Understanding Overseas France for Genealogy
Wallis-et-Futuna, a DOM-TOM Research Example

DOM-TOM Genealogical Research

Colonial Guadeloupe

Following on from our previous post, which was about Overseas France, we present here the basics of genealogical research relating to those departments and regions. These come from the superb research guide produced by Bernard Vuillet of the Archives nationales.  

Parish and Civil Registrations / Actes d'état civil

As stated in that earlier post, all DOM-TOM research begins with the website of the Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM) which have digitized and put online all of the microfilmed parish and civil registrations held concerning these territories.

Notarial Records / Les Actes des Notaires

Duplicate copies of notarial records created in the territories were made from 1776 to 1912. These are held at ANOM and at each territory's Departmental Archives, with a microfilm copy of them being held at the Archives nationales in Paris. Additionally, there may be notarial records relating to families living in the territories (then colonies) written in France during their visits. Those in Paris will be in the Minutier Central and, with luck might turn up in a search via the Salle des Inventaires Virtuelle. Those elsewhere will be in the local Departmental Archives. In all cases, one must know the name of the notaire to be able to search for the records.

Land Title Records / Les Titres de Propriété

Increasingly, Departmental Archives are putting online the registers of land title, the hypothèques, as they are known. Keep checking their websites to see what is available. Duplicates of those made during the nineteenth century are held at ANOM. The original land grants will be held at the Departmental Archives, while files about them are held at ANOM. ANOM also hold the records concerning these lands in vacant inheritances.

Census Returns / Le recensements

Dating from as early as the seventeenth century, these are held in ANOM, with a microfilm copy at the Archives nationales in Paris. Apparently, the Departmental Archives of La Réunion have an excellent collection as well.

Colonial Personnel / Le Personnel colonial

These are primarily indices and lists. As with other archives, these are held at ANOM, with microfilm copies in the Archives nationales in Paris. Some of the Departmental Archives also have copies.

Passenger lists / Les Listes des Passagers

These are difficult. One must know the date of departure and the port of departure. Some general passenger lists, from 1749 to 1886, are held, yet again, at ANOM, with copies at the Archives nationales in Paris. The Departmental Archives responsible for the major ports of departure, (Le Havre, Rouen, Caen, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Bordeaux) hold what passenger lists have survived. The naval archives for the ports of Brest, Cherbourg, Lorient, Rochefort and Toulon also have passenger lists.


Clearly, the ideal would be to go to ANOM in the south of France, and then to some of the overseas Departmental Archives. Alas, most of us cannot manage such travel and it probably would not be permitted in these times of a pandemic anyway. However, an enormous amount of documentation has been digitized by ANOM, not all of it easy to find. Some years ago, we wrote of the secrets hidden there and how to search for them.

The research may be difficult but, in some ways, these records contain more genealogical information than do records on those who remained in France. Good luck!

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy