France Finding Your Ancestor in the Records

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Before finding your ancestor in the records, you will need to know:

  • The actual name of an ancestor
    *The date of birth, marriage, and death (can be estimated)
    *The place of origin
    *The religion of an ancestor

Find your ancestor in the records

The best sources of genealogical information in the France are the church records and civil records kept on the town level where your ancestor was living. The Family History Library has microfilms of many French Church and Civil records. Use the FamilySearch Catalog to determine what records are available for the locality.

Many French church and civil records have been digitized and made available on the Internet. Consult a gazetteer fo find out in which Department your ancestors were living, in order to access the  records online  

Research by mail

Write only when you cannot find the information any other way. The following list shows the kind of information you may be able to obtain through correspondence from several kinds of organizations in France:

Genealogical societies: Request that the letter be forwarded to a member interested in the same family, locality, or   people who might consider making a short search of records in a nearby repository for pay.

Professional researchers: Offer to pay a researcher for a search of records.

Civil registration offices: Request a birth, marriage, or death certificate to verify the place of origin of a direct ancestor.

City Hall (Mairie): For vital records within the last 100 years, but only if you are a direct desendant.

Departmental or provincial archives:

Ask where the records of a specific town are kept and what dates the records cover.

Refer to the Letter Writing Guide for more information. Remember to enclose photocopies of any old documents or mementos that you may have.