French Archives Online
For the past few years France has been digitizing its archives (both civil registers and parish registers) and making them available online from a variety of Departmental links. In most cases, notarial records, land records, and military records are included as part of the project.
Most Departments provide the record images free of charge, whereas some ask for payment. Almost every department has completed putting these records online. Some require registering for a password but are still free of charge. Many require clicking a box to accept the conditions of how the research will be used. Click on a button reading "J'accepte les conditions".
Department Links: Links to most if not all online French records can be found on the France Geneawiki website. There you will find a clickable map for each type of record.
Navigating: The online records contain listings of all the towns and villages that each Department has digitized, making the selection of records by date and location easier to find. The online images are sequential by date, just as we see similar records on rolls of microfilm. Tools on the pages allow zooming in and out, rotating and saving, or printing the original document.
Vocabulary: Here is some of the French vocabulary that will help you navigate these sites. When navigating these sites, you can translate the instructions or explanatory material by using Google Translate. The translation will be awkward, but you should be able to get the gist of it.
- Archives départementales en ligne: Department archives online
- Cadastre napoléonien: Land records
- Etat civil: civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. Frequently, church records are included.
- J'accepte les conditions: Literally, "I accept these condtions".
- Notaires et enregistrement: Notary records, which include, among other things,marriage contracts , wills , purchasing, sales, etc.
- Recensements: census records, usually for 1911 and/or 1836.
- Registres matricules: registers of soldiers.
- Registres paroissiaux e état civil: Parish registers and civil registration.
- Tables décennales: 10-year-indexes
Reading the Records: It's easier than you think! You do not have to be fluent in French to use these records, as there is only a limited vocabulary used in them. There are several tools available to help you learn to read records in French. By learning a few key phrases, you will be able to read them adequately.
- For more instruction on using these records, see:
- French Genealogical Word List
- French Handwriting.
- There is a three-lesson course in reading French Records: