In French ancestry genealogy research, count on roadblocks and bumps in the road to conquer. Let’s go over what you should know and might encounter as you go through these online French civil and parish records for your ancestors. So keep the following in mind
It will take time …
to master reading and deciphering handwriting, recognizing words and patterns, extracting the important data, and ignoring the church and legal ‘yadda, yadda’
The French and French Speaking countries; France, French Canada, and Belgium are the only countries I will use as references and examples.
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, commitment and practice to succeed
Tools to use ..
You will have to have on hand a list of French phrases and words to identify. I’ve put ‘flash lists’ on each page for easy reference of the common words and phrases used in that particular record.
I know this hurts…
You need to know EXACTLY what town your ancestors came from, it will be next to impossible to find them. Fortunately, Geneanet, FamilySearch, French Departments, and French Genealogical Societies are indexing towns as fast as they can so you can. You will be able to use the search feature as soon as the records are indexed and uploaded.
What you couldn’t find 10 years or even a year ago might be indexed. 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 by towns. 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.
Baptismal (baptême), marriages (mariages), burials (sépultures), births (naissances)and death (décès) records may not have all the information listed that you want or need.
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
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). You’ll find the likes of chicken scratch or creepy crawly handwriting that will make you want to pull your hair out. It seems that the older the records are, the sloppier and cramped the handwriting seems to become. But not always. Words are spelled slightly different, shortened, or abbreviated This will be the biggest obstacle you’ll encounter. But don’t throw up your hands and give up. With patience, commitment 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..
The Old Letters and Spelling Rules..
Old writing will use ‘different’ letters and spellings combinations.
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