France Emigration and Immigration
In addition to their usefulness in determining where an emigrant lived in the nation before leaving, these records can help you construct family groups. If you don't find your ancestor, you may find emigration information about neighbors of your ancestor. People who lived near each other in France often settled together in the nation where they emigrated to.
Records were created when individuals emigrated from or immigrated into France. Other records document an ancestor's arrival in his destination nation. This section discusses:
- Finding the emigrant's town of origin.
- Emigration from France, including the historical background of French emigration.
- Records of French emigrants in their destination nations.
- Immigration into France.
Unfortunately, there are few emigration records from France. There are some helpful Canadian records of French immigrants into Quebec from 1632 to 1713.
- 1 Finding the Emigrant's Town of Origin
- 2 Emigration from France
- 3 Records of French Emigrants in Their Destination Nations
- 4 Immigration into France
Finding the Emigrant's Town of Origin
Once you have traced your family back to a French emigrant, you must determine the city or town the ancestor was from. There are no nationwide indexes to birth, marriage, or death records in France. These records were kept locally.
There are several sources outside of France that may give your ancestor's place of origin. You may be able to learn the town your ancestor came from by talking to older family members. Members of your family or a library may have documents that name the city or town, such as obituaries, church records, and naturalization petitions.
Sometimes it is possible to guess where an immigrant originated through surname distribution maps.
Additional information about finding the origins of immigrant ancestors is given in the library's Tracing Immigrant Origins FamilySearch Wiki article.
Emigration from France
There was no systematic, official method of emigration, and few French emigration lists are available.
Significant numbers of emigrants left France during the following periods:
1538 to 1685: Protestants flee religious persecutions in France.
1632 to 1713: French settle Quebec and Acadia (Canada).
1722: Alsatian colonies established in the Holy Roman Empire (Austria-Hungary).
1764 to 1786: Alsatians colonize Russia, Ukraine, and Banat.
1785: Some exiled Acadians shipped from France to Louisiana.
1789 to 1791: About 500,000 refugees flee the French Revolution for neighboring nations and the Americas. About half later returned.
1804 to 1832: Additional Alsatians emigrate to Ukraine, Bessarabia, and Banat.
1815 to 1817: Political turmoil after the fall of Napoleon leads to a wave of French emigration to neighboring countries and the Americas.
1830 to 1962: French colonize Algeria (Africa).
1830s, 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s: Agents go from town to town recruiting emigrants, mostly in Alsace-Lorraine. Some went to America, others to Russia.
1871: There is a wave of French emigrants, largely to North America.
For emigrants leaving France, documents that record their migration can sometimes be found in France and in the country to which they moved.
Passenger Departure Lists
During the 1800s most French and south German emigrants left through the port of Le Havre. The records of departures from this port are called passenger lists. The information in these lists varied over time but usually included name, age, occupation, origin, and sometimes birthplace. There are only a few, incomplete passenger lists for ports in France, and they have no indexes.
The only lists available for the French port of Le Havre are lists of crews and passengers on some commercial cargo vessels. They are very incomplete. Very few passengers sailed on cargo ships. Passenger vessels are not included. These lists are not indexed. A few records from Calais, Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, La Rochelle, and Dieppe are available at the French National Archives.
The Family History Library has filmed the Le Havre commercial cargo vessel passenger lists for the years 1750 to 1886. The film numbers are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under—
FRANCE, SEINE-MARITIME, LE HAVRE - BUSINESS RECORDS AND COMMERCE
Le Havre Passenger Index
A French genealogical society has discovered a 100-year-old card file of 45,000 passengers, 25,000 sailors, and 5,000 retirees at Le Havre from 1780 to 1840. The source of the index is uncertain and it is difficult to determine how comprehensive it is. It does not correspond to the unindexed lists mentioned above. The passenger cards usually show name, maiden surname of the spouse (including cross references), birth date or age, birthplace, parents, date and place of embarkation and debarkation, and, for French ships, the vessel's name.
Researchers may send written inquiries to learn if a relative is indexed. The society can search only for passengers between 1780 and 1840, and they will search only for a specific name. They will not respond to vague requests to search for anyone with a certain surname. Send the correctly spelled given name and surname of the passenger, a self-addressed envelope, and three international reply coupons (purchased at large post offices) to—
Liste de passagers
Groupement Généalogique du Havre et de Seine-Maritime
76050 Le Havre Cedex
French Emigration Indexes
Alsace-Lorraine Emigration Indexes. Many French, Swiss, and Germans lived in Alsace-Lorraine or passed through it to emigrate. Several indexes help identify many of them.
Alsace Emigration Index. The Family History Library compiled an index of persons emigrating from or through Alsace-Lorraine from 1817 to 1866. About half the names are from France. The alphabetical index gives the emigrant's name, age, occupation, place of origin, residence, destination, passport date, and source microfilm number. Not everyone who emigrated via Alsace is in this index. The index is easiest to find in the Author/Title section of the Family History Library Catalog under "Alsace emigration index." It is also listed as:
France. Ministère de l'Intérieur. Registres des émigrés, 1817-1866 (Register of emigrants). Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1977. (Family History Library film 1125002 - 1125007.) Text in English.
Alsace Emigration Books. Cornelia Schrader- Muggenthaler used part of the Alsace Emigration Index, other emigration records, passenger lists, genealogies, genealogy periodicals, and newspaper articles to compile the following index:
Schrader-Muggenthaler, Cornelia. The Alsace Emigration Book. Two Volumes. Apollo, Pennsylvania, USA: Closson Press, 1989-1991. (Family History Library book 944.38 W2s; not on microfilm.) Text in English. This index has over 20,000 entries, mostly of 1817-1870 emigrants.
Other useful books on the subject are:
Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America. Camden, Maine, USA: Picton Press, 1992. (Family History Library book 974.8 B4pgp v. 26; not on microfilm.) Text in English.
Laybourn, Norman. L'émigration des Alsaciens et des Lorrains du XVIIIe au XXe siècles (Emigration from Alsace- Lorraine from the 18th to the 20th century). Strasbourg, France: Association des Publications près les Universités de Strasbourg, 1986. (Family History Library book 944.383 W2L; fiche 6001613-6001614.) Two volumes. Primarily a history but it contains many short lists of names and places. Indexed.
Smith, Clifford Neal. Immigrants to America from France (Haut-Rhin Department) and Western Switzerland, 1859-1866. Two Volumes. McNeal, Arizona, USA: Westland Publications, 1983, 1986. (Family History Library 973 W25s; not on microfilm.) Text in English. List of names, ages, occupations, places of origin, and destinations.
Bordeaux Emigration Index. About 16,000 emigrants from Bordeaux from 1713 to 1787 are listed on a card index on microfilm. The film can be viewed at the departmental archives in Bordeaux. A computer index is forthcoming. This index is not available at the Family History Library.
Published Emigration Records
Lists of emigrants are often published. These usually focus on the emigrants from one town, department, or region. An example follows:
Lassus, Alfred. Les départs de passagers par Bayonne pour l'Amérique entre 1749 et 1779 Ekaina - Revue d'études Basques (Review of Basque studies). Bidart, France: Association Culturelle Amalur, 1982?-. (Family History Library 944.79 B2e; not on microfilm.) This article listing Basque emigrants and their home towns starts in the 1984 issue. It is not alphabetical.
Dozens of other published emigrant lists from many areas of France can be identified in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under the town, department, province, or region from which the emigrants came, for example:
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT], [TOWN] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
Records of French Emigrants in Their Destination Nations
Sometimes the best sources for information about your immigrant ancestor are found in the nation to which he or she immigrated. Emigrants from France in the seventeenth and eighteenth century settled in Canada, Pennsylvania, Russia, the Banat, and other areas. Huguenot emigrants settled in the Antilles, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the British Isles, the United States, South Africa, Italy, and other areas. The French emigrants from Alsace-Lorraine province in the nineteenth century settled in the United States (Louisiana, Texas), Algeria, New Caledonia, Russia, South America, and other areas.
To learn about the records of these nations use handbooks and Wiki articles for the nation where your ancestor settled and Tracing Immigrant Origins.
Acadia and Quebec (Canada)
In 1755 England dispersed French settlers in Acadia (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, and Maine) to France, England, and English colonies in America. In 1785 Spain transported seven shiploads of Acadian exiles to Louisiana where Acadians were called Cajuns. A bibliography of these people is:
Sources of Acadian research materials in Acadian Genealogy's Repertoire. Covington, Kentucky, USA: Acadian Genealogical Exchange, [1993?]
Several French Canadian sources mention the French home parish of an individual or his parents, for example:
Loiselle, Antoinin. Loiselle card index to many marriages of the Province of Quebec and adjacent areas, 1642-1973. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. (Family History Library film 543685-543858.) Text in French.
Rivest, Lucien. Index to marriages of Quebec and adjacent areas, 1670-1964. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1973. (Family History Library film 933109; 933124; 933142; 933166.) Alphabetical by the name of the bride. Text in French.
Jetté, René. Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec (Genealogical dictionary of the families of Québec). Montréal, Quebec, Canadal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1983. (Family History Library book 971.4 D2jr; no film available.)
Passenger lists. Many French immigrants to the United States arrived at the ports of New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Canada, and others. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of the records and indexes of these. See United States Emigration and Immigration for more information about emigration and immigration records of the United States.
A bibliography of over 2,500 published lists of emigrants and immigrants is:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigrations Lists Bibliography, 1538-1900, Second Edition. Detroit, Michigan, USA: Gale Research, 1988. (Family History Library book 973 W33p 1988; not on microfilm.) Text in English. Almost 2,000 of these lists are indexed in P. William Filby et al., Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 13+ Volumes. Detroit, Michigan, USA: Gale Research, 1981-. (Family History Library book 973 W32p; not on microfilm.) Text in English. This does not index official U.S. arrival lists. Many of the names are from post-1820 published sources.
Immigration lists. An example of a published list of emigrants from Canada to America with French ancestors is:
Dennisen, Christian. Genealogy of the French Families of the Detroit River Region, 1701-1936''.Editor Harold F. Powell. Two Volumes. Detroit, Michigan, USA: Detroit Society for Genealogical Research, 1987. (Family History Library book 977.43 D2d1987; not on microfilm.) Text in English.
In 1763 Catherine the Great of Russia offered free land, no taxes for 30 years, freedom of religion, and other incentives to west Europeans to settle her vast, sparsely populated domain. Dozens of German and French (Alsatian) colonies were established and grew until World War I. Many Russian Alsatians moved to the United States, Canada, or South America, beginning in 1874.
A French Protestant colony was established at Schabo in Bessarabia. The Family History Library has acquired several records of this colony, some in French and some in German. They are listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Place search, under:
Since many Alsatians (people in Alsace-Lorraine, France) spoke more German than French, they were often called Germans when they emigrated to other nations. For example, some of the "Germans from Russia" were actually from Alsace-Lorraine, instead of from Germany. See the Germany Emigration and Immigration and the Germans from Russia Wiki articles for important emigration records that include German-speaking Alsatians of France.
The single most valuable source for researching German-speaking families of Alsace-Lorraine who moved to Russia is:
Stumpp, Karl. The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763-1862. Tübingen, Germany: Stumpp, 1973; reprint 1978. (Family History Library book 943 W2sk; fiche 6000829; 1978 ed. on film 1183529). Text in English. For a digital version, click here.
Starting in 1722 the Holy Roman emperors and Austro-Hungarian monarchs encouraged German and Alsatian settlement in their lands, especially along the devastated border with the Turks. Colonies developed in what later became Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Following World War II many settlers moved to the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and other nations.
An index that helps find Alsatians in Southeast Europe is:
Brandt, Bruce. Where to look for hard-to-find German-speaking ancestors in Eastern Europe: index to 19,720 surnames in 13 books, with historical background on each. Second Edition. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Clearfield Company, 1993. (Family History Library book 943 H22b; not on microfilm.) Text in English. Surnames only. Includes index from five books about immigrants to Galicia, Austria, Hungary, the Banat, and Batschka.
Similar immigration records and indexes are available at the Library for most nations and states where French people settled. They are listed under the new nation or state in the Place search of the Family History Library Catalog under—
[NATION OR STATE] - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION
You can also search the Subject search of the Family History Library Catalog under—
FRENCH - [NATION OR STATE]
See also the "Minorities" section.
Immigration into France
Significant numbers of immigrants moved to France during the following periods:
- 1618-1648. Many Swiss emigrants come into Alsace-Lorraine as a result of the Thirty Years War.
- 1755-1763. Acadians (French-Canadians) are exiled. Many return to France.
- 1848-1850. German revolutionaries take refuge in Bas-Rhin.
- 1831-1870. Polish refugees settle in Bas-Rhin.
Thousands of Mennonites came from Switzerland into Alsace. Some Swiss Protestants settled in the Montbéliard area. Many Italians immigrated into the south of France.
Unfortunately, there are very few immigration sources for France. Instead, look for emigration records of the nation from which your ancestor moved.