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French Jewish Genealogy - Certificates of Good Character from Consistoires

Consistoire Certificate

The network of consistories in France, which serve as the liaison between Jewish law and French law, was created in 1808. The Consistoire Central is at the head of the network and is based in Paris. Their archives, as with those of all the consistories in France, are private and are not open to the public.  We have described our mighty effort to access just a bit of them in a post here. Their holdings that one may be permitted to see are often limited to very basic registers, which give less information than can be found in French civil registers. (The one exception being that the death registers can give the place of burial, which civil registers do not give.)

So, we were quite delighted to come across a small collection of letters emanating from the Paris Consistory in 1808. They were letters of good character, much like the certificats de bonne vie et moeurs requested from a mayor about recently arrived Jewish residents of his city. The requests clearly followed the requirement that the mayors record the mandated selection of hereditary surnames by Jewish people, explained in this post. These character references were not required by law and so one would not expect to find them in every municipal or departmental archive but we now think that, having found them once, we will look for them on every visit.

These were found in the Departmental Archives of Finistère and were gathered by the city of Brest. They had been placed in the series 3V - "Cultes", which meant any religion that was not Catholic, and relate to the Jewish, Protestant and "New Catholic" communities.

Cultes non Catholiques


One example of these consistory certificates is above. Below is another.

Lion Caen 1

As records relating to individual Jewish people of this period are often hard to find, we consider this a bit of a treasure. In our next post, we shall tell of even more discoveries in that series.
©2022 Anne Morddel
French Genealogy