Military

Indexing Napoleon's Army - a Progress Report

Garde imperialeOfficer and soldier of the Garde Imperiale from "Collection des types de tous les corps et des uniformes militaires de la république et de l'empire d'après les dessins de M. Hippolyte Bellangé", J.-J. Dubochet et Cie, Paris, 1844. BNF Gallica.

Dear Readers, we do not usually accept puff pieces but, in this case, we agree that there is quite a lot to puff about. And we are keen on all things First Empire. We have written previously about French military records and about researching the men who served in Napoleon's army. The latter has become much easier thanks to two events: the completed digitization of the registers of the men and the indexing of them by an army of volunteers, as explained in the following by Geneanet's Sean Daly. Read on.

At Geneanet, we are really excited about a major milestone: our community of genealogists has just topped 1 million indexed Napoléon's soldiers! Like all data contributed by members, this dataset is free and available to all.

This has been a long-running project. In late 2013, France's Ministère des Armées published a first batch of 1,191 carefully digitized registres matricules - military muster roll registers - covering the period 1802-1815 for the gardes consulaire, impériale et royale (Consular, Imperial and Royal Guards) and l'infanterie de ligne - the line infantry. This was exciting, but there was a major problem: without an index, it was nearly impossible to locate a soldier unless the unit was already known, and even then a page-by-page inspection of the register was required.

Geneanet members Claude Valleron and Alain Brugeat, the project coordinator these past few years, stepped up to help other volunteers index the archive. As the project has advanced, we have celebrated milestones along the way with round numbers: 100,000; 400,000; 850,000. We feel reaching 1,000,000 indexed soldiers, thanks to the work of volunteers, is worthy of recognition.

Every record has a treasure trove of information for the genealogist; more information can be found in our blog post. Use the link on each record to inspect the original scan hosted by the Ministère des Armées, which often has even more information such as rank, injuries, or decorations.

The soldiers of Napoléon's Grande Armée were, of course, mostly French. But under the Empire, "French" soldiers joined from Belgium, Italy, today's Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Switzerland. The Geneanet indexers have made every effort to add today's département to each French record to facilitate cross searching in the archives départementales.

Historians will no doubt wish to refer to the French Archives de la Défense finding aid, and compare it to the list of registers fully or partially indexed or awaiting indexing.

So, is the project finished? Not at all! Estimates vary, but there may be from 400,000 to 800,000 soldiers left to index. If you speak French and are interested in participating in this project, please visit the project page and also our forum thread. And take a look at our other collaborative projects!

For those researching the military of the First Empire, and we are legion, this is grand news, indeed. Many thanks to Sean for the guest post.

(All puns intended)

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


The Men of the Gardes Mobiles Who Joined the California Gold Rush

Garde Mobile to California

Dear Readers, we are quite chuffed to be able to tell you that our article about the men of the Gardes mobiles who went to California to find gold has appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of The California Nugget the journal of the California Genealogical Society. As some of you may recall, we have been working on this subject for quite a while, writing about passenger lists of the California-bound here, and writing reviews of books on the subject here and here. It was in the last that we read the essay, Une émigration insolite au XIXe siècle, Les soldats des barricades en Californie (1848-1853), by Madeleine Bourset, and learned for the first time of the men who had fought in Paris during the Revolution of 1848 and who were sent to California afterward. 

Who were they? Their names could be found nowhere, had been published nowhere. What was their story? It took many years, many visits to archives and even more e-mails and letters to archivists before we, at long last, had the complete list of all the names of the Gardes mobiles who went to California. We cannot take full credit for finding it; the last hunt was done by a superbly diligent and generous archivist in the naval archives at Toulon, Madame Boucon, under the auspices of Monsieur Triboux,* but we shall take credit for persevering, even pestering, in the quest. 

We are grateful to the editors at The California Nugget for accepting our article, with the entire passenger list of the guards' names, for publication. They then did some very impressive further research to discover the stories and descendants of as many of the men as possible, producing biographical sketches on the following men:

  • Deligne
  • Ducroquet
  • Dulac
  • Gaillard
  • Lucien
  • Mené
  • Pelissier
  • Sauffrignon
  • Souillié
  • Tridon

With this issue, the editors have created what we believe to be the definitive study to date on the Californian Gardes mobiles and we are quite honoured to have been a contributor to it. Should you have an ancestor  amongst this fascinating and hitherto unnamed group, we hope that you will find this issue of The California Nugget to be of aid to your genealogical research.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

* Read here of other generous acts of research on the part of French archivists.


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter S

Escrime - Challenge!

Again, few of the submissions give instructions on how to do genealogical research, with the excellent exception of the first given below:

  • Michèle Bodénès explains how to research, as much as is possible, all of the Senators of France since 1814.
  • Chronique familiale looks at both burials, sépultures, and nicknames, surnoms, with some interesting explanations about the customs concerning the latter. Not all surnoms are "dit-names".
  • GeneaBreizh also looks at sépultures and the language of parish registrations indicating burials.
  • GénéaTrip looks at the project of Génénet.org to photograph all the grave markers of all the cemeteries of France. We discuss cemeteries and the project here.
  • Des Racines et des arbres looks at researching eighteenth century soldiers.
  • Souvenirs d'ancêtres explains French nineteenth century military conscription and documentation, a subject we have touched on here. For further military research, you might want to read this post.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letters P and Q

Escrime - Challenge!

Up to the letters P and Q in the ChallengeAZ and the contributor numbers are slipping a bit. We recommend:

  • Généa79, writing on the improbable surnames given to foundlings and illegitimate children. Should you have such amongst your ancestors, Dear Readers, do peruse this to try to get an idea of what sorts of surnames can help to identify (as was, surely, the intention) such children. It can save you much time in wasted research on a fabricated surname.
  • Sur nos traces gives a superb history lesson, using the military records, of the Fourth Legion of Reserves in Napoleon's Army, the Peninsular War and the sufferings of prisoners of war in the British hulks and on the island of Cabrera.
  • Généalogie Alsace describes something we also have found on occasion: a local census written by a parish priest and entered into a parish register. They are rare and precious and a good reason to look at the back of every register on which you are working. Always.
  • Sandrine Heiser explains the different types of identity cards issued to the people of Alsace-Lorraine from 1918, when the region became French again and when some very unpleasant expulsion of ethnically "undesirable" residents was practiced.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter M

Escrime - Challenge!

The letter M marks the half-way point of the ChallengeAZ. Perhaps we have lost a couple of participants along the way, for their number dropped for the last letter, but they may submit a number of posts in a rush, or we may never hear from them again. Today's better contributions include:

  •  La Chronologie familiale looks at the basics of a nineteenth century marriage registration, very briefly, as we once did in English here.
  • Once again, Généalogie Alsace is quite helpful for researchers in providing a small lexicon of Alsatian-German terms used in marriage registers.
  • Chronique familiale explains marginal notes in civil registers.
  • Antequam... la généalogie! continues to be excellent with a long explanation of how to use the Monuments aux morts (the monuments to war dead found in every town and village of France, as we described here) for genealogical research.
  • Passerelle généalogie shows remarkable courage in discussing the Mormon church, then proceeds to give an extremely thorough and practical tutorial on how to explore the French records on FamilySearch.

Some very good work here.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter L

Escrime - Challenge!

We are happy to report that things are picking up, Dear Readers, as our intrepid bloggers have a new spurt of energy. Or it may be that L is an easier letter than others.

  • Traces et Petits cailloux continues to write about the Acadians, in this post about those deported in 1755 to England, arriving at various ports, including that of Liverpool.
  • Souvenirs d'ancêtres discusses laws and the importance of knowing them at any given time covered by your research, not only for historical context but to know how to interpret the documents you may find. Excellent.
  • Antequam la généalogie! explains the research usefulness of electoral lists. Our own post on the subject can be found here.
  • Des racines et des arbres gives a very helpful survey of Latin terms for genealogists.
  • Feuilles d'ardoise delves into the difficulties of spelling variations of surnames and how to find them all when searching a database. This is  important for too many of you, Dear Readers, search for just one spelling of an ancestral name, when there easily could have been half a dozen.
  • Sandrine Heiser, who writes Lorraine ... et au-delà!, has a suggestion for how to find the military record of an ancestor who served in the German Army by using the lists of men missing or killed to learn more about their rank and regiment.
  • Généa79 has a scholarly article by Monique Bureau on a complicated case of legitimation in the seventeenth century - with almost all of the research done on documents uploaded to Geneanet. We wrote a much smaller explanation of legitimation in France here.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter I

Escrime - Challenge!

The ChallengeAZ continues through this long week-end. 

  • Des Racines et des arbres made the interesting observation that infirmities or handicaps are almost never mentioned in parish registers. The author found just four mentions, and shows them. To be sure, one would not expect to find many of such mentions for the registers were about basic identity and catholicité and rarely give professions, causes of death, physical descriptions, etc.
  • Archivistoires brings to our attention a new association and website dedicated to preserving personal archives of ordinary people, Mirco-Archives. This is in its infancy but could become quite interesting. 
  • Nos racines - Notre Sang has been dedicated, for the entirety of the ChallengeAZ, to using newspapers for genealogical research. The individual posts have been pithy, to say the least, but as the body of work grows, it is becoming a rather valuable tutorial.
  • Sur Nos Traces astonished us with the revelation that there was an effort to create a Jewish, or Israélite, regiment in Napoleon's Army. A very interesting a thoroughly researched article, with a transcription of the sole, surviving list of conscripts.
  • Généalogie Alsace has another gem of a post, this time on identity cards. We have written about French identity cards here, but these are the cards specific to this region, issued to the inhabitants after it was returned to France in 1918, and after each of them could prove they were truly Alsatian.
  • Autant de nos ancêtres also writes about identity cards, giving as an example one from the 1940s. 

 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter H

Escrime - Challenge!

Rich pickings today, Dear Readers, with many choosing for the letter H to discuss something concerning hospitals. Quite a few explain resources to help with your French genealogical research.

  • Carole Croze writes about using the hospital registers of the Hôtel Dieu of Lyon, found in the Municipal Archives of Lyon.
  • Sur nos traces has a long a beautifully illustrated article on the very important Hôpital Rothschild in Paris, the archives of which we have found to be very useful in Parisian Jewish research.
  • GénéaBreizh makes the case, as we often have done, for you knowing your history, Dear Readers, giving a pithy but powerful set of examples showing why.
  • Sur la piste de mes ayeuls, under the guise of "H for Hispaniola", writes about Saint Domingue,  giving quite a lot of history but also discussing the research usefulness of the online passports from Bordeaux, which we discussed here.
  • Antequam... la généalogie! explains the use of the hypothèque archives, which we discussed here.
  • De Branches en branches gives a thorough example of how to use the online Legion of Honour files, which we explained in English here.
  • Archivistoires has an excellent presentation of the archival Series H in Municipal Archives, the series covering all things military.

Municipal Archives are a valuable and under-used resource for genealogists; it is nice to see them discussed in two posts on the same day.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


ChallengeAZ 2021 - The letter D

Escrime - Challenge!

Just to be clear, Dear Readers, as we select what we consider to be the best blog posts appearing for each letter in the ChallengeAZ 2021, we do not mean to imply that the others are not also interesting (or only rarely do we mean to do so). The many posts that tell a person's story or a village's history are charming but few of them reveal research skills or advice that can be of use to you in your French genealogy research. But for the odd recipe that looks too tasty to omit, our selections are those posts that we believe could help you to learn a new skill or resource that would advance your research into your own French ancestors.

The posts published for the letter D that we consider to be the best are:

  • Sur nos traces looks at how hospital registers noted the religion of a patient, a tiny mark yielding information important to identification.
  • Généa79 looks at a number of notarial records in one family that show how a couple were able to leave their estate to an adopted child.
  • Murmures d'ancêtres also looks at notarial records, from a unique angle, we opine.
  • Sandrine Heiser looks at records about dissidents in the military archives at Service Historique de la Défense
  • GénéaTrip discusses how to document one's genealogical research. This is not a common concern among French genealogists, so it is nice to find it covered here. (We had a number of posts on the subject of citation beginning here.)

We do hope you are not flagging; we have a long way to go yet.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Salon de Généalogie 2021 - Three Good Talks

Salon de genealogie

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy