may appear in the naturalization application files

You may also want to search for a name in the naturalization files of the Archives nationales. These include refused applications. The French commercial genealogy websites, especially Filae.com, have indexed the official publication of announcements of naturalizations (so, only those granted). 

Lastly, if you lose track of them again, be aware that many Italians in France migrated on to Algeria. To research these, you will want to go to the website of the Archives nationales d'outre-mer.

The research can be very rewarding, helping to track a family's movements between France and Italy, and finding births and marriages in French records that could not be found in Italian records.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


More Pariahs of Paris - Your Auvergnat Ancestor in the Capital

Auvergnat

Well, Dear Readers, we can now confirm with unpleasant certainty that Lyme Disease is not confined to New England but is far flung with infectious abandon even to France. We hope that there may be no need for updates but be assured that, should there be, you shall receive them here. On to genealogy.

Parisians, like Londoners or New Yorkers, do seem an unwelcoming lot, treating all new arrivals as “pariahs”. There were so many such new arrivals in the nineteenth century that any modern Parisians who have no pariah antecedents are wholly imaginary. We have covered here the scorned Savoyards and the pariah Bretons, driven to Paris, like our subject of today, the Auvergnats, by need, where the starvation caused by the many failed crops in the 1840s or by the economic crises of the 1850s, or by the singularly volcanic terrain of Auvergne. All quite sad for the descendants of the fierce tribe the Arverni, known in Roman times for (once) defeating Caesar in battle.

The first time we read the term Auvergnat, oh so many years ago, was in Balzac, the only writer who could truly dissect the French soul. He referred to the people of Auvergne as the most sou-pinching of France. Balzac lived in Paris and was a dedicated drinker at a time when most bars and cafes were run by folk from Auvergne. We are tempted to suspect a barkeep’s refusal to extend credit to the great man as the seed from which this insult sprouted.

Nevertheless, it cannot be disputed that the Auvergnats, on arriving in Paris, nearly all sank to services and trades have to do with liquid, whether for bathing or drinking, and for carrying it, heating it, or serving it. This being in the days before plumbing brought running water to every home, they became water carriers, porteurs d'eau, filling jugs or pails at public fountains or straight from the Seine and carrying the water, two pails of twenty liters each on a yoke, to the homes of those who could pay. They were pioneer pariahs, for they were known as the water-carriers of Paris as early as the 1730s. Those who could do so invested in a barrel, un tonneau, on a cart. Some had the bright idea of heating the water and selling it for bathing, hauling it into a home, pouring it into the bath, waiting outdoors and then hauling away the used bathwater. Their compatriots who helped with the heating of the water often moved into the trade of charbonnier, a maker and seller of charcoal. They were despised by Parisians, who considered them coarse and rude, a type our grandmother termed disparagingly (speaking at the time of our latest step-father, mind you) a rube. Combining the words charbonnier and Auvergnat, the Parisians created a new word, Bougnat, which they considered a jibe of stellar wit.

As is the way of the world, the Auvergnat migrants integrated and assimilated, but with a peculiar insistence, they generally would not leave their attachment to liquids. They moved up socially a tad by selling milk and a tad more by selling lemonade, and quite a bit more by selling wine and a great deal more by opening a bar and selling alcoholic drinks to the likes of Balzac. We all know how, under certain conditions, a barkeep becomes a dear friend with miraculous rapidity and so it came to pass that a person was called a Bougnat not with snide superiority but with condescending affection. Successful Auvergnats even named their bars Le Bougnat; one such, in Pantin, became so belovèd a local institution that, when the authorities determined to bulldoze it, there was a bit of an outcry (to no avail; it was reduced to rubble in 2017).

Thus, in conducting your research into an Auvergnat ancestor in Paris, be alert to such professions mentioned in documents as :

  • porteur d'eau
  • charbonnier
  • limonadier
  • marchand de vin
  • garçon de café
  • cafétier

Clearly, not all those working in the above trades were Auvergnats but, in the late nineteenth century in Paris, very, very many were.  Should you suspect that your Parisian ancestor had origins in the Auvergne, research avenues to try are:

  • In the mid and late nineteenth century, the Auvergnat migrants tended to live in the eleventh arrondissement, especially on rue de Lappe, so if you must trawl the tables décennales of the birth, marriage and death registrations of Paris, you might want to begin with those of the eleventh.
  • As with Breton women, some Auvergnat women had unfortunate encounters with results that caused the desperate measure of abandoning a child. The Parisian authorities went to great lengths to find the mothers of such children. You can begin a search for such a child on the website of the Paris Archives in the records of Enfants assistés (1859-1906). You could be very lucky and find where the mother was from in Auvergne.
  • Some professions, such as water carriers who used barrels, the cleanliness of which had to be verified regularly, required registration with the police. The registration files may be searched in the archives of the Paris police, in series DA.
  • For those who opened shops and bars, the Paris Archives hold the records of the Tribunal de Commerce, the commercial courts; these are not online.

Sources and Further reading:

It may be time for all descendants of pariahs of Paris to unite to form one big Cercle généalogique des Parias parisiennes. Raise a glass to all migrant outcasts, Dear Readers, past and present, for we are they.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Your Breton Ancestors in Paris

Breton girl

Poor Brittany. As a region, it has suffered rather more than its share of economic difficulties, prejudice and administrative neglect or misguided experimentation on the part of the government in Paris. Just now, its largest source of income, tourism, is being wiped out by tides of poisonous algae that are caused by the dumping  of the slurry from the intensive pig farming that has boomed in the region at the behest of some bureaucrat in Paris. The slurry seeps into the ground water, flows to the sea, feeds the algae that thrives in the increased warmth of our new climate and washes onto the shores, exuding so much toxic gas that people (and even a horse) have been killed and beaches must be closed. One would think that, by now, we all have learned that mass agricultural policies have been proven a very bad idea. Yet, there is sure to be a new idea and it is sure to be tested on Bretagne first.

It has always been a region separate from the others in France, with its own government for many centuries and its own language. More importantly, it seems to us, the eye of the Breton is always on the sea, while that of the rest of France, (but for Normandy) is on its fields. So much so that, for a very long time, the Navy took only men from Bretagne, apparently on the assumption that they all were by nature seamen and needed little training.

In the 1840s, when all of Europe suffered harvest failures, many people from Alsace and Lorraine emigrated to America but fewer from Bretagne did so. The Revolution of 1848, after it was quashed, brought a certain amount of emigration to the Californian gold fields as the government encouraged all subversive types to go seek their fortunes there, even paying the passage for some. (How quickly our ideals and hopes for a better society for all can crumble when that sly offer of personal wealth is slipped in, eh?) The "Hungry Forties" were followed by economic crises in the late 1850s that began in the United States and spread to Europe. Bretagne was hit hard by these crises. Additionally,  those dependent upon growing and weaving linen and hemp lost their livelihoods when cheaper cotton began to be imported.

What set people who were hungry and could not find work on the move was the opening of the Quimper-Nantes-Paris railway in 1863. Presented with a vastly safer journey to a place where there was employment and where one did not have to learn a new language, many Bretons, perhaps for the first time in the region's history, emigrated inland. Within twenty years, at least twelve thousand Bretons were living in Paris; ten years later, there were seventy-five thousand; by the 1930s some 125,000 people of Breton origins appeared in the Paris census returns.

As is always the case in such migration waves, most found no paths to wealth but they did find work, nearly always of the most difficult kind. The tunnels of the Paris Mètro were dug primarily by Bretons, wealthy and middle class children of Paris had Breton wet-nurses and nannies, and every household that could afford a maid had Breton housemaids. The Belle-Epoque was maintained, in a large part, by the migrants from Brittany (as well as from Savoie), so much so that, by 1905, the character of a Breton nanny, Bécassine, was created, soon became a huge success in many children's books, and remains a belovèd classic in France. Yet, just as the "Mammy" characterization of enslaved women belies the truth of outrageous oppression, so Bécassine gives a false impression of how Bretons were accepted and treated in Paris; Leslie Page Moch's "The Pariahs of Yesterday : Breton Migrants in Paris" gives a truer picture.

How to research a Breton ancestor who seems to have gone to Paris or, more likely in your hunt, who was in Paris but whose Breton place of origin you cannot find?

  • Firstly, check on Geopatronyme and the Public Office of the Breton Language (follow the latter's links) to become familiar with Breton surnames and to determine if your ancestor's is such a one.
  • Initially, large numbers of Breton migrants settled in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, near the train station of Montparnasse, their point of arrival from Bretagne. If you have no idea at all of where in Paris they may have lived, and if you have to search all the tables décennales (ten-year indices)  for all twenty Parisian arrondissements, start with the 14th.
  • Many Breton women had unfortunate encounters with results that caused the desperate measure of abandoning a child. The Parisian authorities went to great lengths to find the mothers of such children. You can begin a search for such a child on the website of the Paris Archives in the records of Enfants assistés (1859-1906). You could be very lucky and find where the mother was from in Bretagne.
  • Eventually, many Bretons settled outside of central Paris, in Seine-Saint-Denis, Yvelines and Hauts-de-Seine, so you might extend your search to the larger cities of those departments, especially those containing railway centres. The 1872 and 1906 census returns for some, not all, of these departments have been indexed on Filae.com. Recall that there was no census in Paris until 1936.
  • The Bretons maintained close ethnic communities in Paris and they still do. They published a directory of Bretons living and having a business in Paris, the Annuaire des Bretons de Paris, the 1911 edition of which can be seen on Gallica. You may wish to contact a branch of the Amicales des Bretons appropriate to where your ancestor settled. (See the links at the bottom of this article or simply search the association name online to get branches all over France. Searching "Breizh" and a location will bring some very interesting discoveries as well.)
  • As you dig deeper, there are genealogy manuals specific to Breton genealogy

Good luck in finding your Breton ancestor (and should you wish to help the region and are in France, you could always boycott jambon)

Sources and Further Reading:

RetroNews

The blog En Envor and the excellent essays by Thomas Perrono

"Les Bretons de Paris et Saint-Denis"

"The European subsistence crisis of 1845-1850: a comparative perspective" by Eric VANHAUTE, Richard PAPING, and Cormac Ó GRÁDA

 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy