Let's Be Realistic

Let's go over what you should know and might encounter as you go through these records in French. So keep the following in mind

1. It will take time to master reading and decyphering handwriting, recognizing words and patterns, extracting the important data, and ignoring the 'yadda, yadda'

2. The French and French Speaking countries; France, French Canada, Belgium, and Luxembourg are the only countries I will use as references and examples.

3. These tutorials will help you identify whether the document is a baptism, birth, death and marriage, locate and identify only the phrases and words that recorded the information you need and extract that information, not read the document word for word. It will take time, committment and practice to succeed

4. You will have to have on hand a list of French phrases and words to indentify. I"ve put 'flash lists' on each page for easy reference of the common words and phrases used in that particular record.

5. If you don't know EXACTLY what town your ancestors are from, it will be next to impossible to find them. If you know they came from a certain department or province, it will consume a lot of time to go through each town for that area. It can be done, though. I"ve done it myself. Unlike the United States where records are housed in the state's county, France's records are housed at each town's parish and court house. Post 1792 will have civil record indexes, but pre- 1793 records would be under the Catholic parish for that town. If there are indexes, it will come after each year.

6. Baptismal (baptmene), marriages (mariages), burials (sépultures), births (naissances)and death (décès) records may not have all the information listed that you want and need.

You may hinge your hopes of finding the town and/or names of ancestors you would think would be found on such documents, I certainly did, but sadly it doesn't always pan out that way. For example, on Montreal marriage documents, IF the groom or bride were widowers or widows respectively, the names of their deceased spouses would appear, but not the names of their parents. Or the bride or groom may be the 'ward' of the Pariosse, when the parents are unknown.

7. Usually,each type of record will follow some sort of pattern of how the information is presented.

This really does help to navigate through these records if you know what to look for, and in what order the information will be written down, so you can be searching for key words and phrases

8. Prepare to see some of the worst handwriting you may ever encounter.

If you thought that all French handwriting would be beautifully and elegantly scripted, (as I did), you will be in for a shock (as I was). The older the records are, the sloppier and cramped the handwriting seems to become. Words become spelled slighly different, abbreviated This will be the biggest obstacle you'll encounter. But don't throw up your hands and give up. With patience, committment and study, you can and will learn to recognize crampy,'smuchy' and different ways the letters and words are written which are found in the more earlier records..

9. Old writing will use 'different' letters and spellings.

In older records, you will find some baffling letter combinations that don't make any sense unless you know the style that was used. For example: cursive "fs" looks like "ss", or as 'ff'. An uppercase "R" is written as uppercase "V" with a horizontal line through the middle. With study, you'll be able to distinguish the styles

You can find more handwriting examples that will help here

Rome wasn't built in a day, neither are family trees