Methodolgy

Amodiateur, Amodiataire, Amodieur, Amodiatrice, Admodiateur

Farm land

Our previous post, on the Ferme générale, brought this query from Monsieur B:

Thank you for the treasure trove of genealogical information in your scholarly article “Was Your Ancestor an Employee of the Ferme Générale?”.

My ancestor.... from Moselle,  was “admodiateur de ruisseau”

Despite the imposing title, [he] evidently could not write as he signed his name with a + mark. His children’s marriage entries (1720s) identify him as admodiateur, but his 1729 Catholic burial entry has him simply as “laboureur....”

FamilySearch under France Occupations lists admodiateur as a national agent.

Geneawiki defines admodiateur as a person who takes land (sharecropper) for a fee either in money or in kind.

Questions:

1) Would these small admodiateurs have been a part of the Ferme Générale tax collection scheme in France?
2) If so, would there be written records as evidence for their precise activities?

I’ll be poking around at the links placed in your fine article and see how I fare ....

 

There seems to be a bit of misinformation floating about on this one. In the definitions above, FamilySearch would seem to be dead wrong and Geneawiki correct but incomplete. 

Firstly, language being the joyously fluid thing that it is, the word has more than one form and more than one meaning, depending on the time and place of usage. The three meanings we have found are: 

  1. A landowner who leases his or her land to another to be farmed
  2. A person who rents from another land to be farmed, synonymous with metayer, a sharecropper. Note, however, Alfred Cobban's description of the synonym in "The Social Interpretation of the French Revolution" (page 20), "A word such as métayer, like the large social group it described, has no English equivalent." He goes on to explain: "...the generally accepted picture of the métayer...is of a poverty-stricken tenant or a small-holding with a short three, six- or nine-year lease, hiring the equipment and stock as well as the land, and paying for it partly if not wholly, in kind." He cites the historian Paul Bois who found that, in many cases, the métayer could be quite well off, leasing as much as fifty hectares and owning the farm equipment, or he could be leasing as few as three hectares that had to be cultivated by hand as he did not even have access to a plough. The same broad definition may also apply to amodiateur.
  3. An agent of a large landowner (especially of an abbey) who manages such leases. 

In the first two meanings, amodiateur does not mean a profession but indicates a contractual agreement; only in the third sense could it be termed a profession, or métier. In the nineteenth century, linguists attempted to separate one of the meanings by assigning amodiataire to the second meaning but it seems not to have survived in usage. The law recognizes only the first two meanings for an amodiateur (masculine form) or an amodiatrice (feminine form).

Secondly, as to further different forms of the word, admodiateur was more common in the east, in Burgundy and Lorraine and as far as Switzerland. The verb, amodier, means to lease for a fee to be paid in grain.

Thus, Monsieur B, the ancestor who was an admodiateur de ruisseau, was leasing a stream, perhaps for fishing, perhaps for irrigation, possibly for milling (but this is less likely as he would then have been called a miller, meunier, a quite different activity from that of a labourer who leased stream rights). As to your questions:

  1. No, an amodiateur was not a part of the tax collecting operations of the Ferme générale. (FamilySearch's misunderstanding may come from this definition by the historian, François Lassus, which we translate rather freely: "The amodiateur of an estate was a sort of collector, 'fermier générale' who managed all of the land, the rights, the leases and collection of rents..." We emphasize in bold the key point that he is referring to an agent of an estate not the State.)
  2. Our definitions of the word in this post are based on the online dictionaries on DICFRO, and CNRTL. To know more about what your ancestor's specific rental agreement, it would be necessary to find the contract, probably among the local notarial records. To research from whom he was leasing the stream, we suggest that you look at the Cassini map for the town and locate the nearest large abbeys or estates that might have owned the stream (though it is possible that the owner was much further away; only the contract would reveal the owner with certainty).

Tricky one!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


Was Your Ancestor an Employee of the Ferme Générale?

Tax collector

The royal general Farms, les fermes généraux, were the system of tax collection in France ( fermes in this usage means leases). From as early as the reign of Henri III, the collection of taxes and customs duties in France was leased out to private individuals. The lessor, necessarily wealthy, often of the bourgeoisie, bought a six-year, somewhat secretive lease to collect taxes in one of the large regions of France.  The amount of taxes to be paid to the King was stipulated in the contract; anything over and above that amount that was collected could be kept by the lessor. Did you ever come across a better school for corruption, Dear Readers?

The lessors (or contractors) became extraordinarily rich, of course, so rich that some were able to buy themselves a title or two and join the nobility. Some historians try to let them off the hook by pointing out that many of them were great supporters of the arts or that they financed public works. Better not to commit the crime than to atone for it, we say.

Corrupt though it was, the system was also extremely efficient. The corps des fermiers généraux was comprised of the lessors (fermiers) and their deputies (adjoints), many of them related, as nepotism was rife. From 1756, the administration of the Ferme générale was centralized in Paris. There, some six hundred eighty employees, divided into three functional sections, kept the accounts, managed the personnel, sent out inspectors and oversaw the work of more than twenty-five thousand agents across the country and in its colonies. These agents were either clerical, checking the accounts locally, or in quasi-military brigades (which often included retired soldiers) that hunted down and summarily punished smugglers. Needless to say, they all were despised by the general population. 

Fermes du roy example

Marie Colombe de Boulanger Death Register Entry, 5 May 1744. Carteret, Manche, Registres paroissiaux et d'état civil, 1722-1748, E2, online image no. 112

Archives départementales de la Manche

How to research that ancestor? Very little can be found online at the moment, but that looks set to improve.

  • Brief biographies, in French, of the men who were members of the corps des fermiers généraux from 1720 to 1751 are given in the work by Barthélémy Mouffle d'Angerville (who served in the French Navy in Louisiana) entitled La Vie privée de Louis XV, ou principaux événements, particularités et anecdotes de son règne, and currently can be read online on Google Books here.
  • Individual cards on the agents in employment in 1782 can be found in sub-series G1 in the Archives nationales (a single example of such a card can be found online here).

Further Reading:

  • Dictionnaire de la Ferme générale (1640-1794), an academic blog hosted by Hypotheses, this has by far the most complete and thorough discussion and research on the ferme générale. It contains no list of employees nor even much discussion of individuals, but it is new and will increase in depth of coverage quickly.
  • Wikipedia has a quite good article in English on the ferme générale; the article in French is much, much more thorough.
  • The finding aid of the Archives nationales lists not only the holdings relating to the ferme but explains their administration thoroughly in the introduction.
  • The ever brilliant Geneawiki has a page on the subject that lists the holdings in the Archives nationales, with links to any that may be online, and that gives any other sources that may be useful

Fascinating aspect of the French State.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 8 - Next Steps - Know the Sources

Marie Fouyol

To summarize, Dear Readers, we have looked at our few records in a number of ways  in an effort to find the origins of Marie Fouyol:

  • We have analyzed the Paris baptisms of three of her children, the burial record of one of them, and some Canadian records concerning her life after emigration.
  • We have looked at the French prisoner of war records concerning her English husband, Thomas Mansell
  • We have studied various contexts concerning the couple while they were in Paris: historical, geographical, social
  • We have analyzed signatures
  • We have studied various Parisian families with variations of the name of Fouyol

To no avail. No other record or document could be found to give even a hint as to the origins of Marie Fouyol. Most frustrating. We would have expected to have found, at the very least, one of the following:

  • One of her reputed two marriages. The Canadian obituary of her daughter stated that Marie was the widow of a French officer when she married Thomas Mansell. Given that it was war time, the marriage and death of an officer is plausible. Not to be able to find one marriage is frustrating, but not to be able to find either is most curious.
  • A death or burial record for the child Pierre George Alphonse. We found the burial record for the baby, Jeanne Richard, but not for Pierre. Did he die in England? In Canada? Did he die in France, at the home of a wet-nurse, as was the case with one of the daughters of the Cartier-Thomassin couple? (Recall that Joséphine Thomassin was the godmother of Françoise Mansell.)

There is another puzzle. Marie Fouyol was probably Catholic, for it seems likely that she, and not her English Protestant husband, insisted on baptizing the children in the Catholic Church. Why was their first child not baptized until she was two years old? Were they away? Perhaps in England? (As odd as it may seem, travel between the two warring countries was still possible.) 

However, it is possible that the failure to find all of the records: the two marriages, the three birth register entries, the two children's death register entries, the death register entry for an officer whose widow was Marie Fouyol, can be explained by the destruction of the Paris Town Hall archives during the Paris Commune, if and only if every single one of those events, including the officer's death, took place in Paris. It is possible, but a bit unlikely.

In no way can this be termed a "brick wall", a complete lack of information on a person and a complete inability to identify the person. We have exhausted only what documentation and archives are available online, with the addition of a couple of prisoner of war files seen in the archives; we still have to get through a plethora of material that has never seen the lens of a camera.

Where to look next? We propose pursuing the following lines of enquiry:

  • Thomas Mansell was a prisoner of war on work release, more or less. We know from his prisoner of war file that he reported that he had lost his papers in 1809 and that he was permitted to remain and work in Paris but under surveillance. 
    • The archives of the Paris Police contain records of just such reports in Series AA, as can be seen here on the Geneawiki page, which links to images of many of them. Unfortunately, they do not go up to the year of 1809, though they probably should be searched anyway.
    • The Archives nationales contain the police surveillance files of the period, as well as any surviving passport requests by foreigners, as explained here. Either could contain something on Thomas Mansell, which might also mention his wife and her origins.
    • There are a number of other possibilities in the Archives nationales but it is not entirely clear from the series descriptions if they would have something on Thomas Mansell:
      • Dossiers des détenus des prisons de la Seine. (Files on those held in prisons of the Seine department) It is not clear if this is purely criminals or also the foreigners briefly held in prison, as was Thomas Mansell at Fontainebleau, nor are the dates given.
      • Demandes de résidence à Paris. Dossiers individuels (an IV-an XI) (Requests to reside in Paris, individual files, 1795/6 to 1802/3) Thomas Mansell certainly requested to remain in Paris, and his employer probably made a request in his name in about 1802. It is not clear if this collection includes foreigners or not.
  • Neither a civil nor a religious record has been found for the Mansell-Fouyol marriage, so the precise dates of the marriages are not known. Marie Fouyol Mansell had her first known child, Françoise, in 1811. If she were single while pregnant, between her two marriages, it is possible that she may have had to make a pregnancy declaration, even though these were almost outdated.
    • Again, the archives of the Paris Police contain records of some of the declarations in Series AA, and Geneawiki has arranged the digitization of some of them. Unfortunately, not all arrondissements of Paris are included and most do not go as late as 1811.
  • Michel Fouyol of rue de la Tabletterie, who is a reasonable candidate to have been the father of Marie Fouyol, is slightly documented.
    • The Archives nationales have the originals of the cartes de sûreté, or security cards, which contain the subject's signatures. Some of these have been digitized by Geneawiki volunteers, but they have not yet reached the number of his card, 142296. Obtaining a copy of his signature for future comparison would be very useful, should we be so lucky as to find more documents concerning him.
  • Many other weavers and machinists were held prisoner with Thomas Mansell at Fontainebleau. There are prisoner of war files on some of them:
    • George Archer
    • John, Thomas and Charles Callon
    • John Dean
    • James Flint
    • William Fleming

These files should be read to see if, as often happened, a mention or even a page about Thomas Mansell did not end up in someone else's file.

  • Looking much more broadly:
    • British records could be searched for the death of Pierre Mansell and even the Mansell-Fouyol marriage
    • All Marie Fouyols born in 1782 or 1783 outside of Paris could be identified, with each being followed through civil registers until she can be ruled out as a possibility. Special attention should be paid to those in towns known to have been the origins of some of the Fouyols of all spellings identified in Paris.
    • The lives of the godparents could be pursued further, especially to see if any of them emigrated to Canada.
    • The Fouyol-Ackermann couple who had the one promising marriage in Paris in 1780 cold be researched thoroughly, to see if they had children.

Any other ideas, Dear Readers? If so, please let us know.

SUGGESTIONS SENT BY READERS:

  • Madame T wrote: "...regarding the death of the child Pierre George Alphonse , he may have died aboard ship and his burial was at sea. If Marie Fouyol was going to and from Canada to France/England, she would have been on a ship. Are there any passenger lists that document her or her husbands travels?"

With this post, we will pause this case study to give Madame J time to pursue some of the avenues above.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 7 - Name Study

Marie Fouyol

So, Dear Readers, to date, we have had little luck in our search for the identity of Marie Fouyol prior to her marriage to Thomas Mansell, her place of origin, her parents' names, her supposed first husband, and so forth. Bearing in mind that two thirds of the burned Paris archives have never been replaced, we will sort through what does exist, examining occurrences of her far too changeable name. We found people living in Paris at the time as she with the following variations of the name:

  1. Fouillolle
  2. Fouillol
  3. Fouyolle
  4. Fouyol
  5. Foulliol
  6. Fouyeul
  7. Fouieul
  8. Fouilleul

There are slight differences in the pronunciation. Numbers one through four are all pronounced the same, with the last "o" similar to that in the word "no" in English. Numbers six through eight are pronounced the same, with the ending "eul" sounding, to an English speaker, pretty close to the way Peter Sellers says "bump" in this scene. Number five is in a class of its own but is more like the first four than the last three. Spoken in a crowded marketplace, they all would have sounded pretty much the same. 

Marie would seem to have pronounced her own name with more of an "o" sound in the second syllable, as the spelling versions used for her name in the baptisms of her children are numbers two, three and four. She was not the only person to spell the name in more than one way. Many of the individuals used two or three of the above spellings.

Looking at the website Géopatronyme, it can be seen that none of the first four spellings survived to the late nineteenth century; number seven also does not survive. There is only one case of number five and a few cases of number six. It is number eight, Fouilleul, that dominated. It is found predominantly in the west of France, in Mayenne, and less so in Manche. The name means, by the way, "leafy" or "shady", which could occur anywhere, including a spot in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

In Paris during the period of roughly 1770, when the parents of Marie might have married, through 1830, some ten years after she left, all but one of the above names is found on the Right Bank, clustered around Les Halles, the vast warren of shops and markets, in the parishes of Saint Eustache, Saint Merri and Saint Germain l'Auxerrois. The Foulliol family, number five, lived to the west, near Invalides, where they also worked. The Invalides Foulliols were studied to some extent, through baptism, marriage and death register entries, as well as through probate inventories until, eventually, it became clear that Marie could not have been a member of this family. The remaining couples of interest are:

  • Michel Fouyeul, a widower from Saint Maurice du Désert in Orne, who married a second time in Saint Eustache in 1786.
  • Michel Fouieul, of rue du Poirier, who married Marie Jeanne LeLièvre in Saint Merri in 1807. They had a son, Michel Victor, in 1808.
  • A man named Baratte, whose wife was Françoise Fouillol. Their son, born in 1805, married in Saint Merri in 1831.
  • Michel Fouilleul, who married Jeanne Ackermann in Saint Germain l'Auxerrois in 1780.

Recall that there could have been a dozen or more couples of equal interest of whom all trace was lost in the burnt archives. Nevertheless, working with what we have, Michel Fouieul and Françoise Fouillol Baratte may have been of an age to have been siblings of Marie Fouyol. The two remaining Michels each could have been the father of Marie Fouyol, the widower from his first marriage, in 1778, to Margueritte Pinson, and the Michel Fouilleul who married Jeanne Ackermann in 1780, two or three years before Marie was born.

There is also a lone man of interest, Michel Fouyol. His carte de sûreté, issued in Paris on the 23rd of May 1793, on which his surname was entered as "Fouyolle" but his signature was "Fouyol", gave his address as number 103, rue de la Tabletterie, near Les Halles. He was aged fifty-three, a cleaner of animal skins and furs, and had lived in Paris for twenty years. He had been born in Le Teilleul, Manche. Apparently, he was a keen revolutionary, perhaps a true sans-culotte, for the author Darlene Gay Levy, in her book Women in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1795, cites archival documentation showing that he denounced a neighbour who did not support the Revolution. It took little time to find the birth on the 25th of July 1740, in Le Teilleul, of a Michel Foüilleul, son of Julien and his wife, Jeanne Geffroy. Is this the same person? Did he go to Paris, marry and have children there? Could he be the same man who married Jeanne Ackermann in 1780 and could they have been Marie's parents? That would be tidy, indeed, but, Oh! Dear Readers! what a lot of work  and luck would be needed to prove all of that.

In our next post, we will look at further avenues of research Madame J can pursue and how to determine the most likely resources to use.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 5 - The Napoleonic Prisoner of War File

Dossier Thomas Mansell

As we wrote in Part Three of this case study, Thomas Mansell was one of Napoleon's "hostages", a British détenu, and there is a file with his name on it in the archives of the Service Historique de la Défense. We have seen the file, now, and photographed its contents. Chronologically, the correspondence begins with three letters from Thomas Mansell to the Minister of War, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, written in late 1803 and early 1804. The administration of the prisoners of war was the responsibility of the Ministry of War and many prisoners wrote pleading letters to the Minister, so the existence of these is not unusual.

On the 15th of December 1803 (he used the date of the Republican calendar 23 frimaire An 12), Mansell wrote that he was an Englishmen who had been living in Paris for sixteen months (putting his arrival at about August 1802) and had been employed in weaving cotton stuffs at the workshop of Jean Glasin at no. 2 rue Menilmontant. He requested an extension of his permission to stay in Paris, which originally had been granted by General Junot.

On the 24th of January 1804 (3 pluviôse An 12), apparently having had no reply, he wrote again, repeating that he was an Englishman, a machinist weaver of cotton stuffs, who requested permission to remain in Paris. He added that he was living in the rue des Filles du Calvaire.

On the 28th of February 1804 (8 ventôse An 12) he wrote again, repeating all of the information given in the two previous letters and saying that he had now been in Paris for seventeen months. (This again places his arrival as August of 1802.) He added that General Harty could give him a reference.

Clearly, he had been released from Fontainebleau before the 15th of December 1803. As the edict to arrest all British citizens had been issued in May of 1803, he was held in detention at Fontainebleau for no more than about six months. 

We can verify the timing and names of some of his information:

  • Chassagne has a very small mention of John Glasin, saying that he and a Michael Webster, both of Manchester, were in Paris from at least the spring of 1802 and had offered to the government their method of weaving piqués.1
  • General Jean Andoche Junot was the Military Governor of Paris in 1803 and 1804. Though Thomas Mansell seems to have arrived in Paris in August of 1802, he would not have required a residence permit from the military until his country went to war with France again in May of 1803, so Andoche (and not his predecessor) would have been the person to grant permission to Mansell to stay in Paris.
  • Major-General Oliver Harty was an Irishman in the French Army who, according to this article in the Dictionary of Irish Biography online, had been praised by Berthier for his fighting in the War in the Vendée  That phase of the war ended in 1800; it is unclear where Harty was between then and the resumption of war with Britain in 1803, so he could have been in Paris in 1802 and early 1803 and he could have encountered Thomas Mansell. Mansell may have hoped that using Harty's name would have made a good impression on Berthier.

 

There are then two letters from Mansell to the Minister of War written in September and October of 1809. By then, Berthier was no longer the Minister of War; in 1807, he had been replaced by Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke, a French General of Irish descent. There is also an exchange between the Ministry and the Chief of Paris Police about Mansell's request.

On the 26th of September 1809, Mansell wrote, identifying himself still as a mechanician weaver who had lived in Paris for seven years. Now, perhaps hoping to appeal to Clarke's imagined sympathies, he said that he was Irish. He stated that he had worked to set up many factories, particularly one in the Saint Avoye quarter called Aveugles. His reason for writing was that he had lost his wallet, containing all of his papers and he requested a new permit to remain in Paris. His address was at number twelve in rue du Picpus, the home of a Mr. Rocher.

On the 27th of September, he sent another letter with testimonials from two employers: Burdin and Carret  (a company that failed in the financial crisis of 1811) and D. Heilmann, whose "calicos were of a poor quality".2

On the 5th of October, the Ministry of War's bureau that dealt with prisoners of war wrote to the Chief of Paris Police, recounting the tale of lost papers, repeating that Mansell was Irish, adding that he was aged about thirty and saying "I have no information on this man. I have some letters but they all have different spelling of the surname. I fear he may have made a bad use of his papers for one of his compatriots. Please investigate his character." (Many English desperate to get out of France at that time did buy or steal papers of those there legitimately.)

The Chief of Police replied to the Minister of War on the 14th of October, repeating the details Mansell had given, affirming that he was Irish and lived at rue du Picpus, number twelve, and that he had worked for Burdin and Carret. He added that Mansell also was known to the conservators Mille and Morand, both of whom worked at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, which had established a department in about 1804 or 1805 to teach mechanical weaving.

On the 26th of October 1809, Clarke issued his decision that, with the recommendations of the conservators and of his employers, Burdin and Carret, who also offered to post a bond for him, Mansell could remain in Paris, under police surveillance. Clarke wrote to the Governor of Paris, then Pierre-Augustin Hulin, asking him to give a new permit to Mansell.

Frustratingly, there is no request from Mansell to marry and no mention of Maire Fouyol. 

Signatures

The letters from Mansell all are written in different hands and none is the same hand as the signatures. 

1803

1803

1804

1804

1804

1809

1809

Though the surname is spelt three different ways, as Clarke noted, the signatures above do appear to be the same hand. If the signatures were Thomas Mansell's, they contradict the statement in the baptisms that he could not write his name. Just in case he had already met Marie Fouyol and asked her to sign his name for him, we can compare the above with her writing of his name in the 1814 baptism:

By MF 1814

There is not much similarity between her hand and the signatures. More importantly, the signatures never spelt the surname with the letter C, as Marie did, but always with the letter S; so it is unlikely that she was signing for him. No certain identification of the signer can be made at this point.

So, our prisoner of war file on Mansell gives a great deal more information about him, but it provides none about his wife.

©2021Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

  1. Chassagne Serge. "L'innovation technique dans l'industrie textile pendant la Révolution". Histoire, économie et société, 1993, 12ᵉ année, n°1. [Theme:] "Entreprises et révolutions". pp. 51-61; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/hes.1993.1660 https://www.persee.fr/doc/hes_0752-5702_1993_num_12_1_1660. p59.
  2. Bergeron, Louis. Banquiers, négociants et manufacturiers parisiens du Directoire à l'Empire. Paris : Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1999. https://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/195. p313.

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 3 - Historical Context

Marie Fouyol

Thomas Mansell's Profession and Historical Context

As any serious genealogist will tell you, Dear Readers, context is crucial to your research.  Most will say that it is necessary in order to give a fuller picture of an ancestor's past but, as Alison Hare, CG, explained in her recent BCG webinar, "The Time of Cholera: a Case Study About Historical Context". You may even get quite lucky, as she did, and find a clear reference to one of your ancestors. We are hoping for such luck in searching for the origins of Marie Fouyol.

Thomas Mansell was a mécanicien and a tisserand, a machinist and weaver, as we learned in the previous post. He also was English. His daughter's obituary stated that he "went to France about 1801. Soon thereafter war arose between England and France, and, with hundreds of other Englishmen, he was made a prisoner at Paris and could not escape." This is where historical context can be important.

The industrial revolution was not a smoothly progressing event. A great deal of industrial espionage and poaching of expertise went on. As early as 1719 Britain had passed a law forbidding British masters of trades to take on foreign apprentices, in order to prevent expertise transferring to competitor nations and economies. To no avail. Technology was being transferred at a snapping pace. Even at that point, there were living in France over one hundred British technicians and their families, teaching their skills.1 By the late eighteenth century, the emphasis was on the technologies for creating textiles. From the 1790s, James, John and Juliana Collier, from Manchester, began to work for French textile manufacturers, constructing machines based on the English designs they had learned, and teaching French workers how to use them.2 Serge Chassagne, one of the experts on the subject, lists dozens more British and Irish textile workers and experts who brought their skills to France before and during the Napoleonic Wars, including the two Dean brothers, based in Normandy.He adds that the French state did not only poach technology and lure technicians, it also  fostered "directly the innovations by the national competition for the best spinning machineries, in 1803, and by the opening, the following year, of a training school for the mule-spinning in the Conservatoire [des Arts et Métiers] in Paris." The number of spinning factories (filatures) jumped from six in 1789 to two hundred thirty-four in 1806.4 Though Thomas Mansell's name could not be found in any of the abovementioned studies, he almost certainly was just such a British expert in textile machinery who went to France to work and to teach his skills. 

The obituary of Thomas Mansell's daughter, Françoise Joséphine Mansell, places his arrival in France in 1801, then says that war broke out and he was made a prisoner. This looks to be very close to what happened to many. The French Revolutionary Wars lasted from 1792 to March of 1802, when the Treaty of Amiens was signed. Hundreds of British travelled to France as soon as the peace made it possible to do so safely. The safety did not last. War broke out again in May of 1803 and Napoleon ordered that all British men in the country at that time be rounded up and detained as enemy aliens. (For more on this, see our post on the British détenus.) We suspect that Thomas Mansell may have arrived in France not in 1801, while fighting was still going on, but in 1802, when travel would have been much easier. We are also certain that he was rounded up with the other British nationals.

During her research, Madame J contacted Peter Clark, who created and maintains the British Prisoners of Napoleon database. He wrote to her:

"He was recorded on my DataBase as MANSSALL sic, Thomas, since that is how his surname was entered on the list of Detenus (or Detainees) that was compiled by the French authorities following the General Arrest of all British Visitors and British Residents in France on the orders of the then First Consul Napoleon BONAPARTE that was made in May 1803. This list is held in the Service Historique de l'Armée de la Defence (SHAD) [This is outdated; the current name is Service Historique de la Défense and the acronym used is SHD] at the Chateau de Vincennes in Paris, and I examined and transcribed that List of 1181 named Detainees [see détenus, above] at Vincennes now some 20 years ago. That list does not state his age (it does for several others), but very usefully it states his occupation as ’Tisserand’ meaning a Weaver. I have no reason to doubt that this is your relative.

At that point in time he was being held at Fontainbleau, which is where many of the British visitors were being gathered to live on parole until further arrangements were made for where they were eventually going to be allowed to live. At that early date in the detention process those five places were Paris, Fontainbleau, Verdun, Valenciennes, and Nismes [Nîmes].

In the story of the Detenus the Weavers were a very special group, since they were men, often in France with their families, who had been brought over to France by French Business Entrepreneurs in order to help develop the textile industry in France, which then very much lagged behind the British Loom Inventions of the Industrial Revolution. In due course almost all of these detained Weavers were allowed to return to their own dwellings and to their French Masters/Employers, and to the work places where they had been working. They were not free to go back to Britain, but they could live in peace with their families and carry on working for their French Employers.

All of this is very much examined and discussed in a Thesis by Margaret AUDIN that was submitted for an MA at the University of Birmingham, and copies of that Thesis can be seen in the Library at Birmingham University, and there is a copy in the Library of the Society of Genealogists in central London ........ When you say that Thomas MANSELL was in some later document recorded as a ‘Mecanicien’ Mechanic, this is particularly interesting. This may well indicate that he was not just acting as an artisan weaver, but that he was perhaps constructing and maintaining the Weaving Looms which required much knowledge and skill, and that is why so many Weavers had been recruited to work in France. Very early on it looks as if he had been given permission to live on parole and work in or around the Paris area. There was little interference with such a group of workers as long as they were employed and did not cause trouble.

If he needed to ask for any special privileges from the Police or from the Government, then his letter/s to the French authorities may well of ended up in the Archives at the Chateau de Vincennes....

We were able to provide Madame J with a copy of the page of the Fontainebleau list of prisoners showing Thomas Mansell.5

Yj33 PG Anglais list first page

Yj33 PG Anglais list folio 29

Yj33 PG Anglais list folio 45

 

The list also contains the names of a number of other weavers, machinists, textile workers and factory directors, many of whom are mentioned in Chassagne's "Les Anglais en France", including the Dean brothers.

  • Archer, George, Mécanicien
  • Avington, John, Oeuvrier en coton
  • Bowie or Bosvie, John, Tisserand, aged 25
  • Callon, Thomas, Fabriquant de coton, aged 42
  • Callon, Charles Fabriquant de coton, aged 39
  • Callon, Jean, Fabriquant de coton, aged 30
  • Clark, William, Tisserand, aged 26
  • Dean, Edward, Mécanicien, aged 22
  • Dean, John, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Dawin, Francis, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Flint, James, Directeur d'une filature de coton, aged 30
  • Fleming, William, Mécanicien, aged 25
  • Honels, John, Mécanicien, aged 37
  • Keaivesnay, John, Mécanicien, aged 36
  • Kestledam, Robert, Inspecteur d'Indienne [Indian-patterned fabrics], aged 28
  • Le Roy, Michael Alexander, Mécanicien, aged 34
  • Lacy, Peter, Mécanicien, aged 26
  • Macfie, Daniel, Mécanicien, aged 33
  • Macloude, John, Mécanicien, aged 53
  • Mansall, Thomas, Tisserand, aged 34
  • Orell, James, Director of a filature de coton at Gisors (Eure)
  • Oxford, Thomas, Mécanicien, aged 38
  • Richardson, Alexandre, Imprimeur en Indienne, aged 24
  • Riller, Edward, Mécanicien, aged 23
  • Robson, William, Mécanicien, aged 29
  • Richardson, James, Mécanicien, aged 26 (possibly listed twice) employed at a
    manufacture de filature à Malaunay (Seine-Inférieur)
  • Tailord, James, Oeuvrier mécanicien, aged 40

 

This confirms the details in the obituary of Thomas Mansell's daughter and clearly places him amongst the group of British textile workers in France taken prisoner in 1803. 

There is correspondence file in the archives of the SHD relating to Thomas Mansell and we shall obtain a copy of it for this Free Clinic case. With luck, it will contain a request from Mansell for permission to marry. Such permission was required for military prisoners to marry, but it may not have been for civilian prisoners allowed to continue working and to live outside of the prisons. If Mansell's file does contain such a request, it could give details as to the identity and origins of his future wife, Marie Fouyol.

As it can be seen here how useful to genealogical research a bit of historical research can be, we hope that you all, Dear Readers, are now committed historians as well as genealogists. In the next post, we will look at a different aspect of context: geographical context.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

  1. Chassagne, Serge. "Les Anglais en France, et plus particulièrement en Normandie, dans la «révolution industrielle» (1715-1880)". Études Normandes, 62e année, n°2, 2013. [Theme:] "L'art d'être original - Singularités, reprises et innovations dans l'art et la culture en Normandie du XIX° siècle à nos jours". pp. 121-140; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/etnor.2013.1904. https://www.persee.fr/doc/etnor_0014-2158_2013_num_62_2_1904. Accessed 29 July 2021.
  2. Hémardinquer Jean-Jacques. "Une dynastie de mécaniciens anglais en France : James, John et Juliana Collier (1791-1847)". Revue d'histoire des sciences et de leurs applications, tome 17, n°3, 1964. pp. 193-208; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/rhs.1964.2344 https://www.persee.fr/doc/rhs_0048-7996_1964_num_17_3_2344
  3. Chassagne Serge. "L'innovation technique dans l'industrie textile pendant la Révolution". Histoire, économie et société, 1993, 12ᵉ année, n°1. [Theme:] "Entreprises et révolutions". pp. 51-61; doi : https://doi.org/10.3406/hes.1993.1660 https://www.persee.fr/doc/hes_0752-5702_1993_num_12_1_1660.
  4. Chassagne. "L'innovation technique", p51.
  5. France. Archives de l'Armée de la Terre. Prisonniers de Guerre anglais. "Etat nominatif des anglais considerés comme prisonniers de guerre..." Service Historique de la Défense, Vincennes. code: Yj 33.

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 2

Marie Fouyol

Analysis of the French Documentation

We give here our rough translations of the three Mansell baptisms entered into the registers of the Paris Catholic church of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas (to see the originals, follow the links in the previous post):

1)

Margin:

Françoise Josephine Mancell
no. 26

Body:

On the thirteenth of February 1814 was baptized Francoise Josephine, daughter of Thomas Mencell and of Marie Fouyol, machinist living at rue du Faubourg St. Jacques no. 46 [? 16?]. The godfather is Jean François Varrinier, boarding house keeper, rue du Cloître Saint Benoît no. 17, the godmother is Josephine Thomassin, wife of Cartier, embroiderer (or, more precisely, one who decorates clothing) living at rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur no. 5, who have signed with the mother and me, the father having declared that he does not know how to sign, neither does the child, aged 27 months and 25 or 26 days, born the 18th of November 1811.

Signatures:

Varrinier

Marie Fouyol w[ife of] Thomas Mancell

Josephine wife [of] Cartier

Menil (priest)

 

2)

Margin:

Pierre Georg. Alph.
Mansall
32

Body:

On the ninth of February 1816 was baptized by me the undersigned priest Pierre Georges Alphonse, born the 9th of January last, son of Thomas Mansall, weaver and of Marie Fouillol, his wife, living in this parish, rue St. Jacques no. 295. The godfather was Pierre Rey, cotton worker, same residence, the godmother was Margueritte Cocq... [? the rest of the name is illegible], same residence. The godfather only has signed with me, the father and mother having declared that they do not know how to sign.

Signatures:

Rey

M.C.S. Mouzou priest

3)

Margin:

Mansann
J. Richard

Body:

On the thirty-first of October 1818, was baptized Jeanne-Richard, born the 10th of this month, daughter of weaver Mansann ... [illegible] ... rue St. Jacques no 26 [? 261? illegible], and of Marie Fouyolle, his wife. The godfather was Richard Thompson, rue de la Paix no. 6, who has signed, and the godmother Thomassine Lorguilleux, rue des ... [illegible]. no. 6, who declared that she did not know how to sign.

Signatures:

Richard Thompson

Hézelle, vicar

 

The last child, Jeanne Richard, did not live long. The line for her entry, number 3372, into the burial register of Père Lachaise, shows that she died at the age of six weeks in the ninth arrondissement and was buried in the "common pit" or paupers' grave, on the 23rd of November 1818.

*

What stands out most glaringly is the question of whether or not Marie Fouyol could sign her name. The 1814 baptism register entry stated that she could and did sign, as "Marie Fouyol wife of Thomas Mancell".1 The 1816 register entry stated that she could not sign her name. and there is no signature for her. The 1818 register entry made no mention of her ability to sign and there is no signature for her. The burial register does not contain signatures. That the 1816 clearly stated that she did not know how to sign her name calls into question the validity of the signature in the 1814 register entry, as do the various spellings in the three entries. Were she literate, she would have been able to spell her name to the person writing the entry. 

However, we have seen similar cases in other registers where the priest wrote in some entries that a person could not sign while in others, the person could and did sign. This occurred with both women and men. It is not clear why this was done. Additionally, the royal decrees of the Ancien régime that established how parish register entries were to be written stated, in 1667, and re-stated in 1736, that baptism entries were to be signed by the father, the godparents and the priest.2 There was no requirement for the mother to sign. The Mansell children's baptism register entries were made more than twenty years after the 1792 establishment of civil registration, replacing Catholic Church registration as legal establishment of identity. It could be posited that the church registers would be expected to comply with the old rules, yet neither the priests nor the vicar of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas were following precisely the old rules for the composition of a baptism entry in ignoring the mother and having the father sign if he could. Thus, the structure and wording of the entries do not allow for any assumption about the mother's ability to write. Unless another signature by Marie Fouyol turns up in another document, it cannot be certain that the signature of the 1814 baptism is hers.

 

Another point to note is the question of the marriage of the parents. In the 1814 baptism, there was no mention, as would have been normal, of the fact that Thomas Mansell and Marie Fouyol were married, or that she was his wife, yet, in the 1816 and 1818 baptism entries, the mention is made. The statement does appear in Marie Fouyol's single, attributed signature, on the baptism of 1814. It may well have been that that signature "Marie Fouyol f[emme] Thomas Mancell", whoever wrote it, was a way of correcting the omission, leaving no doubt that the child was legitimate.

 

The professions of all involved are not given but those that are, particularly of Thomas Mansell, are also important to note:

  • Thomas Mansell was a mécanicien and a tisserand, a machinist and weaver. There is much discussion on various French genealogy websites about the difference between the three words tisseur, tissier and tisserand, all of which mean weaver. The general consensus, with no one citing any source or authority, seems to be that a tisseur or tissier is a weaver as classically understood, someone who works at a manually operated loom. A tisserand, however, seems to be someone capable of all aspects of weaving, from selecting the threads, to choosing the pattern, to setting up the loom, to weaving, to approving the final product. Thomas Mansell was a tisserand. He also was a machinist. In this context, he almost certainly a machinist of power looms, possibly also automated looms. 
  • Though the fact that Jeanne Richard Mansell was buried in the paupers' grave does not indicate anyone's profession, it does indicate that the Mansell family were not wealthy.
  • Jean François Varrinier ran a boarding house, renting out furnished rooms. 
  • Josephine Thomassin  was a chamareuse, one who decorated clothing, including such skills as embroidery and sewing on embellishments such as pearls, beads, etc..
  • Pierre Rey was a cotton worker, ouvrier en coton, probably involved in carding, sorting and spinning cotton.

A picture begins to form of a social circle of people working in textiles and clothing.

 

The places of residence, all in Paris, are:

  • The Mansell couple lived at number 16 or 46 of rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, then at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques, then at number 26 or 261 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Jeanne Richard Mansell died in the ninth arrondissement of Paris
  • Jean François Varrinier's boarding house was at number 17 rue du Cloître Saint Benoît
  • Josephine Thomassin lived at number 5 rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur
  • Pierre Rey lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Margueritte Cocq... [her full name is illegible] also lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Richard Thompson lived at number 6 rue de la Paix
  • Thomassine Lorguilleux's address is illegible

 

As to relationships, none of the godparents were stated as being married to one another and none seems to have been related to one another or, frustratingly, to the child baptized or to the parents. Josephine Thomassin is identified as the "wife of Cartier".

 

Analysis of the Canadian Documentation

The Canadian documentation on the Mansell family as provided by Madame J, is also quite sparse:

  • The grave stone for Thomas Mansell, in the Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery, Mississippi Mills, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada states that he was from Yorkshire and that he died in 1852 at the age of seventy-five. This would make his year of birth about 1777. There is no grave stone for his wife. 
  • The 1861  Census Canada West, Renfrew North, Westmeath shows a Marrey Mansell living with her son, Alfred Thomas Mansell. Born in France, she was aged seventy-eight.  This would make her year of birth about 1783.
  • The 1871 Census Canada, Ontario, Renfrew Co., Westmeath shows a Mariah Mensell, aged eighty-eight and born in France, living with her son. This would make her year of birth about 1783.
  • The Westmeath, Renfrew, Ontario death register entry for Marie Mansell dated the 2nd of October 1872, stated that she was ninety years old and had been born in Paris, France. This would make her year of birth about 1782.
  • The obituary of Marie's daughter, written in 1903, states that:
    • Thomas Mansell was an English weaver
    • He arrived in Paris in 1801
    • He became a prisoner when war broke out and could not leave Paris
    • Marie [Fouyol] Mansell was the widow of a French officer
    • The family left Paris in 1819 and returned to Yorkshire, where the Mansells' "only son", Alfred T. Mansell was born
    • The family arrived in Canada in 1820

The most useful facts about Marie Fouyol from the above are that:

  1. Marie's age is quite consistent with her year of birth having been about 1783.
  2. She was the widow of a French officer when she married Thomas Mansell.
  3. Her first son probably died at such an early age that her grandchildren, the probable informants for the obituary, knew nothing of his existence.

 

In the next post, we will begin to look at the above information groups in more detail.

 

UPDATE - We received this delightful and most helpful comment from Madame R by e-mail:

"Re Marie Fouyol's signature or not, I have found the same issue in the English registers, sometimes a person signed, on others a cross for his or her mark was inserted. Skilled trades who were masters, employing others and training apprentices, could write and calculate, or they could not function as a business, yet sometimes they too have a cross inserted. The reason may be that the registers were not necessarily written up on the day of the event or by the person officiating, instead written up by the clerk later - a week, or a month or so. They were sometimes inserted as a bunch all together and the register signed by the priest/rector in a long column down the right hand side. In marriage banns, some are signed, some crossed.

At this time, in Britain, the clergy often had responsibility for several churches (and the living from them) so record keeping could be a hit and miss affair at the smaller ones. (I don't know if this was true in France). In more significant churches, the record is more accurate but snobbery can affect the entries. I have an ancestor Ann Adair who signed at her marriage, her groom, a Scots gunner, could not. Both are likely to be the case. Then he lied about his father's profession, and the Rector at the protestant Cathedral in Londonderry (or Derry), recorded her father as a labourer - which meant any working man, basically not gentry like him.

Apparently, before the Famine in rural Catholic Ireland, baptisms were at the family home (for a first baby often the mother's parents house) and was followed by 'wetting the baby's head' - the drinks. The priest stayed for the drinking and then somewhat later went back to the parochial house and tried to remember who was called what. Boys names and fathers are usually recorded accurately, who the mother was or was she the witness, caused mix ups, and what was the little girl's name? Mothers and godmothers were often confused.

From which I conclude, that there were many things apart from simple truth that could affect the registers.

Thanks for the blog, very enjoyable."

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

1 The priest also wrote that Thomas Mansell and the child could not sign, giving the child's full age, probably to make a point of the fact that this was a very late baptism.

2 Le Mée René. "La réglementation des registres paroissiaux en France". Annales de démographie historique, 1975.
Démographie historique et environnement. pp. 433-477; https://www.persee.fr/doc/adh_0066-2062_1975_num_1975_1_1296 (Accessed 27 July 2021) p451.

 


Alternative Avenues to Seek a French Birth or Baptism

Antique French tools in Lalinde

The French equivalent for "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" is a phrase first written by Nicolas Boileau in 1674: "Hâtez-vous lentement et, sans perdre courage, vingt fois sur le métier remettez votre ouvrage" ("Make haste slowly and, without becoming discouraged,  set to work on the job twenty times.") Finding a French birth or baptism register entry is generally quite straightforward if one has :

  • The correct name
  • The town of birth
  • The decade of birth

A quick search in the ten-year indices for births in the town on the website of the Departmental Archives (links to them on the left) will give the full name and the precise date. One can then find the entry in the digitized birth register. Usually, that is, but not always. Bad things can happen to archives over the years. In France, as in most countries, some have burnt, some have been bombed, some have been flooded. Where to look when the birth or baptism registers concerning your ancestors have been lost? There are a few possibilities.

  • If the ancestor married, the marriage register entry will have the date and place of birth, as well as the parents' names.
  • If your ancestor married someone from a different town, check the marriage banns for that town that the couple should have posted. The marriage banns also contain the date and place of birth, as well as the parents' names.
  • If the ancestral couple had a marriage contract and you know the name of the notaire in order to find it, that too, will give the date and place of birth, as well as the parents' names of the prospective bride and groom.
  • If your ancestor served in the military, the conscription registers will have the birth details. In some large indices, such as that for the Resistance dossiers, or that for the naval officer personnel files, the date and place of birth are given.
  • If your ancestor were a member of the Légion d'Honneur, the dossier on him or her may well contain a certified copy of the birth or baptism register entry. These are now best accessed through the search facility of the Archives nationales.

Try, try again, even twenty times!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


How Your French Immigrant Ancestor Remained French

Saintonge

People of many nationalities, when they emigrated from one country to another, retained their cultural identity but often cut their legal ties with the country of origin. They kept their songs, their recipes, their religions and festivals, but let slide their continuing documentation back at home. This may have been to escape a past or it may have been too difficult to maintain contact in the days before the Pony Express or airmail or e-mail. The French, however, stand out as emigrants who often could not let go of being documented, and this is most useful to the genealogist researching them.

After the chaos and upheaval of the French Revolution, the Code Civil, first published in 1804, provided order to civil life. To this day, it represents more than law to many French; it seems also to provide the psychological comfort and security of  structure and boundary. The civil register entries that replaced the pre-Revolutionary parish register entries are used over and over again to document and confirm a person's legal existence. One must show a recent and certified copy of one's birth register entry for any number of aspects of civil life: to marry, to attend school, to get a job, to take a driving test, to get a passport, to get an identity card, to buy property, to sell property, to open a bank account, to take out a loan and, especially, to prove one's parentage when the time comes to inherit.

The Code Civil took in to account that some few French might wish to leave the blessèd hexagon but never that they would cease to be French. Article 48 of the Code Civil (Book1, Title 1) states that any civil register entry of a French citizen in a foreign land shall be legal, were it to have been entered according to French law by diplomatic agents or consuls. The consular registers were to be maintained in duplicate, with one copy to be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of the year. With slight changes and updates, the law and procedures are the same today and are prominently displayed on the website of the Ministry of Europe and of Foreign Affairs, as it is now known. 

Both copies of the consular registers of the nineteenth century are held at the Archives diplomatiques  at the Ministry's branch at Nantes, for that is where all such foreign registrations of French citizenry are maintained. One copy has been microfilmed and that may be viewed also at the Ministry's main archives centre of the Archives diplomatiques at La Courneuve, outside of Paris. To date, no copies are available online. If you know some details as to name, parents' names, date and place, you may request a copy of the register entry, at no charge, online. This link is to the version that is almost in English.

For the researcher, especially one seeking the origins of a French immigrant ancestor, these register entries can be invaluable. We have reviewed here, the book written by the archivists at the Archives diplomatiques that explains, in French, how to use the archives. We give our own discussion of how to use them, in English, here

However, it is important to note that this registration could not be enforced. There were many French emigrants who did not register their marriages or the births of their children in the new country. We have encountered:

  • A French gold miner who went to California and seems never to have registered his marriage or his children at the French consulate.
  • A deserter from the French Army after the fall of Napoleon who went to New York, (which was at that time filled with such deserters and also with French monarchists determined to hunt them down,) who lived a long life there, married and had a number of children, and who chose not to register these events with the French consul in New York.

At the same time, we have found, among those who chose to register:

  • A man from the southwest of France who registered his marriage in New York and who insisted that it be entered in the marriage register of his home town in France, which it was. Once that was done, however, he chose not to register the births of his many children.
  •  A couple from Alsace-Lorraine who had migrated to Saint Petersburg in Russia registered the births of all of their children (two of whom later emigrated to the United States) with the French consul there.

The primary (though certainly not the only) reason for registering seems to have been to ensure one's inheritance to any property in France, followed by, as in the case of the couple from Alsace-Lorraine, the desire to protect one's French citizenship when the emigration was exile. Those who did not register could have been anything from bridge burners, to crooks on the lam, to political refugees, to people who simply forgot.

In such research, you may end up with more questions than you had when you began. 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


French West Indies Research - Les Antilles français

Saint Martin

While many of you, Dear Readers, have been vaccinated, we in Europe are still waiting. Supplies are low and tempers are short. We remain convinced that, had the European purchasing department hired a few French notaires skilled at writing French marriage contracts, not a company in the world would have had the tiniest bit of wiggle room or would have been able to renege on a single delivery. Those marriage contracts constitute an undervalued weapon, we opine.

While awaiting a vaccination and also a proper springtime, we have been deeply and intensely concentrated on researching families of the French West Indies, in particular, the minuscule island of Saint Martin. As ever, with French overseas research, one begins with the Archives nationales d'outre-mer (ANOM). On their website's map showing the locations for which they have digitized parish and civil registrations, one can quickly navigate to Saint Martin.

Navigate

Once a selection is made, one is presented with a brief history of the territory in relation to the administration and documentation. Here, we learn that Saint Martin was divided between The Netherlands (who call it Sint Maarten) and France in 1648 and its administration placed under that of Guadeloupe in 1723, forming a part of that department until 2007, when it became a French Territorial Collectivity. We see that the online parish and civil registrations for Saint Martin date from 1773 to 1907, and we are invited to select a town, of which there are not many.

Select a town

It quickly becomes clear that the delightful range of years applies only partially and to only two towns. Marigot records range from 1773 to 1861 and Saint Matin town records range from 1860 to 1907. The other towns have very few records indeed.

Quite serious problems in tracing a family arise from the obvious reality of life at the time: few in their daily lives paid attention to the boundary between the French and Dutch sides of the island. The French register entries are filled with mentions that a person who was married was "born on the Dutch side" or his father "died on the Dutch side". For the researcher, since the French and Dutch bureaucrats seem not to have shared copies of registers with one another, this means that people disappear from and reappear in the records. 

For help with Dutch records, we turned to the excellent blog on Dutch genealogy by Yvette Hoitink, to find her post, "Netherlands Antilles data available online", with a link that still works and instructions. (Most helpful as we do not read Dutch well at all.) Researching here helped greatly to piece together a family that lived and registered itself on both sides of the island.

Another great help is the remarkable work of a Dutch fellow calling himself "Archives Man", Bert van der Saag. Mr. van der Saag has many more interests than genealogy or archives and they are all on display in an overabundant employment of the deceased software, Flash. We marvel at a mind that can work amongst blinking, brightly coloured images of dancers and soldiers, type fonts of all sizes in all colours with all kinds of highlights, with a few news stories and photographs added, yet his does, and very well. He has extracted data from the registers of the Dutch Antilles and typed it all, in detail, producing PDFs for Births/baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths. These he generously shares at no charge. One can search for a name in a PDF in a way that one cannot on digitized microfilm. Using Mr. van der Saag's extracts together with the online images, much can be achieved. His most recent PDF covers Saint Martin deaths from 1909 to 1937, taking us later than the records on ANOM. He also sells books.

To further one's knowledge and to ask specific questions, one needs to read more and to connect with others researching the same region, even island. Some years ago, Augusta Elmwood left the helpful comment:

"Anyone looking for Saint-Domingue information (or any French colony anywhere in the world) should check the website of the Généalogie et Historie de la Caraïbe, guided by the tireless Philippe and Bernadette Rossignol and their equally dedicated 'equipe'."

It is, indeed, a fine resource for this research, with articles, links, advice and, so precious, surname lists for their website and articles. They have a small but useful amount on the French West Indies and Saint Martin, including transcriptions of early census returns and a fabulous set of photographs of the entire finding aid to passenger lists to and from the colonies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Lastly, the website (which is ghastly) of the Museum of Saint Martin has a few hidden treasures, the most useful of which are scans of notarial records from the études (offices) of the notaires of Saint Martin. Here can be found wills, death inventories, long lists of slaves giving their names and ages, and many more civil contracts. Excellent resources here.

This is not an easy part of the world to research. The library and archives of Saint Martin do exist but have no website. The link in the list to the left on this blog takes one directly to the ANOM website. The archives of Guadeloupe have a website but no digitized records are on it. The above methods described may be the only way to find the documentation of a family who lived there. Of course, if cruising can ever again be done safely, a cruise ship that stopped at all of the French Caribbean archives towns might not be a bad idea. Let us look forward to that.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy