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There are many societies and organizations that may have information of value to your genealogical research in France, and in the nation to which your ancestor immigrated, especially the United States and Canada. You may find it helpful to join some of these societies and support their efforts.
There are many genealogical societies which emphasize French research. Most of these societies publish helpful periodicals, transcripts, compiled genealogies, and may have special indexes, collections, and projects. Many publish queries about French ancestors or maintain a list of members' research interests. Some also help find immigrants to or from a specific area.
French Societies. There are an estimated 300 genealogical societies in France, representing about 50,000 genealogists and publishing about 100 periodicals. Most French departments have genealogical societies. French genealogical societies are often involved in indexing church records before 1792. Contact the society in the department where your ancestor lived. The following societies may be of interest:
Cercle Généalogique d'Alsace
5, rue Fischart
Union des Cercles Généalogiques et Héraldiques de Normandie
27005 Evreux Cedex
Societies outside France. There are often French genealogical societies in the nations to which French people immigrated. For example—
Quebec Family History Society
P.O. Box 1026
Point Claire, PQ G9A 5L2
American-French Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 2113
Pawtucket, RI 02861
Historical societies can be valuable sources of information for French ancestors. Similar societies are found in nations where French emigrants settled. These often collect information about French immigrants. Some may have information about specific French individuals. Many societies have special collections of books and manuscript material for France that may be difficult to find in libraries and archives. For example, you may be interested in the services, activities, and collections of the following:
British Huguenot Society
c/o University College
London WC1E 6BT
The Society for the History of French Protestantism has a library open to the public and will search their records for a donation:
Société de l'histoire du Protestantisme Français
54, rue des Saints-Pères
The American Historical Society of Germans from Russia has information about German-speaking people from French Alsace-Lorraine:
American Historical Society of Germans from Russia
631 D Street
Lincoln, NE 68502-1199
Your ancestor or relative may have belonged to an association, lodge, or fraternal society whose membership is based on common interests, religion, or ethnicity. These societies were involved in political, social, and financial activities, including life and burial insurance.
Several sources, such as local histories, biographies, obituaries, tombstones, family records, and artifacts may give you clues that an ancestor belonged to a fraternal society. An example French-American fraternal organization is:
Union Saint-Jean Baptiste
Woonsocket, RI 02895
The records of fraternal organizations may exist in a society or business archive. You may be able to obtain some genealogical information through correspondence. The Family History Library has histories of a few fraternal societies but very few records. These are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under the place-name followed by subject headings such as SOCIETIES, GENEALOGY, HISTORY, OCCUPATIONS, and MINORITIES.
Guides to Societies and Associations
Directories. A good list of French genealogical societies is in—
Johnson, Keith A., and Malcolm R. Sainty. Genealogical research directory: national and international. Sydney, Australia: Johnson and Sainty, 1993. Annual. (FHL book 929.1025 G286grd 1993; not on microfilm.) Pages 766-81 describe 148 French genealogical societies including their mailing addresses. French text usually has an English translation.
A list of 175 historical-genealogical societies in France and their periodicals is found on pages 296 to 306 of La généalogie: histoire et pratique (see the "For Further Reading" section of this outline).
More than 40 genealogical societies with interest in French immigrants to North America are included in—
Meyer, Mary Keysor. Meyer's Directory of Genealogical Societies in the U.S.A. and Canada. Tenth Edition. Mt. Airy, Maryland, USA: Meyer, 1994. (FHL book 970 C44m 1994; not on microfilm.) Search the "Canada" chapter under "Quebec," and the "Special Interest" chapter under the headings "Canadian" (separate from the "Canada" chapter), "French," and "French-Canadian-Acadian."
Twenty-three Canadian and United States genealogical societies emphasizing French immigrant research are listed in Dennis M. Boudreau's Beginning Franco- American Genealogy.
Another directory listing North American French-immigrant genealogical societies is:
Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. The Genealogist's Address Book. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1995. (FHL book 973 D24ben; not on microfilm.) Look in part 3, "Ethnic and Religious Organizations and Research Centers," for the headings "Creole" (1 society) and "French" (40 societies). In part 4, "Special Resources," look for the heading "Huguenot" (10 societies).
The addresses of thousands of historical societies in North America are given in—
Wheeler, Mary Bray. Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. 14th Edition. Nashville, Tennessee, USA: AASLH Press, 1990. (FHL book Ref 970 H24d 1990; not on microfilm.) Text in English.
For more information about fraternal societies of interest to French immigrants in North America, see—
Wynar, Lubomyr Roman. Encyclopedic Directory of Ethnic Organizations in the United States. Littleton, Colorado, USA: Libraries Unlimited, 1975. (FHL book 305.8 W99e; not on microfilm.) Text in English.
Guide to indexing projects in France. Many French genealogical societies have begun indexing church records (chiefly marriages) kept in their areas before 1792. For a list of indexed records use Recensement des dépouillements systématiques . . . (see "Church Records" section) or write to the appropriate French genealogical society.
Locating Records at the Family History Library
Records of these societies are usually described in the Author/Title search of the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the society. They are also listed in the Place search of the catalog under one of the following:
FRANCE - SOCIETIES
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - SOCIETIES
FRANCE - GENEALOGY
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - GENEALOGY
Some records gathered by societies are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under the type of record. For example, church record indexes prepared by a local genealogical society are listed in the catalog under FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES.
Lists and guides that describe the collections of societies are listed in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under—
FRANCE - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT], [TOWN] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS
Records Not at the Family History Library
The "French Search Strategies" section and the Family History Library's France Letter-Writing Guide give details about how to write to societies in France for genealogical information.