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October 2021

French Genealogy Season in Full Swing!

Archives Reading Room

Autumn seems to be Genealogy Season in France these days, especially since COVID lockdowns tossed all in-situ conferences, such as the Congrès national de généalogie,  onto the Internet for a virtual incarnation. We have been labouring mightily to keep abreast of the many fine presentations.

At the beginning of October, things kicked off with the second Semaine Virtuelle de la généalogie, or Virtual Genealogy Week, under the auspices of the Fédération Française de Généalogie , (FFG). (We covered the first such event here.) This year, there are close on to seventy-five talks. What we particularly appreciate is the many presentations by archivists from Departmental Archives around the country. They are the keepers of the records in which we genealogists hunt for our ancestors. Who better to explain to us how they are arranged and how best we can use them for our research? It was a most excellent idea on the part of the FFG to go to the experts in this way. You must create an account, which is free, then you can watch the presentations, which are all in French here.

Next, beginning today, we have the Salon de généalogie, taking place in the Town Hall of the 15th arrondissement of Paris for four days. As France takes the pandemic seriously, at this, as at all such events, all of us attending will have to show at the door our Pass Sanitaire, or Health Pass, proving that we are fully vaccinated. We also will have to wear masks throughout, in the exposition hall and in the conference room. Bottles of hand sanitizer will be available at entry doors and other gathering points. We expect the talks (full list here) to be interesting as well. If so, we will report on them in the next post.

Finally, beginning next week and running to the end of November is the hugely successful Challenge AZ for French genealogy bloggers. Originated by Sophie Boudarel, it is now grown to such a size that it is managed by Geneatech. Last year, we failed in our attempt to keep up in our reporting to you, Dear and Patient Readers, on these blog posts. We promise to do better this year. 

One is quite breathless at so much French genealogy on offer.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


Amodiateur, Amodiataire, Amodieur, Amodiatrice, Admodiateur

Farm land

Our previous post, on the Ferme générale, brought this query from Monsieur B:

Thank you for the treasure trove of genealogical information in your scholarly article “Was Your Ancestor an Employee of the Ferme Générale?”.

My ancestor.... from Moselle,  was “admodiateur de ruisseau”

Despite the imposing title, [he] evidently could not write as he signed his name with a + mark. His children’s marriage entries (1720s) identify him as admodiateur, but his 1729 Catholic burial entry has him simply as “laboureur....”

FamilySearch under France Occupations lists admodiateur as a national agent.

Geneawiki defines admodiateur as a person who takes land (sharecropper) for a fee either in money or in kind.

Questions:

1) Would these small admodiateurs have been a part of the Ferme Générale tax collection scheme in France?
2) If so, would there be written records as evidence for their precise activities?

I’ll be poking around at the links placed in your fine article and see how I fare ....

 

There seems to be a bit of misinformation floating about on this one. In the definitions above, FamilySearch would seem to be dead wrong and Geneawiki correct but incomplete. 

Firstly, language being the joyously fluid thing that it is, the word has more than one form and more than one meaning, depending on the time and place of usage. The three meanings we have found are: 

  1. A landowner who leases his or her land to another to be farmed
  2. A person who rents from another land to be farmed, synonymous with metayer, a sharecropper. Note, however, Alfred Cobban's description of the synonym in "The Social Interpretation of the French Revolution" (page 20), "A word such as métayer, like the large social group it described, has no English equivalent." He goes on to explain: "...the generally accepted picture of the métayer...is of a poverty-stricken tenant or a small-holding with a short three, six- or nine-year lease, hiring the equipment and stock as well as the land, and paying for it partly if not wholly, in kind." He cites the historian Paul Bois who found that, in many cases, the métayer could be quite well off, leasing as much as fifty hectares and owning the farm equipment, or he could be leasing as few as three hectares that had to be cultivated by hand as he did not even have access to a plough. The same broad definition may also apply to amodiateur.
  3. An agent of a large landowner (especially of an abbey) who manages such leases. 

In the first two meanings, amodiateur does not mean a profession but indicates a contractual agreement; only in the third sense could it be termed a profession, or métier. In the nineteenth century, linguists attempted to separate one of the meanings by assigning amodiataire to the second meaning but it seems not to have survived in usage. The law recognizes only the first two meanings for an amodiateur (masculine form) or an amodiatrice (feminine form).

Secondly, as to further different forms of the word, admodiateur was more common in the east, in Burgundy and Lorraine and as far as Switzerland. The verb, amodier, means to lease for a fee to be paid in grain.

Thus, Monsieur B, the ancestor who was an admodiateur de ruisseau, was leasing a stream, perhaps for fishing, perhaps for irrigation, possibly for milling (but this is less likely as he would then have been called a miller, meunier, a quite different activity from that of a labourer who leased stream rights). As to your questions:

  1. No, an amodiateur was not a part of the tax collecting operations of the Ferme générale. (FamilySearch's misunderstanding may come from this definition by the historian, François Lassus, which we translate rather freely: "The amodiateur of an estate was a sort of collector, 'fermier générale' who managed all of the land, the rights, the leases and collection of rents..." We emphasize in bold the key point that he is referring to an agent of an estate not the State.)
  2. Our definitions of the word in this post are based on the online dictionaries on DICFRO, and CNRTL. To know more about what your ancestor's specific rental agreement, it would be necessary to find the contract, probably among the local notarial records. To research from whom he was leasing the stream, we suggest that you look at the Cassini map for the town and locate the nearest large abbeys or estates that might have owned the stream (though it is possible that the owner was much further away; only the contract would reveal the owner with certainty).

Tricky one!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


Was Your Ancestor an Employee of the Ferme Générale?

Tax collector

The royal general Farms, les fermes généraux, were the system of tax collection in France ( fermes in this usage means leases). From as early as the reign of Henri III, the collection of taxes and customs duties in France was leased out to private individuals. The lessor, necessarily wealthy, often of the bourgeoisie, bought a six-year, somewhat secretive lease to collect taxes in one of the large regions of France.  The amount of taxes to be paid to the King was stipulated in the contract; anything over and above that amount that was collected could be kept by the lessor. Did you ever come across a better school for corruption, Dear Readers?

The lessors (or contractors) became extraordinarily rich, of course, so rich that some were able to buy themselves a title or two and join the nobility. Some historians try to let them off the hook by pointing out that many of them were great supporters of the arts or that they financed public works. Better not to commit the crime than to atone for it, we say.

Corrupt though it was, the system was also extremely efficient. The corps des fermiers généraux was comprised of the lessors (fermiers) and their deputies (adjoints), many of them related, as nepotism was rife. From 1756, the administration of the Ferme générale was centralized in Paris. There, some six hundred eighty employees, divided into three functional sections, kept the accounts, managed the personnel, sent out inspectors and oversaw the work of more than twenty-five thousand agents across the country and in its colonies. These agents were either clerical, checking the accounts locally, or in quasi-military brigades (which often included retired soldiers) that hunted down and summarily punished smugglers. Needless to say, they all were despised by the general population. 

Fermes du roy example

Marie Colombe de Boulanger Death Register Entry, 5 May 1744. Carteret, Manche, Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil, 1722-1748, E2, online image no. 112

Archives départementales de la Manche

How to research that ancestor? Very little can be found online at the moment, but that looks set to improve.

  • Brief biographies, in French, of the men who were members of the corps des fermiers généraux from 1720 to 1751 are given in the work by Barthélémy Mouffle d'Angerville (who served in the French Navy in Louisiana) entitled La Vie privée de Louis XV, ou principaux événements, particularités et anecdotes de son règne, and currently can be read online on Google Books here.
  • Individual cards on the agents in employment in 1782 can be found in sub-series G1 in the Archives nationales (a single example of such a card can be found online here).

Further Reading:

  • Dictionnaire de la Ferme générale (1640-1794), an academic blog hosted by Hypotheses, this has by far the most complete and thorough discussion and research on the ferme générale. It contains no list of employees nor even much discussion of individuals, but it is new and will increase in depth of coverage quickly.
  • Wikipedia has a quite good article in English on the ferme générale; the article in French is much, much more thorough.
  • The finding aid of the Archives nationales lists not only the holdings relating to the ferme but explains their administration thoroughly in the introduction.
  • The ever brilliant Geneawiki has a page on the subject that lists the holdings in the Archives nationales, with links to any that may be online, and that gives any other sources that may be useful

Fascinating aspect of the French State.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy