This town, with this archives, was for the most part destroyed in the Allied Bombing raids of 1943 (you can read here of how the Allies decided that, since they could not destroy the German-built submarine base, they would wipe out the French town instead). So far as our subject area is concerned, this destruction is obvious from the paucity of the archives holdings. Most municipal archives around France have their administration's precious collection of internal and external passports issued during the Revolution. These are one of the few types of documents that help in tracing people during that chaotic time. The Municipal Archives of Lorient, sadly, have none.
The town's parish and civil registrations, as they have been digitized, cannot be seem in the original but only online (this protection of originals once they have been digitized is normal throughout France). Should a visitor wish to view them, he or she is quite brusquely and officiously waved toward the computer desks and told to "get to work". Cowed, we did so, as did all others who entered, as obedient as schoolchildren being reprimanded by the maitresse. We were discouraged to find the usual helpfulness of French archivists not in evidence.
Then, we began to notice a peculiar pattern. Ever so meekly, supplicants would go to the main desk, saying:
"I've tried and I've tried and I just cannot find my ancestor in the digitized images.". In response, the archivist heaved the great sigh of the long-suffering public servant, impatient and exasperated at having to help these doltish members of the public.
"Give me the dates, places and names that you have and I'll try to get you started." These details in hand, she then whizzed through screens, finding the birth or marriage registration in a trice. "Et voilà," she said with scorn, printing the registration and handing it to the grateful supplicant. "And then, you see, you can find the births from the marriage and the deaths from the Tables décennales," she continued, whisking out printed registrations of more generations as she explained and handing them also to the beaming supplicant.
"Oh, merci, Madame," the supplicant breathed, practically bowing in gratitude. Turning away from the desk, each such meek and helpless researcher winked at the others in the room. Then, the next went to the desk and pleaded helplessness in the same way as the first had done and received the same scornful and abundant assistance. Thus, though the archivist absolutely refused to do any research for patrons of the archives (which refusal, by the way, is normal throughout the world) quite a number of supplicant patrons walked away, pleased as Punch, with some very fine, free research done for them.
So, Dear Readers, we recommend the empty Municipal Archives of Lorient highly and suggest that you go there in all haste before the inevitable fall that follows such pride ends this boon.
©2019 Anne Morddel