Summer Reading - Two Books for Those Researching a French Naval Ancestor

Les Marins Fr

The pandemic was a horror and the lock-downs around the world caused suffering to many; about this there can be no dispute. Yet, amongst those fortunate enough not to fall ill, some turned to creativity and productivity while confined. Les marins français, 1789 - 1830 : Étude du corps social et de ses uniformes is such a lock-down creation. It  is a treasure of a book, with lovely illustrations of uniforms and weapons, and a remarkably clear explanation of the changes in French naval uniforms during a most fraught period in French history. The author, Eric Shérer, is a Vice-Admiral in the Navy and a life-long collector of all things naval. He came to writing history through his collecting and this is his third book.

Shérer 's structure is logical, giving two chapters to each time period, the first on naval ranks and responsibilities, and the second on the uniforms of those ranks during that period. We translate the chapter titles:

  • Sailors at the End of the Ancien régime (with a very good explanation of naval conscription)
  • Uniforms of Sailors at the End of the Ancien régime
  • Sailors During the Revolution
  • Uniforms of Sailors During the Revolution
  • Sailors During the Consulate and First Empire
  • Uniforms of Sailors During the Consulate and First Empire
  • Life on Board Ships in the Fleet for the Marines and for the Crew
  • Naval Staff at the Arsenals
  • Sailors of the Coast Guard
  • Uniforms of Sailors of the Coast Guard During the Consulate and First Empire
  • Sailors During the Restoration
  • Uniforms of Sailors During the Restoration
  • Naval Uniform Buttons from 1786 to 1830
  • Bibliography and Archival Sources

Even if you cannot read French, the charts and illustrations are incredibly useful. It is a thorough study and will greatly inform your research into your French naval ancestor.

Les Marins français 1789-1830 : Etude de corps social et de ses uniformes. Eric Schérer. 2022. 50€, ISBN: 978-2-7587-0241-2

 

 

Dictionnaire

France really excels at biographical dictionaries. They are well-researched, well-sourced, well-structured (straight-forward alphabetical listing by surname) and very useful. This one, Dictionnaire des Marins français,  runs to five hundred forty pages and covers documented naval personalities of note from as early as 1341 to 1931. The biographical essays give the date and place of birth, career details, and date and place of death. If you are lucky enough to have an illustrious naval ancestor, the essay on him will delight you and possibly aid your research. For the rest of us, the real use of this book is in helping to follow the career of an ancestor who served in the French Navy, for here, you may find your ancestor's commanding officers and, through the essays about their careers and movements, work out where your ancestor was as well.

Dictionnaire des marins françaisEtienne Taillemite. 2002. ISBN: 978-2847340082

 

Using these two books, with our highly recommended further reading, could break down your brick wall concerning your French Navy ancestor.  In our next post, we tell how you can track the vessel on which he or she may have served.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


France's Heat Wave - La Canicule

Canicule

It seems that every summer, we are writing about hotter and hotter weather. This year, with not only heat waves but a long drought, has been catastrophic for France, with massive wildfires in numerous places blazing out of control. Our home is not close to the current fires, but it is close enough that we have had days of our skies filled with smoke. Once again, we are wearing masks, this time to be able to breathe without choking. It is heart breaking and frightening to watch new reports of forests burning and then to go outdoors and see trees and all plant life withering and dying.

It has been a long time coming. France has had disastrous forest fires caused by drought before, in Landes in the 1940s, in Charente-Maritime in the 1970s, in 1989, in 1990, in 2003, in 2009, in 2016, in 2017, last year, and now. There were droughts and heat waves before but now they come more often and are more extreme.

Hot in Paris

And they can be deadly. Not only do people die from the heat, but from disease, as the water warms and more bacteria lives in it, especially that which causes dysentery. The historian, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has written much on the history of the climate of France and how it has affected people. It was disease from the limited, warm, filthy water that killed half a million in France in the heat wave of 1636. In 1705, another series of heat waves led to the deaths of 700,000. The drought and heat waves of 1718 and 1719 were so severe that "clouds of Saharan grasshoppers" swarmed central France. Modern water purification has ameliorated the catastrophes somewhat; still, in 1911, 40,000 people died from heat and/or disease and 15,000 in the heat wave of 2003.

Much of his research for the book On the History of the Climate of France from the 14th Century, involved looking not only at recorded temperatures but at parish registers for recorded deaths to determine the effect of climate on mortality rates. His charts are useful for the genealogist who may come across a cluster of deaths in a family, especially the babies, during a short period. Grim reading.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Does a Baptism Date Imply a Date of Birth?

Baptism

We recently received an e-mail from Madame L asking:

"As I’ve been searching through Filae and Geneanet for records, there are times when I’ve found a baptism record but not a birth record for an ancestor. ...  My past practice has been to use the month and year of the baptism for the month and year of the birth. However, ... I’m not so sure if that's the right course to take.

I searched through the country of France section on the FamilySearch Wiki and found under the Church Records topic that infants whose families were of the Catholic faith were typically baptized two days after they were born.

My question is this: If I’m only able to find a baptism record for one of my ancestors, would it be best to put the word “about” followed by the baptism year for the birth year or to continue putting the month and year of the baptism for the month and year of the birth?"

We feel that this reveals the curse of genealogy software that is deeply ethnocentric. Ideally, one would like to be able to simply put the baptism date without have to guess as to the birth date. Usually, with such software, it is also not easy to enter an explanatory note about religious customs or ceremonies that can take place quite a bit later than a birth. For example:

  1. Anabaptists/Mennonites, of which there were and still are, many in Alsace, did not baptize their children until the children could understand and consent; this was often at about the age of 15 years.
  2. Catholics in small parishes typically baptized the child on the day of birth or the next day but many things could have caused that to be different: people on remote farms had to wait for an itinerant priest to pass by to baptize the children; wealthy families sometimes postponed the baptism (or performed a second baptism) until all could gather for a large celebration; and there were many other such situations that varied from FamilySearch's "typical" Catholics, baptized two days after birth.
  3. Some Protestants baptized in secret in their own religion, at times, and then, at a later date, had their children baptized as Catholics to ensure their full rights.
  4. Jewish people did not regularly baptize their children, of course, but boys were circumcised, normally within ten days of birth but, again, people in remote places had to wait for an itinerant rabbi to appear. Again, like Protestants, some Jewish people, especially in Bordeaux, had their children baptized in the Catholic Church, often years after birth, to ensure their full rights.
  5. Families that had left France and whose children were born outside of the country (such as émigrés, or colonials) often would have them all baptized anew in the French parish when they returned, and all entered into the civil registers as well, just to be sure. This could have been years after their births.
 
All of these examples could show a baptism date quite different from a birth date.
 
It is worthwhile to remember that, from 1792, with the advent of civil registration, Church registers of baptism ceased to have legal validity. Additionally, while civil registration of a birth became obligatory, baptism ceased to be so. Thus, after 1792,  the one replaced the other as legal records of identity. People could and did, of course, continue with religious ceremonies, but as France no longer had a state religion, those religious records were considered purely private and of no legal value.  On the whole, it is not necessary for the purpose of identity to search for baptism records where  civil birth records can be found. We explain more about the difference in an earlier blog post here.
 
Coming back to the original question of how to note a date of birth based on a baptism, we repeat one of the many golden rules of genealogy: Never Assume. If you do not have a birth date, you must not invent or guess one. If you have a baptism date, note it as what it is: a date of baptism only. Do not try to make a baptism equal a birth.
 
We have spoken.
 
©2022 Anne Morddel
French Genealogy

One Reader's Research Methods

Bourgogne

Every so often, one of you, Dear Readers ,shares his or her research methods with us and we like to pass them on to the rest of you. So much of genealogical discovery is serendipitous, that, truly, one never can know what might help to open a door hitherto locked. Today, we share with you the methods of Monsieur W.:

"I was born in Liverpool, England and always wanted to know who my ancestors were as a child but growing up in the 1950s and up to 2000 it was quite difficult as there was no internet and if one was lucky may have had a family tree passed down by elders, but unlikely.

Ancestral research started for me over 10 years ago with one name in a very small amount of names in our Ancestry.com site by my sister in law so I decided I would focus on the name and see where it led me, the name was BETHANCOURT and as it sounded French it sounded like a good place to start. I went online into google search engine and started to research the name and as I had sent off for the marriage certificate it gave me the name of my 2nd Great Grandfather and his place of birth etc, so again I went into google search engine and it lead me back to his parents who lived on Gran Canaria Island, Spain. I then found there were others online also researching the same family line as me so I emailed them and many responded.

One of the people who responded turned out to be a genealogist who lived on Gran Canaria and he assisted me in taking my Bethancourt line further back and also all the related families via marriage etc, this person turned out to be my 14th generational cousin on numerous lines and he was good enough to guide me. I then came across two other people who were genealogists on Gran Canaria, who also turned out to be my cousins and they too assisted me. We have written an article about my Bethancourt ancestor also. Many of my Canary Island Ancestors headed to Louisiana.

How did I discover my French ancestry? My 3rd Great Grandfather who was in Louisiana married a French lady whose family name was REMONDET who arrived from Crugey, Cote d'or, Bourgogne, France. So I now started to explore my French ancestry and it led me to Alsace & Lorraine and several other areas of France.

How did I find all this information? A lot of reading and TIME

I started by focusing on one line at a time to develop it as far as possible

I then used Google search engine and looked for names on there and looked for others who were researching the same names and contacted them. We shared information together

I looked for articles online, books where my ancestors' names were mentioned and if in French or Spanish I copied and pasted the text and then used a translation tool.

I found a French site which listed all towns in France and found the ones where my ancestors lived and looked for their names and marriages etc.

I have been able to find living descendants of my ancestors all over the world and correspond with several of them, some in France and Spain

So by starting with just one name that caught my eye has led me to build an extensive tree with numerous family connections globally and i'm still building my tree every day.

All I can suggest to you is this, Ask family if they have information , names, dates , photos, birth certificates etc etc first. You need a starting point and this is the basis of building your tree. Then you need to spend time researching, never give up as the information is out there you just need to find it. The internet has made it so much easier to find ancestors, so use it.

I've contributed to a book about my fathers side of our family and co-written an article about my 4th Great Grandfather on my mothers side which has been published.

I hope this may inspire at least one person to develop their tree and find their ancestors

Many thanks, Monsieur W.!

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 10 - Thomas Mansell's Compatriots

Marie Fiuyol Signature

We continue our long and to date fruitless search for the origins of Marie Fouyol, wife of Thomas Mansell. If nothing else, wee are taking you, our Faithful Readers, on a journey of archival sources in France that may be of use to you in your own research. In Part 8 of this Case Study, we proposed looking at the prisoner of war files on some of the other weavers arrested with Thomas Mansell in 1803 and held at Fontainbleau. We wrote:

Many other weavers and machinists were held prisoner with Thomas Mansell at Fontainebleau. There are prisoner of war files on some of them:

George Archer
John, Thomas and Charles Callon
John Dean
James Flint
William Fleming

These files should be read to see if, as often happened, a mention or even a page about Thomas Mansell did not end up in someone else's file.

We have since been able to visit the archives of the military in the Service Historique de la Défense at Vincennes. There, the dossiers on the men above are in the series Yj, to which we give you the finding aid  to Download SHDGR_REP_YJ_1_148 In the past, when researching other British prisoners of Napoleon in this series, we have come across letters about one man mistakenly placed in the file of another, and it was our hope that we might have found such to be the case in one of these dossiers. If not that, then possibly a small mention of a Mansell (and his wife!) in a letter about another.

Callon

Archer's and Fleming's files could not be found by the archivists that day (it happens) but we saw the others, plus another, on an Irish weaver, Daniel Macfee. We found some gloriously informative documents, such as that shown above concerning John Callon, but after scrutinizing every page in each of the dossiers, we had to surrender, for there was not the slightest mention of Thomas Mansell. McFee and Thomas Callon were not in Paris but in Rouen. Flint had lived in Rouen and Coye-la-Forêt and did not ask to move to Paris until 1810, to work for an American. Dean also had been in Rouen and requested to move to Ghent in Belgium. If any of them knew or worked with Thomas Mansell, it does not appear in their dossiers at the Service Historique de la Défense. 

 

We next went to the Archives nationales out in the very dull Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. (Our visits there used to be cheered by the raucous crowing of a rooster in a garden right next to the entry to the archives but we fear the poor bird must have met its end during the pandemic for his delightfully defiant racket greets arrivals no more. Now, there is just the roar of city buses, and a long walk past gigantic, grey, plastic pots and a garden gone to seed.) 

Paris register

There, on microfilm, is a register of British prisoners and détenus allowed to live in Paris.  It is an interesting read, written in a grand hand, covering the years 1809 to 1814.  It includes a discussion of the weavers and machine operators given permission to reside on Paris and to carry on with their trades. Of those named in this discussion, none were on the list of those arrested in 1803 ans sent to Fontainebleau but four of that group do appear in the simple alphabetic listing that follows. They are:

  • George Archer
  • John Bowie
  • One of the Callon brothers (already seen)
  • One of the Dean brothers (already seen)

Maddeningly, neither section of the register mentions Thomas Mansell. However, among the weavers and machine operators it includes in the early discussion of workers allowed to remain in Paris, although they are not on the list of those sent to Fontainebleau in 1803, there are dossiers in the Yj series at Service Historique de la Défense on some of them:

  • John Lane
  • William Oswald
  • James Spencer

These three, with John Bowie, are new possibilities for a mention, however small, of Thomas Mansell. So, we will back to Service Historique de la Défense and look at those four files (and we will give George Archer another go).

This one is tough, but there is no reason to give up yet.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


Reflections on Genealogy and "That New Yorker Article"

King and Queen

A few weeks ago, a New Yorker article by Maya Jasanoff, entitled "Our Obsession With Ancestry Has Some Twisted Roots" drove some in the world of genealogy into quite a tizzy. The title is misleading, having the air of being a copy editor's creation and, though the author is a distinguished historian who has been awarded prizes for her writing, in this case she is not terribly coherent or clear. It is obvious that the she does not know much about the techniques of genealogical research, or establishing genealogical proof or kinship determination, but that does not diminish the validity of her concern. She is worried about how genealogy is used not, as Elizabeth Shown Mills, herself a historian, brilliantly showed on facebook in response to this article, to understand how one's family fits into history, but for power, injustice and exclusion.

"The truth is, all genealogies are selective, often by design" she writes. Her concern here is exclusion. Her wording is imprecise, we believe, in that it is not genealogies that are exclusive, (or inclusive, for that matter). Genealogies attempt to show all familial connections in the most factual, documented and verifiable manner possible. It is when we place values on those families, their extended families, their tribes, and say that one is good while another bad and establish that belonging to one gives rights while to another deprives one of rights, that we are misusing, even abusing genealogy. Every hereditary genealogy society requiring a lineage proof for membership commits this type of abuse. Every immigration law based on a person's heredity commits this type of abuse. Dr. Jasanoff is right to raise the issue and to be concerned.

She does not dispute the pleasure that family history can give to us, that "Genealogy as a technique may bring individual rewards, but," she adds, "as a historical paradigm it has tended to serve those in power, and such effects are not diminishing." Her point is that those in power use genealogical research and techniques, including DNA research, to legalize injustices toward certain people based upon their heredity. This is a legitimate and important question which Dr. Jasanoff is asking us to examine: "We know that “race” is a social construct. We need to acknowledge the ways in which “ancestry” is, too."

Perhaps we genealogists and family historians should participate in, even lead this examination. There certainly has not yet been much written by genealogists asking just what "ancestry" is and what it means. Surely, the many times that we have seen how DNA evidence can contradict documented identity should have opened such a discussion amongst us by now. Additionally, so much of our focus in our work has been on good research and sound reasoning that we have not looked at just how our reports and studies might be used by the unscrupulous. 

The Code of Ethics of the Board for Certification of Genealogists makes no mention of how genealogy might be misused or of what a genealogist could or should do to prevent it. In fact, helping people with their applications to lineage societies is such a staple of most genealogists' work that it is unlikely that any professional genealogists' organization has questioned if it is desirable to help anyone to join a club that expressly keeps out others who do not have the same or a similar lineage. Maybe it is time for us to do so. Maybe it is time for us to add to our Codes of Ethics clauses to the effect that we will not contribute our research to activities that use genealogy as a basis for exclusion or injustice. Going further, we might add clauses to the effect that, in order to protect the honour of our profession, we will make every effort to stop such abuse.

It is sad and even somewhat horrifying that these abuses, that the nonsensical idea of superiority or inferiority based upon bloodlines, heredity or genealogy, are again a worry, when we should have thought all modern societies would have most vigourously crushed such idiocy by now. Dr. Jasanoff's essay may be a bit muddled but her points are most valid and we would suggest that those whose first reaction was to sense an attack on their profession and/or pastime and to retaliate pause to give it another reading.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

In response to the above, we have had this e-mail from Monsieur W:

"Dear Anne,

There are very few propositions that have universal application. The only one of which I am aware is René Descartes’ “Je pense, donc je suis” (or, if you prefer, “cogito, ergo sum”), which is both universal and irrefutable, even though it may be only momentarily true.

Your proposition that genealogy should not be used to establish exclusivity or defend exclusions does, I believe, require some limitations. To apply it universally may have unintended consequences.

Australia’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights arises from a principle that Aboriginal nations existed before European settlement, and that they were peopled by indigenous language groups whose members have living descendants, comprising at least 4 percent of Australia’s current population. To meet the requirements of Aboriginality, you must satisfy three genealogy-based measures:

· The person must identify as Aboriginal.

· The relevant Aboriginal community must recognise the person as Aboriginal.

· The person must be Aboriginal by way of descent.

A member of an Aboriginal language group may enjoy exclusive benefits. He or she may live on land that others would require a permit to enter. He or she might share exclusively in royalties from mining companies extracting resources from that land.He of she

These hereditary rights have been established in Australian law through a recognition that they embody rights and laws that were not extinguished by colonisation.

I am in full agreement with you that lineage societies, and their ilk, need to be put under an ethical microscope, but I would suggest this is a complex problem that needs to be approached cautiously. What is the intent of the society? Does its manifest cause harm to those who cannot meet its criteria? Has it crossed the line between fellowship and snobbish superiority? Do its members gain advantages that should be equally available to others? Are there actually people who want to be taken into a genealogical family, even though they have no genealogical connection with that family? Would such a demand, in itself, be legitimate?

Your blog will, I hope, stimulate this debate, and I’m sure many of your readers will be interested in following its development."


French Jewish Genealogy - Online Guides

Jewish Marriages

We have written a number of posts on French Jewish genealogy (to find them all, click on that category toward the end of the column on the left of this page) but in preparing for our recent talk on the subject, we discovered some very fine guides have been put online. 

Not yet the best source of all, that being "Les Familles juives en France, XVIe siècle - 1815 : Guide des Recherches biographiques et généalogiques" by Gildas Bernard. That superb work details all of the holdings in all of the archives and libraries in France relating to Jewish people. When you search on the websites of those various archives and libraries, you will find what is digitized easily. Possibly, what has not been digitized will be mentioned in the nether regions of a finding aid. With Bernard's book, you can have the full listing. It also contains superb essays by local archivists about the history and archives in the main regions of France of Jewish history:

  • Alsace
  • Lorraine
  • Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin
  • The Southwest

Unfortunately, this book has not yet been digitized. However, an updated version of his earlier work has been put online by the Archives nationales and can be downloaded as a PDF here. We plan to keep checking, in the hope that they will do the same with Les Familles juives soon.

In the mean time, here are links to a number of very good guides to researching Jewish genealogy in France:

  • The Departmental Archives of Vaucluse have four very brief guides to their important holdings on the Jewish families of the Papal States:
  • The Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin have produced two guides relating specifically to their resources on Jewish families in Alsace. They can be downloaded here.
  • JewishGen has a very clear, if a bit outdated, summary of the basics of French Jewish research, in English, here.
  • GenAmi - The Jewish Genealogical Association, has excellent guides by region, and in English.
  • The Jewish Virtual Library probably has the best page on French Jewish history, which will help you with your genealogical research:
    • in Paris, here
    • in Alsace here,
    • in Lorraine here
    • in Avignon here
    • in Bordeaux here
    • check the blue banner on the left of their pages for other cities in France; note that the important city of Saint-Esprit is within the article on Bayonne.

We plan to write more posts on the subject, but the above will keep you going until we do.

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Research Your Ancestor Through Archives on the Town

French village

A nice tool is gradually being added to the websites of various Departmental Archives. It can be of great help to you in tracing your family if you know where they lived in France. The tool is usually within the section entitled Archives en ligne (Archives online) or Archives numérisés (digitized archives), and it is usually called something like Recherche par commune (Search by town).

Click on that, then enter your ancestor's town or village name and voilà, you are presented with, in the best versions, an array of information about the town and of what the archives hold concerning it and its people:

  • A history of the town
  • Its location and neighbouring towns
  • Links to useful administrative websites
  • Parish and civil registers
  • Indices to them
  • Census returns
  • Military enlistment registers
  • Maps
  • Probate records
  • Tax records
  • Postcards

It is a wonderful way to know in an instant what is available and to target your research.

Not all of the Departmental Archives websites have this facility. One of the best we have found in on that of Pas-de-Calais. Saône-et-Loire has a less attractive but still useful version. Check the Departmental Archives websites you use to see if they have this option and give it a go. (You can also try searching these terms on Google: the department name and "recherche par commune" "archives départementales".) You may discover a resource missed when you were searching only by a family name.

Bonne chance!

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Pure Envy

Family archive

Generally, Dear Readers, we are not the envious type but this week we fell prey to that character flaw.  We had the opportunity to join a private visit to one of those small, perfect chateaux that dot France like an abundance of wildflowers in a meadow.

For most people, a chateau is a very dear proposition and those who buy them now do not, as in the past, also acquire an army of unpaid labourers to work the land and fork over the crops for the owner to sell for a tidy sum. Nor are chateaux tax-free, as all life once was for the nobility who owned them. They require deep pockets indeed and most chatelains clearly do not have them. So many of the chateaux that we have visited are crumbling ruins exuding the rank odours of damp and rot, the stone walls long ago having lost all mortar, so that stones drop out of the walls and towers alarmingly. Most of these places were emptied of their treasures over two hundred years ago by rampaging, revolutionary peasants. What was not destroyed on the spot was sold off or, if of precious metal, melted down and then sold. Visiting a chateau is often a lesson in gloom.

The chateau in question, however, was a world away from those sad shells. Its residents claim to be direct descendants of the builder and that the family have lived there for over a thousand years. The rooms are cluttered with enough ancient riches and portraits to induce one to believe the claim. All is beautifully maintained, with not a hint of rot or mould to be smelt, the plaster not cracked, the drapery not moth-eaten. 

We assure you, Dear Readers, we were not swooning with longing for any of the shiny detritus of the ages, lovely though some of it was, until we were shown the room pictured above. At that point, envy, in all its intensity, swept over and enveloped us like the molten lava of Vesuvius swept over and enveloped the souls of Pompeii before they could kneel and say a prayer. We had come upon the family archive, a room, we were informed, that was filled with archive boxes containing over three thousand documents about the family and the chateau, dating back to the year 1055. "Oh please," our heart begged, "Let us see, let us read. Open just one carton..." Alas, no. The guide urged the group to move along and out into the extravagantly beautiful courtyard, never to see that wondrous family archive room again.

 

©2022 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


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