Alsace-Lorraine Genealogy

Research Under Confinement or "Lock Down"

We opine, Dear Readers, that it is unfortunate that the words for our staying at home during this pandemic are all words used for imprisonment, such as "confinement" or "lock down". In truth, we are not in prison. We are not criminals who have acted against the public good in a selfish and greedy manner. We are all engaged in the largest, shared, voluntary act for the public good in the history of humanity. None of us wants to fall ill but more, none of us wants to make others ill. Billions of people are staying home, sacrificing work, education and socialization, in an unselfish determination to put the good for all above the need of the individual. Our heroism is obviously not on the level of the heroism of those risking their lives for the public good by tending the ill, but it exists. It is our view that we are witnessing an astonishing and beautiful truth about our species. It is that we can, all of us, work together for the good of all. 

Nevertheless, staying at home can be dull. Even our belovèd ninety year old uncle in California is finding it all a bit tedious, not being able to go for his long walks around town. So, back to French genealogy, in the hope that the rigours of research and a busy mind will quell the twitchings of inactive limbs. 

Continuing with a quick list of useful websites for research:

 

FRENCH WHO EMIGRATED

ASIL Europe XIX - A most interesting website of European migrants during the nineteenth century, including those who were expelled from France. It is the work of a university. We find that such sites tend to be fabulous and then (why? because someone got his or her PhD and wandered off?) they disappear, so use it quickly. We first wrote about this here.

Bagnards -  From 1853 to 1952, France sent more than 100,000 prisoners to penal colonies, primarily to French Guyana and New Caledonia. In our previous post, we already recommended the site of ANOM, but this takes to directly to the bagnards section.  Note that a new aspect is that the registers have now been digitized. For much more about the bagnards, read our post here.

Basques Who Went to Argentina - These are the registers maintained of those Basques who sailed to Argentina, of whom there are now an estimated ten million descendants. Read our original post on this here.

Via Bordeaux - As we have written, the Bordeaux port records were burned, so there are no passenger lists. However, this is a wonderful database of the passports issued to those who sailed from Bordeaux, as emigrants or not, that can be searched and the original documents viewed. Read our original post about the passports here and how to combine your research in them with Ancestry's records here.

Communards who were deported are listed in full on a blog dedicated to the subject. For more on the Paris Commune, read our post here.

Mauritius or Réunion - This has some overlap with ANOM's site, but also has information of its own, including lists of first emigrants to these islands, many names with pages of extracted information from parish registrations. See our original post on this here.

FrancoGene - a well-known and excellent website on early emigrants from France to North America.

Emigration to Algeria - If, like us, you despise flashing advertisements all over a page you are trying to read, if the ugly images are an offense to your eye, if the harping phrases an insult to your intelligence, you may wish to view this site's fine collection of information with an ad-blocker on your browser. Read our original post on the workers' convoys to Algeria here.

Passenger and Crew Lists from Le Havre and Rouen - The Departmental Archives have digitized a collection of passenger lists discovered after World War II in one of the few buildings not bombed by the Allies. The lists cover voyages from Le Havre or Rouen on French registered vessels that returned to Le Havre or Rouen in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are not indexed and are arranged by date. Read our post explaining this site here.

 

May these websites help you to soar with a sense of freedom as your research takes you across the globe and back in time. More to come, mes amis!

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

(We had intended to put at the top of this post a picture of a fountain as we have read that donating fountains to one's community is, in certain cultures, a most-honoured act for the public good, but Typepad's image insertion is malfunctioning today.)


Our Eleventh Birthday - In Quarantine!

11th Birthday under lockdown pink

Ah, Dear Readers, many predicted this but could any of us have imagined life under quarantine? When we began our series about researching American mariners on the twenty-second of January, the press contained a few reports of an epidemic of some concern in far away China. By the time the series came to an end, a couple of weeks ago, the entire world was battling a pandemic and most of us in quarantine at home.  Like everyone else, The FGB is soldiering on as best as possible, doing French genealogical research.

In truth, much as we adore visiting the currently shut archives of France, we also take great pleasure in online research. For any of you who have been with us since the beginning, you will know that part of our mission is to explain to you, in English, how to research your French ancestors online. What better time than now to do an update on our favourite sites? 

GENERAL, BROAD RESEARCH

The index to the finding aids of the Archives nationales

Forever being updated, so always worth checking again and again, this is one of the first places to begin researching any French, especially Parisian, ancestor. It is not only for the prominent. All kinds of people from all parts of the country crop up here. Our post here explains how to log on.

Ancestry

Ancestry is not particularly useful for French research but it is excellent for tracing all possible documentation on a French ancestor who went to another country, in that country. Immigrant records of the USA, Australia and the UK about a French ancestor's new life can be excellent in finding all versions of the person's name, his or her birthdate and birth place. The same holds true for MyHeritage.

FamilySearch

The site has more and more French records scanned but the indexing than a kindergarten crafts room when the children have just left it. Use with grave caution or only when you know exactly what you seek and where it should be.

Généanet

This and the next are France's largest and most important commercial genealogy research sites. Généanet has a messy, outdated interface but is a superb resource, especially for original documents from Paris and especially for people of the eighteenth century.

Filae

Filae is better for researching people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Of particular value are two national censuses that have been indexed, that of 1872 and that of 1906. Additionally, the French office of statistics (INSEE) death records are, in many cases, the only way to find a death that occurred after 1902. With access in English.

Geopatronyme

Check your surname here. French names were contorted, some beyond recognition, in anglophone countries. Once you start researching French records, you need to have the correct name. Playing with your variations on Geopatronyme will help you to see what is and what is not possible. Read our original post about this site here.

 

LOCATION SPECIFIC RESEARCH

Begin with the websites of the Departmental Archives relative to the department where your French ancestor lived. See the links in the column to the left. Recall that many large cities have their own websites. Marseille, Brest, Paris, Lyon and many more have digitized documentation not found on the websites of the Departmental Archives. To find the sites, search, or google, the city name and "archives municipales".

ANOM

For ancestors who lived in the French colonies, overseas territories or overseas departments, the Archives nationales d'outre-mer are the best place to begin. Read our report on a talk about this service by the archivist here.

Optants

If your ancestors said they were from Alsace-Lorraine, this website has listed the names of those who, from outside the region in 1872, claimed French nationality. Read our first post about the Optants here.

Projet Familles Parisiennes

This superb site is a treasure of documentation on eighteenth century Parisian families. The index links to digitized documents from the National Archives hosted on the website of Généanet but are free to view. Read our post about the project here.

 

 

We will list more good sites in our next post.

During this time of confinement for the public good, perhaps we all can extend our French genealogy networks. Take very good care, Dear Readers.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Finding Early French Mennonites of Vosges and Haut-Rhin

 

Map compass

As those of you who have worked on this group will know already, this is a difficult patch of research territory. Briefly, because of their beliefs, their language differences (generally, they spoke German rather than French), and their separateness from the Catholic Church, documenting the Mennonites (known as Anabaptistes, and henceforward here as well) in France is difficult.[1]

  • Because they were pacifists, they do not appear in the excellent genealogical resource of military records
  • The territories were not French when they came to Montbéliard or Salm or Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; they were principalities that had to cooperate with France and that would one day be absorbed by France. Thus any archives pertaining to them in those places will be in France, but will be arranged according to the structure of the principality’s administration.
  • The Anabaptists were not keen on registration. Eventually, however, they did, in France, begin to register baptisms and marriages, especially at Montbéliard and in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, at the Reformed German Church. These registers are not, at the time of writing, online, though extracts from the latter are beginning to appear on Filae.
  • Most Anabaptists in the principalities were not permitted to own land but only to rent it. Some rental and even some sale agreements survive but the wealth of land registry records contains little or nothing concerning them.
  • The French did not begin a formal, national and regular census until 1836, far too late for the study of this group. However, certain Anabaptist censuses of the early eighteenth century in France survive, but they give little detail, being just a list of names of the men who headed families.
  • The Anabaptists rarely used notaires to formally document and register their agreements. They did not have marriage contracts, wills or inheritance issues. Disputes were resolved amongst themselves. The result is that an extremely rich resource is unlikely to be so rich for this type of research.

Thus, researching Anabaptists in French archives is quite a specialized pursuit and is very different from research into French Catholic families of the same time period and all of the wonderful resources we have oft described on this blog are pretty much useless.

Yet, we see no reason to give up. We have struggled with them before, in Montbéliard, and we most recently have soldiered on in the archives of Vosges and Haut-Rhin.

In the Departmental Archives of Vosges can be found the archives of the Principality of Salm, one of the states that gave refuge to Anabaptists on the run from less welcoming religious climes. It is not a huge collection; the entire list is on not many pages in a single binder. In the late eighteenth century, the territory became French and all relating to the same people and places will suddenly be in French records.

A few suggestions for where to look, based on where we have found success:

  • In 1790, when the Revolutionary government sold off biens nationaux, the property taken from churches, the crown and nobility, you will occasionally find Anabaptist farmers buying the property they had been renting. Begin with the principality’s lease records, then look not only in the biens nationaux lists but in notarial records for the sale, the acte de vente.
  • Anabaptists may have been officially tolerated, but they were not always so in every corner of the principality. It seems that, if they broke laws or customs, they were very likely to have been prosecuted for it while, in the same situation, a local person might have received a warning. (Sadly, this ignorant suspicion of all persons foreign has not yet disappeared from modern humanity.) So, a trawl through the judicial records during the period when your ancestor was alive may bring some interesting discoveries.

In the Departmental Archives of Vosges, we came across no census of Anabaptists such as the well-known 1703 and 1708 listings of Anabaptists in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (much copied all over the Internet).

In the Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin, the documents in Series E relating to Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines are chaotically arranged, even after a few attempts have visibly altered the finding aids, but they contain nuggets. In addition to the census returns mentioned above, we found:

  • A 1732 census of inhabitants by religion, including Anabaptists.
  • A carton full of individual requests by Anabaptists to be allowed to settle in the Seigneurie de Ribeaupierre. Each one tells a story, each is in German, and each has the same representative’s or agent’s signature at the bottom.
  • One fine family’s names and relationships all listed in a certificat de bonne meours (saying they were exemplary citizens) issued to them when due to the 1712 expulsion issued by Louis XIV being enforced in the seigneurie as well, they had to leave. The wording is quite touching; clearly, they would be missed.

Further Reading

It will be hard work but always interesting.

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

[1] Séguy, Les Assemblées, pp.15-19.


The Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin

AD-HR

 

Oh, this is a tough one, Dear Readers, a very tough one, indeed, and through no fault of the expert archivists and their extremely busy staff. It is merely that the collections held here are from such a jumbled history of different languages and traditions, different provenance, and different administrative structures that they are difficult for anyone to sort out and use.

Certainly, they are the toughest that we have ever yet attempted. It took us a day to manage to find our way just a bit through the finding aids, which are only the first step. This, though the archives have produced numerous explanations as to how to use them. In some case, one must use four different finding aids, each referring to another, to find the code for a carton. This is because archives must be stored in the sense in which they were created; only a fool would rearrange them according to his or her modern idea of order. (We have witnessed such chaos but, thankfully, not here.)

The staff were generous with their time in helping all users to find their way, but it was often difficult for them too. In one instance, we had managed to use the finding aids successfully and had a list of codes for cartons to request, yet we could not get the system to accept those codes. We asked for help. It took the archivist, asking all the others present thirty minutes of trying various possibilities before he had success. This is not incompetence, we assure you; this is extreme complexity. Later, in conversation with other users, all agreed that the finding aids and the archives were the most complex and difficult that we had ever encountered.
 

ADHR

The interior is modern and very accommodating. The exterior needs a bit of work, shall we say. There are oddities that indicate an amateur architect did the new inside: a glass door to the Reading Room that bangs loudly, motion sensors for lights that are placed incorrectly.  These are minor details.

Instead of proper lockers, there are small, open cubicles for one's belongings, such as we called "cubbies" all those years ago in kindergarden. In fact, there is a general air of authoritarianism and elementary school about the structure. Outrageously loud buzzers go off fifteen minutes before closing time; failing that, an assistant bellows that we must prepare to leave. The entire service closes for an hour at lunch time. This is the only Departmental Archives where we have encountered this closure, and it is a significant loss of research time.

We think we may have come across the cause of the hysteria found in the municipal archives about photographs.

 

Booklet

Key articles in this document state that one must request permission to take photographs of documents (this is the same as in most archives). However, the permission to photograph is not permission to publish.

 

Reutilisation

The sentence in bold makes it very clear that the permission to photograph is not permission to publish. Additionally:

 

And more

It does not in any way grant the photographer copyright of the contents of the image. Presumably, similar rulings, with similar draconian wording,  apply in the Municipal Archives of Colmar.

In such a difficult situation, this is where you see the value of the tremendous volunteer work done by genealogy associations. There are, on shelves, dozens of bound volumes of extracts of parish and civil registrations, sorted by town and then type and name. In this case, they are those done by the Association Généalogique et héraldique du Val de Lièpvre et Environs  but they contain more than is on the website or that has been put on Filae by the same. They are a wonderful aid, though they do not exist for every single town yet.

The archivists here deserve medals for heroism and expertise. They seem to be understaffed and yet are constantly available to answer the innumerable questions necessary. We really are very grateful to them and extend our thanks here.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Municipal Archives of Colmar, un vrai cauchemar

AM Colmar

Well, Dear Readers, we may have met our match, being the staff of an archive facility to dampen our enthusiasm. We sauntered in to the Archives municipales de Colmar on a cold and sunny Monday afternoon. The reading room was small but easily accessible.

AM Colmar reading room

The staff were joking and making strange cat meow imitations amongst themselves, yet there was a glint of malice in the eye of one and overt suspicion in that of another (we will let off the apprentice, even though, later, when he blundered as to a carton number, he offered to forgive us the mistake.)

Procedures were as usual. We completed forms and showed our identity card. All was acceptable, it seemed. We were then handed a flimsy ticket by way of a reader's card, given with an explanation as slow as if we were a possible fool (and were we, for going there in the first place, we wonder), "This is so you will not have to fill out the forms again if you ever come back". The tone clearly implied that we had better not. Back to joking with one another and making animal sounds, no one offered to help us with finding aids; no one asked about our research or how to orient us. To be sure, these things are not required but they are a nicety one find regularly in most French archives.

AM Colmar - Purple

With real trepidation, we put our bags in the designated locker - purple again. (What attraction do the municipal archives of the region see in this ghastly shade of purple?) That done, we turned to the set of drawers that dominated the room and that had lured us from the moment we entered. They held large index cards of transcriptions of every single parish registration made in Colmar, from its earliest days, all in alphabetical order. A genealogical researcher's dream!

AM Colmar Index cards

We plunged in, looking at names in the letter Z, when the jolly animal imitator appeared from nowhere and quite forcefully slammed shut the drawer. We barely managed to save our fingers and looked at him with our own concoction of dismay and disdain. "I was afraid you might bump your head", he said, as irrationally as a madman.

It went from bad to worse.

We moved to the relative safety of a table and took out our notepad, pencil and camera. From behind a glass wall lunged a possible archivist, a woman of a certain age, in a shawl and dudgeon, scolding us from afar. "No photographs! You must ask permission before every photograph! You must write down every picture you take!" We were taken aback, not so much by the request, an extreme version of the norm, but by its somewhat frantic and hysterical delivery.

As the afternoon wore on and the staff's jokes and scoldings wore us down, we did manage to discover that this is an amazing archival collection covering hundreds of years of the city's history. Should you ever decide to visit the Municipal Archives of Colmar, wear a suit of armour and, as the staff will do nothing to help you, we show you here what we found to be one of the best of finding aids for the holdings from the beginnings to 1815.

Sittler

Accompanying this are large, green books that give a great deal more detail for each series, including complete lists of all names that appear. Additionally, for the era during the Revolutionary years, Colmar, unlike many cities, has annual census returns for the years 1790 through 1815, with only a couple of gaps.

Should your ancestors hail from Colmar, Dear Readers, you really should visit these archives but be warned, oh be warned.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Departmental Archives of Vosges

AD vosges 1

Quelle luxe!

This is a wonderfully spacious facility, albeit quite far out of town (take bus number 4). There are large tables, each with electrical outlets for the fiendish tangle of chargers with which we are all now encumbered, with grand, wide windows onto a wood, currently in quite pretty autumn colour. One relaxes and works at a soothing yet productive pace in such an atmosphere of space, functionality and orderly calm. The entry contains an office where one registers as a user, a room with lockers, a coffee machine and a rather sad indoor garden (plants need air as well as light and water). There is, as yet, no wifi, but it is promised to be installed soon.

AD Vosges 5

We found the staff to be most helpful and polite. Yet, as Madame Roux-Morand informed us that she learned in an exercise with Professor Cosson, it was the magasinier, the person charged with the physical retrieval of the cartons, who often has the most knowledge. In this case, whichever archivist was at the desk when we asked a question, it was he who had the answer, while they were still struggling to look it up on the system. We saw this in our days as a librarian; there really is no electronic match for years of remembered experience. (Really, every archival and library facility should employ at least one person who truly knows the facility's holdings, with all of their quirks and idiosyncrasies, as no programmer will ever figure out how to extract that into a system.)

AD Vosges 6

Particularly helpful is the eight-page "Fiche d'aide à la recherche : Faire l'histoire de sa famille" (Research guide:  The History of Your Family). It begins with a reminder as to the délais de communication,  waiting periods before documents may be accessed; there is a minimum of fifty years where access might violate the privacy of a living person.) It then goes on to explain, specifically as to these holdings:

  • Ten-year indices, parish and civil registrations
  • The difference between parish and civil registrations
  • Explanations as to how they are organized in this facility
  • The finding aids
  • The notarial archives and their finding aids
  • The private archives that have been donated
  • Judicial archives (which we found to be particularly interesting as concerns Mennonite research)
  • Tax rolls
  • Census returns
  • Electoral rolls
  • Family archives
  • Suggestions for how to begin researching: Protestants, Catholics, Jewish people, soldiers, bureaucrats, sailors

It really is a marvelous introduction to how to use the archives and quite a generous offering to the family genealogist.

We can imagine that the city fathers of Epinal thought that they could save money by forcing their Municipal Archives into collapse and then depositing the remains in this grand, new facility. They do themselves no favours and they clearly do not understand the difference between the functions of the two types of archives. We think that they also may be showing a lack of civic pride.

Archives départementales des Vosges

4, rue Pierre Blanck

88050 Epinal

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Encounter With a Genealogist Who Specializes in Alsace-Lorraine

Au dela des racines

At the Lunéville salon, we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the genealogist, Sandrine Roux-Morand, owner of Au Delà des Racines, who specializes in Alsace-Lorraine research, especially into the Protestant and Jewish families of the region. This is a part of France in which people not only suffered from their territory changing national hands more than once but, even when all was calm, many of them chose to move from one side of the border to the other, and perhaps back again. Thus, a genealogist here really needs to be able to work in both French and German languages and archives to be able to trace the ancestry of these families. Madame Roux-Morand is fluent in both languages and has the research skills necessary.

She has a partner genealogist who will research in German archives but one imagines that she hardly requires much help as she has been selected to be the author of the upcoming book on German genealogy to be published by the ubiquitous Archives & Culture. The help will be, perhaps, in having someone on the spot to help navigate the road-blocks of German archives. As Madame Roux-Morand explains, the openness and generosity of the French archival tradition does not exist in Germany, where little is online, access is not permitted and nothing is free. There, apparently, one must pay a researcher to pull the record, then pay for a copy to be made by officials and, naturally, pay the postage for it to be sent.

A year or two ago, Madame Roux-Morand enhanced her qualifications by completing the diploma course in genealogy at the University of Nîmes, taught by Stéphane Cosson. We were very curious to hear about that course (much discussed in previous posts) from the point of view of a student. Her praise of the course was unqualified; she found it excellent. She told of class visits to archives facilities and of other exercises and studies but there was one that she described that we think, Dear Readers, could stand us all in good stead.

In this exercise, all students worked on the same family’s lineage. They were divided into four groups of four people each, and each group concentrated on a single generation of the family, gathering and transcribing all possible documentation on every individual of that generation. Then, they exchanged their work, so that fresh eyes could go over it. Think of the blunders and transcription errors that could be caught and corrected if every family’s historians tackled the research in such a fashion!

Madame Roux-Morand has another arrow in her quiver in that she also does the genealogical research for clients of psycho-généalogistes, (transgenerational psychotherapy).  Her colleagues are fully qualified therapists who, in some cases, think that their client may benefit from knowing more of their family history. It is a type of research requiring additional skills, including the ability to access and understand certain medical records. More importantly, it is clear that Madame Roux-Morand has the sensitive and intelligence to deliver and explain the research results with sensitivity. We have often wondered if this type of genealogical research, in addition to historical research, might not help to understand that mystery of why an ancestor chose to leave France and to immigrate to a new land.

Do have a look at her clean and elegant website to see the many aspects of genealogy which she pursues. 

It was a delight to meet this enthusiastic and obviously expert genealogist here in Alsace-Lorraine and we expect she will have and we do wish her many future successes.

Au Delà des Racines

Sandrine Roux-Morand

6 rue de la Charmille

67200 Strasbourg

www.audeladesracines.fr

sroux-morand@orange.fr

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Cercle de Généalogie Juive

CGJ

One of the main reasons that we attended the salon in Lunéville was in the hope that there might be a group dedicated to the research of the Mennonites of the region, but no. Nevertheless, the hunt for associations of specialists in research into religious groups was not at all fruitless. Alsace and Lorraine have and had a large Jewish community, so the presence of the Cercle de Généalogie Juive at the Grand Salon de Généalogie, Histoire, Patrimoine à Lunéville was most sensible and welcome. Their table with all of their publications was fascinating. Of particular interest to some of our Dear Readers will be the book on Sephardim from the Ottoman Empire (of whom there were some eight thousand) who came to France during the First World War, Destins de Séfarades Ottomans : les Israélites du Levant en France pendant la Première Guerre mondial, by Philippe Denan.

Other publications include:

  • Extracts from various sources on the Jewish communities of Lorraine
  • Books about Jewish cemeteries throughout France, with photographs of each tombstone, transcriptions of the engravings and histories of the communities
  • A regular review, Généalo-J, produced three times per year, and which has many articles that are research guides

Many of these may be purchased as PDF documents and downloaded immediately. A complete list of the many, many publications may be found here.

The group is quite dynamic, with monthly lectures at the Mémorial de la Shoah and monthly genealogy clinics to help you with your research at the Mediathèque du Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris.

The organization is perhaps the best resource for French Jewish genealogy.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A Genealogy Fair in Lorraine - Le Salon de Généalogie à Lunéville

Salon 10

France does not have one of those national, gigantic genealogy gatherings on the scale of a National Genealogy Society Annual Conference or a RootsTech. This is for two reasons, we posit: firstly, there is a strong opposition among family historians to the commercialization of genealogy and, secondly, France does not really do massive extravaganzas of any type (except, perhaps, those Quatorze Juillet military parades that so impressed Old Man Potter).

However, there are many regional events that are, though smaller and less commercial, perhaps more interesting and less filled with sales pitches than the larger, American events. The only commercial presence was a stand for Filae, run by very polite people.

Filae

If you attended our recent course, you will have learned that Filae has purchased access to a number of extracts of some parish but mostly civil registrations from some regional genealogy associations around France. For a fee, you can access them and search them on Filae, bearing in mind that it is only a small part of the country's many such extracts published by the genealogy associations.

Understandably, the associations that have done this work, (all voluntarily, mind you), are quite proud of their accomplishments. They are keen to share and these regional fairs are one of the main ways to benefit from that. Most of the tables or stands at these fairs are not people selling access to commercial genealogy websites, they are local genealogy associations selling their own, highly specialized publications and offering to do free searches on their impressively complete databases. So, most of the people visiting are not professionals, but keen family historians bringing their brick walls and getting free help and solutions.

Free searches

It really is rather lovely, if much slower and pokier than research online. One meets experts in local family names, local history and local variations in palaeography, as is reflected by the proper name for this event: Grand Salon de Généalogie, Histoire, Patrimoine à Lunéville.

There were, obviously, stands of local Lorraine genealogy associations, but also those from Corrèze, Saône-et-Loire, neighbouring Vosges, Côte-d'Or, Nord, and plenty of others. Each had brought their computers loaded with the databases of all of their extracts (and some associations have completed extracting and indexing ALL of their department's parish and civil registrations) and people were queuing  for free searches. You can begin to see why Filae and other commercial genealogy services might be viewed with hostility at such events. In fact, we have been told (in an interview to follow) that professional genealogists are often banned from having stands at such salons, (which, by the way, are also almost always free to attend).

Should you ever find yourself doing a bit of genealogy tourism in France, check on Geneagenda to see what is on in the areas you will be visiting. Show your support by joining a couple of associations and purchasing some publications. Perhaps you will break down some brick walls. Then, enjoy the entertainment:

Salon 7

Salon 6

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Sad Archives Municipales of Epinal

AM Epinal Brochure

This has to be one of the saddest and most neglected of all the archives facilities we ever have visited. It is clear that municipal archives have not yet landed on France’s golden list of improvement projects. A dozen cities or more now have fabulous tram systems. Nearly all of the Departmental Archives have received new buildings, many of them close to one of those luxurious tram stops. Public spending is something in which France glories and we really do wish that they would spend on municipal archives.

AM Epinal Entry

The sad municipal archives of Epinal are housed, literally, in a garage. It is the city’s garage for its service vehicles, so there was a great, stinking rubbish truck next to the entry when we arrived. At the sight of it, we suddenly understood why our efforts by e-mail to make an appointment to visit the archives had been brusquely rebuffed.

The archives website said it was open but could be visited by appointment only. We wrote and asked for an appointment. No, we were told. We wrote again asking to see those documents pertaining to religious history in the town. No, we were told, and it was suggested that we try the Departmental Archives of Vosges. We tried one more time, asking for a series that is almost always in municipal archives and not others, the passports issued by towns during the Terror in 1793 and 1794. No, again.

We went for a walk. We looked at the town. As we walked, that unwarranted rejection niggled, so we strolled up to the garage, braved the smell and opened the door marked archives. Grim stairs were to be climbed. We arrived in a tiny, electric purple entry that was also the reading room. One desk, one chair and shocking purple walls constituted the most remarkable reading room we have yet tried.

AM Epinal reading room

Stunned at our arrival, the assistant rushed to our aid, while her superior bellowed orders from her office but did not come round the corner to see us. In this tiny space, it seemed ludicrous. Yet, when she overheard that we were asking about a specific series, she came bounding out with unexpected enthusiasm and was most helpful. We were able to book to see the cartons that afternoon.

When we returned after the lunch break, there were smiles all around. The cartons were ready, the extremely helpful assistant had gone online and printed off numerous pages related to and most helpful for our research. Her boss had retreated around the corner and was again shouting comments without coming out.

The research was not entirely without result. We took some photos and asked permission to put them here to show to you, Dear Readers, as nice nineteenth century examples of passports issued by French consulates. For the first time ever, permission was refused.

“Ask at the town hall,” came the bitter shout. The assistant smiled apologetically. We thanked her and left, carrying with us the impression not that this was wilful obstruction, but that we had that day witnessed an extreme case of professional despair, one most warranted, at that.

Dear Readers, should you ever find yourselves in Epinal, do two things:

1) Visit and use the Municipal Archives, and

2) Visit the town hall (a five minutes’ walk away) and leave a written complaint at the bad treatment and housing of the archives, while praising the archivists.

Perhaps we can help to bring about an improvement.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy