Military

Can You Find the Record of an Italian Ancestor in Napoleon's Army of Italy?

Grenadier Italien

Briefly, in answer to the question we pose in the title of this post, yes, but it is not easy and not always possible. As with any French military research, the amount of archival material is so great that it is hard to find one's way through it. If you are new to this, the Archives nationales has a nice explanation of how to start. In English, you have our own explanation on "Researching a Conscript".

We begin this search, as ever, with history. Originally, the French Army of Italy was not an army of Italians, but an army to protect France's borders with Italy. It became something quite different and impressive when Napoleon, in the 1790s, made significant changes. As this excellent article by Professor Francesco Frasca explains, when Napoleon formed "sister republics" to France from the old Italian principalities, the Lombard Legion also was created. The other republics had legions and regiments as well. It is crucial, in this historical research phase, to look for the regiments in which Italians served because the archives are arranged such that one must know a soldier's regiment in order to be able to search for him in muster lists and registers.

On Wikipedia, a detailed listing of the composition of the Army of Italy from 1792 to 1793 can be found. Those years are too early to include Italians; one would have to determine which regiments remained in the Army of Italy (later the Army of the Realm of Italy) until 1796 and later, then which ones might include the ancestor in question. This article, by Ricky Gomez and Zbynio Olszewski, is on Napoleon's Foreign Infantry, and contains a very useful section on the Italian regiments of infantry. This article, by Paul L. Dawson, "Napoleon's Foreign Troops in 1815", is our last suggestion. While reading it may revive thoughts of serious discipline for the inventor of "auto-correct" (a grave misnomer), it is nevertheless useful for its explanation of how foreigners were scattered throughout the French Army and not strictly grouped together by nationality. By the time you finish with these, you will understand how important it is to know the regiment before beginning the hunt.

The online hunt is limited, for the time being, to infantry regiments, imperial guards, royal guards and consular guards, all held in Series 20 and 21 YC in the Service Historique de la Défense, the only series of regimental registers of the First Empire to be digitized so far on their website Mémoire des Hommes. (For a deeper understanding of them, the military archives of SHD are brilliantly explained on Geneawiki) Not to worry, there is plenty of work there. Taking a look at the Gomez article, for example, it mentions that the 113th Regiment of Infantry of the Line was formed of troops from Tuscany. Going to the site Mémoire des Hommes, selecting Recrutement et Parcours Individuels from the menu, then selecting Rechercher dans les instruments de recherche and, finally, using the filters (in pink, on the right in the image below), we come to six filmed registers of  the 113th Regiment of Infantry of the Line.

 

113e regiment

We selected the first, showing the formation of the regiment on the 1st of January 1810. There are over three thousand pages, full of Italians. The pages are not fully indexed. (Read more about the ongoing indexing project here and here.) However, the genealogical findings are a reward, as this entry shows:

 

Becastrini and Gateschi

The 113th regiment is identified at the top of the screen as previously having been known as the "Tuscan Regiment". A few others with such Italian names or composition are:

  • The 111th Regiment of Infantry of the Line was formed of many men from Piedmont
  • The 32nd Light Infantry Regiment was primarily Tuscan
  • The 133rd Regiment of Infantry of the Line, the "Mediterranean Regiment" contained Italians from different regions
  • The 6th Regiment of Infantry of the Line, the "Napoli Regiment" contained some men from the Neapolitan municipal guards
  • The 8th Regiment of Infantry of the Line also contained some Neapolitans, beginning in 1811

Should you have more energy that we do, you can read through all of the regimental histories provided by the links here. (Many German, Irish, Dutch, Swiss and Polish regiments are identified on that page, but not the Italian, sad to say.)

Not digitized are the correspondence records of the Army of Italy in Service Historique de la Défense, in Series GR C. You can read through the finding aid here, on pages 96 to 107. If you are certain of a folder, you can then request a researcher to examine it for you in the archives.

If your Italian ancestor lived long enough, he could turn up in the list of recipients of the Medal of Saint Helena, as we explain here.

Many thanks to Monsieur N for inspiring this post.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Passenger Lists From Morlaix - Crossing the English Channel During the Napoleonic Wars

ADM 480:103 cover

We have been extremely busy, Dear Readers, working with a wonderful set of passenger lists from the early nineteenth century. Though England and France were at war from 1803 to 1815 (with a small break for a tenuous victory), travel between the two countries did not cease, not at all. There was a fairly steady stream of people moving in both directions, including:

  • Released British prisoners returning home
  • Released French prisoners arriving from Britain
  • American diplomats and merchants voyaging between Paris and London
  • Wives and children of British détenus returning to Britain
  • French civilians going to and returning from Britain

They all had to travel via Morlaix, the only port in the French Empire from which it was permitted to sail for or arrive from England. The set of passenger lists with which we are working are the original departing passenger lists from Morlaix (arrival lists seem not to have survived), signed by the port officer, the Commissaire de la Marine à Morlaix, a Monsieur Dusaussois, and countersigned by the British port authority on arrival, usually at Dartmouth. We have not finished with them but they appear to cover the years from 1810 to 1814, and give some very interesting and useful details for the genealogist and for the historian. For each passenger, is given the:

  • Name
  • Place of origin - this can be just a country but is usually a city
  • Age
  • Profession or status, e.g. seaman, captain, passenger, etc.
  • If a prisoner of war returning to Britain, where they had been captured
  • Details and dates of their passports, which often reveal where they had been in France

ADM 103:480 sample 2

Here, we have a passenger list from July of 1812. (War against Great Britain had just been declared by the United States but these passengers may not yet have had the news.)

1. John WASTON [possibly WATSON], of Ireland, aged 11, Student, Passport of 15 June 1812, delivered by the Commandant of the Depot of Prisoners of War at Verdun on the decision of His Excellency the Minister of War of 19 March preceding. 

2. Allen CASE, of New Bedford, United States , aged 34, ship captain, Taken by the privateer, ESPADON, from the ship, MASSACHUSETTS, which he commanded. Passport from the Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America at Paris on 10 June 1812, no. 250, visa given by the Minister of External Relations and by the Police General on 12 and 19 of the same month. To embark at Morlaix.

3. Lazarus LEBARON, of Rochester, [Massachusetts]  aged 23, Mate, Included on the same passport.

4. William MILES, of Montgomery, aged 24, Seaman

5. Isaac STEWARD, black, of Philadelphia , aged 25, Seaman

6. John HERRIGTON, of Chatham, America, aged 21, Seaman

7. Samuel SKILDING, of Stramford [Stamford?], aged 20, Seaman

8. Eliza TUCKER, Mrs. HICKMAN, English, aged 24, Passenger, Road pass, dated 24 June 1812, no. 330, delivered by the Commandant of arms at Longwy, following the order of His Excellency the Minister of War.

9. Caroline HICKMAN, English, aged 20 months,Within the same Passport.

10. Mrs. Eliza HOLMES, widow of William ARNOLD, Lieut. R.N., of Mortonhall, aged 24, Passport dated 8 June 1812, no. 426, delivered by the Mayor of the City of Verdun, visa given by the prefecture of Police at Paris on the 30th of the month of June, no. 36738.

So, above, you have a young Irish boy, the crew of a captured American vessel, the MASSACHUSETTS, travelling to Britain, presumably expecting it to be easier there to find a vessel going to the United States, and three British women passengers coming from the prison depots at Longwy and Verdun.

These French documents have not survived in French archives but, remarkably, in the National Archives of Great Britain at Kew, in the Admiralty series ADM 103/480. Joyously for those of you, Dear Readers, who wish to see them, they are online on FindMyPast.co.uk, where the quality of indexing is, as we see so often on these commercial websites, abysmal. (For example Mme., the abbreviation for Madame, is repeatedly indexed as a first name. This sort of shabby work hinders rather than helps research.) We are profoundly indebted to Monsieur B.C. for helping us to find this series.

Further to the same pursuit, we recently embarked upon our first research voyage since the beginning of the pandemic, and visited the Municipal Archives of Morlaix. For years, it has been on our list of important archives that must be seen. It was in the Town Hall of Morlaix, facing the viaduct, in a lovely room of tall book cases.

AM Morlaix 1

AM Morlaix 2

These archives are open only on Thursdays and visits must be booked in advance. The archivist, when we booked, warned us that there was not much from the First Empire. He did not lie; there was next to nothing from that period. Our hopes of significant discoveries were dashed. 

However, we did come across a very pertinent government publication of instructions concerning passports for French citizens and for foreigners, that goes a long way to explaining the passport notes on the Morlaix passenger lists, above.

Finistere Passport Instructions 1a

Finistere Passport Instructions 2a

Finistere Passport Instructions 3a

Finistere Passport Instructions 4a

Finistere Passport Instructions 5a

For those of you researching an ancestor of this period, particularly but not exclusively a British prisoner of war in France, these passenger lists may be most useful.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


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