Women and Children

FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell, part 2

Marie Fouyol

Analysis of the French Documentation

We give here our rough translations of the three Mansell baptisms entered into the registers of the Paris Catholic church of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas (to see the originals, follow the links in the previous post):

1)

Margin:

Françoise Josephine Mancell
no. 26

Body:

On the thirteenth of February 1814 was baptized Francoise Josephine, daughter of Thomas Mencell and of Marie Fouyol, machinist living at rue du Faubourg St. Jacques no. 46 [? 16?]. The godfather is Jean François Varrinier, boarding house keeper, rue du Cloître Saint Benoît no. 17, the godmother is Josephine Thomassin, wife of Cartier, embroiderer (or, more precisely, one who decorates clothing) living at rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur no. 5, who have signed with the mother and me, the father having declared that he does not know how to sign, neither does the child, aged 27 months and 25 or 26 days, born the 18th of November 1811.

Signatures:

Varrinier

Marie Fouyol w[ife of] Thomas Mancell

Josephine wife [of] Cartier

Menil (priest)

 

2)

Margin:

Pierre Georg. Alph.
Mansall
32

Body:

On the ninth of February 1816 was baptized by me the undersigned priest Pierre Georges Alphonse, born the 9th of January last, son of Thomas Mansall, weaver and of Marie Fouillol, his wife, living in this parish, rue St. Jacques no. 295. The godfather was Pierre Rey, cotton worker, same residence, the godmother was Margueritte Cocq... [? the rest of the name is illegible], same residence. The godfather only has signed with me, the father and mother having declared that they do not know how to sign.

Signatures:

Rey

M.C.S. Mouzou priest

3)

Margin:

Mansann
J. Richard

Body:

On the thirty-first of October 1818, was baptized Jeanne-Richard, born the 10th of this month, daughter of weaver Mansann ... [illegible] ... rue St. Jacques no 26 [? 261? illegible], and of Marie Fouyolle, his wife. The godfather was Richard Thompson, rue de la Paix no. 6, who has signed, and the godmother Thomassine Lorguilleux, rue des ... [illegible]. no. 6, who declared that she did not know how to sign.

Signatures:

Richard Thompson

Hézelle, vicar

 

The last child, Jeanne Richard, did not live long. The line for her entry, number 3372, into the burial register of Père Lachaise, shows that she died at the age of six weeks in the ninth arrondissement and was buried in the "common pit" or paupers' grave, on the 23rd of November 1818.

*

What stands out most glaringly is the question of whether or not Marie Fouyol could sign her name. The 1814 baptism register entry stated that she could and did sign, as "Marie Fouyol wife of Thomas Mancell".1 The 1816 register entry stated that she could not sign her name. and there is no signature for her. The 1818 register entry made no mention of her ability to sign and there is no signature for her. The burial register does not contain signatures. That the 1816 clearly stated that she did not know how to sign her name calls into question the validity of the signature in the 1814 register entry, as do the various spellings in the three entries. Were she literate, she would have been able to spell her name to the person writing the entry. 

However, we have seen similar cases in other registers where the priest wrote in some entries that a person could not sign while in others, the person could and did sign. This occurred with both women and men. It is not clear why this was done. Additionally, the royal decrees of the Ancien régime that established how parish register entries were to be written stated, in 1667, and re-stated in 1736, that baptism entries were to be signed by the father, the godparents and the priest.2 There was no requirement for the mother to sign. The Mansell children's baptism register entries were made more than twenty years after the 1792 establishment of civil registration, replacing Catholic Church registration as legal establishment of identity. It could be posited that the church registers would be expected to comply with the old rules, yet neither the priests nor the vicar of Saint Jacques du Haut Pas were following precisely the old rules for the composition of a baptism entry in ignoring the mother and having the father sign if he could. Thus, the structure and wording of the entries do not allow for any assumption about the mother's ability to write. Unless another signature by Marie Fouyol turns up in another document, it cannot be certain that the signature of the 1814 baptism is hers.

 

Another point to note is the question of the marriage of the parents. In the 1814 baptism, there was no mention, as would have been normal, of the fact that Thomas Mansell and Marie Fouyol were married, or that she was his wife, yet, in the 1816 and 1818 baptism entries, the mention is made. The statement does appear in Marie Fouyol's single, attributed signature, on the baptism of 1814. It may well have been that that signature "Marie Fouyol f[emme] Thomas Mancell", whoever wrote it, was a way of correcting the omission, leaving no doubt that the child was legitimate.

 

The professions of all involved are not given but those that are, particularly of Thomas Mansell, are also important to note:

  • Thomas Mansell was a mécanicien and a tisserand, a machinist and weaver. There is much discussion on various French genealogy websites about the difference between the three words tisseur, tissier and tisserand, all of which mean weaver. The general consensus, with no one citing any source or authority, seems to be that a tisseur or tissier is a weaver as classically understood, someone who works at a manually operated loom. A tisserand, however, seems to be someone capable of all aspects of weaving, from selecting the threads, to choosing the pattern, to setting up the loom, to weaving, to approving the final product. Thomas Mansell was a tisserand. He also was a machinist. In this context, he almost certainly a machinist of power looms, possibly also automated looms. 
  • Though the fact that Jeanne Richard Mansell was buried in the paupers' grave does not indicate anyone's profession, it does indicate that the Mansell family were not wealthy.
  • Jean François Varrinier ran a boarding house, renting out furnished rooms. 
  • Josephine Thomassin  was a chamareuse, one who decorated clothing, including such skills as embroidery and sewing on embellishments such as pearls, beads, etc..
  • Pierre Rey was a cotton worker, ouvrier en coton, probably involved in carding, sorting and spinning cotton.

A picture begins to form of a social circle of people working in textiles and clothing.

 

The places of residence, all in Paris, are:

  • The Mansell couple lived at number 16 or 46 of rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, then at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques, then at number 26 or 261 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Jeanne Richard Mansell died in the ninth arrondissement of Paris
  • Jean François Varrinier's boarding house was at number 17 rue du Cloître Saint Benoît
  • Josephine Thomassin lived at number 5 rue du Petit Lion Saint Sauveur
  • Pierre Rey lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Margueritte Cocq... [her full name is illegible] also lived in the same building as the Mansells, at number 295 of rue Saint Jacques
  • Richard Thompson lived at number 6 rue de la Paix
  • Thomassine Lorguilleux's address is illegible

 

As to relationships, none of the godparents were stated as being married to one another and none seems to have been related to one another or, frustratingly, to the child baptized or to the parents. Josephine Thomassin is identified as the "wife of Cartier".

 

Analysis of the Canadian Documentation

The Canadian documentation on the Mansell family as provided by Madame J, is also quite sparse:

  • The grave stone for Thomas Mansell, in the Wesleyan Methodist Cemetery, Mississippi Mills, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada states that he was from Yorkshire and that he died in 1852 at the age of seventy-five. This would make his year of birth about 1777. There is no grave stone for his wife. 
  • The 1861  Census Canada West, Renfrew North, Westmeath shows a Marrey Mansell living with her son, Alfred Thomas Mansell. Born in France, she was aged seventy-eight.  This would make her year of birth about 1783.
  • The 1871 Census Canada, Ontario, Renfrew Co., Westmeath shows a Mariah Mensell, aged eighty-eight and born in France, living with her son. This would make her year of birth about 1783.
  • The Westmeath, Renfrew, Ontario death register entry for Marie Mansell dated the 2nd of October 1872, stated that she was ninety years old and had been born in Paris, France. This would make her year of birth about 1782.
  • The obituary of Marie's daughter, written in 1903, states that:
    • Thomas Mansell was an English weaver
    • He arrived in Paris in 1801
    • He became a prisoner when war broke out and could not leave Paris
    • Marie [Fouyol] Mansell was the widow of a French officer
    • The family left Paris in 1819 and returned to Yorkshire, where the Mansells' "only son", Alfred T. Mansell was born
    • The family arrived in Canada in 1820

The most useful facts about Marie Fouyol from the above are that:

  1. Marie's age is quite consistent with her year of birth having been about 1783.
  2. She was the widow of a French officer when she married Thomas Mansell.
  3. Her first son probably died at such an early age that her grandchildren, the probable informants for the obituary, knew nothing of his existence.

 

In the next post, we will begin to look at the above information groups in more detail.

 

UPDATE - We received this delightful and most helpful comment from Madame R by e-mail:

"Re Marie Fouyol's signature or not, I have found the same issue in the English registers, sometimes a person signed, on others a cross for his or her mark was inserted. Skilled trades who were masters, employing others and training apprentices, could write and calculate, or they could not function as a business, yet sometimes they too have a cross inserted. The reason may be that the registers were not necessarily written up on the day of the event or by the person officiating, instead written up by the clerk later - a week, or a month or so. They were sometimes inserted as a bunch all together and the register signed by the priest/rector in a long column down the right hand side. In marriage banns, some are signed, some crossed.

At this time, in Britain, the clergy often had responsibility for several churches (and the living from them) so record keeping could be a hit and miss affair at the smaller ones. (I don't know if this was true in France). In more significant churches, the record is more accurate but snobbery can affect the entries. I have an ancestor Ann Adair who signed at her marriage, her groom, a Scots gunner, could not. Both are likely to be the case. Then he lied about his father's profession, and the Rector at the protestant Cathedral in Londonderry (or Derry), recorded her father as a labourer - which meant any working man, basically not gentry like him.

Apparently, before the Famine in rural Catholic Ireland, baptisms were at the family home (for a first baby often the mother's parents house) and was followed by 'wetting the baby's head' - the drinks. The priest stayed for the drinking and then somewhat later went back to the parochial house and tried to remember who was called what. Boys names and fathers are usually recorded accurately, who the mother was or was she the witness, caused mix ups, and what was the little girl's name? Mothers and godmothers were often confused.

From which I conclude, that there were many things apart from simple truth that could affect the registers.

Thanks for the blog, very enjoyable."

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

1 The priest also wrote that Thomas Mansell and the child could not sign, giving the child's full age, probably to make a point of the fact that this was a very late baptism.

2 Le Mée René. "La réglementation des registres paroissiaux en France". Annales de démographie historique, 1975.
Démographie historique et environnement. pp. 433-477; https://www.persee.fr/doc/adh_0066-2062_1975_num_1975_1_1296 (Accessed 27 July 2021) p451.

 


FGB Free Clinic - Case no. 9 - Marie Fouyol, Parisian wife of Thomas Mansell

Marie Fouyol

Not so long ago (but longer ago than we should like to admit, we are ashamed to say) we were contacted by Madame J. with a submission for the FGB Free Clinic. She had been able to find little on the origins of her French ancestor, Marie Fouyol, and asked if the FGB could be of help. The following is her summary of her research:

MARIE FOUYOL (c. 1783 - 1872)
Also spelled Fouyolle, Fouillol, Fouillot, Fouyot

Born in France (possibly Paris) c. 1783

1st Marriage: French Officer (widowed - no known name, place or date)

2nd Marriage: Thomas Mansell (also spelled Mencel, Mansall, Mansill)
- no known place or date of marriage
See below re Thomas Mansell.

Died: 2 October 1872 in Westmeath, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada

Marie had four children with Thomas Mansell
Three were born in Paris (all baptised at St Jacques du Haut Pas) and one was born in Canada (Thomas Alfred in 1821). Links to the childrens' Paris baptismal records are here:

• Baptismal entry at St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Françoise Joséphine ‘MANCELL’, 13 Nov 1814, 26, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/21

• Baptismal entry St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Pierre Georges Alphonse ‘MANSALL’ 9 February 1816, no. 32, p.139, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/139

• Baptismal entry St Jacques du Haut Pas, Paris, Jeanne Richard ‘MAUSANN’ (1813-19, p.335/378, https://en.geneanet.org/archives/registres/view/26945/335.


THOMAS MANSELL (Mansill, Mancell, Mansall, Manssall, Mausann, Mencell)

Born: 19 July 1777, Rillington, Ryedale, N. Yorkshire
Parents: George Mansell (1744-1816), a weaver
Frances (Dinsdale) Mansell (1748-1829).

Occupation: Weaver (tisserand, mécanicien)

France – went to France for work sometime before 1801
Detained: 1801-1814 (Dépot de Fontainebleau and Paris)
Left France c. 1819

Emigrated to Canada c.1820
Died: 13 Nov 1852, Ramsay, Ontario, Canada

 

Madame J. and her sister both had done a great deal of previous research, as evidenced above. Additionally:

  • They had found that the child born in 1818, Jeanne Richard Mansall, died at the age of six weeks and was buried in Père Lachaise cemetery. (https://tinyurl.com/vkz8f49j)
  • They had found the family in Canadian census returns of 1861 (and possibly other years; we are waiting on that).
  • Based on the precise dates above, they would appear to have found the Canadian death registrations for Thomas Mansell and Marie Fouyol Mansell. (We are waiting for those to be sent to us.)
  • They contacted us previously and we were able to send them the page showing Mansell's name on a list of prisoners of war, or détenus, held by the French at Fontainebleau in 1803.
  • They had found an obituary for the surviving daughter of Thomas and Marie, Françoise Joséphine, who married James Grieg in Canada in 1832:

Friday April 3, 1903, The Almonte Gazette p.4: The Late Mrs Jas Greig –

"The Gazette last week mentioned the death of Mrs Jas Greig of Carleton Place, which occurred on the 24th of March, and this week is enabled to give some interesting particulars regarding her life. She was born in Paris, France, in 1811. Her father, Mr Thos Mansell, was an English weaver, who went to France about 1801. Soon thereafter war arose between England and France, and, with hundreds of other Englishmen, he was made a prisoner at Paris and could not escape. He married the widow of a French officer killed in war, and in 1811 their daughter, the late Mrs Grieg, was born. In 1819 Mr Mansell returned to England and Yorkshire, and here their only son, Mr. A.T. Mansell, of Westmeath, now 82 years of age, was born. In 1820 the family came to Canada on the strength of reports sent back from relatives. For four years they lived near Brockville and then settled in Ramsay near Almonte. The father died fifty years ago. The mother some years later. The former was 90 years of age, the latter 75. [reverse seems correct because the 1861 Census for Westmeath ON, lists her mother [Marrey Mensell] as born in France; 78 years of age, which would mean she was born approx. 1783]. Mr and Mrs Grieg were married in 1832. He was a native of Clarkmannshire, Scotland. They came to Carleton Place in 1863. For six years Mr Greig operated the grist mill. Then he retired altogether from business life and for many years the two enjoyed unbroken pleasures. The children living are Peter, James, Andrew, Mrs Jas Cram, Alfred, Mrs John Donaldson, Robert and Christena. The dead are John, Mrs Templeton and Thomas. All the children were present at dinner on the day of the funeral, Robert and James coming from far western States and Mrs Cram from Pilot Mound. The funeral took place on Saturday afternoon, interment being made in the family plot in the 8th line Ramsay cemetery, quite a number going from Almonte to join the cortege, some at Carleton Place and others as it neared the cemetery. Five sons and her son-in-law, Mr Donaldson, were the pall-bearers."

 

For a number of reasons, this is not an easy case.

  • The many spelling variants of both names make searches of any indexed records exceedingly tedious and fraught with missed possibilities.
  • Thomas Mansell was not French, so there will not be  much French documentation about him to link back to Marie Fouyol.
  • Most of the parish and civil registrations of Paris prior to 1860 were lost in conflagrations; those that were reconstructed from other records were done so by families that remained in France and needed the documentation for one reason or another.
  • The Mansell-Fouyol family emigrated to Canada and so were unlikely to have bothered to re-establish their French documentation. However, if Marie Fouyol had relatives who remained in France, they may have done so.

The above reasons can help to explain why Madame J and her sister, in spite of their stellar research on various genealogy websites extensively, were not able to find:

  • A record of the Mansell-Fouyol marriage, whether religious or civil.
  • A record of Marie Fouyol's first marriage.
  • A record of Marie Fouyol's birth or baptism.

 

In the next post, analysis of what we have.

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


"Female Ancestors Are Hard to Find", They Say, But Not If They Were French, We Assure You

Women - Bretagne (Carhaix et Huelgoat)

This year's RootsTech has launched, with many dozens of talks on more than genealogy, all of them online this year. Topics cover everything from food to folklore, costumes to customs, search strategies to scrapbooking, and the dreaded, bouncy, motivational talks. At least, we dread them. We have many failings, Dear Readers, (most shamefully, our vile, cataclysmic and near-cannibalistic rages) but lack of motivation is not one of them. Yet, for all of the choice, we could not find at first glance a presentation to captivate us, so we returned to one from last year, the very fine "Finding Your Elusive Female Ancestors" by Julie Stoddard. Ms. Stoddard makes a number of good points, and includes some research skills, such as creating timelines, always looking at original documents and analyzing them fully (here is how we do it), that should be employed in all genealogy research, but her focus  is on the difficulty of researching women in the United States.

Researching women in France is quite different, so we thought that we might give you something of a comparison between the skills proposed by Ms. Stoddard for researching your American female ancestors with those necessary for researching your French female ancestors. The fundamental difference lies in the customs concerning a married woman's surname. In America and the English tradition, when a woman married, her surname legally changed to that of her husband; in France, since 1792, it did and does not. In America, when Jane Smith married John Brown, her legal name changed to Jane Brown, or Mrs. John Brown. If John died, she became Widow Brown. In France, when Jeanne Martin married Jean Larue, her legal name remained Jeanne Martin, with the added status of "wife of Larue" (femme Larue or épouse Larue), written in full: Jeanne Martin, épouse Larue. If Jean died, her status changed but her name did not. She became Jeanne Martin, widow Larue: Jeanne Martin veuve Larue. Thus, there is no such thing as a "maiden name" in France; there is only a person's name. What of Madame Larue as one finds? This is a customary usage but not a legal name. Additionally, in France, women could and did sign documents, using their legal names.

Do not be fooled, Dear Readers. This preserving of a woman's birth name as her legal identity is not an indication that France was somehow more advanced concerning women's rights. No, it is a country as backward in that respect as any other; the female revolutionaries who fought for women's equality during the Revolution were beheaded and their writings buried; in modern times, women were not enfranchised until 1948.  The difference comes from the French (and very Latin) concept of family. A woman was part of her birth family. Any dowry she received came from the family; they may have retained rights over it; they may have expected it to be returned were she to die. Yet, she also belonged to the new family she was to create with her husband and they may have been controlling their family's assets in relation to their own children. As a widow, she might have carried on the family business in her own right (this happened especially with shipping families, it seems). Knowing her identity was essential and practical. How, in terms of genealogical research, are these differences manifested?

Ms. Stoddard lists the types of records most likely to result in a successful search for a woman's name in America, and how to use them for that purpose:

  • Vital records, being birth, marriage and death records
  • Census returns
  • Family trees found online
  • Cemeteries
  • Probate records
  • Social Security records
  • DNA tests

Looking at their French equivalents, one can see that their usefulness in researching women is not at all the same.

  • The French equivalent of vital records are the actes d'état civil, acts of civil status. These date from 1792, when civil registration replaced church parish records as legal documentation of people. These are hugely useful in tracing a French female ancestor's life. A marriage act, acte de mariage, will give a woman's full name, both of her parents' full names, and her date and place of birth. Thus, one marriage act can reveal not only the bride's name but the names of her mother and of the groom's mother as well. Birth registrations, actes de naissance, generally give the legal names of the father and of the mother as well as their marital status. Thus, a child of the couple above would be registered as, say, Samuel Larue, born to Jean Larue and his wife, Jeanne Martin. Death registrations, actes de décès, are always in the legal name of the person, so a woman's death would be, for example registered as: Jeanne Martin, wife (or widow) of Jean Larue. If known, her parents names and the place of her birth would be included. Most commercial genealogy companies in France have structured their initial search pages to allow for exploiting all of this detail in the civil registrations.
  • Census returns are recensements (with other terms used over the years) in France. They began in 1836, except for in Paris, where they did not begin until 1926. Married women are enumerated under their legal names. Thus, one would see the Larue family listed as:
    • Larue, Jean, head of household
    • Martin, Jeanne, his wife
    • Larue, Samuel, their son
    • Larue, Jacques, their son
    • Larue Marie, their daughter
    • Boule, Louise, widow Larue, mother of the head of household

The great headache with the French census is that most are not indexed. Filae.com has indexed two, that for 1872 and that for 1906, and they are working on others. Though there is less indexing of censuses in France than in America, it is generally of a much higher quality, yielding much fewer preposterous results.

  • Family trees found online posted by French people tend to be slightly better at citing sources than those found online in America. The best source for French family trees is Geneanet.org. As Ms. Stoddard recommends, so do we: verify every single source.
  • Cemetery photographs or jaunts to view family plots are recommend by Ms. Stoddard to help you to find a female ancestor. This would not be very successful in France, especially outside of Paris and other large cities. French cemeteries tend not to have graves of individuals but family tombs. (Once again, the family is more important than the individual.) These tombs often have no more than the family surname engraved upon them. Some will have listed the names of those within, some not. Where they do, the lists may not be complete. More valuable for research than the cemetery or grave stone is the cemetery register, maintained by the town hall. Because so many cemeteries in France have been moved or destroyed and because untended graves are emptied and the plots resold, hunting through cemeteries will not yield much information. The register books of interments, however, are permanent records and might help with genealogical research. Those of  Paris are online, but this is still quite rare. Geneanet has a fair collection of photographs of  grave markers and tombs, but it is still quite small.
  • Probate records in France are increasingly online on the websites of the Departmental Archives. Again, in these, a woman will appear under her legal name. The records online relate more to the legal transfer of title to property because of a death and the legal registration of a will. Wills are not found online. These are complicated to search and are more useful in the hunt for unknown relatives. One would not begin the search for a female ancestor here when she is so easy to find elsewhere.
  • Social Security records. Beware, here, for they are not what you think in France. La Sécurité Sociale is the term for the French national health system and those, being medical records, you will not be able to touch for love or money. In America, one's Social Security number, like it or not, functions almost as a national identity number. France does issue national identity cards, la carte d'identité, and you will not get your hands on a collection of those either.
  • The last category, finding relatives and thus, common ancestors, with DNA testing is a conundrum, fraught with difficulty, and partially illegal in France. However, so many people skirt the law, take the illegal test and put their results up on foreign genealogy websites that, if you are so inclined, you might give it a try. Where this will be extremely helpful in tracing a woman or a man is where either or both chose not to be named on a child's birth registration.

 

We are grateful to Ms. Stoddard for her excellent presentation and that it has inspired us in this discussion. Good luck finding your female ancestors!

©2021 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 


Article Review - Women in the French Military Archives

Military Woman

Some years back, we reviewed here the stellar tome on genealogical research using France's military archives, written by the archivists at the Service Historique de la Défense,  (SHD) Sandrine Heiser and Vincent Mollet. Inexplicably, when we listed some of the chapter headings in that review, we neglected one on a subject for which we have, of course, a rather natural affinity: women in the French military. We may have missed "Votre ancêtre était ...une femme" ("Your ancestor was a woman") because it is only three pages long, with half of those pages filled with photographs, or we may have to confess that we missed it because our work was not up to standard that day, for which we apologize with bow and scrape. Happily, Madame Heiser expanded on that chapter in an article written for the Revue Historique des Armées (it may be downloaded as a PDF). For those who cannot read French but have women to research, we give here a summary. 

Madame Heiser divides her subject into nine categories:

  • Femmes militaires et filles débauchées - "Military Women and Debauched Girls", are covered by a small group of archives, just one carton, from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and concerns mostly women who were spies or who served in the army disguised as men. This carton also includes cases against those camp followers who were prostitutes, the "debauched girls".
  • Cantinières, vivandières et blanchisseuses - "Canteen-keepers, sutlers and laundresses", including not only the women who did these jobs but the wives of any men who did them, from 1791 to 1900. There is no index to the names of the women included, so a researcher would have to spend some time reading the files.
  • Les femmes « pensionnées » ou « décorées » - "Women Who Received Pensions or Military Decorations". Those in the category above, as well as widows of men in the military, often had to petition for a pension and the records of those petitions are in this group. 
  • Mères et épouses de militaires - "Mothers and Wives of Men in the Military". Would it not be grand if this were an archive of all such women, and with an index as well? It would, indeed, but it is not. Madame Heiser explains here that these women may be discovered by reading a soldier's individual service record. It is true, as she says, that the details are rich and there are often, in a man's file surprise bonus documents, but in no way is there such a collection about these women; they are incidental in the information about the men.
  • Les femmes « personnel civil » - "Women Who Were Army Civilians", a large group of many thousands of women, mostly employed during the two World Wars. The archives of all Army civilian personnel are held at a facility in Châtellerault, described here.
  • Agents secrets et espionnes  - "Secret Agents and Spies", a series dating from the eighteenth century and including the file on the infamous and unlucky Mata Hari.
  • Vers un statut militaire - "Toward a Military Status". Here, Madame Heiser explains that women could not join the Army in any capacity until 1940 and that their files are held along with the men's, divided only according to the branch of the military in which they served.
  • Des femmes militaires témoignent - "Women in the Military Bear Witness". Within the archives oral history collection are many accounts by women, especially of but not exclusively of their service in the Air Force.
  • À Pau, 100 000 dossiers de femmes - "At Pau, 100,000 Files on Women". In the city of Pau is the Central archives concerning modern military personnel (CAPM), all those born before 1983, and many of them are women. 

Most of these archives are not online but the finding aids, increasingly, are. By studying those, you may be able to narrow your search enough to request copies from the SHD. Otherwise, you may have to hire a researcher. Unfortunately, now is not the time. The SHD at Vincennes is closed for the month of August and the website is down, yet again, for maintenance. Plan to tackle this in the autumn.

There is a pair of battered, blue binders filled with old, typed finding aids at the SHD in Vincennes that are probably our favourite books in the whole place. They cover the series in GR Y, all of the oddities that fit nowhere else in the vast system. Many of the archives described above are in GR Y, containing the stories of remarkable women. We do hope one of them is an ancestor of yours.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 


Saint-Cyr - Was Your Ancestress a Poor but Educated Aristocrat?

St Cyr Silhouette

In 1684, Louis XIV established at Saint-Cyr a school for the daughters of certain impoverished nobility called the Maison Royale de Saint Louis. It educated girls and young women until the Revolution caused its closure in 1793. Lists of the names of the students have been published in book form, but the website of the Departmental Archives of Yvelines, where Saint-Cyr is located, have placed the names on its website. They are given alphabetically in three groups:

  • Certain boarders (pensionnaires)
  • Likely boarders
  • Boarders whose home cannot be determined

It is also possible to view the list by department, colony or country of origin. Thus, one can find the three girls from Quebec, the four from Martinique, the two from Guadeloupe, along with the dozens listed under each department. In all, there were over three thousand boarders at Saint-Cyr during its hundred years or so of existence.

The information to be gained is little but genealogically precious:

  • The full and correct spelling and order of those tricky noble names
  • The place of birth
  • The date of baptism
  • The date of the documents used 
  • The date she left the school

In 1806, Napoleon handed the buildings over to the military and the place became the elitist Ecole spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr. It may be a very sad irony that the military school was exclusively for males until 1983, when women were first admitted, only to have their lives made hell. The true founder, Madame de Maintenon (the king's second wife), would surely have been outraged.

©2018 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Dossier de Réintegration - Genealogical Joy from a Widow's Struggles

Widow

As we wrote in the previous post about women left widowed after the First World War, at that time, a Frenchwoman who married a foreign man lost her French nationality. That was a finality until 1922, four years after the war had ended, leaving the population of France much reduced and many, particularly war widows, impoverished.

That year, in March, the French Senate approved alterations to the Code Civil articles concerning nationality, granting the possibility for some women who had lost their nationality through marriage to become French again. It has not changed much and is still in effect today. The conditions were that the woman:

  • had to be widowed, divorced, legally separated or in some other way completely free of the foreign husband and his un-French influence;
  • had maintained or established manifest cultural, professional, economic, and familial ties with France.1

She had to submit documentary proof of the above with her application to the Ministry of Justice to have her French nationality restored, for her to be "reintegrated". If her application were approved, her nationality would be restored by decree, usually as one person in a batch. 

Decrete

 Hundreds of women whose foreign husbands had been killed or whom they had divorced took advantage of this new opportunity. Regaining their nationality would have given them much better employment opportunities and the right to have a French passport, of only to emigrate with it.

The forms that they completed survive in the Archives nationales, showing their origins, their marriages, their divorces or the deaths of their husbands, births of their children and so much more. We have seen these applications show all those details, plus:

  • list all of the woman's siblings, with their ages and addresses
  • the woman's place of work and her salary
  • the name of the place where she boarded her children and what it cost her (more than half of her salary)

To find these dossiers, one must search on an index to the names of those in the nationality decrees called NATNUM. Unfortunately, this is not yet on the wonderful Salle des Inventaires Virtuelle of the Archives nationales and must be searched on site on their computers in the archives at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. That takes one to a microfilm of the decrees:

NATNUM

The decree gives the woman's name, date and place of birth, her married name, place of residence, and how much of the fee was refunded. On the left is the number of the full reintegration application dossier, which may then be requested from the archives.

The process of obtaining one of these wonderfully detailed files is a bit complicated but not half as complicated as it was for the poor woman to complete and submit it.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

1 "Code de la nationalité française", article 97-4, Legifrance, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/, accessed 4 September 2017.


Why WWI War Widows Had to Emigrate

War Widows

So often, people ask us why their ancestors left France and we must respond that the archives and documents rarely give reasons, only blunt statements of facts. However, if your grandmother or great-grandmother were a widow of a man who fought for France in World War One and she left France, the reason will be glaringly obvious: poverty.

The First World War left France with some 600,000 widows and close on a million fatherless children.1 In most cases, these newly fatherless families lost their breadwinner. The laws enforcing the customary oppression of women in force at the time made survival difficult if not impossible: 

  • Upon marriage to a foreigner, a woman automatically lost her French citizenship and her children were not French.
  • Girls received primary education but young women were not allowed to pass the baccalauréat, the basic education requirement for employment in any managerial position.2
  • A woman could not have an identity card or passport without her husband's permission.3
  • From 1871, in the Alsace and Lorraine regions, (which were returned to France in 1918) the law forbad women being the legal guardians of their own children. A male relative, such as a grandfather or uncle to the children took the role and, sometimes, the money.4
  • The work available to women in the early twentieth century was monotonous, long and poorly paid.5
  • The system of military pensions to widows nearly collapsed during the First World War.6
  • Our own research has shown that many war widows who did find work had to pay to place their children with families, often far from where they lived.

Very quickly, as the numbers of widows climbed during the war, the French government began to attempt to change the situation, in 1917 making orphans wards of the nation and, in 1919, granting better pensions to the war widows. In 1927, widows of foreigners could apply to regain their French nationality, and hundreds did so. The excellent study by Michael Lanthier (see notes 5 and 6) discusses in detail just how and why their lives were so very difficult. Suffice to say that they were and quite a few left. If your war-widowed grandmother left France during the inter-war period, you may now have a better understanding as to why.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy

 

 

1 "Veuves et orphelins de la Première guerre mondiale", Chemins de Mémoire, http://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/fr/veuves-et-orphelins-de-la-premiere-guerre-mondiale  , accessed 3 Sept 2017.

2  Malnory, Camille, "Quand les Femmes ne Pouvait pas ouvrir de compte en banque", Liberation, 13 July, 2015, http://www.liberation.fr/france/2015/07/13/quand-les-femmes-ne-pouvaient-pas-ouvrir-de-compte-en-banque_1347300, accessed 2 Sept 2017.

3 Ibid.

4 "Enfants naturels", Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin, http://www.archives.haut-rhin.fr/search/home, accessed 2 Sept 2017. N.B. :This is one of those PDFs, orphaned and alone, lost, floating on the internet like a soul seeking a body and without a clear link to its origins, so we give it directly here, with apologies to the AD of Haut-Rhin. It will be discussed further in a future post.

5 Lanthier, Michael, "Women Alone: Widows in Third Republic France, 1870-1940 : Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History, Simon Fraser University", 2004, http://summit.sfu.ca/item/2275, accessed 3 July 2017, p38.

6 Lanthier, "Women Alone", p68.


French Nationality Law Through the Years

To be French

One can pen an encyclopaedia on the subject of what it means to be French but for those researching their ancestors, it is the law that matters. The laws on French nationality determined whether or not a person would have been allowed to present him or her self to the world as truly French and the law changed over the years. Thus, though we glossed over this in a post some years ago, we now give a brief history of French law on nationality.

  • During the Ancien régime, the years of kings prior to 1789, only the king could confer French nationality, with a letter of naturalisation, une lettre de naturalité. This could have been granted to a foreigner living in the country,  un aubain.
  • At the beginning of the French Revolution, the rather vile concept of one being a subject of a king gave way to the marginally better one of one being a citizen of a democratically governed country. Citizenship could be granted to foreigners who may have done something fine for the Republic, (such as Thomas Paine, who had fine ideas, or as Joel Barlow, the American diplomat and conman who seemed fine at the time) and who resided in France. Citizenship rights were also granted to the children of French people who had left the country to escape the violence of the Revolution.
  • In 1804 the Civil Code allowed émigrés and their children to return to France and to be French; and for all foreigners born in France to choose, at the age of twenty-one, to acquire French nationality.
  • In 1851, double nationality was permitted, in part, for the first time. Those born in France to a foreign parent who was also born in France could be considered as French from birth; they could, on reaching majority, choose to surrender their French nationality. This right was annulled in 1889. (At that time, those born within France to a foreign father who had been born outside of France were not French. Women who married foreigners lost their French nationality.)
  • In 1889, needing more men for the army, the country changed the laws concerning foreigners born in France such that all foreigners born in France and still living in France at the time that they reached the age of majority and who had not surrendered formally their French nationality, were French and did have to do their military service. (See here and here.)
  • In 1927, after the reduction of the male working population by approximately one and a half million, with a further two million handicapped and unable to work, needs trumped exclusivity. The many working men who had come to France to fill the gap were allowed to become French more easily. Those who had lived in the country for three years could apply for nationality. Children born to French women who had married foreigners, became French; their mothers had already acquired the right to re-establish their French nationality.
  • In 1940, the Vichy government suspended all naturalisations. This was annulled in 1944 and 1945 and the possibility to become French again reappeared.

 To know more, read the excellent Ministry of the Interior publication here.

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Best Place for Genealogy Tourism in France? Montbéliard!

CELEBRATE THE FGB!

THIS IS OUR SIX HUNDREDTH POST!

 

Montbeliard OT

For quite some time, we have thought that certain towns and cities in France really have been missing a tourism opportunity which is to welcome and encourage those seeking to research and to discover the origins of their French ancestors. La Rochelle and Le Havre certainly could do more, if Paris did anything at all it would be a grand thing, Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer might take note. All should be watching the innovative and trail-blazing Montbéliard.

We had read a fine thesis on Montbéliard's programme for advancing genealogy tourism, tourisme de racines, by Ms. Messane Lepape (Une stratégie marketing appliquée au tourisme des racines at www.isthia.fr). It inspired us to contact the town's tourism office to learn more. Instantly, really, instantly, we received a reply from Madame Evelyne Boilaux, in excellent English, arranging a meeting. On the appointed day, she welcomed us at the Montbéliard tourism office, just in front of the train station. Petite, pixie-coiffed and energetic, Madame Boilaux offered us tea or coffee and launched, with understandable enthusiasm, into the glories of Montbéliard's mostly non-French and non-Catholic history. We then shared our lists of the many waves of emigrants from the city to other lands.

  • The French Protestants (Huguenots) who crossed the border into the then Principality of Montbéliard after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Not only was it very close to home, but it was, at that time, the only Protestant and Francophone country in the world. As hope of a safe return to France faded, many moved on to other European Protestant countries and some from there continued on to the Americas and Africa.
  • The people known as the Foreign Protestants, recruited by the British from 1749 to 1751 to repopulate Nova Scotia after the expulsion of the French Catholics at the end of the Seven Years War. Their city of prettily coloured little houses, Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site, somewhat resembles cheerily painted houses in some of the roads of Montbéliard.
  • The Swiss and French Mennonites whose great-grandparents had arrived from Switzerland at the invitation of the ruler of Montbéliard, the Duke of Wurtemberg. His land had been depopulated by wars and the departures of the above and, not only did he want more Protestants, he wanted good farmers, which the Mennonites were reputed to be. They came and stayed until, when the region became part of France at the end of the eighteenth century, a general atmosphere of secularism along with Revolutionary fervour having tipped into insanity made them feel decidedly uncomfortable. Within twenty-five years, Mennonites as well as Lutherans were emigrating from the region to continents to the west and south.
  • The skilled labourers, especially watchmakers, of the region who had trained in the Japy factory and those of other brands, were poached by American factory managers, many of them moving to Connecticut.
  • In the late nineteenth century, there was another wave of which we did not know until enlightened by Madame Boilaux. It seems that the newly wealthy barons of unregulated industry had a yen for their children to speak French and learn to peel and eat a banana with a knife and fork. Only a French governess would do and only a Protestant could be trusted not to expose their children to unwanted Catholic prayers. At the same time, wealthy Russian Orthodox aristocrats wanted the same (though they showed up the Americans by usually having two governesses for their offspring, the other being Scottish and teaching an English that was grammatically perfect but ultimately most oddly accented in the speaking of their charges).

Thus, if your ancestry includes a Foreign Protestant, a governess, watchmaker, Mennonite or Protestant from the Montbéliard region, you may be interested in what the tourism office has to offer. If you arrive on a weekend without having contacted anyone in advance and with none of your research to hand, your visit will be a failure. If, however, you prepare your family history, preferably with photographs, clearly formulate your research questions and know the places you would like to visit, then Madame Boilaux and the staff of the tourism office can help to make your visit a success, taking advantage of their well-established network within the religious, genealogical and historical communities. (2020 Update: Mme. Boilaux has retired. You may now contact Mme. Deborah Reichert, who encourages you to contact the Tourism Office via the e-mail given below.) Given enough time to prepare, she can arrange:

  • Accommodation and transport
  • Visits to relevant churches, synagogues or temples, with the possibility of attending a service and meeting the community
  • Meetings with local genealogists and genealogy groups specialising in your particular area of research
  • Introductions to archives staff and assistance in getting started with your research there
  • Visits to or at least to drives by ancestral homes or huts that are still standing
  • English-speaking tourguides
  • Visits to cemeteries
  • Introductions, with translators, if necessary, to distant cousins, if any

The more information that you provide in advance, the better will be the tailoring of your visit to your interests. Start planning now for this summer.

Office de Tourisme du Pays de Montbéliard

1 rue Henri Mouhot

25200 Montbéliard

tel: +33  3 81 94 16 05

accueil@paysdemontbeliard-tourisme.com

 

Madame Boilaux also allowed us to photograph this charming map of the seigneuries of the principality of Montbéliard in the sixteenth century:

Principality of Montbéliard map

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Did English Women Take Advantage of Anonymous Birth Laws in France?

Mother and baby

Around the world, today has been about women, so we have decided to write of a conundrum about women that has puzzled us for some time. For most of the nineteenth century and up until 1922, it was possible for a birth to be registered in France without naming one or even both of the parents. The registration usually would be made by a midwife, sage femme, or more rarely by a doctor. The child's sex and name would be given. The father would be identified as simply "unknown father", père inconnu. Alternatively, the father and possibly also the mother could have been "not named", père non dénomé or mère non dénommée. This was usually done when a child was illegitimate and the mother or both parents wanted no record with their names linked to such a child. 

In French law, even if the child stayed with one or both parents, if they did not formally recognise the child, reconnaissance, he or she had no rights of family relationship, such as inheritance. If a woman wanted to abandon a child at birth without breaking the law, there was later a procedure to give birth completely anonymously, informally known as Accouchement sous X. (We recently noted a facebook group of such children trying to find their birth parents.)

Our conundrum comes from a pattern we have begun to notice. Rather a lot of people have told us of an ancestor who appears, seemingly out of nowhere, on a British census as a small child, living with his or her mother. The mother and the child have the same surname, but there is no father in the household. The census shows that the mother married in France and that the child was born in France, often in Paris. Yet, while the birth, with parents unnamed, at times may be found, a search for the marriage will be fruitless, when it should not be so. 

We begin to wonder if anonymous parents on a birth registration were not possible in Britain? (We know nothing of British genealogical research.) Is it possible that, for women who could afford to do so, coming to France to give birth anonymously and then returning with a new name, was actually a practice at one time? Dear Readers, have any of you come across this? Do, please share your tales.

UPDATE: Madame R. has sent this informative message:

In Britain, once birth registration began, in I think 1837ish, an unmarried mother usually gave her own name, and the baby's surname would be the same, with just a gap where the father should be. I have a grandmother and a great grandmother both of whom have missing fathers on their birth certificates. Before that in the early 19th century, 'natural born' children are very common in the parish baptism registers. The country was somewhat relaxed in its morals and less keen on church going. It took the vigour and renewal of the Oxford Movement to rebuild the dilapidated churches and change the devotional and 'moral' sensibility of the nation.

In the early years of the century, quite often working class or trades families might have the baby first and then get marred when they could afford to. By the time my grandmother was born in 1895 illegitimacy was such a disgrace that through her entire life she never admitted it, and was told that both her parents had died by the grandparents who brought her up.It was only later that she discovered the truth, but burned the letter and never told her children who her father was. So in the mid to late century, I wouldn't be surprised if inventing marriages in Paris was a desirable option, but I am not sure whether it would have been practical. Isn't it more likely that the marriage records are simply difficult to find, especially if they were before the Siege of Paris and the Franco Prussian War? If they just made up the marriage to cover the case, the mother would have to stay abroad a long time to be convincing. Perhaps they married at sea, which would be a different set of records. Incidentally the census returns do not ask where one was married only where born. Most likely the confinement was in Paris but there never was a marriage.

Many Thanks!

©2017 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy