MANIOC - Wonderful for Researching Enslaved Ancestors


A party quiz question that used to go the rounds was "France's longest border is with what country?" The answer is: Brazil. (See our post on Overseas France) The 'joke" was that it was usually a surprise to all present. Even the French forget about Overseas France. 

This hidden forgetfulness can make research difficult to say the least. Hence, our joy at discovering Manioc, a digital library dedicated to the history and cultures of the French Caribbean, Amazonia and Guiana. It both complements and supplements the website of La Banque Numérique des Patrimoines Martiniquais (BNPM), for its greatest focus is on the enslaved people in those regions. Two databases are of particular interest:

  1. The Slaves and Freed Black People of French Guiana - These are transcriptions and extracts of declarations of births and marriages made by freed slaves who had not been previously documented. They are presented as separated PDFs that can be read online.
  2. Notarial records concerning slavery in Martinique - This is a rare treasure, indeed, containing the transcriptions of over three thousand notarial acts, relating to slaves and slave-owners of Martinique during the eighteenth century. The website claims that nearly fifteen thousand people are named, all of them indexed.

There are also hundreds of digitized books and studies, some of which also may be of interest to the genealogist of the region, such as an Almanac for all of the colonies for the year 1784.

This website surely could be of help to those of you researching your ancestors in Overseas France.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

Bibliothèque historique des postes et des télécommunications


Excellent discovery today, Dear Readers, excellent discovery. We began the day with a visit to our doctor on Avenue Paul Doumer, where last Saturday's rioters had smashed a few shop windows and burnt a car right in front of the clinic. (And many thanks to all of you who wrote messages of concern for our safety.) The clean-up was instantaneous; there was no graffiti, no trace of a burnt car, no broken glass. There was a toppled traffic light and one board covering one shop window. Clearly, the authorities intend to give the hoodlums, les casseurs, no opportunity to admire their work. Even cleaner was our bill of health and our doctor congratulated us on having taken better care of the weather beaten and badly engineered body than usual.

We left the clinic in a jaunty mood and took about four Métro trains to get from the sixteenth to the twentieth arrondissement, from the Trocadéro to east of Père Lachaise, from posh Paris to the not so. The purpose of the journey was to visit the newly reopened Bibliothèque historique des postes et des télécommunications, or BHPT. At the gate of a block of flats, one rings and the lock is released in reply. One crosses the courtyard and descends the drive to a low box of a building that looks very much like a cleaned up example of one of those old blacksmith or carpentry workshops that once existed at the backs of hundreds of Parisian courtyards. Most have been torn down but a tiny few remain. Many have been bought and converted to beautiful homes, the owners having kept the exterior in its original, grubby state to fool the taxman. We know of an exquisite, four-storey house hidden at the back of a courtyard on Avenue Mozart that looks from the outside like an empty warehouse about to fall down. This little box of barred windows that we approached today had nothing to hide.

Dear Readers, all those of you seeking or researching people who lived in France in the twentieth century, take note - this remote and obscure library is probably the last and only repository open to the public containing nearly all of the telephone directories ever published in France, her territories and her overseas departments. Almost all of them. They may be viewed on microfilm. They are particularly useful for researching the years for which the census returns are not yet available to the public.

The second precious collection of this little minx of a library is its history of the postal service. The first French postal service was created in 1576 and for the next four hundred twenty years or so, was a public service that functioned remarkably well. Why would the French genealogist care? For the maps, Dear Readers, for the maps. Long have we harped on about the value of maps showing waterways and roads used for transport in the past. They show where you might realistically expect your ancestor to have been able to travel, a valuable piece of knowledge to have in one's family research.

The BHPT has a lovely collection of maps of the post roads. The post roads were, before the railways, the most likely land routes your French ancestor would have followed. Some of the BHPT maps are digitized and may be viewed online. Whether you use these to see a possible route for your ancestor to a port of emigration or a town where work was found or where a marriage happened, they will bring a greater clarity to your understanding of your ancestors and the times in which they lived.

Good website, excellent little library -- with intelligent and helpful staff -- and superb resources. What more could one ask?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy