Do You Dare to Try to Research Your Alsace Ancestors Online - in French?

Alsace plate

We have had a missive from Christine and Laure, who write the wonderful blog Généalogie Alsace. They have put together a brief series of instructional posts for those who live far from that pretty region of France and must research their Alsatian ancestors online. The posts are in French but are very clear and easy to understand (or to translate)

The first, "For Those of You Who Are Far From Alsace", explains the basics of Alsatian emigration in the nineteenth century and gives some understanding of the region's geography, especially the two departments, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.

The second, "How to Research an Ancestor from Bas-Rhin Using the Internet", explains just that. It lists and explains the most useful archives and, where websites exists, gives links. 

The third does the same for the department of Haut-Rhin. This may be your best hope if your ancestors come from Haut-Rhin, as the notoriously unhelpful archivists of that department's archives will never provide any service by post or e-mail.

The last may be a bit much, for it explains how to transcribe and then translate Alsatian German records....into French. Why not try it even if it does seem preposterously difficult?

You have, in the posts linked above, a complete beginner's course in Alsace genealogical research.

Many thanks to Christine and Laure.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


GUEST POST - News From the State Archives of Geneva - AEG

Dear Readers, our good friend, the excellent genealogist,  Isabelle Haemmerle, sends exciting news from Geneva:

We are pleased to forward good news from Geneva. Last February the State Archives of Geneva (AEG) announced that the parish and vital records from 1542 to 1880 have been fully digitalized and are accessible on the Adhemar database. It represents 449,000 pictures from 2,200 record books.

Up to 1798, we can find mention of a baptism or marriage in the parish books recorded by ministers in the City of Geneva. Deaths were recorded in the « Book of the Dead ( le Livre des morts) » by the « Visitors of the Dead (visiteurs des morts) » who were employed by the Hospital and were given training. In the countryside, ministers were in charge of the recording, or registering. In 1798, Geneva became part of France and, from then, the vital records - birth, marriage and death - were registered by officials of each commune.

AEG - EC Morts 5 - Livre des Morts 3 june 1562AEG - EC Morts 5 - Livre des Morts 3 June 1562

In a presentation of the State Archives of Geneva – AEG - that was posted here a few years ago, we explained you how to find a family name on the website of the Swiss family names repertory, which enumerates the families who held the citizenship of a Swiss commune in 1962. It provides:

    • the commune of origin or bourgeoisie
    • the date of bourgeoisie acquisition
    • the place of origin location ( France or other location, ex. NE for Neuchatel)

In the AEG parish and vital records, you will find only events located in the Canton of Geneva :

    • birth records until 31 December 1899
    • marriage records until 31 December 1929
    • death records until 31 December 1959

As mentioned above,  these are online only up to 1880. After that year, the search can only be done in the reading room of the AEG.

If you do not know the exact date of the events, you can review alphabetical indexes - répertoires or tables : the volumes cover a period of 4 to 10 years and indicate the dates of birth, marriage or death along with the vital record number where the original certificate is registered.
Geneva archives give also access to some Protestant parish record books of towns in the neighborhood of Geneva that are now within French territory in the Pays de Gex : Cessy, Segny, Sauverny, Collonges, Farges, Divonne, Grilly, Crassier, Moëns et Lyon (on microfilm).

«Communes réunies» Index (1599-1877)

As Geneva was historically a Protestant land, the Catholic parishes flourished on its borders and were called « communes réunies » (towns that were transferred by France in 1815 and by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1816). A special index is used as birth, marriage and death tables for events having taken place in those towns before the end of 18th century (1599-1798). Three more tables online complete the period of 1792 to 1877.

The «Communes réunies» are:

    • Aire-la-Ville
    • Anières
    • Avusy
    • Bardonnex
    • Bernex
    • Bellevue
    • Carouge
    • Chêne-Thônex
    • Choulex
    • Collex-Bossy
    • Collonge-Bellerive
    • Compesières
    • Confignon
    • Corsier
    • Grand-Saconnex
    • Hermance
    • Laconnex
    • Lancy
    • Meinier
    • Meyrin
    • Onex
    • Perly-Certoux
    • Plan-les-Ouates
    • Pregny
    • Presinge
    • Puplinge
    • Soral
    • Troinex
    • Vernier
    • Versoix
    • Veyrier

AEG - EC rép 1.87.4 Image 65 - Communes Réunies Index - Birth of Daniel Duby in Collex on 12 may 1688AEG - EC rép 1.87.4 Image 65 - Communes Réunies Index - Birth of Daniel Duby in Collex on 12 May 1688

 

An extra help: nominative lists 1939-1945 of civilian or military refugees and Swiss expatriates back home

If you look for a person who might have been a refugee in Switzerland during WWII, you can check an interesting source given through the nominative lists of civilian or military refugees. They contain the surname, first name, date of birth and nationality of over 25,000 people checked at the Franco-Genevan border during the Second World War. Scroll down and read the detailed information about the lists translated in English.

New building site for the State Archives of Geneva in 2025

In spring 2025, the Archives de l’État de Genève currently located in the old Arsenal building in the old town and other departments spread across Geneva will all move to a new Hotel des Archives site to be built in the conservation area of Arsenal, rue de l’Ecole de Medecine in the cultural Plainpalais district. Thirty linear kilometers of archives will be transferred during two years to the two-storey basement. The work started in December 2020 and the plans show a reading room looking onto a renovated and landscaped yard. We are looking forward to present it to you, dear Readers!

Image new AEG building

 

New AEG Reading Room

Not to be missed if you come to Geneva this year : an exhibition « Zigzag archivistique» presents a photographic tour through the current storage facility to keep an «archive of archives» before the moving.


Where: Archives d’État de Genève, 1, rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville
When : 25 March 2022 - 30 Avril 2023 - Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm - July and August: 9am -5pm

 

20220324-aeg-zz-visuel


Passenger Lists From Morlaix - Crossing the English Channel During the Napoleonic Wars

ADM 480:103 cover

We have been extremely busy, Dear Readers, working with a wonderful set of passenger lists from the early nineteenth century. Though England and France were at war from 1803 to 1815 (with a small break for a tenuous victory), travel between the two countries did not cease, not at all. There was a fairly steady stream of people moving in both directions, including:

  • Released British prisoners returning home
  • Released French prisoners arriving from Britain
  • American diplomats and merchants voyaging between Paris and London
  • Wives and children of British détenus returning to Britain
  • French civilians going to and returning from Britain

They all had to travel via Morlaix, the only port in the French Empire from which it was permitted to sail for or arrive from England. The set of passenger lists with which we are working are the original departing passenger lists from Morlaix (arrival lists seem not to have survived), signed by the port officer, the Commissaire de la Marine à Morlaix, a Monsieur Dusaussois, and countersigned by the British port authority on arrival, usually at Dartmouth. We have not finished with them but they appear to cover the years from 1810 to 1814, and give some very interesting and useful details for the genealogist and for the historian. For each passenger, is given the:

  • Name
  • Place of origin - this can be just a country but is usually a city
  • Age
  • Profession or status, e.g. seaman, captain, passenger, etc.
  • If a prisoner of war returning to Britain, where they had been captured
  • Details and dates of their passports, which often reveal where they had been in France

ADM 103:480 sample 2

Here, we have a passenger list from July of 1812. (War against Great Britain had just been declared by the United States but these passengers may not yet have had the news.)

1. John WASTON [possibly WATSON], of Ireland, aged 11, Student, Passport of 15 June 1812, delivered by the Commandant of the Depot of Prisoners of War at Verdun on the decision of His Excellency the Minister of War of 19 March preceding. 

2. Allen CASE, of New Bedford, United States , aged 34, ship captain, Taken by the privateer, ESPADON, from the ship, MASSACHUSETTS, which he commanded. Passport from the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America at Paris on 10 June 1812, no. 250, visa given by the Minister of External Relations and by the Police General on 12 and 19 of the same month. To embark at Morlaix.

3. Lazarus LEBARON, of Rochester, [Massachusetts]  aged 23, Mate, Included on the same passport.

4. William MILES, of Montgomery, aged 24, Seaman

5. Isaac STEWARD, black, of Philadelphia , aged 25, Seaman

6. John HERRIGTON, of Chatham, America, aged 21, Seaman

7. Samuel SKILDING, of Stramford [Stamford?], aged 20, Seaman

8. Eliza TUCKER, Mrs. HICKMAN, English, aged 24, Passenger, Road pass, dated 24 June 1812, no. 330, delivered by the Commandant of arms at Longwy, following the order of His Excellency the Minister of War.

9. Caroline HICKMAN, English, aged 20 months,Within the same Passport.

10. Mrs. Eliza HOLMES, widow of William ARNOLD, Lieut. R.N., of Mortonhall, aged 24, Passport dated 8 June 1812, no. 426, delivered by the Mayor of the City of Verdun, visa given by the prefecture of Police at Paris on the 30th of the month of June, no. 36738.

So, above, you have a young Irish boy, the crew of a captured American vessel, the MASSACHUSETTS, travelling to Britain, presumably expecting it to be easier there to find a vessel going to the United States, and three British women passengers coming from the prison depots at Longwy and Verdun.

These French documents have not survived in French archives but, remarkably, in the National Archives of Great Britain at Kew, in the Admiralty series ADM 103/480. Joyously for those of you, Dear Readers, who wish to see them, they are online on FindMyPast.co.uk, where the quality of indexing is, as we see so often on these commercial websites, abysmal. (For example Mme., the abbreviation for Madame, is repeatedly indexed as a first name. This sort of shabby work hinders rather than helps research.) We are profoundly indebted to Monsieur B.C. for helping us to find this series.

Further to the same pursuit, we recently embarked upon our first research voyage since the beginning of the pandemic, and visited the Municipal Archives of Morlaix. For years, it has been on our list of important archives that must be seen. It was in the Town Hall of Morlaix, facing the viaduct, in a lovely room of tall book cases.

AM Morlaix 1

AM Morlaix 2

These archives are open only on Thursdays and visits must be booked in advance. The archivist, when we booked, warned us that there was not much from the First Empire. He did not lie; there was next to nothing from that period. Our hopes of significant discoveries were dashed. 

However, we did come across a very pertinent government publication of instructions concerning passports for French citizens and for foreigners, that goes a long way to explaining the passport notes on the Morlaix passenger lists, above.

Finistere Passport Instructions 1a

Finistere Passport Instructions 2a

Finistere Passport Instructions 3a

Finistere Passport Instructions 4a

Finistere Passport Instructions 5a

For those of you researching an ancestor of this period, particularly but not exclusively a British prisoner of war in France, these passenger lists may be most useful.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The FGB Is Back!

Hard at Work

 

Well, Dear Readers, have we ever left you for so long? A thousand apologies. You have not been abandoned, we assure you and we thank those of you who wrote to ask if all has been well (it has) and to tell of how our blog has helped you in your research (very kind of Madame MBT, especially).

Where have we been of late? Working on a number of projects:

  • An online talk on Researching French Jewish Ancestors for the Center for Jewish History in June
  • A talk for the Board for Certification of Genealogists on Legacy Family Tree Webinars in December on French Migration

We will be putting up more information about those as the times approach.

We have also been on the road once again and will write soon of our visits to regional archives.

Again, many, many thanks to all of you who have written with your concern about our well being and that of the French Genealogy Blog.

Anne Morddel


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


Our 2022 Calendar

FGB 2022 Calendar

Dear Readers, We have made another calendar for you, using the wonderful engravings by Salvatore Tresca of the drawings of Louis Lafitte of women representing the months of the Republican Calendar. Ironically, they published their calendar in 1806, the year that Napoleon abolished the Republican calendar and put France back on the Gregorian calendar. Within our calendar, we give the dates of the French holidays in 2022, and the dates of the Republican calendar months were they still to exist. You may purchase this beauty on Lulu.com here.

Many thanks!

Merci mille fois!