Alsace-Lorraine 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 house, 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


Alsace-Lorraine Junket

Gare de l'Est 2

 

Oh, Dear Readers, apologies all round. Has The FGB ever endured such a hiatus? We cannot recall one so long but for those of you who attended our online course, we do hope that you feel that the silence here was counterbalanced by the effort at erudition there. Many thanks to the VIGR for inviting us to give the course and to Michael Hait for hosting it so nicely. Most of all, many thanks to those of you who attended the course. The next presentation, in February, is to be on French notarial records using a single family as a case study. The types of notarial records discussed in depth will be estate inventories, marriage contracts and wills, followed by an explanation of how to find them online.

Now, Dear Readers, back to The FGB, to which we return with enthusiasm as we take you with us on a junket (how we do love our junkets) to, at long last, Alsace-Lorraine. We departed from the newly glitzy Gare de l'Est in Paris and plan to visit the Departmental Archives of Vosges and Haut-Rhin, possibly those of Bas-Rhin, as well as some municipal archives facilities and some genealogy associations. There may be a genealogy show or two on the way. It is our intention to report to you, our Dear Patient Readers, every step of the way.

Send your comments while we are on the road, please! (Next day:) Many thanks for all of your comments. One of the subjects on which we will be concentrating is the Mennonites.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Grand Mémorial - One Site for All of France's World War One Soldiers



WWI men

The Ministry of Culture and the hundreds of dedicated French genealogy enthusiasts here have created something quite remarkable in the Grand Mémorial website. It is the central  research point for the military documentation on all who served France during World War I. It is not yet finished but is very impressive already.

It is a central search facility with links to each department's military recruitment lists for men of an age to have participated. It also links to the recruitment lists from colonies, held on the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer website and to the death registrations made by the army on the Mémoire des Hommes website of the Service Historique de la Défense (SHD). 

The site is in French but the search page has an English version. The results of a search are presented in a list that shows:

  • Surname
  • Forenames
  • Date - of recruitment or of birth, which is the only messy thing on the site
  • Place, showing the department first, then the town
  • The type of document

Click on a name and you are taken directly to the image. The French penchant for statistics is in evidence in the column to the side, which gives a summary of the details concerning the names in your search result. This is handy for genealogical statisticians, we suppose, and is rather cool. It shows how many of the results give the place or the date of recruitment, how many the place or date of birth. We like knowing how many were of a particular profession (four of those named Mordel were farmers, one was a baker, etc.) and how many could read or write or count (we must all say a prayer of thanks for universal education at this point).

 

A map shows which departments are covered and the status of their military recruitment registers being indexed and online.

Map of registres matricules

  • Dark blue indicates that the registers are online, indexed and included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Orange (pink?) indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives and are indexed but are not included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Light blue/grey indicates that the registers are online on the website of that Departmental Archives but are not yet indexed or included on the Grand Mémorial website
  • Yellow indicates that the registers have been digitized but are not online or indexed nor are they included on the Grand Mémorial website; they may be viewed only on site at the Departmental Archives

As can be seen, about half of the country's recruitment registers are included on the Grand Mémorial website, which we find to be really quite impressive.

Key Geographical Notes for Researchers of World War I Combatants  

On that same page are some points general to such research that bear repeating:

  • The map does not include anything on people from the departments of Alsace and Lorraine (Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin and Moselle) because they were not, at that time, a part of France. More, what the site does not say, is that the people of those departments were, from 1871 to 1918, German citizens. Any men conscripted served in the German Army.  The records concerning those men were held in Berlin and were all destroyed in the bombing of Berlin during World War II. Thus, it is not possible to find a military record for a man from that region during that time. 
  • There will be no military recruitment registers for departments that did not yet exist: Essonne, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines.
  • The recruitment registers for the departments that existed then but that do not now exist, Seine and Seine-et-Oise, are to be found in the Departmental Archives of Yvelines.
  • As concerns registers held by the Archives nationales d'Outre-mer, those of Algeria and French Polynesia are almost all online. It is pointed out that thes registers concern only those persons who held French nationality at the time of recruitment. The registers for non-nationals are held at the SHD.
  • For recruitment registers from Morocco, they cover only French nationals born in France or Algeria and living in Morocco when they turned twenty years old;  the registers cover only the years 1913 to 1921. The recruitment registers of Moroccans are also held at the SHD at Pau.

For those researching an ancestor who fought for France in that conflict, this website would most definitely be the place to begin. 

And now, permit us, please, to present a trailer of  "The Burying Party", a film about Wilfred Owen, the British poet who died fighting in France, and in which Sid plays Siegfried Sassoon to perfection.

 

The Burying Party Official Trailer from Sine Wave Media on Vimeo.

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Was Your Ancestor Expelled From France?

Pont Louis Philippe

Was you ancestor a Pole or a Spaniard or a Russian who came to France in the late nineteenth century and was then expelled? Or, are you aware only of the fact that he or she passed through France during that period but you do not know when? In fact, you know little? The archives of documents concerning expulsions of foreigners are scattered throughout France's many facilities. There are probably such files in every Departmental Archive. None of these files is online.  If you did not know where your ancestor stayed while in France, the research prospect can be daunting.

Historians are wanting to research the same documents in order the better to understand policies of exile, asylum and expulsion of the past and, now, their work can benefit your genealogical research. The University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne is running a project called AsileeuropeXIX (e.g. European Asylum in the Nineteenth Century) and the researchers have made their database available to the public and able to be searched on many different criteria. It is a work in progress, with data from the: 

  • National Archives of France, out at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
  • Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin
  • Departmental Archives of Somme
  • Departmental Archives of Nord
  • Departmental Archives of Rhône
  • Departmental Archives of Calvados

One expects that data from other archives will be added. It is a very nice website, with more than just the database. There are interviews with academics on the subject of asylum and exile, there is a budding lexicon of the somewhat rarified vocabulary used to discuss political exiles, asylum seekers, expelled migrants and other such. Very interestingly, there are a few maps that show the routes followed by some exiles, beginning with that of a Prussian student who, after much journeying through France, ended up in the United States.

Naturally, the section of primary interest to you, Dear Readers, will be the database search page, on which you can search on:

  • Surname
  • Sex
  • Whether or not the arrival in France were for political reasons
  • Country of birth
  • Profession
  • Whether or not the expulsion were for political reasons
  • The year or range of years of the expulsion
  • The reason (motif) for the expulsion
  • The country to which the person was sent
  • The authority that ordered the expulsion
  • The source of the data

This is pretty comprehensive. What we particularly like is that it is possible to search on any of the criteria without having to give a surname (Filae and Geneanet, take note!) This means that spelling issues can be avoided. It also means that the data can be searched in more interesting ways, such as seeking all the women who were artists from Russia, or all the students from Prussia, or all the thieves expelled from Bas-Rhin, or simply all the glassmakers. Think of all of those vague family stories that could be tested here.

There are minor flaws:

  • The itineraries of migrant routes could have more identification and dates at each point
  • The countries lists need to be cleaned and organised. Currently, there are both Empire de Russie and empire russe, Hesse Cassel and Hesse-Cassel, Grande Bretagne and Royaume-Uni. This means that you must read the drop-down lists of possibilities and search on each one that you find suitable.

 This is a wonderful resource. We have reported on other such academic databases that have withered and died at the end of the project, finally falling off the edge of the Net altogether. This project ends in 2020 and we do so hope that the database will continue to be maintained afterward. (Or, again we ask Filae and Geneanet to take note, it could be purchased and added to a commercial genealogy company's collection?)

We hope that this may help you to confirm that family story about your political exile ancestor.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


A Boost to Alsace Research

Alsace Grandfather

Recall that ancestors from Alsace were quite mobile and that this makes them difficult to research. For a long time, French genealogy societies, called cercles, have been heroically going through, town by town, all of the parish and civil registrations and extracting names and dates. It is painstaking work, as anyone who has looked through the registers on the Departmental Archives websites will know.

The extracted names then are put in alphabetical order and listed in booklets sold by the societies, by town name and type of registration, e.g. "Commune X - Naissances". Thus, one could buy a booklet for all of the births for a town dating from, for example, 1669 to 1870. It would list the names of the children, the parents, any godparents and give the date of the baptism or birth registration. Armed with that, the researcher could then find the registration at the Departmental Archives or on their website and make a copy.

Over the years, the formats changed. From booklets, the extracts, called relevés, were then put on France's early internet, Minitel, now defunct. With the demise of that, the various societies slowly set up their own websites and struggled to convert their often idiosyncratic databases and programmes to something that could be used online and that would also bring them some income. The large, commercial genealogy websites posed a very real threat with their own indexing, until the two began working together to provide quite a boost to the researcher.

Geneanet has worked extensively with the societies and has just announced that it will now have access to the extracts made by the Cercle généalogique d'Alsace (discussed here). This will be an incredible help for all of those who cannot easily read the writing or who would rather not peruse thousands of registers seeking their ancestors.

As explained on the Geneanet blog, the most direct way to search just the Alsace collection is to go to the search page entitled Genealogy Society Indexes. As their global searches produce quite messy results, this is the recommended way to conduct a focused search. You must have a "Premium" subscription to Geneanet to view the results. This costs forty euros per year, while joining the cercle costs fifty-eight euros, although you would receive their Bulletin as well.

This new avenue should be of great help to many of you, Dear Readers!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Websites and Blogs to Enhance Your Alsace-Lorraine Research

Lorraine lr

Mixed media collage "Lorraine"

Recent trawls have brought us to new discoveries which we pass on to those of you researching ancestors from Alsace or Lorraine.

  • The Education blog on the website of the Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin is a small but growing collection of superb articles about the history of the region, many of them pertinent to genealogy research (such as that on emigration, or the forty page essay on childhood in the nineteenth century). They are presented as PDF documents that need to be downloaded (Télécharger) to be read.
  • The Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin have an excellent genealogy research guide that also includes much on emigrants.
  • Atelier de Généalogie de l'Arrondissement de Wissembourg et Environs - a very complete website about a small area of Alsace. There are many helpful pages. We particularly like those which have many French-German translations.
  • Généalogie d'Alsace - a rather literary and very personal endeavour with excellent pages on Alsatian palaeography. Families studied include Billiar, Büllmann, Degermann, Mertz, Seidel, and Specht. The bibliography lists publications in both French and German.
  • généalogie Origine Dorer Mietesheim - A very new blog about the Dorer family of Mietesheim with only three posts at the moment, but it looks promising as to discussions of research.
  • Généalogie et histoires lorraines - Very nice. Almost scholarly. Each post is a study of a village and all those covered are listed in a side panel. A blog to enjoy reading, with well-documented sources, many of them available on Gallica, such as Le Pays Lorrain. (See Annick's comment below.)
  • Le blog Généalogique de L'Est Républicain - L'Est Républicain is the main newspaper/news website covering eastern France. Occasional, soft news articles on genealogy-related topics are published on this blog.
  • Une généalogie lorraine - This is another personal blog about the genealogy of the Thiriet-Knidel family. Some of the posts are quite silly but others give good links that would aid anyone researching a family from Lorraine. Still others are well-written, small histories of the region. The subjects covered are what our children would term "random".

Each is worth investigating. Do let us know your opinion.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy