France Naturalization and Citizenship
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In France before the 1789 revolution, everyone born outside of the kingdom was a foreigner even if born of French parents. All persons born in France, even of foreign parents, were French.
From the 1100s to 1789, citizenship was frequently limited to individual cities (burgess records) and associated with craft guilds. Burgess and guild records are available only for selected cities. They are difficult to find and use. Church records are usually more available and easier to use.
After 1789, naturalization applications concerning the whole of France are found in the judiciary series [série judiciaire] at the National Archives. An index to earlier naturalization records is:
France. Archives nationales. Lettres de naturalité et de légitimation, 1674-1787: table alphabétique (Index to naturalizations and legitimations 1674-1787). Paris, France: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988. (Family History Library fiche 6002227.) The index lists names, place of origin (nation or city), year of naturalization, and source reference.
In 1871 Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by Germany. Some of the former residents of Alsace-Lorraine declared their preference for French citizenship. Three hundred ninety-five alphabetical, printed lists of these declarations were published in France. Ministère de la Justice. Bulletin des lois de la République française (Lists of persons preferring French citizenship). Paris, France: Imp. Nationale, 1872. (Family History Library film 787154-787166.) These lists help locate where a particular surname appeared in Alsace-Lorraine in 1872. They give name, birth date, birthplace, residence, date of the declaration, and notes. These lists include about 950,000 names.
Naturalization and name change records (Lettres de naturalisation et de changements de noms)
Research use: New citizens were naturalized and Jews were registered and adopted surnames in 1808.
Record type: Naturalization of new citizens, and assignment of surnames for immigrant families and Jews.
Time Period: 1635-present. Some as early as the 14th century.
Content: Names, dates, residences, place of origin, previous name and nationality, parents, sometimes birth date and profession.
Location: National, departmental, communal and tribunal archives.
Percentage in Family History Library: 2%.
Population coverage: 10%.
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: France,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1984-1998.