Well, Dear Readers, we may have met our match, being the staff of an archive facility to dampen our enthusiasm. We sauntered in to the Archives municipales de Colmar on a cold and sunny Monday afternoon. The reading room was small but easily accessible.
The staff were joking and making strange cat meow imitations amongst themselves, yet there was a glint of malice in the eye of one and overt suspicion in that of another (we will let off the apprentice, even though, later, when he blundered as to a carton number, he offered to forgive us the mistake.)
Procedures were as usual. We completed forms and showed our identity card. All was acceptable, it seemed. We were then handed a flimsy ticket by way of a reader's card, given with an explanation as slow as if we were a possible fool (and were we, for going there in the first place, we wonder), "This is so you will not have to fill out the forms again if you ever come back". The tone clearly implied that we had better not. Back to joking with one another and making animal sounds, no one offered to help us with finding aids; no one asked about our research or how to orient us. To be sure, these things are not required but they are a nicety one find regularly in most French archives.
With real trepidation, we put our bags in the designated locker - purple again. (What attraction do the municipal archives of the region see in this ghastly shade of purple?) That done, we turned to the set of drawers that dominated the room and that had lured us from the moment we entered. They held large index cards of transcriptions of every single parish registration made in Colmar, from its earliest days, all in alphabetical order. A genealogical researcher's dream!
We plunged in, looking at names in the letter Z, when the jolly animal imitator appeared from nowhere and quite forcefully slammed shut the drawer. We barely managed to save our fingers and looked at him with our own concoction of dismay and disdain. "I was afraid you might bump your head", he said, as irrationally as a madman.
It went from bad to worse.
We moved to the relative safety of a table and took out our notepad, pencil and camera. From behind a glass wall lunged a possible archivist, a woman of a certain age, in a shawl and dudgeon, scolding us from afar. "No photographs! You must ask permission before every photograph! You must write down every picture you take!" We were taken aback, not so much by the request, an extreme version of the norm, but by its somewhat frantic and hysterical delivery.
As the afternoon wore on and the staff's jokes and scoldings wore us down, we did manage to discover that this is an amazing archival collection covering hundreds of years of the city's history. Should you ever decide to visit the Municipal Archives of Colmar, wear a suit of armour and, as the staff will do nothing to help you, we show you here what we found to be one of the best of finding aids for the holdings from the beginnings to 1815.
Accompanying this are large, green books that give a great deal more detail for each series, including complete lists of all names that appear. Additionally, for the era during the Revolutionary years, Colmar, unlike many cities, has annual census returns for the years 1790 through 1815, with only a couple of gaps.
Should your ancestors hail from Colmar, Dear Readers, you really should visit these archives but be warned, oh be warned.
©2018 Anne Morddel