Alsace-Lorraine 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

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 AsileuropeXIX (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

Why WWI War Widows Had to Emigrate

War Widows

So often, people ask us why their ancestors left France and we must respond that the archives and documents rarely give reasons, only blunt statements of facts. However, if your grandmother or great-grandmother were a widow of a man who fought for France in World War One and she left France, the reason will be glaringly obvious: poverty.

The First World War left France with some 600,000 widows and close on a million fatherless children.1 In most cases, these newly fatherless families lost their breadwinner. The laws enforcing the customary oppression of women in force at the time made survival difficult if not impossible: 

  • Upon marriage to a foreigner, a woman automatically lost her French citizenship and her children were not French.
  • Girls received primary education but young women were not allowed to pass the baccalauréat, the basic education requirement for employment in any managerial position.2
  • A woman could not have an identity card or passport without her husband's permission.3
  • From 1871, in the Alsace and Lorraine regions, (which were returned to France in 1918) the law forbad women being the legal guardians of their own children. A male relative, such as a grandfather or uncle to the children took the role and, sometimes, the money.4
  • The work available to women in the early twentieth century was monotonous, long and poorly paid.5
  • The system of military pensions to widows nearly collapsed during the First World War.6
  • Our own research has shown that many war widows who did find work had to pay to place their children with families, often far from where they lived.

Very quickly, as the numbers of widows climbed during the war, the French government began to attempt to change the situation, in 1917 making orphans wards of the nation and, in 1919, granting better pensions to the war widows. In 1927, widows of foreigners could apply to regain their French nationality, and hundreds did so. The excellent study by Michael Lanthier (see notes 5 and 6) discusses in detail just how and why their lives were so very difficult. Suffice to say that they were and quite a few left. If your war-widowed grandmother left France during the inter-war period, you may now have a better understanding as to why.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



1 "Veuves et orphelins de la Première guerre mondiale", Chemins de Mémoire,  , accessed 3 Sept 2017.

2  Malnory, Camille, "Quand les Femmes ne Pouvait pas ouvrir de compte en banque", Liberation, 13 July, 2015,, accessed 2 Sept 2017.

3 Ibid.

4 "Enfants naturels", Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin,, accessed 2 Sept 2017. N.B. :This is one of those PDFs, orphaned and alone, lost, floating on the internet like a soul seeking a body and without a clear link to its origins, so we give it directly here, with apologies to the AD of Haut-Rhin. It will be discussed further in a future post.

5 Lanthier, Michael, "Women Alone: Widows in Third Republic France, 1870-1940 : Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History, Simon Fraser University", 2004,, accessed 3 July 2017, p38.

6 Lanthier, "Women Alone", p68.

Summer Fun - Find Your Ancestor's Region With a Fable


This is rather fun. Two sprightly researchers named Philippe Boula de Mareüil and Albert Rilliard, working at the Laboratoire d'Informatique pour la Mécanique et les Sciences de l'Ingénieur (LIMSI) have produced an interactive map of the dialects of France, the Atlas sonore des langues régionales de France. Really, it is of the dialects for which they could find living speakers, so not all are represented, but there are still a good two dozen.

Each speaker reads the same fable by Aesop, "La Bise et le Soleil", ("The Wind and the Sun").

La bise et le soleil se disputaient, chacun assurant qu'il était le plus fort, quand ils ont vu un voyageur qui s'avançait, enveloppé dans son manteau. Ils sont tombés d'accord que celui qui arriverait le premier à faire ôter son manteau au voyageur serait regardé comme le plus fort. Alors, la bise s'est mise à souffler de toute sa force mais plus elle soufflait, plus le voyageur serrait son manteau autour de lui et à la fin, la bise a renoncé à le lui faire ôter. Alors le soleil a commencé à briller et au bout d'un moment, le voyageur, réchauffé a ôté son manteau. Ainsi, la bise a du reconnaître que le soleil était le plus fort des deux.

Click on the different cities on the map to hear the story read in the local dialect and to see, at the bottom of the screen, the text spelt as read.

How will this help you find your ancestor? It will not be automatic or easy but it might be possible. Here are some suggestions:

  1. We have already discussed in a previous post how people who spoke the same dialect tended to stay together after immigration. If, for example, you know that your ancestor settled in Missouri with a group of people originally from Sablonceaux, but you can find no trace of him or her in Sablonceaux, do not let your research become blocked at the administrative borders of the department of Charente-Maritime, where Sablonceaux is located. Instead, look at this map to see the reach of the language and use that as your search area.
  2. In the same way, look at the map above of the old French provinces and compare it with the map of dialects. There are some surprises, particularly in Bourgogne, which is much larger than the area where bourguignon-morvandiau was spoken. 
  3.  Use the written version of the text on the map to compare with any letters or journals your ancestor may have left. Many in the nineteenth century had only a rudimentary education and their spelling was not ideal. This could be a boon, if they spelt as they spoke. With a bit of imagination and sounding out aloud, you may find a match between what you ancestor wrote and one of the written versions on the Atlas sonore. This would give you a linguistic search area on which to focus.
  4. We are assuming that you have no oral history recorded of the French ancestor you cannot place for, if so, it probably also contains the place of origin. The next closest thing is any song or poem or saying that has been handed down the generations. Try writing it down as it sounds to you and compare that with how the language sounds in the dialects. You could find a match!

To our ears, the dialects sound vastly different from one another, particularly those in Alsace, a tricky research locale for most. Perhaps this map can be of help.

Failing all else, it is a lot of fun to listen to the various versions and voices.


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy



Foreign-born French in Local Civil Registrations


Some people simply do not trust the system, then blindly but in a different fashion, trust the system. So it is today -- we live in a time when people jettison logic, consistency and clarity (if they ever had it to jettison) to pick and choose only certain parts of the system they wish to follow -- and so it was a century or so ago, when some people, we have found, chose to trust one part of the system more than another. Our French examples today, however, show nothing worse than an odd, perhaps tribal, trust in the familiarity of local officialdom versus colonial or non-French officialdom. In both cases, people were living outside of France. They married and had children, events which were duly registered locally. Additionally, on returning to France, they registered the events a second time, something not at all required and rather rare.

Edouard Muller was from Alsace, born in Soultz in Haut-Rhin in 1842.1 He left the area. In 1871, when it was necessary for those from the area annexed by Prussia to opt for French nationality or lose it, he was in Paris and declared he was French.2 A year later, he posted marriage banns hoping to marry Marie Josephine Jesslen.3  Fate seems to have intervened for the couple seem not to have married right away. They went to Odessa. There, they had two children -- Léonide Amélie, in 1881,4 and Abgard Edouard,5 born in 1887 -- after which they finally married in 1890 (the groom was a widower; light dawns).6 The children were baptised in and the marriage took place in the Roman Catholic Church in Odessa. The events were duly registered with the French consul in Odessa.7 In 1892, twenty years after they first posted their banns, they were in Paris, where they had the births and marriage registered again (as transcriptions of the consular registrations), in the 4th arrondissement.

 Marie Marcellin Edouard Palmero was born in Toulon in 1819.8 He became and army engineer and worked in Reunion for many years, a point noted in all the registrations that follow. In Reunion, he married Eugénie Octavie Emma Advisse-Desrouisseaux in 1854.9 They had three children there: Emma Marie Secondine in 1855,10 Marie Celina in 186111 and Antoine Marie Jérôme in 1863.12 By the time he was granted his pension in 1868, he and his family were living in Toulon. In 1876, he died in nearby Hyères.13 Two months later, his widow presented court-approved and notarised copies of the Reunion registrations of their marriage and of their children's births to the civil registrations officer and had them entered into the register of Toulon. 

What is so interesting about these registrations is that they should not have been necessary, were not required and so, in all the genealogy books the cover such procedures, they are not mentioned. Yet, they are incredibly valuable, especially where originals may have been destroyed, as may have been the case with the church records of Odessa. The Muller family in Odessa had registered their marriage and births with the French consul in Odessa, so their French nationality was ensured. Why did they feel it necessary to do so again in Paris? The Palmero family's registrations had been in a French colony and their identities, too, were certain (though, given the death of Marie Marcellin Edouard Palmero just before the registrations, one can imagine that they may have been required by a cautious notaire handling his estate).

Finding these registrations is like any other search in civil registrations. Note that they are all transcriptions, that is, complete copies of the registrations made elsewhere into the local register. In the case of the Mullers, the transcriptions were entered into the ordinary birth and marriage registers of the 4th arrondissement of Paris. In the case of the Palmeros, Toulon maintained a separate register for transcriptions for each year. The officer would have placed the authenticated copy in the back of the register, but these have almost never been filmed and, in many cases, were discarded.

So, if you are researching a French ancestor who lived abroad and then returned to France, look at the local registers in the town where he or she lived in the years after returning to see if such transcriptions may not have been entered. They could be a very nice find, indeed.


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

1 Haut-Rhin, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Haut-Rhin, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Soultz, Actes de naissances 1842-1852 (archive code 5E 472), entry no. 107, Edouard MULLER, 4 June 1842, access available online.

2 "Bulletin des lois de la République française", (French National Gazette), 1872, no. 212, p3792, digital images, ( : accessed 13 July 2017), line no. 680, Option d'Edouard  MULLER (incorrectly indexed, giving his place of birth as Soultz-les-Bains, Bas-Rhin when it was Soultz, Haut-Rhin), access available online.

3 "Publications de Mariage des Paris et Banlieu" (Marriage Banns of Paris and its Suburbs), digital images, ( : accessed 13 July 2017), Paris, Edouard MULLER et Maria Jesslen, 25 August 1872, access available online.

4 Paris, "Registres d'état civil (1860-1902)" (Civil registrations from 1860 to 1902), digital images, Archives de Paris, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for 4e arrondissement, Actes de naissances 1892 (archive code V4E 5633 ), entry no. 1318, Léonide Amélie MULLER, 23 June 1892, access available online.

5 Paris, "Registres d'état civil (1860-1902)" (Civil registrations from 1860 to 1902), digital images, Archives de Paris, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for 4e arrondissement, Actes de naissances 1892 (archive code V4E 5632 ), entry no. 742, Abgard Edouard MULLER, 15 April 1892, access available online.

6 Paris, "Registres d'état civil (1860-1902)" (Civil registrations from 1860 to 1902), digital images, Archives de Paris, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for 4e arrondissement, Actes de mariages 1892 (archive code V4E 5676 ), entry no. 308, MULLER-JESSLEN, 19 April 1892, access available online.

7 Ibid. As is stated in each of the registrations.

8 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Toulon, Actes de naissances 1819 (archive code 7E 146/80), entry no. 526, Marie Marcellin Edouard PALMERO, 28 June 1819, access available online.

9 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Toulon, Transcriptions des Actes 1876 (archive code 7E 146/331), entry no. 38, PALMERO-ADVISSE DESROUISSEAUX, 29 July 1876, access available online. (The index to this record on incorrectly gives the year as 1873.)

10 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Toulon, Transcriptions des Actes 1876 (archive code 7E 146/331), entry no. 33, Emma Marie Secondine PALMERO, 20 July 1876, access available online. 

11 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Toulon, Transcriptions des Actes 1876 (archive code 7E 146/331), entry no. 34, Marie Celina PALMERO, 20 July 1876, access available online. 

12 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Toulon, Transcriptions des Actes 1876 (archive code 7E 146/331), entry no. 35, Antoine Marie Jérôme PALMERO, 20 July 1876, access available online. 

13 Var, "Registres d'état civil (1793-1892)" (Parish and civil registrations from 1793 to 1892), digital images, Archives départemental du Var, ( : accessed 13 July 2017) for Commune de Hyères, Actes de décès 1876 (archive code 7E 73/60), entry no. 5, Marie Marcellin Edouard PALMERO, 29 May 1876, access available online.

French Settlers Speaking the Same Dialect

Hanging out

Because much of the popular history of immigration to the United States concerns immigrants fleeing religious persecution, it is tempting to look at the reasons for all French immigrants' departures as being due to the same cause, but they certainly were not. Many people were economic migrants; impoverished in France, they left all that they had known to try for a better life elsewhere. This may especially be true of those who left France during the great wave after the 1848 Revolution and economic crisis, which peaked in 1851, when over twenty thousand French emigrated to the United States. (1)

By the same token, their choices of where to settle and whom to marry often had little or nothing to do with religion. Other influences on some of the French immigrants, which may have been at least as strong as religious preferences, need to be considered. The most important of these may be language.

It is worthwhile to bear in mind that, though many people stated in United States Federal Census returns of the nineteenth century that they were from France, that does not mean that they would have spoken French as their mother tongue. Many would have spoken a regional dialect that may have had a quite different vocabulary and grammatical structure from French. This map shows the "regional languages" of France, with greater refinement than those that divide France into two halves where either langue d'oïl or langue d'oc is spoken:

Carte des langues

The comfort and familiarity of one's native language is very important to most people. Immigrants suffer when they experience extended periods of not being able to speak in their own language with another person.(2) Often, more than for religious familiarity, people seem to have settled near one another because of language familiarity. They may have encountered their future spouses in the new land because they were the people with whom they could communicate in their own language.

The group of French settlers in the early and mid-nineteenth century in Mowrystown, Ohio are a case in point. Many of them were from the Montbéliard region, where Franc-comtois was spoken. The dialect, or patois, is heavily influenced by German and has a vocabulary quite distinct from French, as is graphically demonstrated here. We have been reading the series of online articles about Mowrystown's French immigrants by the late Monsieur Jerry Pruitt on the website of the Highland County Press, entitled "Mowrystown Recollections".

Many of the French settlers can be traced to the department of Doubs, in the region of Franche-Comtois. While Monsieur Pruitt discussed church affiliation at length, we have not yet found any mention of the dialect many would have spoken, yet language surely played a part. Mr. Pruitt mentioned that some of the families came from the same town in France but not that, especially upon arrival and before they had learned English, the only people with whom they could associate were those with whom they could communicate.

Conversely to looking at language to understand why some of your ancestors made certain choices in their new homes, you might look closely at their language to know where they originated in France. If you are lucky enough to have any heirloom with writing in the dialect, or family proverbs that do not sound like true French, we suggest that you research those to identify in which dialect they may be. That, in turn, may help to find a long-sought place of origin.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


(1) Fohlen, Claude, "Perspectives historiques sur l'immigration française aux États-Unis", Revue européenne des migrations internationales, 6 (1990): 29-43, accessed 5 March 2017, DOI : 10.3406/remi.1990.1225.


Hammill, Pete and Miyamoto, Michiko, "The Japanning of New York", New York Magazine, (17 August 1981) p23: "Yes, I get homesick, mostly for the Japanese language....I miss my language. Yes, I miss that."


Putre, Laura, "Trail of Broken Dreams", Cleveland Scene, (23 November 2000) : accessed 5 March 2017: "I missed my family. I missed a lot.....And I miss speaking my language."


"I'm Icelandic and I miss speaking my language" was an advertisement placed in The McGill Daily, vol 75, no 50, 30 Jan 1986, p. 11, ( : accessed 1 March 2017)


Kassabova, Kapka, Street Without a Name: Childhood And Other Misadventures in Bulgaria, (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), ( : accessed 3 March 2017): " 'I have been successful here,' muses a bespectacled [Bulgarian] scientist in America or Australia, 'but I miss my language.' He chokes on his words."


Countless comments to the same effect among friends and acquaintances in our long years of living in non-English-speaking locales.