Departmental Archives

The Departmental Archives of Vosges

AD vosges 1

Quelle luxe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Archives départementales des Vosges

4, rue Pierre Blanck

88050 Epinal

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


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


At Long Last - Doubs!

Not 1st Place

The race among Departmental Archives to digitise and put online their parish and civil registrations finished long ago. The winners, Mayenne and Seine-Maritime, have had their laurels so long that the crowns have grown dusty and been relegated to a remote cabinet with indifference. Since then,  most Departmental Archives have moved on and begun filming and adding to their online collections such delights as probate and notarial indices. Spectators' spyglasses have all been pointed forward to see what new delights may appear. Pregnancy declarations? Parisian notarial records? When, lo and behold, a huffing and puffing is heard on the track and we all, in astonishment, swivel our heads and adjust our spyglasses to see. It is long-forgotten little Doubs! Performing something of a "Little Engine That Could" miracle, Doubs has finally put online its parish and civil registrations.

Well, perhaps not all but certainly a few of its parish and civil registrations may now be seen on the Internet. They still have not made their website any more user-friendly or logical. Nevertheless, a beginning has been made and praise as well as encouragement are due. Initially, the website offers three possible avenues of searching: simple, guided and expert. "Simple" searches the finding aids. "Guided", recherche guidée, is hardly that, unless eight images may be considered a guide, but that is where to begin.

If you click on the rather obscure picture of a hand grasping at a possible register book, next to Recherche dans l'état civil numérisé, you will be taken to a truly minimalist search page. There, you may enter the name of a commune (no drop-down menu of choices and no spelling aid, you had just better know or go away, or check this list) and you have the option to enter a range of years. The result will be all of the items filmed to date, looking something like this:

Sample Doubs search

Click on the image to be taken to the digitised microfilm.

Alternatively, to see all the communes, or towns, listed and what has been filmed for each, click on the words in red, Etat des fonds, next to the picture of the finding aid on the "guided" search page, below the title Recherche par plan de classement

Doubs état des fonds

This takes you to the classification of the series of Departmental Archives. Click the letter E - Communes. Seignuries. Familles. Etat civil. Notaires. Then click Etat civil. Then click Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil. Then, half-way down the page, under the bold Instruments de Recherche, click on the second, red Voir l'inventaire next to Répertoire des documents numérisés, en cours. Don't give up. Now, you are presented with an alphabet, being a list of communes or towns beginning with that letter. This is the only sure way to know if a negative result means that a town's registers have not yet been filmed or no longer exist.

As for the "expert" search, we must not qualify to benefit from it. Every time we have tried its large box, we get the same results as for the small box of the "simple" research. If the differentiation between "simple" and "expert" is thought to be a matter of the size of the query, much of the reasoning behind the Doubs delay is revealed.

Have at the Recherche guidée and good luck!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Was Your Ancestor Expelled From France?

Pont Louis Philippe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are minor flaws:

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

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

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

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Privacy Restrictions on French Documents

Town Hall

We have covered this some time ago, but recently have noticed that misinformation on the subject abounds and so, here we go again.

The French, as well as most European nationals, value and protect their privacy. The right to privacy is considered more important than the public's right to know and it is considered more important than the freedom of the press, especially where children are concerned.

Thus, in France, certain documents that contain personal details are closed to public access for a particular period of time. Since 2008, the periods of restriction on access for types of documentation have been as follows:

  • Birth registration / acte de naissance - 75 years
  • Marriage registration / acte de mariage - 75 years
  • Death registration / acte de décès - no restriction
  • Ten-year indices to the above three /  tables décennales - no restriction
  • Census returns / recensements - 75 years
  • Notarial records / actes notariés - 75 years
  • Judicial records / archives judiciaires - 75 years
  • Personnel records / dossier de personnel - 50 years
  • Medical records / secret médical - 25 years after the death of the individual or 120 years after his or her birth

Generally, these limits are calculated from the end of the year and/or the closure of the register. However, sometimes it is possible to obtain a copy of a record for which the limitation date has passed before the end of that year, if one asks nicely.

It is very important to note that public access to the record does not mean that the information may be published. This was confirmed by a court ruling recently. In that case, reported by a Le Monde journalist, a historian had researched over six thousand families, gathering thousands of birth, marriage and death registrations and published a book about them. The people who were the subjects of some of these registrations were still alive. One of the birth registrations contained a marginal note that the child had been adopted. This person was among those still alive and sued the author for having revealed the adoption in his book, which the complainant claimed was a violation of his privacy. The court ruled in his favour.

Thus, though you may request a document once it is available, you may not publish the information in it without the permission of the person it concerns, should he or she be alive. Should you be in the process of writing your French family genealogy with an eye to publishing it, beware! 

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


XXIV Congrès national de Généalogie - Did Your Guadeloupean Ancestor Fight in the Great War?

Congres 2017

We found quite interesting the theme at the conference of researching those from France's ex-colonies in the West Indies and so we continued to pursue the talks on that subject. It was not always an easy thing to do for the names of the conference rooms had, most mysteriously, become jumbled. There was much to-ing  and fro-ing of people seeking the right room, asking others for guidance, and becoming alarmed by the sudden popping up of officious, self-appointed guides. In the end, we all found our places.

Our speaker was Monsieur Benoît Jullien, Director of the Departmental Archives of Guadeloupe. He had much to say that was enlightening as to why research into those of Guadeloupe who served in the First World War may have been difficult. Guadeloupe, (since 1948), is one of the departments of France and, since the abolition of slavery in 1848, all Guadeloupeans, including ex-slaves, have been French citizens. That citizenship, however, was not always enjoyed to its fullest by all of Guadeloupe.

With the First World War and the catastrophic loss of life in France, the French government turned increasingly to the ex-colonies and insisted that the military service laws be enforced. Monsieur Jullien explained that this had "enormous political significance" because, by doing so, the government of France was admitting that Guadeloupeans were, indeed, fully citizens of France. Though teachers, priests and seminary students were exempted, nearly ten thousand men from Guadeloupe were mobilised, following in the footsteps of the famous Camille Mortenol.

Initially, the French policy was to withdraw troops of mainland France who had been policing in the Caribbean and send them to the war in Europe. They were to be replaced by the newly conscripted local troops. However, even before the war began, in October of 1913, Guadeloupean troops were sent to Europe. They suffered from more than war, many dying of disease and cold in the inclement French winter. Monsieur Jullien's research shows that they were assigned all types of military work but none were promoted to be officers. Their furloughs, when granted, were too short for them to be able to go home to their island. As a result, many charitable societies formed in Paris and other cities to take them in during these times. (If you have ever been young, poor, alone and an outsider in Paris during the winter, Dear Readers, you will know just how much such charities might have been appreciated.) 

In the many, many commemorations and monuments to the dead and lost after the war, none initially mentioned those from Guadeloupe. The authorities "forgot", Monsieur Jullien politely put it. A separate decree was required to correct the omission and the first Monument aux Morts in Guadeloupe was erected in the 1930s.

Research into the military service of someone from Guadeloupe proceeds in the same way as in all other departments. Using the very attractive website of the Departmental Archives of Guadeloupe, search in the military conscription lists. With the number of the person that you will obtain, you may then request a copy of the personal file from the archives.

Bonne chance et merci Monsieur Jullien!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy