Mostly, as French genealogy researchers, we tend to revile the Communards for having burnt the Paris town hall and destroyed hundreds of years' worth of parish and civil registrations. We tend to forget that they were the desperate poor. We tend to forget that they had endured a siege so long, so horrific and in such cold that Parisians were eating dogs, cats and rats, when they could find any still alive. We tend to forget that France had just been invaded and lost the Franco-Prussian War and was saddled with a very heavy bill to be paid to the victor.
The Communards saw themselves as freedom fighters driven by desperation, hunger and poverty to create a new order by smashing the old. Whether we agree with their ideals or not, we cannot help but sympathize with their sufferings and this may help us to understand. (Who among us has not lost judgement when forced to desperation by whatever unendurable suffering life has thrown at us?)
Very good news, indeed, from the Archives de Paris for anyone seeking to know where in Paris an ancestor was interred. Parisian cemeteries are overcrowded, as our photograph of Montmartre above shows, making it almost impossible (however delightful the stroll on a sunny day may be) to happen by chance upon the grave one seeks. It could be impossible, due to the French habit of digging up untended graves, tossing the bones into an ossuary, and reselling the plot to someone who will take better care of it. This is how graves are supposed to be tended:
What has long been needed by family genealogists is access to the interment registers, showing all entries, even of those long ago dug up. And now you have them online, on the website of the Archives de Paris, here. There is also a clear and complete explanation of the twenty current cemeteries of Paris. Through links at the bottom of that page, you can examine the annual burial lists for each cemetery or the daily burial registers for each cemetery.
The first set helps to locate the physical grave. Clicking on répertoires annuels d'inhumation, (the annual burial lists), takes you to a search form in which you can select a cemetery to search, and supply a name and range of years to search within that cemetery (the concept is identical to the way that civil registrations are searched by arrondissement, record type, name and date range on the same website). The results are each a string of images within the alphabetical range to search. Click on the eye and start looking.
You will then see the pages of the register for that cemetery and be able to find out where your ancestor's grave is (or was).
Remember the month abbreviations!
7re - September
8re - October
9re - November
Xre - December
You want to note the exact date of burial, as that is how you will search in the second set, the registres journaliers d'inhumation, the daily burial registers. On this search screen, you will select the cemetery from the drop down menu (we chose Bagneux), then enter the date of burial, date de l'inhumation.
Remember the European style of writing dates!
The tenth of July 1892 is written 10/07/1892
As before, you will get a string of the date range in the register to search. Click on the eye to see the pages and to read along to find the correct date. On the fifth page of this particular string, the tenth of July begins:
Here, you can discover the full name of the person buried, his or her age at the time of death, and the arrondissement where he or she died (this last allowing you to find the death registration, if you could not do so before). This register also tells exactly where the grave is. The registers styles and column headings vary from year to year and from one cemetery to another but they generally give the same information. If the remains were dug up and removed you will find in the "Observations" column the word "Repris" followed by the date of that sad administrative decision.
All is not as it seems. For our test search, we checked each cemetery's annual burial list for a particular name for the year 1845. The name appeared in none. We also found that, while many of the cemeteries were operational that year, the registers that early are not available online. Then, we began to check the daily burial registers and there, in Batignolles, we found our burial. Though the annual register existed and is available online, the original indexer had missed the entry. So, try both registers, if you have a date or at least the year of death. If the register for the year is not online but the cemetery was in existence, keep checking back for new additions to the registers on the website.
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No slackers on this project. Barely had we announced that the City Council of Paris had approved an agreement between FamilySearch and the Paris Archives than the project was accomplished. Really, we are rather impressed.
Recall that this concerns the roughly two million replaced parish and civil registrations (l'état civil reconstitué) of the more than eight million that were lost in the Paris Communards' incendiary rampage. (They did not only burn down the City Hall and numerous other buildings where power was centred, they placed dynamite in Notre Dame and nearly blew that up.) The period covered by these two million replacements is 1500 to 1860. (Though the fire was in 1871, register books from 1861 and later had not yet been transferred to the central registry but were still in the individual city halls of the arrondissements and so, were not burnt, except for some of the 12th arrondissement.)
The index cards have been available online for years but to see the full registrations, one had to go to the Paris Archives to view the microfilm. Now, that no longer is necessary. The presentation on FamilySearch is, to our mind, utterly baffling and with no explanation whatsoever, nor do they seem to be indexed on FamilySearch. (The negative aspect of a rushed job is a lack of planning and preparation.) Thus, one must follow exactly the procedure one had to use in the archives.
Step One: Search the index cards (fichiers alphabetiques). They are arranged first by type, e.g. baptism/birth, marriage, burial/death. Within the type, they are arranged alphabetically by surname. Within the surname, they are arranged chronologically. Thus for the birth of a Maron, you first choose births (naissances), then type in Maron and, in the results, start reading through the years. Once you have found the person you seek, note the full name and the date of birth. For example: Caroline Maron, born the 29th of September 1844.
Use the website of the Paris Archives or FamilySearch to look at the index cards. (We really do suggest that you check both, for there are some old mistakes that seem never to have been corrected.)
Step Two: Look up the microfilm number in the catalogue. These are arranged by type (again, baptism/birth, marriage, burial/death being naissances, mariages, décès), then chronologically. Find the date span that includes yours, so, births of 29th September 1844 will be on microfilm number 5Mi 1/565. The microfilm catalogues are partially on the Paris Archives website and partially on that of FamilySearch:
Step Three: On FamilySearch, find the correct microfilm and start looking for your document. They are filmed chronologically, then by surname so, in our example, we read along to the 29th of September 1844 and then through the birth registrations arranged alphabetically by surname to Maron, Caroline. The links to the microfilm on FamilySearch are below, but now it gets annoying as some fool at FamilySearch decided to alter the system in the middle and give the titles of the rolls as dates rather than the Paris microfilm numbers (as any archivist or librarian will know, it is NOT a good idea to make partial changes to an established system) :
We have had the pleasure of reading many of the excellent family histories written by you, Dear Readers. Some of them have been so good that we urge you to submit them for the top genealogy literary prize in France, the 2018 PRIX FLOUCAUD DE LA PÉNARDILLE - Dr DU CHALARD. Entry requirements are that:
The work be in French
It be your first work of genealogical or family history writing
It's length be at least one hundred pages, of which at least seventy pages must be of the body of the work
It must contain at least one genealogical tree
The value of the prize is 1500€. Is there anything nearly as large in the Anglophone genealogical world, we wonder?
Judgement criteria are based upon:
The quality of reference works and sources
The quality, placement, use and relevance of illustrations
The quality of the genealogical tree or trees
The correctness and completeness of any heraldic emblems (a common stumbling block for many in the Americas, but not of you, Dear Readers!)
The precision of the name index
The competition is open to all. To enter:
Send two typed or printed copies of your manuscript or publication, by post (one copy will be for the judges and one for the library of La France Généalogique)
Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for acknowledgement of receipt (you can buy French stamps online and print them at home here.)
You must agree, if you win, to the publication of a chapter on the sponsor's website
The deadline is the 18th of March 2018.
The postal address is: 12 rue Vivienne, Lot 3, 75002 Paris
The e-mail address is: email@example.com
We urge you to give it a shot!
La France Généalogique is the sponsor of this prize so we thought we would give an update on their website, which is dismal in design but useful as to content. Please read our earlier post on the website, for not much has changed in the last seven years. The website where there is much to help you with your research is called Numéric.
Those sections that we find have been improved or new are:
Courses and talks offered
Much more assistance and help via the question and answer service
Links to what they have shared with FamilySearch
A members' service helping with palaeography
A list of agnatic (male line) names in their database, with a list of all names of spouses linked to each agnatic name. Very useful.
A members' service to look up and copy parish and civil registrations in the Archives de Paris.
So, if you have ancestors who lived in Paris, we strongly suggest that you join to take advantage of their excellent genealogical help. If any of you is an expert website designer in France, you might like to offer your services.
Very exciting news has been announced by the City Council of Paris yesterday. After deliberating the proposal, the mayor has signed the approval of a project for FamilySearch to digitise the very weary microfilm of the "reconstituted" parish and civil registrations of pre-1860 Paris.
As dedicated readers of this blog will know, the Paris archives, along with quite a lot more, were torched by the Paris Communards in 1871. (Read that story here.) Something between five and eight million records, dating as far back as the 16th century, were destroyed. If your ancestors were from Paris and lived there any time from 1515-1860, their records – in some 5,000 bound registers - were destroyed.
Immediately after the fire, a group of researchers was formed and given the job of finding ways to recreate the information. They worked for 25 years. Copying parish and religious records, they managed to make a nearly complete reconstruction of the information for the years from 1802 to 1860. Working backward, it became much more difficult to find alternatives to copy. Roughly, 2.7 million registrations, or actes, were copied, in this breakdown:
1802-1860 2.4 million actes
1700-1801 2.4 million actes
1600-1699 5000 actes
1550-1599 5 actes
In the middle of war, 1941, the Paris archives began another reconstitution effort to find all available information on all Paris citizens since the Middle Ages not all ready found by the first reconstitution. This brought 200,000 mentions of people, mostly from lawsuits and other judicial records. As people who went to court tended to be those with money, these records preserve the identities of the wealthy and noble more than of everyday folk.
For a while now, it has been possible to search online the index cards to these reconstituted registers on the website of the Paris Archives, as in this example:
However, it is not possible to see the actual document without going to the Paris Archives and looking at the microfilm. These microfilm rolls, we assure you, are getting exceedingly tattered and the images murky, as you can see:
So, this news is exciting in that the images on the microfilm will be preserved for longer via digitising and they will be accessible online on both the FamilySearch website and the website of the Paris Archives. A boon for those researching Parisian ancestors. (Now, this must be something of a black eye for Filae, who are very keen to expand their offerings, and for Geneanet, who host the images of hundreds of Parisian court records. We suspect that the former will work out an indexing deal with the Paris Archives.) Sadly, we have no idea when this will take place but it is terrific news!
The symbiotic partnership that exists between Geneanet and Familles Parisiennes continues to bring good things for anyone researching Parisian ancestors. The latest contribution, almost all made by a single person, one Monique Drouhin, who must be a dynamo as well as remarkable, consists of images of very early nineteenth century court records from the Parisian justice of the peace courts, including guardianship records.
There are a few key facts you must know before tackling these new delights:
The courts of the Justice of the Peace in France were set up in 1790 and lasted until 1958. They were established to be a local court where people could take their family disputes and small cases, something of a small claims court and family court combined. With these courts, poorer people did not have to travel great distances and stay at inns in order to prosecute their claims. There was one justice of the peace court for each canton. In Paris, there was one for each arrondissement or borough.
Paris now has twenty arrondissements but in 1790 and until 1860, there were twelve, and their boundaries were completely different from what they are today. The Paris Archives give an excellent concordance for the old and new arrondissements. This will be needed if you wish to find the correct court used by your ancestors. If you have their address, you can find the current arrondissement for that road and then with the concordance, the old arrondissement number. (Most Paris streets and their history now have a page on Wikipedia and the current arrondissement is given there. This is easier than Google maps for this purpose.)
Geneanet has improved enormously since we last disparaged it here, many years ago. The nasty advertisements are gone, the searches are much, much better and it really has the best collection of family trees in France now. (So good are they that Clément Becle, a young cardiologist who writes a very interesting family history blog has written a long post about why he has moved his data and tree from Heredis Online to Geneanet.) Geneanet is not free and charges a fee for just about everything EXCEPT for the images uploaded by Projet Familles Parisiennes. Thus, the uploads that are the subject of this post are free to view.
While Projet Familles Parisiennes has an alphabetical index of all family names that appear in the thousands of pages uploaded, not all pages have been indexed. Thus, documents concerning the name you are researching may be available but you will not know it as they are not yet indexed. If you know an address or a related name, however, you might have some luck.
This group of documents are most easily accessed -- until they will be fully indexed -- via the page of links on Geneawiki. There, the documents are arranged firstly by the old arrondissement numbers and then by the new ones, in chronological order. The date range of what has been filmed so far is 1791 through 1813, but is different for each arrondissement.
These come from a deep and not easy to understand part of the Paris Archives and are a wonderful addition to Paris resources online. Do let us know if you have some success!
To learn more about researching Parisian ancestors, see our booklet on the subject.