Lest you have come to believe, Dear Readers, that we despise the nobility and, had we been alive at the time, would have joined the rampaging sans culottes during the Revolution, permit us to assure that it is not so. Nobility and royalty, like the panda and certain other endangered species, though they have no useful purpose in and of themselves, they do serve to keep in this ugly world some beauty. The panda has an ungainly beauty; the crested crane does as well. Nobles and royals rarely have personal beauty, being as in-bred and over-bred as the pug, but they tend to possess things of great beauty and to preserve them. For this, we must be grateful. Much of the world's surviving art and architecture is with us because it was preserved by these people. They did not mean for us, the common people, to be able to see it but, bit by bit, it turns up in museums and state-owned castles for us all to admire.
Over two hundred years ago, in one sweep, it seemed, the treasures of the wealthy were confiscated by the new French Republic. Much was irretrievably lost in the mayhem. Objects of gold and silver, particularly, disappeared as they were melted down and made into ingots for a cash-strapped country to use to buy grain for its starving populace. Much, however, remained intact. Works of art went to museums or were sold at auction. Confiscated properties were sold as biens nationaux. As soon as the dust settled, many of those whose property was confiscated immediately began, through whatever legal process was available to do so, to try to get it back. A number of the dossiers of their documentation survive in the Archives nationales, in series T*. All of it is fascinating and much of it is very useful for family genealogy.
The dossiers are by family name, some four thousand of them, and are arranged into four groups:
- Papers Seized During the Revolution from individuals who were condemned or who emigrated, and from guilds, professional associations, secular communities
- Papers Found in Public Places
- Papers relating to Probate and Disinheritance
- Mixed Papers
They contain a wonderful array, going back centuries, and include, in some cases:
- proofs of titles
- royal charters and patents
- family correspondence
- military service records
- baptisms and marriages
- notarial acts, such as sales/purchases, inheritance, wills, marriage contracts, probate inventories
To find out if your noble ancestors made such a claim, you need only search on the family name here. Then, through the system of the Archives nationales, you can request a copy. But beware! Files can be VERY large, making the copying fee very expensive.
Be sure to re-read our post on researching émigré ancestors.
* Not to be confused with the TT series, which concerns the properties of Protestants and Huguenots.
©2024 Anne Morddel