If you are researching Jewish ancestors who were either born, or who lived in France:
It is necessary to know that beginning in 1792, the date of the inauguration of the Civil regime in France, Jews became citizens just as all others living in mainland France. It was obligatory for all to file their vital statistics with the Civil authorities.
Nevertheless, there are two types of documents specific to Jewish genealogy available for the 19th century:
- The lists of family names chosen in 1808
- The censuses taken by the Consistories in 1809, 1851, and 1872
Both of these sources contain information that supplements that of the civil records.
Beginning in 1792, the date of the inauguration of the civil state in France for all of its citizens, and continuing through 1902, one should search for records in the Town Halls or the Communal Archives (neither is required to respond by mail but may be willing to do so in exchange for payment of research fees), or in the Departmental Archives for the town in which you are researching. Their addresses may be found on the site: <http://www.genealogy.tm.fr> (see the heading Toute l'Information Généalogique, Archives). Certain of the Departmental Archives may be willing to respond by mail, but in general it is necessary to go in person.
From 1902 till the present the civil registers themselves may not be available, but by writing to the Mairie you can be sent a full copy of a death certificate. A full copy of the registration of birth or marriage is only available if you are a direct descendant and can give the name of the parents. On the other hand, you can request an extract, with marginal notes: marriage, divorce...
Numerous civil registers have been microfilmed by the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints). To find out whether the archives of the region or the city in which you are interested have been microfilmed consult the French site, or the Mormon site Click here. A copy of each microfilm has been deposited in the Departmental Archives, where you may view them. Sometimes you can obtain these microfilms to be sent to the Archives Départementales of the place where you live in France. In certain cases, the Moselle region for example, you may borrow the films and view them at your own home (whether this facility works abroad is however not known).
There exists a particular document, after 1792, specific to the Jews in the French state under the 1st Empire: The Declarations of the choice of family names. By the Decree of July 20, 1808, Napoléon required all of the Jews of the Empire (which extended from Hamburg to Dubrovnik) to chose and declare a fixed first name and surname (click here for details in french). Numerous registers have been deposited and are available. Our member Pierre KATZ has analyzed many of these registers which are now available in a printed form (see in Publications the sections on Alsace and Lorraine). Many other ones can be found in the Members' Corner.
Paris is a unique case for the reason that the Civil Archives were burned during the Commune in 1871, and only a third of the acts prior to 1860 have been reconstructed, with many gaps in the information. On the other hand, the acts from 1860 to 1871 had not yet been archived, and have therefore been preserved. Information and the microfilms are at the Archives of Paris, 18, Bd Serrurier, 75019 - Paris. Tel.(+33)1 53 72 41 23; Fax (+33)1 53 72 41 34, or in their Welcome document (Cote B258). The register of 1808 name choices has not been reconstructed.
One can find at Consistoire de Paris (17, rue Saint-Georges 75009 Paris) registers concerning religious weddings and burials but they contain no information on the parents of the people involved.
To be consulted in particular :
We call your attention also to the documentation of the Jewish section of the Parisian cemeteries (Montmartre, Père Lachaise, Montparnasse, Pantin) by Gilles PLAUT (see Cemeteries).
If your ancestors were in France before 1792 they undoubtedly came from one of the following regions: