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July 2023

Summer Reading - Researching a Breton Seaman Ancestor with "Guide des sources d'histoire maritime de Bretagne : Gens de Mer"

Gens de Mer

Warnings and caveats, Dear Readers, before we begin. This book is twenty years old. It is in French. Most of the resources it describes are not available online. It is very hard to find, having required a wait for us of two years on abebooks. In spite of all, it remains one of the very best guides on how to research a Breton seaman. Since most French seamen hailed from Brittany (closely followed by Normandy), you stand a good chance of your French seaman ancestor having been a Breton, which would make this book very useful to you, indeed.

Only one hundred and twelve pages long, no words are minced in the forty-two topics covered:

  • Introduction
  • Accident du travail à la mer  - Accidents at Sea
  • Alimentation en mer - Food at Sea
  • Armateurs et négociants - Owners, agents and merchants
  • Capitaines de la marine marchande - Merchant marine captains
  • Chirurgiens navigants - Surgeons
  • Corsaires  - Privateers
  • Décès et disparition en mer - Deaths and Losses at Sea
  • Décorations civiles et militaires - Civil and Military Decorations
  • Déserteurs - Deserters
  • Discipline des équipages - Discipline of Crews
  • Écoles de la Marine - Naval Schools
  • Enseignement maritime - Maritime Education
  • État civil en mer - Civl registration (births, marriages, deaths) at Sea
  • Femmes - Women
  • Garde-côtes - Coast Guard
  • Gardiens de phare - Lighthouse Keepers
  • Hôpitaux maritimes - Naval Hospitals
  • Hygiène et médecine navale - Naval Hygiene and Medicine
  • Invalides de la Marine - Naval Pensioners
  • Langage maritime - Maritime Vocabulary
  • Marins de la Marine militaire - Sailors in the Navy
  • Marins de la pêche et du commerce - Fishermen and Merchant Seamen
  • Migrations - Migrations
  • Mouvements sociaux - Strikes and Unionizing Activity
  • Mutineries - Mutinies
  • Officiers de la Marine militaire - Naval Officers
  • Passagers - Passengers
  • Personnel civil de la Marine militaire - Civil employees of the Navy, including Workers in Arsenals
  • Personnel de l’Inscription maritime - Employees of the Naval Draft
  • Personnel de la Compagnie des Indes - Employees of the Compagnie des Indes
  • Personnel de santé de la Marine - Health Workers
  • Personnel des ports civils - Employees at the Civil Ports
  • Pilotes - Pilots
  • Prison maritime - Naval Prisons
  • Prisonniers de guerre - Prisoners of War
  • Religion - Religion
  • Santé - Health
  • Secours et assistance - Aid and Rescue
  • Syndicalisme - Unionization
  • Troupes de la Marine - Marines
  • Uniforme - Uniforms
  • Vie à bord - Life on Board
  • Annexe : l’inscription maritime - The Naval Draft

Each section gives a brief introduction to the subject; these introductions are very clear and most informative. Then is given a list, by archive facility and written by archivists, of the series (with the code!) containing the relevant documents. Lastly, each section has a bibliography for that topic. This last may be the only part that is out of date.  The two annexes at the end explain the naval draft system and then give an incredibly helpful list of the bureaux to which the men had to report, with the names of the towns, communes, covered by that bureau.

Using this book along with the websites of the various archives, you may be able, in effect, to update it. So much is being digitized so quickly that you could look up a series mentioned in the book on the archive's website and possibly find the series is now online, or at least an index to it may be. This would allow you to search for your ancestor's name and to request the document from the archives.

A little boon to your research!

FGB posts on the subject include:

French Seamen's Records Digitizing Project - an Update

The Service Historique de la Défense at Lorient

Summer Reading - Books to Help You Find Your French Mariner Ancestor's Vessel

Summer Reading - Two Books for Those Researching a French Naval Ancestor

Your Breton Ancestors in Paris


©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Finding Irish Jacobites' Descendants in Eighteenth Century Paris

Irish in Paris

Some years ago, we explained here how thousands of Irish came to France with King James II. Though they did not plan to do so, most of them stayed. They were joined by the refugees of the failed 1715 Jacobite Rising and the failed 1745 Rebellion that ended in the disastrous Battle of Culloden (in which our own ancestors fought on the losing side). Their descendants became thoroughly integrated immigrants' children in France. Perhaps the best discussion of them is Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret"s article "Une élite insulaire au service de l'Europe : les jacobites au XVIIe siècle".

For the most part, they lived initially  in Saint Germain-en-Laye, Versailles and Paris. As you will recall, genealogical research in Parisian records is most difficult. The dogged and diligent work of the volunteers at the Projet Familles Parisiennes is beginning to yield wonderful documents, some of them full of genealogical detail about the children of the Jacobite immigrants who were in Paris. You also will find many Irish priests, monks and others who were residing in one of the religious houses or Irish colleges in Paris.

The documents  are those concerning heirs and inheritance that were filed with the court at Châtelet such as the closure of wills, or probate, and the decisions concerning guardianship, known as tutelles.  They can be found by the surnames of the people involved via the surname index of Familles Parisiennes.

Beware of creative spelling!  The name, O'Brien, for example, might be found in "OB" as OBRIEN, or under "O autre" as O'BRIEN. "Mac" may appear at the front of a name in all lower case, with a space, or in upper case without a space. It may be spelt as "Mack". So, when searching, one must be imaginative, to say the least. The reward is a link to a photographed document (hosted on the website of Geneanet but free to view) that may give the names of many relatives in both France and Ireland, places of birth, regiments in the French Army, and the names of trusted acquaintances. The Irish genealogist, John Grenham* writes that "The single most important item of information for Irish family history is a precise place of origin." Finding that place of origin, and much more, for Jacobite refugees can be greatly helped by the Projet Familles Parisiennes as its work progresses.

Bonne chance dans votre recherche!

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

*Grenham's website also has a superb bibliography on the Irish in France, though most of the books listed are almost impossible to find.