How to Research Your French Ancestry

If you’re one of individuals those who have prevented delving to your French ancestry because of fears the research could be too hard, then wait forget about! France is really a country with excellent family history and genealogical records, and the cool thing is that you’ll be in a position to trace your French roots back several generations once you know where and how the records are stored.

Where would be the Records?

To understand in france they record-keeping system, you have to first understand its system of territorial administration. Before the French Revolution, France was split into provinces, now referred to as regions. Then, in 1789, in france they revolutionary government reorganized France into new territorial divisions known as départements. You will find 100 departments in France – 96 inside the borders of France, and 4 overseas (Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, and Réunion). All these departments features its own archives that’s outside of individuals from the national government. Most French records of family history and genealogical value are stored at these departmental archives, so you should be aware of department by which your ancestor resided. Family history and genealogical records will also be stored at local town halls (mairie). Large towns and metropolitan areas, for example Paris, are frequently further split into arondissements – each using its own town hall and archives.

How to start?

The very best family history and genealogical resource to begin your French family tree may be the registres d’état-civil (records of civil registration), which mostly date from 1792. This info of birth, marriage, and dying (naissances, mariages, décès) are locked in registries in the La Mairie (town hall/mayor’s office) in which the event required place. After a century a replica of those records is used in the Archives Départementales. The united states-wide system of documentation enables for those info on someone to be collected in one location, because the registers include wide page margins to acquire more information to become added during the time of later occasions. Therefore, a certificate of a birth will frequently incorporate a notation from the individual’s marriage or dying, including the place that the stated event required place.

The neighborhood mairie and also the archives both also maintain duplicates from the decennial tables (beginning in 1793). A decennial table is essentially a ten-year alphabetical index to births, marriages, and deaths that have been registered through the Mairie. These tables provide the day’s registration from the event, which isn’t always exactly the same date the event required place.

Civil registers are the most crucial family history and genealogical resource in France. Civil government bodies started registering births, deaths, and marriages in France in 1792. Some communities were slow at putting this into motion, but right after 1792 everyone who resided in France were recorded. Since these records cover the whole population, are often accessible and indexed, and canopy people of denominations, they’re essential to French genealogy research.

Records of civil registration are usually locked in registries in local town halls (mairie). Copies of those registries are deposited every year using the local magistrate’s court after which, when they’re a century old, are put within the archives for that town’s Department. Because of privacy rules, only records over a century old might be consulted through the public. You’ll be able to access the greater recent records, but you’ll generally be needed to demonstrate, by using birth certificates, your direct descent in the part of question.

Birth, dying, and marriage record information in France are filled with wonderful family history and genealogical information, though these details varies by period of time. The later records usually provide more complete information compared to earlier ones. Most civil registers are designed in French, though this does not present an excellent difficulty to non-French speaking researchers because the format is essentially exactly the same for many records. All that you should do is become familiar with a couple of fundamental French words (i.e. naissance=birth) and you may read virtually any French civil register. This French Family history and genealogical Word List includes most of the common genealogy terms in British, with their French equivalents.

Yet another bonus of French civil records, is the fact that birth records frequently include what is known “margin records.” References with other documents with an individual (name changes, court judgments, etc.) are frequently noted within the margins from the page that contains the initial birth registration. From 1897, these margin records may also frequently include marriages. You may have divorces from 1939, deaths from 1945, and legal separations from 1958.

Births (Naissances)

Births were usually registered within 2 or 3 times of children’s birth, usually through the father. This info will typically supply the place, time and date of registration the date and put of birth the youngsters surname and forenames, the parents’ names (with mother’s maiden name), and also the names, ages, and professions of two witnesses. When the mother was single, her parents were frequently listed too. Based upon the timeframe and locality, the records might also provide additional details like the chronilogical age of the mother and father, the father’s occupation, the birthplace from the parents, and also the relationship from the witnesses towards the child (or no).

Marriages (Mariages)

After 1792, marriages needed to be done by civil government bodies before couples might be married within the church. While church events were usually locked in the city in which the bride resided, civil registration from the marriage may take place elsewhere (like the groom’s home). The civil marriage registers give many details, for example date and put (mairie) from the marriage, full names from the wedding couple, what they are called of the parents (including mother’s maiden surname), the date and put of dying for any deceased parent, the addresses and jobs from the wedding couple, information on any previous marriages, and also the names, addresses, and jobs with a minimum of two witnesses. There’ll also usually be an acknowledgement associated with a children born prior to the marriage.

Deaths (Décès)

Deaths were usually registered within a couple of days within the community in which the person died. This info could be especially helpful for individuals born and/or married after 1792, because they might be the only real existing records of these individuals. The early dying records frequently only range from the complete name from the deceased and also the date and put of dying. Most dying records may also usually range from the age and birthplace from the deceased along with the parents’ names (including mother’s maiden surname) and set up parents will also be deceased. Dying records may also usually range from the names, ages, jobs, and residences of two witnesses. Later dying records supply the marital status from the deceased, the specific spouse, and if the spouse continues to be alive. Women are often listed under their maiden name, so you will need to search under both their married name as well as their maiden name to improve your odds of choosing the record.

Prior to look for a civil record in France, you’ll need some fundamental information – the specific person, where the event required place (town/village), and also the date from the event. In large metropolitan areas, for example Paris or Lyon, you must also be aware of Arrondissement (district) in which the event required place. If you’re not certain of the season from the event, you’ll have to conduct searching within the tables décennales (ten-year indexes). These indexes usually index births, marriage, and deaths individually, and therefore are alphabetical by surname. From all of these indexes you can aquire the given name(s), document number, and date from the civil register entry.

French Genealogy Records Online

A lot of French departmental archives have digitized a lot of their older records making them available on the web – generally free of charge for access. A number of get their birth, marriage and dying records (actes d’etat civil) online, or at best the decennial indexes. Generally you are very likely to locate digital pictures of the initial books, but no searchable database or index. This really is forget about work than viewing exactly the same records on microfilm, however, and you may search straight from home! Explore their list of internet French Genealogy Records for links, or look into the website from the Archives Departmentales which supports the records for the ancestor’s town. Don’t anticipate finding records under a century online, however.

Some family history and genealogical societies along with other organizations have printed online indexes, transcriptions and abstracts obtained from French civil registers. Subscription-based use of transcribed pre-1903 actes d’etat civil from a number of family history and genealogical societies and organizations can be obtained with the French site at Actes de naissance, de mariage et de décès. Here searching by surname across all departments and results generally provide enough information that you could see whether a specific record may be the one you seek before you decide to pay to see the entire record.

In the Genealogy Library

Among the best sources for civil records for researchers living outdoors of France may be the Genealogy Library in Salt Lake City. They’ve microfilmed civil registration records from about 50 % from the departments in France as much as 1870, and a few departments as much as 1890. You’ll generally find nothing microfilmed in the 1900s because of the 100 year privacy law. The Household History Library also offers microfilm copies from the decennial indexes for nearly every town in France. To find out when the Genealogy Library has microfilmed the registers for the town or village, just look for that town/village in the web based Genealogy Library Catalog. When the microfilms exist, you are able to borrow them for any nominal fee and also have them delivered to the local Genealogy center (obtainable in all 50 U.S. states as well as in regions) for viewing.

In the Local Mairie

When the Genealogy Library does not possess the records you seek, then you will need to obtain civil record copies in the local registrars’ office (bureau de l’état civil) for the ancestor’s town. This office, usually found in the town hall (mairie) will often mail a couple of birth, marriage, or dying certificates at no cost. They’re snappy, however, and therefore are not obliged to reply to your request. To assist ensure an answer, please request a maximum of two certificates previously and can include just as much information as you possibly can. It’s also smart to incorporate a donation for his or her time and money. Observe How to Request French Genealogy Records by Mail to learn more.

The neighborhood registrar’s office is essentially your main resource if you’re looking for records that are under a century old. This info are private and are only delivered to direct descendants. To aid such cases you will have to provide birth certificates on your own and each one of the ancestors above you inside a direct line towards the individual that you are requesting the record. It’s also suggested that you simply give a simple family tree diagram showing your relationship towards the individual, which supports the registrar in checking you have provided all the necessary supporting documents.

If you are planning to go to the Mairie personally, then call or write ahead of time to determine they have the registers that you’re searching for and also to confirm their hrs of operation. Make sure to take along a minimum of two types of photo ID, as well as your passport if you reside outdoors of France. If you are trying to find records of under a century, make sure to take along all necessary supporting documentation as described above.

Parish registers, or church records, in France are an extemely valuable source of genealogy, espeically just before 1792 when civil registration entered effect.

What exactly are Parish Registers?

The Catholic religion was the condition religion of France until 1787, except for the time of ‘Tolerance of Protestantism’ from 1592-1685. The Catholic parish registers (Registres Paroissiaux or Registres de Catholicit) were in order to of recording births, deaths, and marriages in France before the introduction of condition registration in September 1792. Parish registers go as far back to as soon as 1334, though nearly all surviving records date in the mid-1600’s. These early records were stored in French and often in Latin. Additionally they include not just baptisms, marriages, and burials, but additionally confirmations and banns.

The data recorded in parish registers varied with time. Most church records will, at least, range from the names of those involved, the date from the event, and often what they are called from the parents. Later records include additional information for example ages, jobs, and witnesses.

How to locate French Parish Registers

Nearly all church records just before 1792 are held through the Archives Départementales, though a couple of small parish places of worship still retain these old registers. Libraries in bigger towns and metropolitan areas may hold duplicate copies of those archives. Even some town halls hold collections of parish registers. Most of the old parishes have closed, as well as their records happen to be coupled with individuals of the nearby church. Several small towns/villages was without their very own church, as well as their records will often be located inside a parish of the nearby town. A village might have even belonged to various parishes during different amounts of time. If you cannot find your ancestors within the church in which you think they must be, then make certain to check on neighboring parishes.

Most departmental archives won’t investigate in parish registers for you personally, though they’ll react to written queries concerning the location from the parish registers of the specific locality. Generally, you’ll have to go to the archives personally or employ a professional investigator to get the records for you personally. The Household History Library also offers Catholic Church records on microfilm for more than 60% from the departments in France. Some deparmental archives, for example Yvelines, have digitized their parish registers and set them online. See Online French Genealogy Records.

Parish records from 1793 are held through the parish, having a copy within the Diocesan archives. This info will often not contain just as much information because the civil records of times, but they are still an essential supply of family history and genealogical information. Most parish clergymen will react to written demands for record copies if supplied with detailed information from the names, dates, and kind of event. Sometimes this info is going to be by means of photocopies, though frequently the data are only transcribed in order to save deterioration around the precious documents. Many places of worship will need donations of approximately 50-100 francs ($7-15), so include this inside your letter for the best results.

While civil and parish registers supply the largest body of records for French ancestral research, there are more sources which could provide information on your past.

Census Records

Censuses were taken every 5 years in France starting in 1836, and retain the names (first and surname) of people living inherited using their dates and places of birth (or their ages), nationality and professions. Two exceptions towards the 5 year rule range from the 1871 census that was really drawn in 1872, and also the 1916 census that was skipped because of ww 1. Some communities also provide an early on census for 1817. Census records in France really go as far back to 1772 but just before 1836 usually only noted figures of individuals per household, though sometimes they’d range from the mind of household too.

Census records in France aren’t frequently employed for family history and genealogical research since they’re not indexed which makes it difficult to discover a name inside them. They work nicely for smaller sized villages and towns, but obtaining a city-dwelling family inside a census with no home address can be quite time intensive. When available, however, census records can offer numerous useful clues about French families.

French census records come in departmental archives, a couple of which make them available on the web in gifs (see Online French Genealogy Records). Some census records are also microfilmed through the Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints (Mormon church) are available using your Local Genealogy center. Voting lists from 1848 (women aren’t listed until 1945) might also contain helpful information for example names, addresses, jobs and places of birth.


In France, tombstones with legible inscriptions are available from as soon as the 1700s. Graveyard management is recognized as an open concern, so most French cemeteries are very well maintained. France also offers laws and regulations controlling the reuse of graves following a set period of time. Generally the grave is leased for any given period – usually as much as a century – and then it’s readily available for reuse.

Graveyard records in France are often stored in the local town hall and could range from the name and chronilogical age of the deceased, the date of birth, dying date, and home. The graveyard keeper might also have records with more information as well as relationships. Please contact the keeper for just about any local graveyard before you take pictures, because it is illegal to photograph French tombstones without permission.

Military Records

An essential resource for males who offered within the French military may be the military records held through the Army and Navy Historic Services in Vincennes, France. Records survive from as soon as the 17th century and could include info on your wife, children, date of marriage, addresses and names for next of kin, an actual description from the man, and information on his service. These military records are stored private for 120 years in the date of the soldier’s birth and, therefore, are hardly ever utilized in French family history and genealogical research. Archivists in Vincennes will from time to time answer written demands, however, you must range from the exact name of the individual, period of time, rank, and regiment or ship. Most youthful men in France were needed to join up for military service, which conscription records can provide valuable family history and genealogical information. This info can be found in the departmental archives and aren’t indexed.

Notarial Records

Notarial records are important causes of family history and genealogical information in France. They are documents made by notaries which could include such records as marriage settlements, wills, inventories, guardianship contracts, and property transfers (other land and court public records are locked in the nation’s Archives (Archives nationales), mairies, or Departmental archives. They include a few of the earliest available records in France, with a few dating completely to the 1300s. Most French notarial records aren’t indexed, that make research inside them difficult. Nearly all this info come in the departmental archives arranged named the notary and the capital of scotland- residence. It’s nearly impossible to analyze this info without going to the archives personally, or getting a professional investigator to do this for you personally.

Jewish and Protestant Records

Early Protestant and Jewish records in France could be a little harder to locate than most. Many Protestants fled from France within the 16th and 17th centuries to flee religious persecution that also frustrated the keeping of registers. Some Protestant registers might be available at local places of worship, town halls, the Departmental Archives, or even the Protestant Historic Society in Paris.

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