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October 2023

Online Archives from the Archives Diplomatiques at Last

Arch Dip Microfilm

How long we have been awaiting this one, and it is not quite here yet, but the signs are hopeful, hopeful, indeed. For a good ten years, the Archives diplomatiques have been promising that, "very soon", the overseas civil registrations (prior to 1891) would be available online. For at least a decade, their website has held little more than a dull notice of that same promise.

No, Dear Readers, those registrations are not online (and one must still use the microfilm rolls shown above) but there is a significant new look to the website. We have noticed a new design, improved search facility and options and the beginnings of digitization of some of their wonderful archival materials.

  • Many military registration records for Tunisia are being uploaded. If you are researching an ancestor who was a French citizen, no matter where he was born, and who was living in Tunisia when he turned twenty and had to register, you have a good chance of finding him here.
  • Documents and photographs concerning the art stolen by the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War and the effort to retrieve it. Not exactly useful for your genealogical research, unless it were your family's art that was stolen.
  • Documents and photographs pertaining to the French government in exile during World War Two. Just the beginnings, here, covering a visit by Soustelle to Mexico.
  • A database of treaties signed with France. Great fun, as with this 1419 treaty between the Duke of Burgundy and the King of England. Be sure to type in the French name of your country when you search.

Ten years is a long wait, and it is not over yet. Keep checking the website and do let us know should you get lucky.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Family Disputes Found in Notarial Acts Bring Joy to the Genealogist

French Family Disputes

Ah, Dear Readers, notarial records can yield such delights of familial disharmony, as they document spitefulness, resentment, vengeance or, most useful of all, the fierce desire of some to cheat their nearest and dearest of every last sou to be found amongst the clan. Our example comes from the notarial archives of Paris, the Minutier Central des Notaires de Paris in the Archives nationales. In the carton with the code MC/ET/XV/1645  (MC = Minutuer central. ET = étude. XV = 15, the number in Roman numerals of the étude. 1645 = the carton number of that étude's archives.)*

Reconnaissance Barrière

The document reveals that Françoise Eléonore Barrière, a woman who had buried three husbands, finally succumbed herself and was buried in Paris in 1819. Her sister, Magdeleine Thérèse, claiming to be her only heir, quickly requested that a death inventory be made of the deceased's effects. It was done and in it, she was named as the only heir to the estate. However, there was a son and, though he lived somewhat remotely on the Île d'Oléron, he got wind of his mother's death and his aunt's shenanigans. Of unpleasant portent for Magdeleine Thérèse, he was a "man of law", and he was annoyed. He arrived with a copy of his baptism register entry (nicely included in the act) and his mother's cousin, Marie Françoise Durand, Madame Girault of Orléans. 

Leonard Marie Durand

It proves that he, Léonard Marie Durand, born in Paris on the fifth of January 1764, was the legitimate son of Françoise Eléonore Barrière and her (first) lawful husband François Durand. (A different copy of his baptism survives in the "reconstituted" registers of Paris and can be seen on the website of the Archives de Paris here (go to image number fifty).  Therefore, the act concluded, the first inventory was wrong and the sister was not the sole heir of Françoise Eléonore Barrière, widow of Pierre-Henri Mulet de la Girouzière (her third husband), the son was the sole heir.

This act of recognition (acte de reconnaissance, which normally serves quite a different purpose) required that Magdeleine Thérèse Barrière recognize that her nephew existed and was the sole legitimate heir. She did not show her face. She sent a representative, duly authorized, who signed for her.

This family is not easy to research, so how very nice to come across a single document that gives so much genealogical information. Dear Readers, we shall never cease to tout the value of notarial acts and we urge you never to cease looking for any that may relate to your research.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

*See our booklets on Notarial Records and Parisian Genealogy to learn more about this type of research.


Finding French Ships' Crew Lists of the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries - in Britain

Frigate

If you have been researching a French seaman of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, then you are well aware of just how difficult it can be to find out about his career. We have been working on seamen for some time and have written about ways to search for them in a number of posts:

  • If he were an officer in the Marine, or Navy, you will have some luck, as we have written here.
  • We wrote here about a guide to researching Breton seamen.
  • We wrote here about finding a naval vessel on which your seaman may have served.
  • These books tell of hundreds of French officers and sea captains.
  • The Le Havre passenger lists also contain crew lists, as we explained here. (It is maddening and mysterious that absolutely no one reads this post attentively.)
  • For the names of those French who fought in the American Revolution, including sailors, we refer you to the book, Combattants français de la guerre americaine 1778-1783.

However, we have not yet come across crew lists of French privateers in any French archive; yet there are hundreds of such crew lists in the National Archives of Great Britain in Kew. They are within the ships' papers captured with the vessel in the days of taking ships as prizes during war. Most of the French prizes were, themselves, privateers but some were merchant vessels. Unfortunately, they are not online, but we explain here how you can request copies.

Find them by going to the online catalogue of the National Archives ("TNA") website. In the box of what to search for, enter the phrases: "Captured ship" "Nationality French". If you are lucky enough to know the name of the ship, enter that as well. Narrow the search by entering the years during which you think your French seaman may have been active. The result will look something like this and all of  the ships will be in the Prize Court series of the High Court of Admiralty.

The papers are arranged alphabetically by the vessel's name and the master's surname. There are many cases to a carton. Each case can be a thick bundle of papers.

French Crew Lists

 

Our example is the Général Pérignon, a most successful privateer. She was captured in 1810, with all of her papers. The first page of the crew list shows:

  • Alain Gilles Nicolas, captain, from Plévenon, aged forty-nine
  • François Eude Dessaudrais, from Saint-Malo, Mate, aged forty
  • Gabriel Zenon Verrier, first lieutenant, from Cap Français, aged twenty-five
  • Yves Guilho, first lieutenant, from Bordeaux, aged fifty
  • Jean Baptiste Battur, second lieutenant, from Saint Servan, aged fifty
  • François Tissier, second lieutenant, from Pléhérel, aged thirty-nine

General Perignon Crew List 1810

There are eleven pages, listing every crew member in the same way, right down to the ship's boys. 

By creating an account with TNA online, once you find your ship, you can request copies of the prize papers, asking for the French crew list only, if you wish.

Naturally, the great difficulty comes if you do not know your man's ship. Other search strategies that you might try, in addition to narrowing the date to ships that sailed during his lifetime, as mentioned above, are:

  • If you know the names of his wife and some of the men of her family, search online the names of the men to see if they turn up as captains or as privateers (corsaires). You could find them linked to a vessel. One of their names might appear as the master of a captured vessel in the TNA search. Seamen often sailed on family vessels and researchers often forget that the wives had families.
  • Examine closely the marriage and death register entries you have for him. Sometimes, a vessel is named.

Recently, we met an enthusiastic cheerleader for FamilySearch who asked us to suggest to him what archival collections we would like them to film. We prepared a long list that included the captured crew lists described here. We wrote to him some weeks ago. He must be very busy or very rude or the victim of some silencing crime, for we never received a reply. So, Dear Readers, we must continue our hunt the hard way, for now.

©2023 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy