Current Affairs

Salon de Généalogie 2021 - Three Good Talks

Salon de genealogie

The last Salon de généalogie was held in March of 2020, as the pandemic was just beginning to sweep the world. We were keen to attend but our children blocked the door, insisting that it was not wise. How grateful we are, for on attending this year's salon, we encountered a few people who were infected with COVID-19 in the previous event, one of them quite seriously and still suffering.

Unsurprisingly, this year's event was subdued and not particularly crowded; there was a somberness and lack of previous years' jollity. No one objected to wearing a mask or to having their health pass checked at the entry. We attended many talks, all of them interesting, and report to you on three of particular note.

"Les Archives nationales du monde du travail en ligne : quelles ressources pour la généalogie ?" ("The National Archives of the World of Work: What Resources for Genealogy?") presented by Raphaël Baumard, the assistant director for the archives.  For years, we have wanted to visit the ANMT, but have never been able to manage it, perhaps because the town of Roubaix, where it is located, is often acclaimed as the most dangerous town in France. However, the archivists have always been extremely helpful in responding to our requests to send copies of documents. The purpose of the talk was to introduce the ANMT's sparkling new website, a clear and well-presented resource.

There are a couple of things one needs to know about this collection. Essentially, these are corporate archives that have been willingly donated to the National Archives. The companies did not have to do so, for they were privately owned and France has no law requiring private companies to surrender their corporate history for public scrutiny, more's the pity. (Nationalized companies, however, such as Renault, are required to send their archives, covering the period of nationalization.) Some have privacy clauses that are a bit stringent. (By way of an example, we once requested a letter sent by a man to his bank in 1806. Though the ANMT holds the bank's archives, they were required to get permission to supply the copy.) To use the website, read the online guides first. We appreciate that Monsieur Baumard said they had been completely rewritten, for that indicates an high level of interest in helping users. 

If your ancestor worked as a miner or for the railways, there is a good chance of finding a personnel file. Failing that, the company histories can broaden your knowledge about where and how your ancestor worked.

 

"Comment entrer en contact avec des cousins potentiels : conseils, règles d’éthique" ("How to make contact with possible cousins : advice and ethical rules"). Presented by Marie Cappart. Now, this is a topic much in need of further discussion and we applaud Madame Cappart for broaching it. Her purpose was to advise on how and how not to communicate with different people on the subject of one's family history. Does this seem bossy? We assure you, it is not and it really is very necessary. She discussed best practices for communication with fellow genealogists, with institutions (such as archives), and with non-genealogists (such as the distant cousin who may not be happy to receive your e-mail announcing a hitherto unknown relationship). Particularly pertinent was her advice on what to do when one's genealogical advances are rebuffed and how to cope with such rejection.

 

"Les archives de Caen sur les conflits contemporains" ("The Archives at Caen of Contemporary Conflicts") Presented by Alain Alexandre, who is the head of this branch of the Service Historique de la Défense archives. The title of the talk belies its content. It really was about researching the French victims of the two World Wars, especially the Second World War. By "victims" is meant not only those who were deported, but those who were executed, tortured, imprisoned, disappeared or who died due to other "acts of war". Included also are the French who fought in the German Army, prisoners of war and those who worked in Germany, whether forced or voluntarily. This entire subject is still extremely sensitive in France, as reflected by the way the speaker said many times that, "c'est délicat".

As to access, he explained that, though the archives "are open to all”, research in the original records can be made by appointment only. To gain an appointment, one must send an e-mail with the name, date and place of birth of the victim being researched. The archivists will then find the file and give an appointment for when it can be viewed. At that point, not waiting for the end of the talk, the room pretty much erupted with fury of many people who have tried this only to be told that there is no file, or have been allowed to see only part of a file. Their view was that the archives are not at all open and that much is being hidden or suppressed. We have to say that the speaker looked rather smug as he denied this. We found it very interesting to observe this exchange between the researchers and the man in charge, much more interesting than the talk itself.

Let us hope that the pandemic will continue to recede and that next year's Salon will be a lively one.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


French Genealogy Season in Full Swing!

Archives Reading Room

Autumn seems to be Genealogy Season in France these days, especially since COVID lockdowns tossed all in-situ conferences, such as the Congrès national de généalogie,  onto the Internet for a virtual incarnation. We have been labouring mightily to keep abreast of the many fine presentations.

At the beginning of October, things kicked off with the second Semaine Virtuelle de la généalogie, or Virtual Genealogy Week, under the auspices of the Fédération Française de Généalogie , (FFG). (We covered the first such event here.) This year, there are close on to seventy-five talks. What we particularly appreciate is the many presentations by archivists from Departmental Archives around the country. They are the keepers of the records in which we genealogists hunt for our ancestors. Who better to explain to us how they are arranged and how best we can use them for our research? It was a most excellent idea on the part of the FFG to go to the experts in this way. You must create an account, which is free, then you can watch the presentations, which are all in French here.

Next, beginning today, we have the Salon de généalogie, taking place in the Town Hall of the 15th arrondissement of Paris for four days. As France takes the pandemic seriously, at this, as at all such events, all of us attending will have to show at the door our Pass Sanitaire, or Health Pass, proving that we are fully vaccinated. We also will have to wear masks throughout, in the exposition hall and in the conference room. Bottles of hand sanitizer will be available at entry doors and other gathering points. We expect the talks (full list here) to be interesting as well. If so, we will report on them in the next post.

Finally, beginning next week and running to the end of November is the hugely successful Challenge AZ for French genealogy bloggers. Originated by Sophie Boudarel, it is now grown to such a size that it is managed by Geneatech. Last year, we failed in our attempt to keep up in our reporting to you, Dear and Patient Readers, on these blog posts. We promise to do better this year. 

One is quite breathless at so much French genealogy on offer.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


French Commercial Genealogy Loses Its Independence - and It's a Pity

Paris pont mask

We used to praise the high quality of the indexing at Filae. No more. The last few weeks have seen the addition of indexing as messy, lazy and idiotic as the sort of thing one finds on Ancestry or in the infamous indexing of the Drouin collection. It is most disheartening. Now, one finds birth register entries for which the indexer said the daughter was the father, marriages with the wife named as the mother-in-law and, where the indexer was in doubt, everyone named as every relationship.

What possible use is wrong information to anyone? How will users who cannot read the original French document (as in the case of the indexer, apparently) be able to correct these mistakes? The money-grubbers will always say that speed is more important than efficiency, that it is more important to get the material online, even riddled with mistakes, than it is to take the time to do it well, but they are wrong. For every hour that incorrect information is available, people who are researching their family histories are incorporating and perpetuating wrong information in their genealogies. Such commercial cynicism makes a mockery of every genealogist's efforts to find a document the historical truth about a family, and risks dragging the reputation of genealogy as a discipline back down to where it was in the 1920s, when fabricated evidence was rife and family vanity, not family history, was the goal.

That Filae let this happen is almost certainly because its founder, Toussaint Roze, has completed the sale of the company to MyHeritage. The collapse of quality at Filae would seem to indicate that he lost interest in the company a few weeks ago, when the sale became inevitable, as we discussed here. In his announcement of the sale, he boasts that new and greater things are to come at Filae from the MyHeritage takeover. Barring an extensive metamorphosis at MyHeritage and a complicated and expensive programme to correct the mistakes at Filae such as we described above, Roze's promises are blather.

Once again, Dear Readers, the paying customer is merely the punter, the fool to be parted from his money with the cheapest product possible. We strongly and sadly recommend that you NOT renew your Filae subscription for more than a month at a time, as you watch what was a great little company go down the tubes and its services become next to worthless.

Rumours are that Roze is betting that the French law prohibiting DNA testing for the purpose of genealogy will change soon and, when it does, he will be in place with MyHeritage ready and able to take advantage of the new opportunity. We wonder just how big that new opportunity will be. One likely reason for the French lawmakers' opposition to the tests stems from the Civil Code which, from 1804, has expressly forbidden a person to search (just to search, mind you) for the identity of his or her biological father. (Ponder, for a moment, Dear Readers, just what this means.) That law and all that relates to it must change before any anti-DNA genealogy test law can change. We suspect that, if these change, it will be by very small degrees.

We also wonder just how big the market will be, just how many French people will want to have such DNA tests. It is currently something of a fad to take the tests illegally, as we reported here, but the interest is only rarely in genealogy. It is more of a party game to see who is "more French", with distinctly racist overtones.

Left in the dust after the sale of Filae to MyHeritage was Geneanet, which owned forty per cent of Filae and which had hoped to form a single, Francophone genealogy powerhouse from the two. That, actually, could have been something quite wonderful for French genealogists, but it is not to be. Its dreams in tatters, Geneanet announced, in what is surely one of the saddest of such announcements ever written, that it has been purchased by Ancestry. We have made our complaints about Geneanet's messy website in the past, and have praised the efforts to improve it, though it still has some way to go. Merging with Ancestry, the behemoth of indexing disasters and indifference to them, will be no improvement for the quality of Geneanet.

These two sales are very sad events indeed, for neither will bring improved service or quality to those of us researching French genealogy. 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Bad News for Those Who Use Filae

Bad news face

Ah, Dear Readers, disaster looms. In its usual, myopic fashion, the anglophone world of genealogists writes of the "Big Four" genealogy websites:

  • Ancestry
  • FamilySearch
  • FindMyPast
  • MyHeritage

In terms of using them for French genealogy, we give them the following marks: Ancestry is mediocre to poor; FamilySearch is limited but can have some nice surprises; FindMyPast is irrelevant; MyHeritage is the worst, with next to useless search results, a lack of sufficient search criteria and a catalogue of French records and archives that seems to be empty. Of course, France has two excellent genealogy websites of its own, about which we have written often:

  • Geneanet
  • Filae

The Ancestry and FamilySearch liaison is mirrored by the links between Geneanet and Filae in that the former owns about forty-two per cent of the shares of the latter. We find both to be quite good but in different areas. We prefer Geneanet when searching family trees and original documents that have been filmed. We prefer Filae when doing a quick search based a a few details known about a person. Geneanet is a bit better for eighteenth century records, while Filae is quite strong in nineteenth century records. Filae's great strength is its indexing and its large catalogue of records and archives. Both are exponentially better for French genealogy than any of the so-called "Big Four". Now, the worst of the Big Four, in terms of French research, MyHeritage, is set to take over Filae.

From January, the press has reported that the founder of Filae is keen to sell to MyHeritage but that Geneanet is not at all keen about the deal and made a counter-offer. MyHeritage raised their offer. Last month, Filae accepted the offer from MyHeritage, to be approved at the next annual general meeting later this month. Geneanet still hopes to block the move.

Why would we oppose Filae becoming a part of MyHeritage? We wonder how a company that is so bad at French genealogy can help but debase the smaller one that is so good at it, as it is extremely unlikely, almost unnatural, for a smaller and better organization to improve the larger one that consumed it. In essence, we suspect that MyHeritage will want Filae not to continue as it is but to blend in more with the MyHeritage style. That, Dear Readers, will make Filae, or the catalogue and access to it, much, much worse to use for research. Additionally, in February, MyHeritage itself was purchased by a San Francisco private equity firm, Francisco Partners, that just likes to acquire tech companies. As is ever the case with such entities, it will be interested in profit over quality and will be unlikely to exert any influence to preserve the excellence of a small French company in its vast stable. 

No one could dispute that the founder of Filae, Toussaint Roze, who worked long and hard to create a company with the best search function and indexing of French records, may be tired and of an age to sell up and take the money, or that he has the right to do so. Nevertheless, we gloomily anticipate a rapid deterioration of what was a great French genealogy website.

 

UPDATE 3 AUGUST 2021 - THE DEAL IS DONE. MYHERITAGE IS BUYING NINETY PERCENT OF FILAE'S SHARES. READ ABOUT IT HERE AND PREPARE FOR THE WORST AT FILAE.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Very Exciting! All Naval Conscription Registers to Be Digitized

Frigate

Earlier this month, the Service Historique de la Défense announced (on its facebook page, of all places) that they have signed a contract with FamilySearch to microfilm and digitize all of the French naval conscription registers. It cannot be overstated just what a boon this will be for French genealogists, for the collection goes back centuries and includes thousands of sailors' names, descriptions and personal details.

It may be a bit repetitive, but we give again our brief explanation of the French system of naval conscription:

The French Naval Class System, Le système de classes

It is clear that many outside of France are completely unaware of a key element of the French Navy, La Marine, and that is the fact that, since 1668, the Marine has had its own system of drafting men into service. As with other military draft systems, it was compulsory. Censuses were taken of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on any type of vessel or who worked with vessels or in ports in any capacity. (From this it can be seen that most of the men came from coastal areas, few were from inland regions.) Lists, called matricules, were made for each region each time the census was taken. All men listed during a particular census were in the same classe, which could be called up to serve at any time during war. The class system was devised to prevent (and is considered by the French to be infinitely superior to and more humane than) something like the British practice of impressing (or pressing) men into service in the Royal Navy. During times of peace, classes were not called up, but during times of war, many classes could be called up at the same time and the men possibly could be made to serve longer than the mandated year. In 1795, the classe system was renamed the maritime enrollment, inscription maritime, but functioned in much the same way throughout the nineteenth century. (Download the SHD's very thorough explanation of the system, with sample documents, here)

When young men had to register, they did so within their Quartier Maritime, an administrative division under the Ministry of the Marine. Prior to the Revolution, the registration was handled by the Admiralty headquarters, les sièges d'Amirauté. These divisions or headquarters were usually in port cities such as Le Havre, Rouen, Lorient, Cherbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, and many, many more, but it is important to note that they are divisions unique to the Admiralty and Marine and have not the same boundaries as the cities or arrondissements with the same names.

For example, the quartiers maritimes in the department of Calvados (which are already online on that department's archives website here) are:

  • Caen
  • Honfleur
  • La Hougue and Isigny
  • Trouville

The quartiers maritimes in the department of Loire-Atlantique (online here) are:

  • Angers
  • Bourgneuf-en-Retz
  • Le Croisic
  • Ile Bouchard
  • Ingrandes
  • Nantes
  • Nevers
  • Orléans
  • Paimboeuf
  • Saint-Nazaire
  • Saumur
  • Selles-sur-Cher

The lists went by different names:

  • recensement des gens de mer
  • recensement des marins
  • inscription des gens de mer
  • inscription maritime
  • matricules maritimes

An important difference to note is not so much the varying name as where the registration was done, whether at the quartier maritime or at one of the five naval ports where a recruit reported:

N.B. The registers made at the quartier maritime were really a census of all men aged eighteen or over who worked on vessels, including pilots, fishermen, merchant seamen, etc.. They were liable to be drafted into the Navy but not all of them were. These census registers of all eligible men are what are found in the Departmental Archives of the coastal departments. Those men who were called up had to report to one of the naval ports, where they were entered into another register. It is these registers of the men who actually served in the Navy, or Marine, as sailors or officers, which are held at the SHD port archives, that are to be digitized by FamilySearch.

This difference is important as to how research is to be planned, as a man may appear in both or only one of the register sets. An officer of the Ancien régime, for example, probably would not appear in the census register, may have trained for the Navy and bought his commission and so, would appear in the port naval register. A merchant seamen who was called up would appear in both, while a merchant seaman who was not called up would be in only the census.

In these times of social distancing, FamilySearch cannot pack in the microfilmers as they were wont to do. They are beginning with one person filming in the SHD archives at Lorient and will progress from there. At this rate, it could be some years before all the registers available, but it will be grand, whenever that may be.

Just keep checking FamilySearch's French collection, which one should do regularly anyway.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Pandemic Takes Its Toll on French Graves

Toussaint flowers

Another Toussaint has come and gone in France and, as in every year, many thousands of pots of chrysanthemums have been placed by the graves of the departed. In this year of the coronavirus pandemic, there seem to be many more new graves and tombs in the cemeteries. As of this writing, the French government reports that more than 52,000 people in the country have died of Coronavirus. As elsewhere, a large proportion of those who have died were elderly. Where possible and where desired, their bodies have been placed in family tombs or plots of cemeteries across the country.

French cemeteries are quite different from those in North America or Great Britain, as we have explained in detail here and here. The greatest difference is surely the reclamation of the plots of untended graves. This is something that many foreigners find quite shocking but that the French find to be a purely practical matter of public health and hygiene. To repeat our earlier posts, if any grave or family tomb is left untended and should fall into disrepair, a legal procedure is begun to reclaim the space, beginning with a notice of intent being placed on the grave.

Plot reclamation notice

Roughly translated, the notice reads:

With the ravages of time, this grave has deteriorated or seems to have been abandoned. A process to reclaim it has been begun. If you wish to retain it, please go to the town hall for [instructions on] the procedure to follow.

If someone comes forward to pay for the repair and restoration of the grave, it remains; if not, it is reclaimed by the municipality and the bones are placed in an ossuary. Then, the plot is sold anew.

Now, with so very many deaths from coronavirus, the pressure on cemeteries to find more space is intense, and one sees the reclamation notices much more often than before.

Plot reclamation notices

Recently, Family Tree Magazine published a very fine online article by Sunny Jane Morton, entitled "Find a Grave: 7 Strategies for Successful Searching". Her good suggestions are not of much use when applied to French cemeteries. In a country such as France, family and society are more important than the individual and so, family tombs tend to show only the surname and not the names of the many individuals entombed within. Neither Find-a-Grave nor its more complete French counterpart, Geneanet.org, is set up to help in finding out who is buried in a family tomb. Moreover, neither website has any way to note if a grave still exists or has been reclaimed. (Geneanet, pointing out that some 200,000 graves are reclaimed every year, maintains a campaign of mass photographing, "Sauvons nos tombes", but this does not address the issue squarely. What is needed is a campaign to digitize municipal burial and cemetery registers, but this would require contracts and payments instead of volunteers with cameras.)

Sadly, with the pandemic causing this sudden increase in the reclamation of plots and, thus, the disappearance of graves and tombs, for those that have not been recorded on either of these sites, it will be difficult for a researcher to know that they ever existed.

To learn more about French cemeteries, see our booklet, "Death and Cemeteries in France".

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Growth of Recreational DNA Testing in France

Illegitimate children

There are times when we do wish that our Internet service providers (as they so inappropriately like to term themselves) had a face, a person at a desk in an office, windowless or not, for then we should be able to place a pistol on the desk in front of said person and urge an act of honour as we leave and shut the door behind us. Alas, we will never hear that shot of honour behind the door and no provider will ever accept responsibility for the failure to provide. So, we are back at our post, posting on The FGB, but cannot say for how long.

We have worked our way though most of the presentations given at La Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie. As ever with such events, virtual or not, quality varies. We shall focus on a subject of interest not only to those outside of France, but increasingly within this country, DNA testing for genealogy. We do this in part in response to a fiery comment which Monsieur Pierre Gendreau-Hétu left on our post announcing the programme of the Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie and which we reproduce here:

 

"This program shows how spaced out French genealogy is. I'm sorry to break the news, but genetic genealogy has been solving longstanding problems for two decades now! The best strategy the FFG has come up with is to close the conference with guardians of the French orthodoxy regarding DNA data: attention danger! The grand guignol show is not over yet, unfortunately. (Sigh.) Pauvre France! Rich archives combine so powerfully with yDNA data, and amazing results keep coming day in day out in countries likes Scotland, Ireland, Switzerland..... What a French waste in the name of state control! Olivier Henno, commissioner to the French Senate committee on bioethics, assessed the number of tests ordered by French citizens and came up with the figure of one million kits. In 2019. Yet the FFG will still look the other way. This behavior belongs to a bird that is not the rooster. This is called denial and is unworthy of a scientific field. In the meantime, English-speaking universities (Leicester, Strathclyde, etc.) have made genetic genealogy mainstream. France, pays des Lumières? Not in genealogy at any rate. Obscurantism stole the show. France is left with good archival research nonetheless, for sure, even though one can only dream of what could be if it were enhanced with genetics. Just like looking for a treasure without using a metal detector..."

 

Monsieur Gendreau-Hétu certainly has a point (and he makes  some more in the comments section at the end of this post); there was but one presentation on what the French law terms "recreational DNA testing", given by Brigitte Billard, one of France's more interesting bloggers on genealogy Though the lone talk, it was very interesting. Her entire presentation, "5 questions à vous poser avant de faire un test ADN" (5 questions to ask yourself before taking a DNA test) can still be seen online. We summarize and comment here.

The overall tenor of the talk seems to be one of stern warning. Before taking a DNA test for the purpose of genealogy, one must know that :

  • Such "recreational "DNA testing is illegal in France
  • The fine for such test taking can be up to 3500 euros
  • Prosecution seems never to have occurred
  • If you are seeking a specific ancestor or person, the DNA test will not be enough; traditional genealogical research will be necessary
  • You may have to ask all of your relatives to test their DNA as well, which could lead to ethical issues
  • It could be expensive
  • The privacy of those who test will not be protected to European standards, as corporate headquarters and laboratories of the more popular DNA kit producers are not in Europe
  • All those who test must be prepared to cope with a possibly traumatic discovery of a family secret (e.g. the discovery that a male relative fathered numerous children unbeknownst to his family)

Madame Billard, after such severe and well-informed discouragement, ends on a chirpy and positive note, that DNA testing can lead to some very fun genealogy. There is probably no better explanation of the French situation concerning genetic genealogy at this time than Madame Billard's talk.

To quell Monsieur Gendreau-Hétu's fears that the French are falling behind in the DNA game, there are, as Madame Billard pointed out, many, many YouTube videos of French people taking such tests. Most are quite humourous. Most contain someone being surprised at the test results showing no "French blood". This, in turn resulted in a clip being added to one of them in which a trusted geneticist had to explain that "there is no such thing as French blood" just people who  have lived in France for a long time. Here are links to just a few:

 

  • A dashing young man who took a test because he wondered if his slightly narrow eyes might not mean that he had oriental ancestors.
  • A charming young pair claiming to be shocked by their test results. (Surely the use of the word is a marketing ploy or are we so jaded in this life that what shocked them seems quite inane to us?)
  • A whole troupe of journalists who took their tests and read their results at the same time. (A bit disturbing, this one, with smugness on the parts of those feeling "more French" and suppressed fury on the part of one who did not like her ethnicity one bit. Unsurprisingly, this is where the geneticist steps in.)

 

There are dozens more. It is, clearly, quite the fashion to break this particular law in France and to be oh, so surprised at the results. We suspect that this is a barn door that will never be locked again, whatever laws may be passed. 

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


How It's Going at the Gene@Event2020 - La Maison de Généalogie

Screen Shot 2020-09-29 at 4.43.51 PM

We write in a state of virtual breathlessness, Dear Readers, as we bounce from one video presentation to the next at this online French genealogy conference. We thought that you might appreciate a summary of the best that we have seen so far.

Generally, the presentations fall into one (very rarely, two) of three types:

  1. Those that aim to build research skill, to explain a website, to improve one's methodology, etc.
  2. Those that share the presenter's genealogical research, case studies, etc.
  3. Those that are history lectures

The following, listed according to our own classification within the above types, are those we can recommend (Be forewarned that problems with people using just their computer microphones continue. By now, they really all should know to buy a proper headset, but no.) Apologies that we are not qualified to assess the talks given in German or Spanish.

SKILL BUILDING TALKS

• “S’initier à la généalogie grâce aux associations” by Valérie Arnold-Gautier – The introductory talk by the president of the FFG. Her point is that the many genealogy associations in France have done and still do so much to further genealogy activities that one should begin one’s introduction to genealogy via such an association. Recall that the FFG is a federation of associations, not of genealogists. This will be more pertinent to points we will make in a future post.
• “Mes premiers pas en généalogie” by Isabelle Calone. Everyone has to begin at the beginning.
• “Les ressources disponibles dans FamilySearch” by Sylvain Athénour A very thorough and basic introduction to the French FamilySearch portal and collections. We consider ourselves to be rather expert at using FamilySearch, yet we learned a few new tips from this talk.
• “Comment effectuer des recherches avec FamilySearch” by Sylvain Athénour – Again very methodical, again very thorough, Monsieur Athénour explains every screen and every aspect of searching via the French screens of FamilySearch.
“Présentation du site « Le désarmement Havrais » : les différentes façons de rechercher un marin, un navire, des chantiers navals…” by the creator of the site – Perhaps the gem of the first three days, this talk presents a website that serves as a superb index to the thorny, awkward to use shipping and passenger records of Le Havre.
• “De L’archive Numérisée à la Base de Données, la Data au Service du Chercheur…” [Mémoire des Hommes] – Digging deeper into what is offered on the brilliant military archives website. This is a good thing because, since the site was redesigned, it is not very clear. 

 

CASE STUDIES

• “De Philippe Leplastre, laboureur Beauceron à Hugues Capet” by François Côme, shows how he used Capedia to trace much of his ancestry, lucky fellow.

• Sur les traces d’une famille d’origine juive polonaise - parties 1-3- par Virginie Drocourt – Part 1 could certainly go in the skills building section. Very thorough.
• “Raconter la vie de ses ancêtres (1914-1945), une Histoire ordinaire d'une famille comtoise pendant les deux conflits mondiaux” par Romain Ecarot. This case study is rather interesting, for the speaker explains how he used local administration documents to reconstruct the life of an ancestor from 1914 to 1945.

 

HISTORY LECTURES

(Note for hope: It would seem that the subject of the oppression of women in these two talks is of increasing relevance to family historians. Forcing women to have unwanted children and then depriving those children of legitimacy and/or the prostitution of women both tend to result in genealogical brick walls. Could it be that this passionate hobby of ours will help to end the oppression of women? Now, that would be cheering in these dark times.)

• “Les conséquences de l’illégitimité” par Carole Lejuez. Though primarily an academic lecture, Madame Lejuez discusses quite a lot of the relevant documentation.
• “La prostitution à Lyon au XIXe” par Alexandre Nugues. This is a very nicely done recording of a history lecture presented in the old, pre-COVUD days, to a live audience. Rather nostalgic.

 

More to come, Dear Readers, but do, if you can, listen to as may ass you can.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French  Genealogy


Coming This Weekend - La Semaine Virtuelle de la Généalogie

Socially distanced

Not long ago, Dear Readers, in these ethereal and electronic pages, we wondered if there might not be more virtual conferences on the subject of French genealogy. Little did we know that plans were already afoot and the announcement soon made that the Fédération française de généalogie (FFG) would be presenting online an entire week of French genealogy talks and a virtual exposition hall with stands and avatars, no less, in La Semaine virtuelle de la généalogie. The announcement that went out only about two months before the event was the call for exhibitors and speakers, which was, to our mind, perhaps cutting it a bit close. At that point, there was no discussion of how, when or where attendees might register. For these reasons, we decided not to add the announcement here on The FGB  until 1) there was a way to register and 2) the talks, lectures and presentations calendar appeared. Both appeared on the website two days ago so we are, at last, pleased to share the news of this online conference with you.

When: 26th of September to the 3rd of October

Where: online, on a newly launched website, Maison de la généalogie: www.france-genealogie.org

How to register: Complete the form, currently the only page on the website above; you will receive a confirmation e-mail

What Talks on Which Subjects: The full calendar is here. The opening speech will be by the President, Madame Valérie Arnold-Gautier (and, just to give a sense of how differently the French do these things,  you can hear her warble her invitation to the conference on the FFG's facebook page, which also happens to be the best place to get updates about the event.) A couple of the talks have been presented elsewhere. A large number of talks seem to be more historical rather than genealogical. The one talk in English is by the feted Napoleon expert, Alexander Mikaberidze. Two or three talks are in Spanish and an equal number in German. Many talks are on subjects not covered before and by speakers not included before.

This looks to be quite an energetic improvement on past conferences (and we dearly hope that microphones will be of a better quality than in the past). Keeping socially distant and looking outward (as do the ladies above), see you (virtually) there.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Will There Be More Virtual French Genealogy Conferences?

Balances

As it is for everyone on our poor, suffering planet, this time of pandemic is a struggle for French genealogists. Though the extreme lockdown, confinement, has been lightened and we can go out and about, there are many rules still. We must wear masks in public; we must maintain our distance; quite a few shops and restaurants remain shut (sadly, in some cases, forever). We all have a sense that we are living Une Grande Pause (and we do not mean a long coffee break) waiting, dreading, the Second Wave of coronavirus. After that is anyone's guess.

The French genealogy community here is justifiably proud of the success of the recent Salon Virtuel de Généalogie. Organized by  the team from GeneAgenda (who had an unusually dynamic response on, we presume, seeing all of their listings disappear when the lockdown began) aided by genealogists Isabel Canry and Philippe Christol, the online event was  very well attended, it seems. Alain Rouault now asks, on GeneAgenda's blog, if this may not be the future. Will the huge, expensive conferences and the small, regional meetings disappear and be replaced by their online versions? 

He raises some interesting points, some of them uniquely French. On the whole, he says that virtual conferences will never fully replace conferences presented in real time and real space because, basically, tough they may be efficient, they are not sociable. Virtual conferences lack "social interaction, conviviality, exchanges, sharing, ambiance, the joy of discovery...". There is an implication that this socializing around a shared interest in genealogy, along with a certain level of exclusivity, even clubbiness, on the part of regional genealogy associations, is their primary interest. Their regional conferences "are essentially based on local participation, with the vendors being just visitors and [thus they] really are not interested in virtualizing their events to gain national exposure."

So, regional genealogy groups are quite parochial, yet they complain of dwindling memberships, which could be an indication that not all members shared the view that an interest in tracing one's family history was valid only if tied to and limited to an interest in local traditions and history. One can see the danger inherent in this view, of those families with the longest presence in a place being seen as somehow superior to those with a shorter presence and of such petty snobberies perhaps polluting the conviviality of the genealogy conferences, at least for some.

We are a species of contrasts; in this case, humanity's incessant migrations confront our unadmirable xenophobic or neophobic tendencies. If the explosion in the popularity of amateur genealogy brought about by the Internet has taught us anything, it has taught us that we all are descended from a migrant or two and we all come from families that have been on this planet for a significant period of time. (Should any of you, Dear Readers know of a recent arrival, please do introduce us!) It is this increasing open-mindedness amongst people researching their families that is at odds with the antiquated motive for researching one's ancestors as a way of pandering to grandiose delusions, whether to see one's self as of a French village's oldest family or as of a Mayflower passenger's descendant.

Even when lockdowns will be a thing of the past it is likely that virtual genealogy conferences are here to stay. Rouault suggests that the smaller, local conferences could find a balance between old and new and at least film their talks and put those online, which we think would be a very good idea and helpful to all. Many of those talks are gems, representing years of in-depth research, but it seems that the genealogy associations themselves do not realize their value. They seem to believe that the only thing they have to market is their extracts of parish and civil registrations; they do not seem to recognize the value of their members' expertise or how many people around the world would be interested in their talks and presentations.

In the way that Filae has milked these associations for those extracts, perhaps GeneAgenda, as well as continuing its calendar of events activity, could expand to create a platform for those very talks and that expertise? Why not use the website format of Legacy webinars, including the library and the small subscription fee, to create a place where the many conference talks and local genealogy association presentations all can be brought together? This would be, to our mind, a vast improvement on the miserable smattering of YouTube channels that prevails at the moment. It would be an interesting development on the national level. Were they to add subtitles to talks, that would have international interest.

Monsieur Rouault and the GeneAgenda team, please take note.

 

WE HAVE RECEIVED BY E-MAIL A CAUTIONARY COMMENT ABOUT THE SALON :

"I do hope there are more of these events in the future. However, IMO, they would have to work hard to improve the technical aspects of such an event. I got up at 3 am and was able to get into some of the lectures. But a lot of the lectures simply would not come up. Others (notably the one on notaries, and one other one) had a notice “filled to capacity” when I tried to get in. That, after it was advertised as “limitless" capacity. That was hugely disappointing. Also the audio quality of many of the speakers was below par.

Anyway, I was glad to see it offered, and for free. Unless I knew they had made HUGE advances technologically, I would not pay to attend. But if offered for free, I’d definitely attend again. And if they could figure out how to clean it up, I’d pay."

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy