Searching your family history in Normandy
Before you begin your genealogy search in France, you will need some basic information – the name of the person, the place where the event took place (town/village), and the date of the event. You can find those informations in the official family record books, but also on the graves of your ancestors (date of birth for example).
Records of civil registration
The best genealogical resource to start off your French family tree is the ”registres d’état-civil” (records of civil registration), which mostly date from 1792. These records of birth, marriage, and death (naissances, mariages, décès) are held in registries at La Mairie (town hall) where the event took place. After 100 years a duplicate of these records is transferred to the Archives Départementales. This country-wide system of record keeping allows for all information on a person to be collected in one place, as the registers include wide margins for additional information to be added at the time of later events. You will easily find archives from all the towns of the county in the same place.
If you’re short on time, first, search marriage certificates where you will find more information. Don’t forget that weddings usually take place in the wife’s birth town. Then, look for the birth certificates.
The local Mairie and the archives both also maintain duplicates of the decennial tables (starting in 1793), separate alphabetical lists for births, marriages, and deaths which have been registered by the Mairie. The tables give the day of registration of the event, which is not necessarily the same date that the event took place, but it is useful to know that births are required to be registered within three days.
How to Request French Genealogy Records by Mail ?
If you can’t get in a visit to France to research your French ancestry, some archivists might be willing to look up a record for you. They are under no obligation to do so, but these tips will help increase your chance of success! Write your letter in French and be as specific as possible regarding your request. Include full names and dates for the event. Be sure to ask, in your letter, for “une copie intégrale” (full copy) “de l’acte de naissance/mariage/décès” (record of birth, marriage, or death), otherwise you may be sent an abbreviated summary. Enclose a self-addressed envelope with either a French postage stamp or an International Reply Coupon (IRC), which is available at your local post office. Address your letter to the appropriate archive (Archives Départementales) or town hall (La Mairie).
If the record of birth or marriage is less than 100 years old, you will have to contact the town hall and will need to provide proof of direct descent – birth certificates for you and each of the ancestors above you in direct line to the individual being searched.
Other Sources for Genealogical Information in France
In France, tombstones with legible inscriptions can be found from as early as the 18th century. Cemetery records are usually kept at the local town hall and may include the name and age of the deceased, the birth date, death date, and place of residence.
Censuses were taken every five years in France beginning 1836, and contain the names (first and surname) of all members living in the household with their dates and places of birth (or their ages), nationality and professions. Census records are located in departmental archives and some have been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon Church).
Notarial records are very important sources of genealogical information in France. These are documents prepared by notaries which can include such records as marriage settlements, wills, inventories, guardianship agreements, and property transfers (other land and court records are held in the National Archives (Archives Nationales), Town Halls, or Departmental archives.
Publication of your family tree:
You may need to publish the results of your investigation, hoping that someone will be able to help you. Some genealogist magazines publish family trees of their members. Some websites offer also the possibility to house your family tree on the site and share it with visitors.
Those unions do not make genealogy investigations, but they will give you useful contacts to carry on if you have a definite research.
www.ucghn.org : Union des Cercles Généalogiques et Héraldiques de Normandie (U.C.G.H.N)
www.cg50.org : Cercle Généalogique de la Manche
firstname.lastname@example.org : e-mail for Cercle de Généalogie et d’histoire locale de Coutances
www.cegecal.org : Cercle Généalogique du Calvados
www.orne-perche.org : Cercle Généalogique de l’Orne et du Perche
www.eure-genealogie.org : Cercle Généalogique de l’Eure
www.cgrsm.org : Cercle Généalogique de Seine-Maritime
www.francegenweb.org : Excellent guide for French family history research, includes sections for each department and region. Some information available in English.
www.geneanet.org : Search this free database to find French family names prior to 1900 (with contact information) which have been submitted by fellow researchers. Some links lead to online family trees and/or databases.