June 27, 2022
Bastille Day (in French, “fête nationale française”) is July 14. To celebrate the genealogy way, let’s chat about French genealogy research. If you have French ancestors, you will need to know the town your ancestor came from as most European countries do not have a central location for their records. Search records in the U.S. (if that is where your ancestor immigrated to) to find the town or region they came from. If the records don’t help, ask family members and look at any old documents they may have.
If you search and search and cannot find it, try looking for the surname in online databases that have indexed records from France, like FamilySearch or Ancestry. If your ancestors changed their name to fit in when they immigrated, be sure to use the original surname and not the Americanized name.
If you know the town, but strike out with the indexed records, try browsing the other available records on FamilySearch. Another place to try is the Archive Nationale website. These French archives have digitized the parish and civil records in their collection and have 10-year indexes for births, marriages, and deaths (tables decennales). Did I mention the records are in French or Latin? Don’t worry. There are websites with word lists to help you extract the information you need (like FamilySearch Wiki).
Geneanet is a subscription website that French citizens use to create family trees. Search the database to see if there is a tree with your ancestor on it. If you don’t know the parents but know the wife or children (and they were married or born in France), search for a marriage or birth record.
A friend of mine with French ancestors tried the Geneanet website. She searched the database of family trees and discovered not only her ancestor, but also the surname meaning as well as a map where the surname is found. What a find (quelle trouvaille)!
Midwest Genealogy Center
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