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November 2021

December 2021

Indexing Napoleon's Army - a Progress Report

Garde imperialeOfficer and soldier of the Garde Imperiale from "Collection des types de tous les corps et des uniformes militaires de la république et de l'empire d'après les dessins de M. Hippolyte Bellangé", J.-J. Dubochet et Cie, Paris, 1844. BNF Gallica.

Dear Readers, we do not usually accept puff pieces but, in this case, we agree that there is quite a lot to puff about. And we are keen on all things First Empire. We have written previously about French military records and about researching the men who served in Napoleon's army. The latter has become much easier thanks to two events: the completed digitization of the registers of the men and the indexing of them by an army of volunteers, as explained in the following by Geneanet's Sean Daly. Read on.

At Geneanet, we are really excited about a major milestone: our community of genealogists has just topped 1 million indexed Napoléon's soldiers! Like all data contributed by members, this dataset is free and available to all.

This has been a long-running project. In late 2013, France's Ministère des Armées published a first batch of 1,191 carefully digitized registres matricules - military muster roll registers - covering the period 1802-1815 for the gardes consulaire, impériale et royale (Consular, Imperial and Royal Guards) and l'infanterie de ligne - the line infantry. This was exciting, but there was a major problem: without an index, it was nearly impossible to locate a soldier unless the unit was already known, and even then a page-by-page inspection of the register was required.

Geneanet members Claude Valleron and Alain Brugeat, the project coordinator these past few years, stepped up to help other volunteers index the archive. As the project has advanced, we have celebrated milestones along the way with round numbers: 100,000; 400,000; 850,000. We feel reaching 1,000,000 indexed soldiers, thanks to the work of volunteers, is worthy of recognition.

Every record has a treasure trove of information for the genealogist; more information can be found in our blog post. Use the link on each record to inspect the original scan hosted by the Ministère des Armées, which often has even more information such as rank, injuries, or decorations.

The soldiers of Napoléon's Grande Armée were, of course, mostly French. But under the Empire, "French" soldiers joined from Belgium, Italy, today's Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. The Geneanet indexers have made every effort to add today's département to each French record to facilitate cross searching in the archives départementales.

Historians will no doubt wish to refer to the French Archives de la Défense finding aid, and compare it to the list of registers fully or partially indexed or awaiting indexing.

So, is the project finished? Not at all! Estimates vary, but there may be from 400,000 to 800,000 soldiers left to index. If you speak French and are interested in participating in this project, please visit the project page and also our forum thread. And take a look at our other collaborative projects!

For those researching the military of the First Empire, and we are legion, this is grand news, indeed. Many thanks to Sean for the guest post.

(All puns intended)

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Men of the Gardes Mobiles Who Joined the California Gold Rush

Garde Mobile to California

Dear Readers, we are quite chuffed to be able to tell you that our article about the men of the Gardes mobiles who went to California to find gold has appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of The California Nugget the journal of the California Genealogical Society. As some of you may recall, we have been working on this subject for quite a while, writing about passenger lists of the California-bound here, and writing reviews of books on the subject here and here. It was in the last that we read the essay, Une émigration insolite au XIXe siècle, Les soldats des barricades en Californie (1848-1853), by Madeleine Bourset, and learned for the first time of the men who had fought in Paris during the Revolution of 1848 and who were sent to California afterward. 

Who were they? Their names could be found nowhere, had been published nowhere. What was their story? It took many years, many visits to archives and even more e-mails and letters to archivists before we, at long last, had the complete list of all the names of the Gardes mobiles who went to California. We cannot take full credit for finding it; the last hunt was done by a superbly diligent and generous archivist in the naval archives at Toulon, Madame Boucon, under the auspices of Monsieur Triboux,* but we shall take credit for persevering, even pestering, in the quest. 

We are grateful to the editors at The California Nugget for accepting our article, with the entire passenger list of the guards' names, for publication. They then did some very impressive further research to discover the stories and descendants of as many of the men as possible, producing biographical sketches on the following men:

  • Deligne
  • Ducroquet
  • Dulac
  • Gaillard
  • Lucien
  • Mené
  • Pelissier
  • Sauffrignon
  • Souillié
  • Tridon

With this issue, the editors have created what we believe to be the definitive study to date on the Californian Gardes mobiles and we are quite honoured to have been a contributor to it. Should you have an ancestor  amongst this fascinating and hitherto unnamed group, we hope that you will find this issue of The California Nugget to be of aid to your genealogical research.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

* Read here of other generous acts of research on the part of French archivists.


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 9 - Foreigners' Passport Requests

Marie Fouyol

The omicron variant is sweeping Europe and travel is again being limited. Everyone, including us, is worried that their family reunions for the holidays will have to be cancelled. Instead of being a time of happy anticipation, for most in France, as elsewhere, we imagine, it is a time of increasing anxiety, as we are told, somewhat unnecessarily.

A couple of weeks ago, we managed to visit the Archives nationales and took the opportunity to look at the foreigners' passport requests in our hunt for the identity of Marie Fouyol, wife of Thomas Mansell. Recall that, in the last post on this case study, this was one of the archive series that we thought could be of help:

"The Archives nationales contain the police surveillance files of the period, as well as any surviving passport requests by foreigners, as explained here. Either could contain something on Thomas Mansell, which might also mention his wife and her origins."

Unfortunately, we found nothing of use, though to be honest, we did not have enough time to do an exhaustive search. The series code, F/7/3507 is within the police archives of the first empire. Precisely, they are visa requests made by foreign passport holders. The requests were entered onto printed pages, of which there are hundreds, in no specific order.

List no 1583

As the above sample list shows, princes were mixed in with weavers and foreigners were mixed in with people born in Paris. Marie Fouyol, in marrying a foreigner, would have lost her French nationality, and the nationality of her children with Mansell would have been British, not French. It is conceivable that their applications to travel to Britain, if they left France and returned during the First Empire, could appear somewhere in this series. However, in all of the pages we examined, there was not a single person with the enemy nationality of British. We suspect that those may have been kept separately, but we are not sure of where.

The search for Marie Fouyol continues.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letters X, Y and Z

Escrime - Challenge!

Well, Dear Readers, we reach the end of this marathon with nothing but respect for the bloggers who participated and produced such consistently interesting writing on their French genealogical work. Below are our selections from the final posts.

Bravo!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letters U, V and W

Escrime - Challenge!

The end is in sight, Dear Readers. For the letter U, many bloggers chose to write about uniforms. Unfortunately, none of them gave any aid in uniform identification, so we do not include them here. The letter W presented a problem for many, as there are not many words in French beginning with that letter; many resorted to variations of "Wow" or to words in other languages. There were quite a few posts about wagons, French for railway carriage. Généa79 admitted defeat gracefully by pointing out that the letter W was not even in the French alphabet until 1948.

These are the posts that we believe may be of most use to you in your French genealogical research:

  • SL Passerelle looks at undertaker records in Louisiana. Throughout the ChallengeAZ, this blog has been quite fun in showing how a French researcher uses American records.
  • The wonderful archives of the AP-HP look at the records of emergency medical workers in Paris on their facebook page.
  • GénéaTrip looks at the issue of spelling variations in names.
  • Once again SL Passerelle shines this time with a survey of resources.
  • Archivistoires gives a brief explanation of Series W in Departmental Archives, a series which gets too little attention.

UPDATE:

In response to this post, Madame K wrote to suggest for the letter W, something on Wallis-et-Futuna. None of this year's participants chose the subject but we did write about it last year here.

 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy