Encounter With a Genealogist Who Specializes in Alsace-Lorraine

Au dela des racines

At the Lunéville salon, we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the genealogist, Sandrine Roux-Morand, owner of Au Delà des Racines, who specializes in Alsace-Lorraine research, especially into the Protestant and Jewish families of the region. This is a part of France in which people not only suffered from their territory changing national hands more than once but, even when all was calm, many of them chose to move from one side of the border to the other, and perhaps back again. Thus, a genealogist here really needs to be able to work in both French and German languages and archives to be able to trace the ancestry of these families. Madame Roux-Morand is fluent in both languages and has the research skills necessary.

She has a partner genealogist who will research in German archives but one imagines that she hardly requires much help as she has been selected to be the author of the upcoming book on German genealogy to be published by the ubiquitous Archives & Culture. The help will be, perhaps, in having someone on the spot to help navigate the road-blocks of German archives. As Madame Roux-Morand explains, the openness and generosity of the French archival tradition does not exist in Germany, where little is online, access is not permitted and nothing is free. There, apparently, one must pay a researcher to pull the record, then pay for a copy to be made by officials and, naturally, pay the postage for it to be sent.

A year or two ago, Madame Roux-Morand enhanced her qualifications by completing the diploma course in genealogy at the University of Nîmes, taught by Stéphane Cosson. We were very curious to hear about that course (much discussed in previous posts) from the point of view of a student. Her praise of the course was unqualified; she found it excellent. She told of class visits to archives facilities and of other exercises and studies but there was one that she described that we think, Dear Readers, could stand us all in good stead.

In this exercise, all students worked on the same family’s lineage. They were divided into four groups of four people each, and each group concentrated on a single generation of the family, gathering and transcribing all possible documentation on every individual of that generation. Then, they exchanged their work, so that fresh eyes could go over it. Think of the blunders and transcription errors that could be caught and corrected if every family’s historians tackled the research in such a fashion!

Madame Roux-Morand has another arrow in her quiver in that she also does the genealogical research for clients of psycho-généalogistes, (transgenerational psychotherapy).  Her colleagues are fully qualified therapists who, in some cases, think that their client may benefit from knowing more of their family history. It is a type of research requiring additional skills, including the ability to access and understand certain medical records. More importantly, it is clear that Madame Roux-Morand has the sensitive and intelligence to deliver and explain the research results with sensitivity. We have often wondered if this type of genealogical research, in addition to historical research, might not help to understand that mystery of why an ancestor chose to leave France and to immigrate to a new land.

Do have a look at her clean and elegant website to see the many aspects of genealogy which she pursues. 

It was a delight to meet this enthusiastic and obviously expert genealogist here in Alsace-Lorraine and we expect she will have and we do wish her many future successes.

Au Delà des Racines

Sandrine Roux-Morand

6 rue de la Charmille

67200 Strasbourg

www.audeladesracines.fr

sroux-morand@orange.fr

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Cercle de Généalogie Juive

CGJ

One of the main reasons that we attended the salon in Lunéville was in the hope that there might be a group dedicated to the research of the Mennonites of the region, but no. Nevertheless, the hunt for associations of specialists in research into religious groups was not at all fruitless. Alsace and Lorraine have and had a large Jewish community, so the presence of the Cercle de Généalogie Juive at the Grand Salon de Généalogie, Histoire, Patrimoine à Lunéville was most sensible and welcome. Their table with all of their publications was fascinating. Of particular interest to some of our Dear Readers will be the book on Sephardim from the Ottoman Empire (of whom there were some eight thousand) who came to France during the First World War, Destins de Séfarades Ottomans : les Israélites du Levant en France pendant la Première Guerre mondial, by Philippe Denan.

Other publications include:

  • Extracts from various sources on the Jewish communities of Lorraine
  • Books about Jewish cemeteries throughout France, with photographs of each tombstone, transcriptions of the engravings and histories of the communities
  • A regular review, Généalo-J, produced three times per year, and which has many articles that are research guides

Many of these may be purchased as PDF documents and downloaded immediately. A complete list of the many, many publications may be found here.

The group is quite dynamic, with monthly lectures at the Mémorial de la Shoah and monthly genealogy clinics to help you with your research at the Mediathèque du Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris.

The organization is perhaps the best resource for French Jewish genealogy.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A Genealogy Fair in Lorraine - Le Salon de Généalogie à Lunéville

Salon 10

France does not have one of those national, gigantic genealogy gatherings on the scale of a National Genealogy Society Annual Conference or a RootsTech. This is for two reasons, we posit: firstly, there is a strong opposition among family historians to the commercialization of genealogy and, secondly, France does not really do massive extravaganzas of any type (except, perhaps, those Quatorze Juillet military parades that so impressed Old Man Potter).

However, there are many regional events that are, though smaller and less commercial, perhaps more interesting and less filled with sales pitches than the larger, American events. The only commercial presence was a stand for Filae, run by very polite people.

Filae

If you attended our recent course, you will have learned that Filae has purchased access to a number of extracts of some parish but mostly civil registrations from some regional genealogy associations around France. For a fee, you can access them and search them on Filae, bearing in mind that it is only a small part of the country's many such extracts published by the genealogy associations.

Understandably, the associations that have done this work, (all voluntarily, mind you), are quite proud of their accomplishments. They are keen to share and these regional fairs are one of the main ways to benefit from that. Most of the tables or stands at these fairs are not people selling access to commercial genealogy websites, they are local genealogy associations selling their own, highly specialized publications and offering to do free searches on their impressively complete databases. So, most of the people visiting are not professionals, but keen family historians bringing their brick walls and getting free help and solutions.

Free searches

It really is rather lovely, if much slower and pokier than research online. One meets experts in local family names, local history and local variations in palaeography, as is reflected by the proper name for this event: Grand Salon de Généalogie, Histoire, Patrimoine à Lunéville.

There were, obviously, stands of local Lorraine genealogy associations, but also those from Corrèze, Saône-et-Loire, neighbouring Vosges, Côte-d'Or, Nord, and plenty of others. Each had brought their computers loaded with the databases of all of their extracts (and some associations have completed extracting and indexing ALL of their department's parish and civil registrations) and people were queuing  for free searches. You can begin to see why Filae and other commercial genealogy services might be viewed with hostility at such events. In fact, we have been told (in an interview to follow) that professional genealogists are often banned from having stands at such salons, (which, by the way, are also almost always free to attend).

Should you ever find yourself doing a bit of genealogy tourism in France, check on Geneagenda to see what is on in the areas you will be visiting. Show your support by joining a couple of associations and purchasing some publications. Perhaps you will break down some brick walls. Then, enjoy the entertainment:

Salon 7

Salon 6

 

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


The Sad Archives Municipales of Epinal

AM Epinal Brochure

This has to be one of the saddest and most neglected of all the archives facilities we ever have visited. It is clear that municipal archives have not yet landed on France’s golden list of improvement projects. A dozen cities or more now have fabulous tram systems. Nearly all of the Departmental Archives have received new buildings, many of them close to one of those luxurious tram stops. Public spending is something in which France glories and we really do wish that they would spend on municipal archives.

AM Epinal Entry

The sad municipal archives of Epinal are housed, literally, in a garage. It is the city’s garage for its service vehicles, so there was a great, stinking rubbish truck next to the entry when we arrived. At the sight of it, we suddenly understood why our efforts by e-mail to make an appointment to visit the archives had been brusquely rebuffed.

The archives website said it was open but could be visited by appointment only. We wrote and asked for an appointment. No, we were told. We wrote again asking to see those documents pertaining to religious history in the town. No, we were told, and it was suggested that we try the Departmental Archives of Vosges. We tried one more time, asking for a series that is almost always in municipal archives and not others, the passports issued by towns during the Terror in 1793 and 1794. No, again.

We went for a walk. We looked at the town. As we walked, that unwarranted rejection niggled, so we strolled up to the garage, braved the smell and opened the door marked archives. Grim stairs were to be climbed. We arrived in a tiny, electric purple entry that was also the reading room. One desk, one chair and shocking purple walls constituted the most remarkable reading room we have yet tried.

AM Epinal reading room

Stunned at our arrival, the assistant rushed to our aid, while her superior bellowed orders from her office but did not come round the corner to see us. In this tiny space, it seemed ludicrous. Yet, when she overheard that we were asking about a specific series, she came bounding out with unexpected enthusiasm and was most helpful. We were able to book to see the cartons that afternoon.

When we returned after the lunch break, there were smiles all around. The cartons were ready, the extremely helpful assistant had gone online and printed off numerous pages related to and most helpful for our research. Her boss had retreated around the corner and was again shouting comments without coming out.

The research was not entirely without result. We took some photos and asked permission to put them here to show to you, Dear Readers, as nice nineteenth century examples of passports issued by French consulates. For the first time ever, permission was refused.

“Ask at the town hall,” came the bitter shout. The assistant smiled apologetically. We thanked her and left, carrying with us the impression not that this was wilful obstruction, but that we had that day witnessed an extreme case of professional despair, one most warranted, at that.

Dear Readers, should you ever find yourselves in Epinal, do two things:

1) Visit and use the Municipal Archives, and

2) Visit the town hall (a five minutes’ walk away) and leave a written complaint at the bad treatment and housing of the archives, while praising the archivists.

Perhaps we can help to bring about an improvement.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Alsace-Lorraine Junket

Gare de l'Est 2

 

Oh, Dear Readers, apologies all round. Has The FGB ever endured such a hiatus? We cannot recall one so long but for those of you who attended our online course, we do hope that you feel that the silence here was counterbalanced by the effort at erudition there. Many thanks to the VIGR for inviting us to give the course and to Michael Hait for hosting it so nicely. Most of all, many thanks to those of you who attended the course. The next presentation, in February, is to be on French notarial records using a single family as a case study. The types of notarial records discussed in depth will be estate inventories, marriage contracts and wills, followed by an explanation of how to find them online.

Now, Dear Readers, back to The FGB, to which we return with enthusiasm as we take you with us on a junket (how we do love our junkets) to, at long last, Alsace-Lorraine. We departed from the newly glitzy Gare de l'Est in Paris and plan to visit the Departmental Archives of Vosges and Haut-Rhin, possibly those of Bas-Rhin, as well as some municipal archives facilities and some genealogy associations. There may be a genealogy show or two on the way. It is our intention to report to you, our Dear Patient Readers, every step of the way.

Send your comments while we are on the road, please! (Next day:) Many thanks for all of your comments. One of the subjects on which we will be concentrating is the Mennonites.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Join Our Online Course - First Steps in French Genealogy

VIGR

Our most recent long silence is due to our refining and perfecting the lectures we will be giving online via the VIGR, entitled First Steps in French Genealogy. We will explain in detail over four lectures how to begin your research into your French ancestry and how to use online resources. This is aimed at the beginning researcher but as we will have the luxury of time, we will be able to include many hints and details that will help even the most advanced researcher the better to interpret and use the registrations. Please do sign up now and join us!


Guest Post - Researching a French Ancestor of Berlin

Sad lady

We have received a wonderful guest post from Loyal FGB Reader, Monsieur C, detailing his research of French ancestors in Berlin and Mainz.

 

My success story for today: I have an ancestor Peter Franz Nicolas Bello (1743-1821), who lived in Berlin, married twice, had eight children, and died, all in Berlin.  But, his origins were not known.  No baptism could be found for him in Berlin.  His marriage records did not mention his parents’ names.   A few of his records, including his burial, used French forms of his names, Pierre or Francois, so I suspected he might have been French. 

Another cousin and I have been working on this problem for nearly 50 years.  We both hired separate researchers in Berlin, but no one could find anything.  Most of the French in Germany at that time seem to be Huguenots, but most of them arrived closer to 1685, so his baptism should be in Germany, right?  What to think or do?

I don’t usually subscribe to ancestry.com at the International level, as for so long they were so limited for the extra money.  But, every few years I get tempted to try again, to see if anything new turns up which is of value in my research.  

Subscribing anew, I saw that Ancestry now has a lot of pertinent Berlin records to this case, so I thought I would try to find them all and look them over for any possible clues which might point to new research.  

After successfully finding the records for his two marriages, baptisms for his eight children and his burial, one thing among them drew my attention: in the 1802 baptism for his eighth child, there was a witness, Catherine Mathee, born Bello.  Aha!  Perhaps an aunt or a sister.  Another witness was Joseph Mathee of Mainz.  Perhaps her husband or son?  Perhaps researching Catherine might reveal new information. 

1802 baptism

Searching ancestry.com for Catherine Mathee in Mainz, I was pleasantly surprised to find an 1806 Mainz death record for Catherine Matheo.  Better, it was linked to the actual record.  Better yet, the record was in French (Napoleon’s France controlled Mainz from 1795-1814, which they called Mayence), so I could mostly read it. 

1806 death

It said she was 65 (so born about 1740/41, so probably Pierre’s sister), she was born in Metz, Dept. of Moselle, and that her parents were Francois Bello and Catherine ___. 

Finally, I had a new place to look for Pierre’s baptism, records were available on-line, and possible parents’ names.  OK, maybe they weren’t Huguenots, but they were French.

Metz had 15 parishes, and it took me more than a week of paging through 1740-1743 records, looking for Pierre and Catherine, and I finally found Pierre’s baptism in the 14th parish, Saint Simplice (his mother’s name was not Catherine, though it turns out that was his paternal grandmother’s name).   

It is so pleasing to finally know his name as baptized was Pierre Nicolas François Bello, to know his birthplace of Metz, his birthdate of Dec. 8, 1743, and his parents’ names: Nicolas François Bello and Elisabeth Evrard. 

1743 baptism

After a concerted effort, I also found sister Catherine Bello’s baptism in 1741, born Jan. 7, even though it had eluded me and a later-discovered previously-published work on archive.org because the extracted “margin” name was wrong (Catherine Francois instead of Catherine Bello).  It would have saved me a many hours if I had had this reference before.  I also found via filae.com that there were also two later children not mentioned, Joseph and Pierre, who were baptized some distance from Metz. 

1741 Baptism

This case also included an interesting scenario where Pierre’s father Nicolas Francois also had a 13-years younger brother with the same name, Nicolas Francois. I have found that usually when another child in a family is given a name previously used, it is because the earlier child died. But, this is my second case where an elder child was given the responsibility of being the godparent, so the new infant received the same name.  Luckily, his younger brother had a different profession, and married three times with the record always giving either his age or his previous wife’s name, so I could distinguish them. 

I also found that Pierre’s father, Nicolas Francois Bello the elder, referenced in Catherine Bello’s death record above, also died in Mainz in 1801.  I am still working on what happened to his mother Elisabeth Evrard.  Maybe the entire family left France, perhaps during the French Revolution, I don’t know.

I used both archives.metz.fr and archives57.com, especially the former with mostly original registers and it being a little easier for me to navigate.  Lovely that they have color images of originals, and not scanned poor b/w microfilm images.  Image resolution on archives.metz.fr is limited but quality is still usually OK. 

I have since spent many more hours paging through some of the Metz registers and the 2 Protestant registers, with occasional help from filae.com indexes, I have managed to build his tree back another 4 to 6 generations, with more work that can be done. 

Once again, patience and persistence paid off.  Fifty years of. 

This break-through in this story is another example of why I like to see actual records myself, to see if maybe someone else misread or ignored something which might turn out to be important.

 Other: without any good indexes yet (filae has an extremely limited number for Metz from CG Moselle), the register scanning process (which I have done in about 12 French cities now), usually seems to involve some degree of looking at the same register pages repeatedly as one learns of more family names to keep track of, it becoming necessary to repeat the review process to find the records which were not noted during the first pass.  Many times, I have been tempted to try to make some sort index of all names in order to greatly facilitate locating any of them again, though I haven’t thought of an efficient method which might turn out to be worth the effort.  Thoughts welcome! :-)

I have also thought of trying to organize the various parish registers in a city (and nearby) by years, maybe in a spreadsheet or table, with links, but again, I see no clear elegant path, especially as some registers are B only, some are BM, some are BMS, some are MS, some are S only.  As it is, I gradually compile pages of cheat sheets as to what vue (image) number each year begins for each parish or the rare yearly index, which often turn out to be very handy in saving time later, here and there.

 

Monsieur C has shared with us a good example of cluster research, (what Elizabeth Shown Mills calls the FAN club principle) here and we are most indebted. Read the comments below to see that we are not alone in saying :Merci!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Make a Suggestion for Our Course

Hard at work

Dear Readers, we have been hard at work on our planned course with the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research entitled "First Steps in French Genealogy". Things are coming along nicely but we thought we might ask you if there are any additional points that you would like to see covered. Please do have a look at the course outline at the link above and, if there is anything more that you would like to see included, tell us in a comment on this page or in an e-mail and we will do our best to fit it in.

Many thanks!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Files on Officers of the French Navy Are Going Online

 

Frigate ropes coiled

A work in progress and an exciting one, this. The Archives nationales have begun to digitize and make available online at no cost the personnel files of the officers of the Marine. "Personnel" is to be understood loosely here. These are not modern human resources files, full of identical forms and warning letters. Basically, these are any surviving documents with a name of anyone who was in the French navy before the Revolution. They are arranged alphabetically by surname and can include not only officers but captains of merchant vessels or of privateers, surgeons, ordinary seamen, women who owned vessels, and heaven knows whom else.

There are men who fought in the American Revolution, men from Saint-Domingue, men who were in the Compagnie des Indes. Spelling was a creative art at the time, so if you do not find someone whom you believe should be on the list, you can read the entire thing (not recommended - there are over thirteen hundred pages) or try searching on such terms as may be applicable:

 

  • Louisiane
  • Saint-Domingue
  • capitaine, or other rank if you know it
  • the name of a vessel
  • guerre en amérique (for the American Revolution)

 

A dossier may contain only a single page or quite a few (one has sixty-eight pages). It may be in other languages, including English, Russian, or Spanish. They are beautifully filmed. At the moment, the hundreds of files available cover only those surnames beginning with the letters from A to D. We await with baited breath for the rest to appear.

To access the files, go to the main search page of the Archives nationales (which we have explained how to use in this case study) and search on the surname, but this can bring up much more than you want unless you narrow the search with many more words. Alternatively, go directly to the finding aid on the website of the Archives nationales and search on the name; this can bring annoying results, each of which has to be opened, if the name be a common one. Lastly, we have uploaded the PDF of the finding aid here which, using "control F" can be searched for a variety of words and on which each name has a link directly to the images of the file.

Enjoy!

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


A Parisian Artisan Among Your Ancestors? - Try Eclat de Bois


Cabinet
 

It has been a difficult summer so far. A week of insanely high temperatures has left the garden parched, even after the relief of rain. The garden was then invaded by rats, vile creatures, harbingers of disease, detested. Using no poisons, or traps, ever, we are finding the battle against them a losing one. We have encouraged stone martens and snakes, but if they make a dent at all, it is a small one. How we wish we could encourage the rats to move on to the hedges and woods, but we do not seem to be able to do so and are discouraged.

Our low mood of discouragement was much lifted and transformed by using the wonderful website Eclat de Bois. The magical part of Paris known as the Faubourg Saint Antoine has a rich history as the centre for cabinetry and exquisitely made furniture and furnishings. For any of you with an artisan ancestor in Paris, especially a carpenter, weaver, cabinet-maker, gilder, or expert in any of the other skills needed to beautify a home, he or she may well have lived in the Faubourg Saint Antoine.

Yet, as many of you already know, researching Parisian ancestors was made difficult by the city's resistance to census-taking until the 1930s and the fire that destroyed the parish and civil registrations of the city's people. Researching this particular group has been much improved by the availability of the Fichier Laborde, but that covers mostly just the eighteenth century. Georges Claude Lebrun, the descendant of a cabinet-maker, has created the website, Eclat de Bois, that will help you to take your research to a new level.

This is no simple list of names but a full, and ever growing, biographical dictionary. There are limits:

  • The area covered is the Faubourg Saint Antoine and the eastern part of Paris, where all such workers tended to live
  • The time period covered is up to 1860, the year before which all parish and civil registrations were lost, this is also the year that Paris expanded from twelve to twenty boroughs (arrondissements), redrawing the boundaries of them all. The year 1860 forms a natural delineation between old and new Paris.

The true value of the research presented in the website is the variety of sources that are used and their cross-referencing, in order to give as much information as possible about a person and/or business. The astonishing list of sources includes names from:

  • Revolutionary courts
  • Electoral rolls
  • Escaped prisoner lists
  • Various lists of political prisoners and insurgents
  • The saved or reconstructed parish and civil registrations
  • Lists of victims of coup attempts
  • Lists of anarchists
  • Freemasons directories
  • The catalogue of Parisian bankruptcies
  • Those who exhibited their works at trade fairs
  • Cases taken before the Tribunal de Commerce (Commercial Court)
  • Those sent to penal colonies

In all, the site now has some 242,000 names and continues to grow. The search page is simple; just type in a surname and all those with the name as well as variations of the name are in the results. One is limited to twelve searches if not registered. Since registration is free, why not sign up and use this site to its fullest and thus discover so much more about your artisan ancestor in Paris?

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy