Web/Tech

French Commercial Genealogy Loses Its Independence - and It's a Pity

Paris pont mask

We used to praise the high quality of the indexing at Filae. No more. The last few weeks have seen the addition of indexing as messy, lazy and idiotic as the sort of thing one finds on Ancestry or in the infamous indexing of the Drouin collection. It is most disheartening. Now, one finds birth register entries for which the indexer said the daughter was the father, marriages with the wife named as the mother-in-law and, where the indexer was in doubt, everyone named as every relationship.

What possible use is wrong information to anyone? How will users who cannot read the original French document (as in the case of the indexer, apparently) be able to correct these mistakes? The money-grubbers will always say that speed is more important than efficiency, that it is more important to get the material online, even riddled with mistakes, than it is to take the time to do it well, but they are wrong. For every hour that incorrect information is available, people who are researching their family histories are incorporating and perpetuating wrong information in their genealogies. Such commercial cynicism makes a mockery of every genealogist's efforts to find a document the historical truth about a family, and risks dragging the reputation of genealogy as a discipline back down to where it was in the 1920s, when fabricated evidence was rife and family vanity, not family history, was the goal.

That Filae let this happen is almost certainly because its founder, Toussaint Roze, has completed the sale of the company to MyHeritage. The collapse of quality at Filae would seem to indicate that he lost interest in the company a few weeks ago, when the sale became inevitable, as we discussed here. In his announcement of the sale, he boasts that new and greater things are to come at Filae from the MyHeritage takeover. Barring an extensive metamorphosis at MyHeritage and a complicated and expensive programme to correct the mistakes at Filae such as we described above, Roze's promises are blather.

Once again, Dear Readers, the paying customer is merely the punter, the fool to be parted from his money with the cheapest product possible. We strongly and sadly recommend that you NOT renew your Filae subscription for more than a month at a time, as you watch what was a great little company go down the tubes and its services become next to worthless.

Rumours are that Roze is betting that the French law prohibiting DNA testing for the purpose of genealogy will change soon and, when it does, he will be in place with MyHeritage ready and able to take advantage of the new opportunity. We wonder just how big that new opportunity will be. One likely reason for the French lawmakers' opposition to the tests stems from the Civil Code which, from 1804, has expressly forbidden a person to search (just to search, mind you) for the identity of his or her biological father. (Ponder, for a moment, Dear Readers, just what this means.) That law and all that relates to it must change before any anti-DNA genealogy test law can change. We suspect that, if these change, it will be by very small degrees.

We also wonder just how big the market will be, just how many French people will want to have such DNA tests. It is currently something of a fad to take the tests illegally, as we reported here, but the interest is only rarely in genealogy. It is more of a party game to see who is "more French", with distinctly racist overtones.

Left in the dust after the sale of Filae to MyHeritage was Geneanet, which owned forty per cent of Filae and which had hoped to form a single, Francophone genealogy powerhouse from the two. That, actually, could have been something quite wonderful for French genealogists, but it is not to be. Its dreams in tatters, Geneanet announced, in what is surely one of the saddest of such announcements ever written, that it has been purchased by Ancestry. We have made our complaints about Geneanet's messy website in the past, and have praised the efforts to improve it, though it still has some way to go. Merging with Ancestry, the behemoth of indexing disasters and indifference to them, will be no improvement for the quality of Geneanet.

These two sales are very sad events indeed, for neither will bring improved service or quality to those of us researching French genealogy. 

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The Best Posts for the Letters B-E in the 2020 Challenge A-Z

BtoE

Ah, Dear Readers, little did we imagine the enormity of the task we set ourselves of presenting to you the best of the posts submitted for the 2020 Challenge A-Z. It is rather like panning for gold. We have never participated in the Challenge because the rules are quite strict: one must be a blogger, writing in French, and the posts must all appear, Monday through Saturday, in a single month. We would feel faint after the first week. It would appear that it is all as overwhelming for some of the participants as it would be for us. Having to choose a subject beginning with a letter of the alphabet must be perversely limiting, and the resultant titles either lean heavily on names or involve some painful to read contortions of grammar and reason to make a word fit. Nevertheless, the following are those that we think might be of greatest interest to you, our most Dear and Loyal Readers.

 

Once again, Catherine Livet's blog, Becklivet, has come up with a very interesting post, this one on the subject of bigamy. With careful explanation of documents, she explores how one of her nineteenth century female ancestors appears to have been married to one man but lived as the wife of another. Of particular interest is how she refuses to make assumptions or assertions that cannot be proved by the documentation but, instead, presents, describes and documents the conundrum and lets it stand.

 

Geneafinder is a non-collaborative, subscription website built around the subscribers' uploaded family trees. It has links to the websites of the Departmental Archives and to many other free genealogy resources online. It has a regular blog that is rather interesting and that usually covers privacy issues as they arise in relation to online genealogy research. Geneafinder's submission for the letter B used the word Brexit (for anyone who has been completely without global news for the past five years, the word indicates Britain's exit from the European Union) to give a quite brief history of migrants between Britain and France, and then to discuss how to research them in British records online.

 

Sandrine Heiser writes about genealogy in Lorraine on "Lorraine...et au-delà!" Her contribution for the letters C and E introduced an archive hitherto unknown to us, the Centre des Archives industrielles et techniques de la Moselle. She describes how the archives can help with research on the people evacuated behind the Maginot line at the beginning of the Second World War. We learned that companies helped their employees and their families to evacuate separately from the rest of the population and that the documentation for this survives. Very interesting.

 

The coy Jean-François writes Aieux sur le plat which, for the letter E, discussed endogamy. He provides a procedure for compiling statistics on the geographic locations of his ancestors who married only people from within their locale. This is very much an approach to genealogy through the lens of French social history, with its emphasis on statistics and averages as a means to understand group behaviour. The errant individual who had an idea of his or her own to break away from the group (often the type who left and became an immigrant ancestor to many of you, Dear Readers) has no place in such a study (or such a weltanschauung, for that matter) but could be useful to those of you studying the ancestors who did not leave.

 

Sébastien Dellinger is the author of Marques Ordinaires, Généalogie de Moselle et d'ailleurs. His post for the letter E is on Emigrés of the Revolution from Moselle, an unusual and quite specific area of émigré research. Some of his research suggestions are of a more general nature, but it remains an intriguing post.

 

We do hope you will enjoy reading these posts. More letters to follow. One day.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


The Best Posts for the Letter A in the 2020 Challenge A-Z

Letter A

As promised, we bring you what we consider to have been among the better contributions to the 2020 Challenge A-Z, beginning with those of the letter A. We base our selection not only upon quality but upon what we consider may be useful to you, Dear Readers. Thus, many quite charming but too personal essays are omitted. All are in French.

 

Catherine Livet's blog, Becklivet, is a personal blog about researching her own family's genealogy. Her submission for the letter A is entitled Androgyne and tells of a child's sex  given incorrectly on a birth registration. She exhibits the faulty registration, covered with marginal notes showing the modifications made to legally change the sex, so that the person could marry. The post is brief and very clear and covers something that could cause any of us to stumble during our research.

 

Brigitte writes the respected Chroniques d'antan et d'ailleurs - Voyages sur les traces des ancêtres de mes enfants, on which she submitted the post A comme Apothicaire (A for Apothecary). This is a long a thorough study of one apothecary. It is well-illustrated and has a list of links at the end so, even if your French is not very good, you should be able to garner some good ideas from it. Most valuable, to our mind, is her discovery of a couple of delightful, seventeenth century directories of apothecaries in Paris and Nancy. An excellent piece of genealogy writing.

 

Maïwenn Bourdic writes d'Aïeux et d'Ailleurs, généalogie et archives, with a strong emphasis on World War I research. She wrote A comme Absent militaires (A is for Away or Missing Military Personnel). She discusses in detail and with examples a specific series in the National Archives, Dossiers des absents militaires (1846-1893), the files on those military personnel who went missing during that period (which includes the Franco-Prussian War). Click on that link to see the PDF finding aid, which lists all those who were declared missing and the documentation that was submitted by their families for the declaration. With the codes, one can then request a copy of the file. Many of you, Dear Readers, have ancestors who were from Alsace-Lorraine. If they seemed to have served and disappeared, you may find them here. There are also quite a number who went missing on Napoleon's campaign in Russia in 1812. Madame Bourdic's blog is full of such discoveries that she shares. Highly recommended.

 

This year, we noticed that many more departmental and municipal archives joined in the challenge. Many of them chose to put their contributions on their facebook pages so, if you know the town or village of an ancestor's origin, look on facebook to see if the archives have a page. They often write about local citizens and history and your ancestor could be included. Some, such as the Communal Archives of Savigny-sur-Orge, even translated their posts into English!

As we read through the many fine posts, we will continue to share those we like best with you, Dear Readers.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

 


Today - Salon Virtuel de Généalogie

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 7.08.51 AM

In a couple of hours will begin the Salon Virtuel de Généalogie, here in France, with plenty of very interesting free webinars. Unfortunately for those of you, Dear Readers, in the Americas, the talks will be available only at the time and link given, so we fear this will be for night owls only on your continents. All of the talks are in French, of course, and all look to be very interesting.  They are divided into seven categories:

  1. Les recherches généalogiques à l’étranger
  2. Sources et méthodologies de recherches généalogiques
  3. Sites et logiciels généalogiques
  4. Autour de la généalogie
  5. Écrire, transmettre et faire vivre la mémoire familiale
  6. Les animations
  7. Les webinaires

Many of the presenters have appeared on The French Genealogy Blog. There will be games and quizzes, with over three thousand euros' worth of prizes. The virtual exhibition hall, with over one hundred fifty virtual stands, should prove to be interesting, perhaps even amusing. The website is clean, clear, elegant. We will most definitely be among the attendees and recommend most highly that,  if you are awake and if you understand French, you attend online as well. We anticipate excellence!

UPDATE: So far, we are finding the talks, if not the microphones, to be of superb quality. Earlier, the links to stands were not satisfactory, but they are better now. We recommend that you look at the two pages of the list of specialists, if you seek a genealogist with unique skills or geographic location.

©2020 Anne Morddel

The French Genealogy Blog


A Quick List of French Military Websites for Your Lockdown Research

Chasseurs 1802

Many years ago, we worked in aid in East Africa. We poured our heart and soul into the projects, particularly one to train trainers, very much à la mode in the aid world at the time. We arrived after months of preparation, all notes and materials ready to give the course. At a final meeting with the Head of the Civil Service, he told us with his regrets that he would have to cancel the course. We were devastated. "It is fully booked," we pleaded. "The sponsors have paid for the facilities, materials, even for stipends for the attendees. Please reconsider." He refused, we continued begging, wheedling. He was adamant. As was our wont when younger, when we encountered grievous frustration, we lost our head, Dear Readers. Standing before the gentleman, we spoke passionately, waved our arms wildly, and threatened to stab ourself in the throat then and there with a decorative tribal knife that happened to be on his desk, "and bleed all over your carpet!" He looked very disappointed and relented, for which we thanked him profusely. We were so blind in those days. All the man wanted was a bribe. It would have saved us a near-stroke simply to have paid up.

Similarly, for months, we have been at the near-stroke stage in our frustration with the redesigned website of the French military archives, Mémoire des Hommes. Essentially, to our mind, it was launched far too soon, before much data had been entered. Our greatest complaints, however, has been that the brilliant finding aids were not accessible, denying the possibility of our much-enjoyed serendipitous discoveries. In this case of frustration, it was not a payment that was required but patience. Slowly, the site is improving and searches are yielding actual results. The "global search" allows a search for a particular name through the records of a few wars, most of them in the twentieth century. To  find a person in the records of the Ancien Régime through the First Empire, from 1682 to 1815, is a bit more arduous. The contrôles des troupes, the troop lists, have been digitized but are not indexed (collaborative indexing proceeds apace but many of us, Dear Readers, will not live the decades needed to see the results). Thus, you must page through the registers. To make it easier, try to find out the regiment in which your ancestor served and the approximate dates of his service.

Take the time to explore the site. It does get better.

Ancestramil remains a superb resource that takes much of the pain out of researching in the records of the French military. They have indexed close to a million names and transcribed thousands of lists. If you have done no military research at all, Ancestramil is the place to start. Some years back, we described it here.

A couple of the following are also on Ancestramil but we give them here if you wish to use a more subject specific site.

We hope these may help you to have a grand success during your lockdown hunting.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Research During Confinement - Another Quick List of Websites

Fashion of nobility

Here in France, Monday was the first day that we could peek and venture out of our homes. After two months of confinement, we are beginning, so cautiously, déconfinement. This being France, the rules are mathematical, quite cut and dried. There is now a system of colour coding applied to each of France's departments, indicating whether that department is able to pursue déconfinement (green), is at risk of going back to lock down (orange) or is locked down (red). The map for Monday showed most of the northeastern quadrant in red, then, a sort of diagonal band of departments from the northwest to the southeast in orange, and most of the west in green. The map will be revised on the 2nd of June, based on three criteria for each department: 

  1. The infection rate
  2. The number of intensive care beds available to care for the ill
  3. The testing rate

Nothing vague, nothing emotional, nothing political, nothing confusing, just pure numbers. Of course, if the reality turns out to be that life becomes a yoyo experience of going from relative freedom to confinement back to freedom and back to confinement, etc. all that order may fall to pieces. One journalist said today that "The French are too spoiled to be stoic," referring to the wearing of masks and social distancing still required, even in green zones.

 

As to French genealogy, Paris is, as ever, as red as she can be, resulting in all of the many glorious archival facilities remaining shut. We are not yet back on the Métro to research in the archives, as perhaps you, Dear Readers, may not be. So, we continue with our listing of excellent websites to aid you in your French genealogy research.

FRENCH NOBILITY

Tudchentil  - is dedicated to the nobility of Brittany. It is a superb, quite academic site, which we explained in detail here.

The Armorial général de France - is a book based on manuscripts, considered the one and only authority on the pre-Revolutionary nobility of France, which we wrote about here.

Noble Wiki - we are sad to say, has deteriorated since we first wrote about it and has buried its useful information under a surfeit of flashing advertisements and a zealous commitment to social media. Nevertheless, have a look to see if you may not find some clues for further research.

Dictionnaire de la noblesse - In nineteen volumes, this work includes numerous family genealogies. They can be found on Gallica, the Internet Archive and a few other websites.

 

VARIOUS PROFESSIONS

Siprojuris  - is a database of French law professors from 1804 to 1950, which we once discussed here.

Métiers d'Autrefois - will not help you to find your ancestor but, once you do, it will help you to understand what work he or she did. Once again, we remind you that a journalier was not a journalist but a day labourer, usually on a farm. We give other such sites here.

The Musée du Compagnonnage - A charming site that explains compagnonnage and can help you to find an ancestor who underwent this marvelously medieval style of training. We discussed it here.

GenVerrE is the website for the descendants of French glassmakers. Of all the profession websites we have mentioned on our blog, this seems to have been of the most help to readers. We introduced it  here.

Our post on French gold miners in California is not a website but may be of help. Be sure to read the very good comments to that post.

Good luck with your research.

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Research Under Confinement or "Lock Down"

We opine, Dear Readers, that it is unfortunate that the words for our staying at home during this pandemic are all words used for imprisonment, such as "confinement" or "lock down". In truth, we are not in prison. We are not criminals who have acted against the public good in a selfish and greedy manner. We are all engaged in the largest, shared, voluntary act for the public good in the history of humanity. None of us wants to fall ill but more, none of us wants to make others ill. Billions of people are staying home, sacrificing work, education and socialization, in an unselfish determination to put the good for all above the need of the individual. Our heroism is obviously not on the level of the heroism of those risking their lives for the public good by tending the ill, but it exists. It is our view that we are witnessing an astonishing and beautiful truth about our species. It is that we can, all of us, work together for the good of all. 

Nevertheless, staying at home can be dull. Even our belovèd ninety year old uncle in California is finding it all a bit tedious, not being able to go for his long walks around town. So, back to French genealogy, in the hope that the rigours of research and a busy mind will quell the twitchings of inactive limbs. 

Continuing with a quick list of useful websites for research:

 

FRENCH WHO EMIGRATED

ASIL Europe XIX - A most interesting website of European migrants during the nineteenth century, including those who were expelled from France. It is the work of a university. We find that such sites tend to be fabulous and then (why? because someone got his or her PhD and wandered off?) they disappear, so use it quickly. We first wrote about this here.

Bagnards -  From 1853 to 1952, France sent more than 100,000 prisoners to penal colonies, primarily to French Guyana and New Caledonia. In our previous post, we already recommended the site of ANOM, but this takes to directly to the bagnards section.  Note that a new aspect is that the registers have now been digitized. For much more about the bagnards, read our post here.

Basques Who Went to Argentina - These are the registers maintained of those Basques who sailed to Argentina, of whom there are now an estimated ten million descendants. Read our original post on this here.

Via Bordeaux - As we have written, the Bordeaux port records were burned, so there are no passenger lists. However, this is a wonderful database of the passports issued to those who sailed from Bordeaux, as emigrants or not, that can be searched and the original documents viewed. Read our original post about the passports here and how to combine your research in them with Ancestry's records here.

Communards who were deported are listed in full on a blog dedicated to the subject. For more on the Paris Commune, read our post here.

Mauritius or Réunion - This has some overlap with ANOM's site, but also has information of its own, including lists of first emigrants to these islands, many names with pages of extracted information from parish registrations. See our original post on this here.

FrancoGene - a well-known and excellent website on early emigrants from France to North America.

Emigration to Algeria - If, like us, you despise flashing advertisements all over a page you are trying to read, if the ugly images are an offense to your eye, if the harping phrases an insult to your intelligence, you may wish to view this site's fine collection of information with an ad-blocker on your browser. Read our original post on the workers' convoys to Algeria here.

Passenger and Crew Lists from Le Havre and Rouen - The Departmental Archives have digitized a collection of passenger lists discovered after World War II in one of the few buildings not bombed by the Allies. The lists cover voyages from Le Havre or Rouen on French registered vessels that returned to Le Havre or Rouen in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are not indexed and are arranged by date. Read our post explaining this site here.

 

May these websites help you to soar with a sense of freedom as your research takes you across the globe and back in time. More to come, mes amis!

©2020 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

(We had intended to put at the top of this post a picture of a fountain as we have read that donating fountains to one's community is, in certain cultures, a most-honoured act for the public good, but Typepad's image insertion is malfunctioning today.)


Filae Launches an English Version

Filae languages

Sound the fanfare, Filae.com, one of the two major French commercial genealogy websites, now has pages in English. Click on the French flag in the upper right hand corner and a blended US/UK flag will drop down. Click on that and away you go.

Filae English

For those of you who have been intimidated by the French, you may now jump in and explore many, many French genealogy resources, all of them pretty well indexed.

Enjoy!

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Was Your Ancestor a French Magistrate?

Judge

The most interesting talk that we attended at the Salon de la généalogie was that given by historian, author, researcher, and an editor of Criminocorpus (about which we have written here), Dr. Jean-Claude Farcy, on the database that he created, Annuaire rétrospectif de la magistrature XIXe-XXe siècles, ("Retrospective Directory of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"). The result of fifteen years of research and unfortunately presented on a drab, clumsy and awkward website (how is it that the country that gives us UbiSoft at the same time is notorious for rubbish websites?) this is yet a brilliant gathering of information on hundreds of France's magistrates.

The intention in creating the website was not so much genealogical as to historical, looking at each court or judgeship. Thus, the search es are designed to show a judgeship or position through time, listing all of the people who held the position and the dates when they did so. Yet, searches by surname are possible, so the site can be used to research a particular person. All of the search pages have the annoying quirk of requiring that a date be given, and in the required format. If no date be given, the form reverts to blank fields, with no explanation as to why. Another annoying point is that to search for Paris, one must recall that for most of the nineteenth century it was in the department of Seine, so one must put that as the location.

The results of any search are, however, impressive. Especially useful is that all sources, bibliographic and archival, for the information are provided. The details of these sources are given in full, ensuring not only that a user can trust but also can verify the information found here.

Included also are magistrates in Algeria, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other ex-colonies and overseas territories and departments. Genealogical research for these areas can be quite difficult and this website may offer an alternative route for tracing an ancestor.

Dr. Farcy is the author of the guide to research in French judicial records, Guide des Archives Judiciaires at Pénitentiaires, 1800-1958, which can be downloaded free of charge here, or viewed as a scanned book on Gallica here, or purchased as a new and slightly reworked version here.

More on the superb work of Dr. Farcy in future posts.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Improve Your French Genealogy Vocabulary With YouTube

Vocabulary

 

Many of you, Dear Readers, are keen to learn more French, and we applaud your ambition. Yet, few classes in French concentrate specifically on the vocabulary necessary for genealogical research. Our own glossary lists words found in the documents, records and archives that you will discover, but what about the vocabulary necessary to discuss your research and to develop your research skills? As you progress, you will want to communicate about your genealogical research in French with archivists, or fellow researchers or even cousins. 

We propose that you listen to the pithy little lectures on the YouTube channel of Archives et Cultures. There are now one hundred and seventeen of these small lessons in genealogy. Most are about two and a half minutes long; the longest reaches all the way to four minutes. An uncredited presenter of some charm discusses all manner of genealogical and historical subjects, with good enunciation. About half are on subjects relating to daily life of long ago, discussing such delights as the washer, the iron, wooden shoes, soft toys, Father Christmas, and so on. The other half covers solid topics in genealogy, such as censuses, ten-year indices, military records, cemeteries, archives, etc.

When next you are feeling sluggish and discouraged with your French genealogy, do try one of these snippets that should both divert and educate.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

We received this lovely comment with interesting suggestions by e-mail from Mme. E.:  Bonjour, Anne,
As we are in the throes of Mardi Gras, I have not had time to listen to one of those "pithy little lectures" to which you refer in the latest post. But I would like to recommend that those who want to learn the catch-phrases and vocabulary of French genealogy, subscribe to a French society list and just lurk, reading all the questions, réponses, and discussions. It is also a good lesson in French internet etiquette. My free subscription to the GHC-Liste these past decades has been worth it's weight in 'ti sou. Of course the spoken word adds another dimension. And then there the are genealogy publications...
I look forward to every one of your blog posts and devour them with great delight. Thank you!