Alsace-Lorraine Genealogy

The Journey from Alsace to the Port of Le Havre

Alsacienne

Our good friends at the blog Généalogie Alsace have asked us to share another post and we are pleased to do so as we think it may be of great interest to those of you with ancestors from Alsace. Michael Nuwer of Potsdam, New York sent to them a well researched account of how people from Alsace made the arduous overland journey to Le Havre in order to emigrate from that port. You can read the post, in English and French here; you also can read, in full, his excellent paper, "Journey to Le Havre", for as long as he leaves it on Google Drive. 

By the by, this touches on the subject of our upcoming webinar with Legacy Family Tree, "French Emigrants: They Were Not All Huguenots, or Nobles, or From Alsace-Lorraine" on 20 December at 12.00 midday Eastern Time (not 2 am on the 21st!)

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


French Jewish Genealogy - Ancien régime Geography Is Important

Hexagon of modern France

When researching Jewish genealogy before the French Revolution, the reach back into the past is long, well into the Medieval era. Borders were different then and France looked quite different, not at all like the "Hexagon" (above) of today. Prior to the final expulsion of 1394, Jewish people were permitted to live only in specific places. These might have been certain towns, within which they may have been limited to just a few streets for residence and work. They endured long years of persecution and previous expulsions, but lived throughout France. It is important to note that, in 1394, the country looked more like this:

France in 1328

 

Quite a bit less than modern France:

France-map-1328

This makes the map below, claiming to show French Jewish communities at the time of the expulsion, quite misleading, as a significant few of those supposedly French Jewish communities were not within the France of that day.

French Jewish before expulsion of 1394

 

The expulsion, in all its horror, was successful, in that no known Jewish families remained in what was then France. However, their communities just outside of France did survive, as can be seen in this map.

France-silhouette-map-1328

If you are working with only a modern map of France, you will have the impression that the three main areas of Jewish communities:

  • The Southwest
  • Alsace-Lorraine
  • The Papal States and Provence

survived the expulsion within France. That would be wrong, because they were not within France at the time of the expulsion and so, if this is not putting too fine a point on it, were Jewish, of course, but not French. The areas in black in the map just above were controlled by other powers:

  • By the English in the far northwest and the southwest region of Aquitaine
  • A tiny bit in the south belonged to the Kingdom of Navarre
  • The Holy Roman Empire held the northeast
  • Free Burgundy, Savoy and the Papal States owned all the rest of what is now eastern France

Paris, as ever, was a special case. Though no Jewish people were supposed to be living there, most likely they were. Robert Anchell, in his fascinating article on "The Early History of the Jewish Quarters in Paris", maintains that it is unlikely that Jewish people were ever, at any time since the Medieval Era, absent from Paris. He points out that they certainly must have been very discrete, for there is almost no documentation of Jewish people in Paris for nearly 300 years after the expulsion.

For research purposes, in each of the three main regions of Jewish communities there were different laws, rules, languages, customs and attitudes, making for different search methodologies today. Firstly, the language differences:

  • The Southwest received many refugees from the expulsion of Jewish people from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497, so many of the surviving documents of the region are in Spanish
  • Alsace was part of the Holy Roman Empire for eight hundred years, while Lorraine was an independent duchy that was then governed by Stanislas of Poland. In both regions, the documentation is as much in German and Latin as in French.
  • The Papal States or Comtat Venaissin, did not become a part of France until 1791, but Provence was annexed in 1481. The documentation can be in French or Latin

In all locations Jewish documents may also be in Hebrew.

For each of these regions, some of the best research may be done at the relevant Departmental and Municipal Archives. Some of these have been uploading onto their websites some very interesting Jewish materials. These are the departmental and municipal archives relevant to the specific regions:

  • Southwest:
    • Departmental Archives: Landes, Gironde, Pyrénées Atlantiques
    • Municipal Archives: Bayonne, Bordeaux
  • Lorraine:
    • Departmental Archives: Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Vosges
    • Municipal Archives: Metz, Nancy
  • Alsace:
    • Departmental Archives: Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin
    • Municipal Archives: Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Colmar
  • Papal States / Comtat Venaissin:
    • Departmental Archives: Vaucluse
    • Municipal Archives: Nîmes

Do visit those websites and start exploring!

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


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


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter T

Escrime - Challenge!

For the letter T, the bloggers contributing to the ChallengeAZ 2021 have provided some quite instructive posts:

  • Feuilles d'ardoise and Des gens d'avant have both written about témoins (witnesses). Specifically, they write about using the details given about witnesses  (especially witnesses to marriages) to identify family members and to correct mistakes made concerning ancestors with the same name. We write a great deal on this subject in our book.
  • GeneaBreizh looks at the succession tables, which we explain in English here.
  • Des racines lozériennes et bourguignonnes and Généalogie Alsace both write about transcription difficulties. The former discusses sixteenth century French script and the latter looks at German Gothic script. Unable to manage either, we use this wonderful service. We also note some useful books on paleography here and Geneanet's tool here.
  • Généalogie d'une famille ordinaire discusses successfully using the Archives nationales du Monde du Travail. These were explained in a talk on which we reported here.
  • Généalogie Tahiti, which has been writing fascinating posts throughout the ChallengeAZ, each with a genealogy of a family, writes about a man who began life as an abandoned child in Poiters, arrived in Tuamotu and remained in Tahiti the rest of his life. 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter R

Escrime - Challenge!

There are some very intriguing contributions for the letter R, and some that may be obvious but are also helpful.

  • Généalogie d'une famille ordinaire and Chronique familiale both write about using the French census returns for genealogical research.
  • Traces et petits cailloux gives a fascinating account of what happened to the parish registers of Acadia, telling how some were destroyed, some lost and some, astonishingly, discovered many years later. With links!
  • De Branches en branches, forgetting to cite the heavily quoted scholarly work of Catherine Denys on the subject, describes exhumation registers, unique to Lille it seems, and the wealth of information they provide of authorities' attempts to determine if a death were caused by an accident or by something sinister.
  • Sur nos traces exposes the really quite wicked criminal practice of creating false Holocaust documents to sell at auction and warns readers to beware.

©2021 Anne Morddel

Frenrch Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letters P and Q

Escrime - Challenge!

Up to the letters P and Q in the ChallengeAZ and the contributor numbers are slipping a bit. We recommend:

  • Généa79, writing on the improbable surnames given to foundlings and illegitimate children. Should you have such amongst your ancestors, Dear Readers, do peruse this to try to get an idea of what sorts of surnames can help to identify (as was, surely, the intention) such children. It can save you much time in wasted research on a fabricated surname.
  • Sur nos traces gives a superb history lesson, using the military records, of the Fourth Legion of Reserves in Napoleon's Army, the Peninsular War and the sufferings of prisoners of war in the British hulks and on the island of Cabrera.
  • Généalogie Alsace describes something we also have found on occasion: a local census written by a parish priest and entered into a parish register. They are rare and precious and a good reason to look at the back of every register on which you are working. Always.
  • Sandrine Heiser explains the different types of identity cards issued to the people of Alsace-Lorraine from 1918, when the region became French again and when some very unpleasant expulsion of ethnically "undesirable" residents was practiced.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter M

Escrime - Challenge!

The letter M marks the half-way point of the ChallengeAZ. Perhaps we have lost a couple of participants along the way, for their number dropped for the last letter, but they may submit a number of posts in a rush, or we may never hear from them again. Today's better contributions include:

  •  La Chronologie familiale looks at the basics of a nineteenth century marriage registration, very briefly, as we once did in English here.
  • Once again, Généalogie Alsace is quite helpful for researchers in providing a small lexicon of Alsatian-German terms used in marriage registers.
  • Chronique familiale explains marginal notes in civil registers.
  • Antequam... la généalogie! continues to be excellent with a long explanation of how to use the Monuments aux morts (the monuments to war dead found in every town and village of France, as we described here) for genealogical research.
  • Passerelle généalogie shows remarkable courage in discussing the Mormon church, then proceeds to give an extremely thorough and practical tutorial on how to explore the French records on FamilySearch.

Some very good work here.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter L

Escrime - Challenge!

We are happy to report that things are picking up, Dear Readers, as our intrepid bloggers have a new spurt of energy. Or it may be that L is an easier letter than others.

  • Traces et Petits cailloux continues to write about the Acadians, in this post about those deported in 1755 to England, arriving at various ports, including that of Liverpool.
  • Souvenirs d'ancêtres discusses laws and the importance of knowing them at any given time covered by your research, not only for historical context but to know how to interpret the documents you may find. Excellent.
  • Antequam la généalogie! explains the research usefulness of electoral lists. Our own post on the subject can be found here.
  • Des racines et des arbres gives a very helpful survey of Latin terms for genealogists.
  • Feuilles d'ardoise delves into the difficulties of spelling variations of surnames and how to find them all when searching a database. This is  important for too many of you, Dear Readers, search for just one spelling of an ancestral name, when there easily could have been half a dozen.
  • Sandrine Heiser, who writes Lorraine ... et au-delà!, has a suggestion for how to find the military record of an ancestor who served in the German Army by using the lists of men missing or killed to learn more about their rank and regiment.
  • Généa79 has a scholarly article by Monique Bureau on a complicated case of legitimation in the seventeenth century - with almost all of the research done on documents uploaded to Geneanet. We wrote a much smaller explanation of legitimation in France here.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter K

Escrime - Challenge!

Really, for the letter K one would have expected many posts illuminating Breton names. Instead, we have a rash of posts on the very French képi, quite a few on kilometer or kilogram, many on words that actually begin with the letter C but that are misspelt for the sake of the Challenge (this does seem like cheating to us). A couple of bloggers were honest and confessed to not being able to think of anything for the letter. 

  • Traces et petits cailloux cleverly looked at the dozens of native language words in Acadia that begin with the letter.
  • Not even GeneaBreizh wrote about Breton names but did give an excellent explanation of the archival Series K and its use for genealogical research.
  • Généalogie Alsace came up with a fine lesson on words for child, kind in German, enfant in French, that can be found in Alsatian parish registers, enabling researchers to have a better understanding of the entries.
  • The blog of the Archives nationales d'outre-mer, (ANOM) has been writing throughout the ChallengeAZ on individuals who lived in what were the French colonies. These little vignettes do not help much with research, but at the end of each the sources in the archives are listed, which could prove inspirational for some of you, Dear Readers. For the letter K, they write on the women of Kha Lao.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter I

Escrime - Challenge!

The ChallengeAZ continues through this long week-end. 

  • Des Racines et des arbres made the interesting observation that infirmities or handicaps are almost never mentioned in parish registers. The author found just four mentions, and shows them. To be sure, one would not expect to find many of such mentions for the registers were about basic identity and catholicité and rarely give professions, causes of death, physical descriptions, etc.
  • Archivistoires brings to our attention a new association and website dedicated to preserving personal archives of ordinary people, Mirco-Archives. This is in its infancy but could become quite interesting. 
  • Nos racines - Notre Sang has been dedicated, for the entirety of the ChallengeAZ, to using newspapers for genealogical research. The individual posts have been pithy, to say the least, but as the body of work grows, it is becoming a rather valuable tutorial.
  • Sur Nos Traces astonished us with the revelation that there was an effort to create a Jewish, or Israélite, regiment in Napoleon's Army. A very interesting a thoroughly researched article, with a transcription of the sole, surviving list of conscripts.
  • Généalogie Alsace has another gem of a post, this time on identity cards. We have written about French identity cards here, but these are the cards specific to this region, issued to the inhabitants after it was returned to France in 1918, and after each of them could prove they were truly Alsatian.
  • Autant de nos ancêtres also writes about identity cards, giving as an example one from the 1940s. 

 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy