Genealogy Travel and Tourism

Pure Envy

Family archive

Generally, Dear Readers, we are not the envious type but this week we fell prey to that character flaw.  We had the opportunity to join a private visit to one of those small, perfect chateaux that dot France like an abundance of wildflowers in a meadow.

For most people, a chateau is a very dear proposition and those who buy them now do not, as in the past, also acquire an army of unpaid labourers to work the land and fork over the crops for the owner to sell for a tidy sum. Nor are chateaux tax-free, as all life once was for the nobility who owned them. They require deep pockets indeed and most chatelains clearly do not have them. So many of the chateaux that we have visited are crumbling ruins exuding the rank odours of damp and rot, the stone walls long ago having lost all mortar, so that stones drop out of the walls and towers alarmingly. Most of these places were emptied of their treasures over two hundred years ago by rampaging, revolutionary peasants. What was not destroyed on the spot was sold off or, if of precious metal, melted down and then sold. Visiting a chateau is often a lesson in gloom.

The chateau in question, however, was a world away from those sad shells. Its residents claim to be direct descendants of the builder and that the family have lived there for over a thousand years. The rooms are cluttered with enough ancient riches and portraits to induce one to believe the claim. All is beautifully maintained, with not a hint of rot or mould to be smelt, the plaster not cracked, the drapery not moth-eaten. 

We assure you, Dear Readers, we were not swooning with longing for any of the shiny detritus of the ages, lovely though some of it was, until we were shown the room pictured above. At that point, envy, in all its intensity, swept over and enveloped us like the molten lava of Vesuvius swept over and enveloped the souls of Pompeii before they could kneel and say a prayer. We had come upon the family archive, a room, we were informed, that was filled with archive boxes containing over three thousand documents about the family and the chateau, dating back to the year 1055. "Oh please," our heart begged, "Let us see, let us read. Open just one carton..." Alas, no. The guide urged the group to move along and out into the extravagantly beautiful courtyard, never to see that wondrous family archive room again.


©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Guest Post - Joyous Genealogy Tourism in Montbéliard

Montbeliard tourism 1

Cherith Chapman-Flowerday read our posts about the excellent genealogy tourism offerings of Montbéliard and planned her voyage. She tells of the adventure in today's guest post.

If you have roots in Pays de Montbéliard, France, then it is the best place you could ever go for a genealogy tour! You are likely to leave with a family tree of your lineage and a deep appreciation for the rich history and culture of what was its own country for over 400 years! My mother, age 70, sister, age 43, and myself, age 45, had casually dreamt of visiting the town of our ancestors in France for many years. When we had the opportunity to go to England this summer (my first ever trip to Europe!) we decided we must add a trip to Montbéliard, France as part of our itinerary. We had two pieces of information that guided this choice. First, word of mouth that my great-great grandmother was from a town called Montbéliard, France. Second, two of my aunts had traced the history of 10 other relatives who were born in Montbéliard and passed away in the USA. This is all we had to go on but it was enough to get us to book a hotel in Montbéliard and buy train tickets to get there from London.

It then became apparent that we needed to know something about where we were going and to have a plan. I spent many evenings trying to figure this out until I stumbled upon The French Genealogy Blog. This encounter definitely led us to the trip of a lifetime. Much to my surprise there was a blog post  that said Montbéliard, France was one of the best places in France to do genealogy tourism! The post suggested we contact Evelyne Boilaux of the Montbéliard Tourism Office. I called the tourism office and was put in touch right away with Evelyne. She and the person on the phone spoke English, which was so helpful because I speak no French at all. Evelyne helped us craft a 3-hour private tour of our ancestral town, Valentigney, including a visit to the cemetery, church, museum, lunch with locals, and much more!

As part of the visit Evelyne hoped to help us find some relatives. To aid in this endeavor she encouraged me to communicate with the René Vermot-Desroches at the Genealogical Society of Montbéliard. I had never done genealogy research before, but with the 11 names I gave René and his colleague Alain Acolat they were able to trace over 400 relatives going back 500 years in the area! The genealogy office has extensive records of birth, death, and marriage. And because they worked very hard to make it digital, it is easy to track if you have somewhere to start. Our 11 relatives of whom we had birth and death info was enough for him to do a solid amount of research. Granted, there was a lot of duplication of names over the years, so you really have to carefully compare not just names, but any possible records of birth, death, and marriage. In the end Evelyne and René helped us meet with two relatives. We were able to visit with one relative at her home, which interestingly smelled like my grandmother’s home - a smell I hadn’t experienced since her passing 10 years before. And, we enjoyed a long afternoon of coffee and delicious French pastries with our other relative and his wife.

Pays de Montbéliard joined France in 1793, at the end of the French Revolution. We learned we are from a country that, prior to joining France, had been a part of Wurtemberg for four centuries, with its own castle (now a museum) and ruling family who were loved by the locals. This family brought Lutheranism, and provided education to both boys and girls of low-income families almost 300 years before it was required by the country of France. We stayed in the oldest hotel in town, the Hôtel de la Balance. It sits at the base of the castle on the first street to ever exist in town. It was built in the 1500’s and was recently beautifully restored by a local citizen. We also learned that our family is related to the Peugeot family, who’s factories and legacy still lives on locally. It seems the Peugeot family was well loved by the community and provided health care for all employees and their families well before this was a common practice.

The area has a lot to offer with delicious food, charming streets, its own breed of cow (vache montbéliarde), a famous cheese (comté), a castle, several museums full of rich local history, archives, the ruins of a Gallo-Roman theater, outdoor activities nearby, and more. The people were lovely, the hospitality exceptional, and the connection to my past both enriching and inspiring. I thought this would be my only visit to France in my lifetime, but I have to go back again. There is so much yet to be discovered! My only regret (not really) is that it was so exciting and fun that I left worn out rather than rested – but that was my fault!

I have to say a very special thank you to Anne Morddel for this blog, Evelyne Boilaux for her hospitality and friendship that was above and beyond, and to René & Alain for their wisdom, experience and extensive support in the genealogy search process. See you all again!


Cherith family with Evelyne

Contact Information:

Genealogical Society of Montbéliard

Aprox. $50 cost for extensive support




RP & Communication


Aprox. $150 for 3-hour tour

1 rue Henri Mouhot


Tél. 03 81 94 16 07/



Many thanks, Cherith, for sharing this with our Dear Readers. We hope there will be more happy stories to come.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

October Is To Be Huguenot Month in London

Toiles Rideaux

There have been many developments in Huguenot research and studies in London since we last wrote on the subject here. We think that, based on the many requests we have had recently from you, Dear Readers, an update would be timely. This is especially so as many of you have been attempting research in France before you have enough information.

It is NOT recommended that you:

  • Research online genealogy databases for anyone with a similar surname and then try to prove a relationship
  • Come to France to visit all villages where the surname has appeared in documents (though we would never discourage a visit to France)
  • Assume that all Protestants were Huguenots (only that all Huguenots were Protestants)

Generally, we find that many descendants of French immigrants have a family tradition that an ancestor was Huguenot. This claim is often made even when the ancestor was Catholic (Huguenots were, by definition, Protestants) or even when the ancestor was born long after persecution of Huguenots ended and the waves of Huguenot emigration ceased. We reiterate: do all possible research and get all possible documentation of the French ancestor after he or she emigrated, in the country or countries to which he or she immigrated, before attempting research in French archives and records.

That first phase of research includes, if you have reason to believe your ancestor were, indeed, a Protestant who left France before the nineteenth century, checking with existing Huguenot societies to see if your family may not already have been researched. These societies are centres of research excellence that have done an enormous amount of work on many Huguenot families already. The British societies are particularly useful as more than fifty thousand Huguenot refugees went there and many of them passed through London, staying for a few years, before moving on to another place, such as Pennsylvania or South Africa. 

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland has a number of interesting events coming up:

  • 15 September 2018 will be Huguenot Day at the French Protestant Hospital in Rochester, which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year
  • The Huguenot Museum, established in 2014 and now open Wednesday through Saturday, has lovely collections that well illustrate the skills of many Huguenot refugees: weaving, lacemaking, silversmithing.
  • The Lecture Programme, each year, presents four lectures on Huguenot scholarship 

The Huguenots of Spitalfields are planning over thirty events for the month of October: walks, talks, activities, and exhibitions. Read about them all - your ancestor may be among those discussed. 

The lovely city of Norwich in Norfolk will have, on the 9th, 15th and 16th of September a walking tour around central Norwich demonstrating the effect upon the urban landscape of the 'Strangers' - incomers from the Spanish Netherlands and France 1550-1750.

Study these organisations, their resources and their events, Dear Readers, if you think your ancestor may have been a Huguenot. We suspect that you may find them very helpful.

UPDATE: We received this very helpful comment by e-mail:

Congratulations on your latest very pertinent blog on Huguenot Month.

I am a researcher at the Huguenot Museum and have always to mention the do nots you mentioned.

There is one more warning I have to mention to people as well. Your family might be Protestant, they might even be of French origin, but they might also be Norman.

My father's family are of Huguenot descendant in Normandy. 
But my mother's family are of Norman descent in Normandy.

I have also to stress, most appropriately this year, don't ignore the women.

Too often the inquirers insisting their ancestors are Huguenot, concentrate on their male surnames. We have not unusually followed up possible French surnames only to find a Huguenot wife appearing.


©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy 

Study to Become a French Genealogy Expert


The bilingual, English/French diploma course in French Genealogy at the University of Nîmes was inaugurated a few years ago. A year and a half ago, we discussed here its plans for improvement and were grateful to receive your enlightening comments and suggestions. We passed those on the the eminent French Genealogist, Monsieur Stéphane Cosson, and the others working with him to revise and improve the course. We find it more flexible and the explanation to be more focused. Whether you may be interested in voyaging to France to study or in the distance learning course, we think that this course could prove invaluable.

Monsieur Cosson has sent us the description of the new course and we are happy to present it here, hoping that some of you budding French genealogists will take the opportunity to learn how it is done by those in the know. The application period for the distance learning programme is open now!


A French Degree in “Genealogy and Family History”

Offering adequate training in research techniques is crucial and should be made available to all genealogists regardless of their personal level of experience: indeed, Genealogy is not just about computing a collection of dates. There is a world of exciting data waiting to be discovered, far more informative than the collaborative indexing or scanned documents that can be found on the Internet, on websites for Departmental Archives, etc. To really uncover the lives of our ancestors, one must learn where to look in order to make new discoveries and how to better understand the past.

With this in mind, the University of Nîmes is offering several college degree programs, which you will find listed below. Our objective is to offer the most complete training possible in Genealogy, whether you consider yourself a beginner or a professional. To achieve this goal, the team of University Professors is supplemented by Mr. Stéphane Cosson, a professional genealogist since 2000, who brings his expertise to our programs and shares his experience with our students.

Internship opportunities :

Students who wish to do so are welcome to do an internship while registered for our program. However this is not a requirement, as it is not part of our program description. Those who intend to do an internship will obviously acquire additional professional experience in the field. Note that finding an internship is the student’s responsibility; it needs to be directly related to Genealogy, and the internship must take place during the current academic year (ending no later than 30 September). Please let your head professor know that you plan do an internship and contact the “Formation Continue” department so they can deliver the necessary training agreement. After the internship is completed, students will be expected to report to the university, either verbally or in writing, depending on his or her geographical constraints. 

The University of Nîmes’ History Department offers a University Degree program (called D.U. in French = Diplôme Universitaire) in Généalogie & Histoire des Familles, specialized in Family History and Genealogy. It includes theoretical and practical classes, the details of which can be found on the website of the University (, "training").

Our Training Programs :

There are two different sessions available:

  1. Face-to-Face Program: classes are held on Fridays (all day) and Saturday mornings, from January to June 2018. Prospective students must apply online during the month of October prior to each session (on the site). A Selection Committee meets in early November and admission results are known in mid-November.

Note : Toward the end of the semester, students of our Face-to-Face Program gather in small groups for 5 days of intensive research at the Archives Départementales du Gard; they are required to establish the (most) complete genealogy of a local historical figure and need to work on this project as a team. This work is specific to the Face-to-Face Program.

Applications are to be submitted online between October 1st and 31st, 2017 on the university’s website at: ; the Selection Committee meets in early November.

All classes are held from January to June 2018.

Registration fees for the Face-to-Face Program:

  • Unimes students (initial training): €150
  • Students without funding (personal training): €1,200
  • Students with funding (continuous training): €1,600
  1. Distance Learning Program: training takes place remotely with access to courses online via a dedicated digital teaching platform. However the presence (remotely) is desired during some planned group sessions (usually Friday afternoons) for courses that require hands-on learning. Courses can also be provided in writing or filmed in advance.

The presence of students on the university site of Nîmes is required at the beginning of the session (for a first gathering and presentation), as well as for the exams which will take place in January (on consecutive days). If students residing abroad or in the DOM-TOM, wish to take the exams near their home, they will be able to do so at their own expenses. Please contact your nearest French Consulate or the French Alliance to enquire.

Applications are to be submitted online between May 1st to 31st, 2017, on the university’s website at: ; the Selection Committee meets in early June.

Classes are held from September 2017 to January 2018.

Computer and Technical Prerequisites before applying for our Distance Learning Program:

This distance learning program insists on a few prerequisites that are essential for you to make the most of your classes. To better assist you in your studies, your digital identity UNIMES (ID + password + email will be issued before your first classes. This will allow you to benefit from the services we offer (i.e. dedicated website, videoconferencing…) throughout the University calendar year.

Moreover, during the initial gathering in Nîmes, a specific learning session will introduce you to all the UNIMES training tools that will be used during your online and remote classes (e.g. the teaching platform and video-conferencing tool). You will also be taught how to navigate on the dedicated website, and where to find data so you can start studying at your own pace.

Below are all of the necessary and mandatory elements to be able to follow this online training:

Computer knowledge :

We would like to draw your attention to a few fundamentals in order to ensure the success of your e-learning:

  • A good knowledge of your environment, Windows or Mac
  • Being comfortable with internet browsing and peripheral devices (keyboard, mouse, microphone headset and webcam)
  • The ability to install and update traditional software programs
  • The ability to set up and use a webcam
  • The ability to set up and use a microphone headset

Equipment :

  1. Your internet connection must have a sufficient flow to allow you to follow this training online smoothly and in a comfortable way. A 512 kbps ADSL connection is the minimum required.       Connecting your computer to your internet network must be wired in remote clusters and remains highly recommended when interacting with the platform of UNIMES online courses (the Wi-Fi is to be avoided).
  1. A PC or Mac (or laptop) computer with the following items:
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1 card his
  • 1 output for wired connection to the internet
  1. An up-to-date operating system:
  • for a PC: Windows system with a version 7 to 10 but no Windows XP version
  • for a Mac: the Mac OS has a version of 10.8 to 10.10.
  1. A headset with a microphone : headphones with built-in mic, avoids the effects of echoes during your speech in grouping to distance and limited background noise which can interfere with other users.
  1. A webcam

Up-to-date software and plugins:

  • Adobe Flash Player (minimum version: 11.2): to attend online classes
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (up to date): to open PDF documents
  • VLC: to play the videos online or downloaded
  • an Office suite with at least:
  • a word processor (Word, free Office Writer, Open Office Writer or Page for Mac)
  • spreadsheets (Excel, Open Office Calc, Open Office Calc or even Numbers for Mac)
  • a presentation software (Power Point, free Office Impress, Open Office Impress, or Keynote for Mac)

At least the two following browsers (with the latest updates):

- Google Chrome (strongly recommended during group classes in video-conference)

- Firefox (if Chrome has failed)


The objective of this degree, whether in face-to-face or at a distance, is to offer a complete training, both practical and theoretical, in the science of Genealogy in order to allow all those who exercise it, in a private setting, to gain in effectiveness, and on the other hand to facilitate students in Law and History with their arrival on the labor market.

Educational Objectives:

Theoretical training revolves around three axes:

  • A general training in French Modern History to ensure that students acquire the knowledge fundamentals needed to navigate through our past;
  • Training in law, more particularly in the history of Family Law;
  • Training in historical sciences: Paleography, Onomastics, and Heraldry.

Practical training: it will be up to each student to conduct specific research at their local Archives on the history of a person or a family, using all records available, including: military, judicial, administrative, school, etc.


Each training unit, theoretical and practical (personal research project), will be sanctioned by a grade. A final grade will be calculated using specific coefficients for each grade. Admission to the University degree will be made by obtaining a score greater than or equal to 10/20.

The Distance Learning Program in “Genealogy & Family History” destined to English-speaking students can only be conducted if a minimum of 15 students are registered.

These classes provide training and knowledge to an English-speaking audience interested in learning the tools to search for their European roots; among other items, methodology sheets, lexicons, and summaries of classes will be translated into English and supplied to students to help them move forward on their genealogy projects, even when dealings with sources in Old French and Latin.

Exams taking place abroad will entail extra costs that will be charged to students.

Registration fees: €1,700 per semester.


Of course, should any of you make the journey to pursue the course here in France, do contact us to meet for a coffee!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Jolly Times at WDYTYA 2017

WDYTYA entry

We have left The Hexagon for Albion and the Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2017 mouthful of a genealogy extravaganza in Birmingham. It is vast, quite noisy if compared to the archives we usually inhabit, fascinating and quite a lot of fun. We have attended numerous talks on British genealogy. We met with the erudite and engaging Peter Towey of the Anglo-German Family History Society, who regaled with tales of DNA discoveries. We have reconnected with Marie Cappart, Belgian genealogy expert, at a stand about the Mons Memorial.

Belgian stand

We are most disappointed that Yvette Hoitink, Dutch genealogist, was recovering from illness and could not make it, but we will be socializing with colleagues from the Association of Professional Genealogists, who are running a lively stand.


APG Stand

Most of the stands representing the various British counties and countries are linked to the Society of Genealogists, one of the organizers of the show. Their list of workshops is impressive, and we have had a great deal of fun serving on a table in their "Ask an Expert" camp. This is run, as one person described it to us, like a speed dating event. Genealogists wait at tables, computers at the ready, until a bell is rung. At that point, a stampede of researchers bent under their brick walls comes hurtling toward us, fanning out, one to a table. We have twenty minutes together to try to solve the genealogy puzzle. Then, the bell rings again, the researcher departs with new possibilities, and the next stampede surges toward us. A full day of this could lead one to start humming "Ten cents a dance", but for a couple of hours, it is incredibly jolly. We shall be there again today, so do charge our table if you've a mind.

We do feel that the French were under represented. Where was the Huguenot Society? Nevertheless, an excellent junket which we hope to repeat in years to come.


©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Best Place for Genealogy Tourism in France? Montbéliard!




Montbeliard OT

For quite some time, we have thought that certain towns and cities in France really have been missing a tourism opportunity which is to welcome and encourage those seeking to research and to discover the origins of their French ancestors. La Rochelle and Le Havre certainly could do more, if Paris did anything at all it would be a grand thing, Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer might take note. All should be watching the innovative and trail-blazing Montbéliard.

We had read a fine thesis on Montbéliard's programme for advancing genealogy tourism, tourisme de racines, by Ms. Messane Lepape (Une stratégie marketing appliquée au tourisme des racines at It inspired us to contact the town's tourism office to learn more. Instantly, really, instantly, we received a reply from Madame Evelyne Boilaux, in excellent English, arranging a meeting. On the appointed day, she welcomed us at the Montbéliard tourism office, just in front of the train station. Petite, pixie-coiffed and energetic, Madame Boilaux offered us tea or coffee and launched, with understandable enthusiasm, into the glories of Montbéliard's mostly non-French and non-Catholic history. We then shared our lists of the many waves of emigrants from the city to other lands.

  • The French Protestants (Huguenots) who crossed the border into the then Principality of Montbéliard after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Not only was it very close to home, but it was, at that time, the only Protestant and Francophone country in the world. As hope of a safe return to France faded, many moved on to other European Protestant countries and some from there continued on to the Americas and Africa.
  • The people known as the Foreign Protestants, recruited by the British from 1749 to 1751 to repopulate Nova Scotia after the expulsion of the French Catholics at the end of the Seven Years War. Their city of prettily coloured little houses, Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site, somewhat resembles cheerily painted houses in some of the roads of Montbéliard.
  • The Swiss and French Mennonites whose great-grandparents had arrived from Switzerland at the invitation of the ruler of Montbéliard, the Duke of Wurtemberg. His land had been depopulated by wars and the departures of the above and, not only did he want more Protestants, he wanted good farmers, which the Mennonites were reputed to be. They came and stayed until, when the region became part of France at the end of the eighteenth century, a general atmosphere of secularism along with Revolutionary fervour having tipped into insanity made them feel decidedly uncomfortable. Within twenty-five years, Mennonites as well as Lutherans were emigrating from the region to continents to the west and south.
  • The skilled labourers, especially watchmakers, of the region who had trained in the Japy factory and those of other brands, were poached by American factory managers, many of them moving to Connecticut.
  • In the late nineteenth century, there was another wave of which we did not know until enlightened by Madame Boilaux. It seems that the newly wealthy barons of unregulated industry had a yen for their children to speak French and learn to peel and eat a banana with a knife and fork. Only a French governess would do and only a Protestant could be trusted not to expose their children to unwanted Catholic prayers. At the same time, wealthy Russian Orthodox aristocrats wanted the same (though they showed up the Americans by usually having two governesses for their offspring, the other being Scottish and teaching an English that was grammatically perfect but ultimately most oddly accented in the speaking of their charges).

Thus, if your ancestry includes a Foreign Protestant, a governess, watchmaker, Mennonite or Protestant from the Montbéliard region, you may be interested in what the tourism office has to offer. If you arrive on a weekend without having contacted anyone in advance and with none of your research to hand, your visit will be a failure. If, however, you prepare your family history, preferably with photographs, clearly formulate your research questions and know the places you would like to visit, then Madame Boilaux and the staff of the tourism office can help to make your visit a success, taking advantage of their well-established network within the religious, genealogical and historical communities. (2020 Update: Mme. Boilaux has retired. You may now contact Mme. Deborah Reichert, who encourages you to contact the Tourism Office via the e-mail given below.) Given enough time to prepare, she can arrange:

  • Accommodation and transport
  • Visits to relevant churches, synagogues or temples, with the possibility of attending a service and meeting the community
  • Meetings with local genealogists and genealogy groups specialising in your particular area of research
  • Introductions to archives staff and assistance in getting started with your research there
  • Visits to or at least to drives by ancestral homes or huts that are still standing
  • English-speaking tourguides
  • Visits to cemeteries
  • Introductions, with translators, if necessary, to distant cousins, if any

The more information that you provide in advance, the better will be the tailoring of your visit to your interests. Start planning now for this summer.

Office de Tourisme du Pays de Montbéliard

1 rue Henri Mouhot

25200 Montbéliard

tel: +33  3 81 94 16 05


Madame Boilaux also allowed us to photograph this charming map of the seigneuries of the principality of Montbéliard in the sixteenth century:

Principality of Montbéliard map

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy