Making  French  Genealogy  Easier

Tracing Your French and Belgian Ancestry
Step-by-Step Guide

There are 10 French Genealogy tutorials and other research help available here; Dates, Phrases, French Handwriting, Baptism, Birth, Marriage, Death/Burial, Navigating the French Archives, navigating the early military records at “Memoires de Hommes” and navigating the Belgium archives

Before we can do all this, you’ll need to collect and organize the items needed for these tutorials and exercises. I’ll go on the assumption that you already know how to organize your genealogy with binders, notebooks, family charts, Microsoft Notebook ect, so I will not be addressing that. Please proceed to each tutorial in the order as it is given. Remember, you are on a path to  read, understand, and extract only the pertinent data from records, and know enough to network and navigate through the French websites. Please don’t rush, take your time, take one sample at a time, digest it, before moving onto the next one.

You will need:

  • Pencil or pen

These are useful Links:

A few things you need to know about researching your ancestry in France, Belgium and Canada:

  • Always check the Indexes in the archive records. They usually start at 1793, though you can sometimes find indexes for earlier years in certain towns.
  • Go to the archives of the department you’re researching. Depending on how that department is laid out, you should be able to find ‘en ligne archives’, or a page that tells you to choose between civil registers, recensements (census) or Registres matricules. In this exercise, you’ll click on Civil actes (actes de registres). It should bring up a page where you can search through the communes. It will either be a drop down box when you click on the commune form or there will be a little box next to the Commune space. Click on that and you should see alphabetical letters along the top of the page, with names of towns underneath, click on the ‘letter’ that begins with your town, then scroll down to that name and click. You will now see years available for that town. Look for “TD” (that is the index) The Index will be divided by years, actes de (of) naissance/ne’s (birth), mariages (marriage) and deces (death). Click on your years and you can start looking.
  • Maiden names are always used for married women
  • Adding an “e” at the end of words means it is in feminine form. example né (masculine) for women, née (feminine) for women
  • When in doubt of sex of child, look at these; né/le/un are masculine, neé/la/une feminine, in describing the baby’s birth, sex and name
  • During Revolution: The ancien régime dissolved, and France created departments labeled with numbers, with regions; Belgium has provinces and regions;,
  • People from France are usually called “The French People”
  • French Belgians are called Walloons (Wallons)
    • Southern Belgium is the French part known as Wallonia

You will have to learn some French words and phrases if you want to communicate with fellow french genealogists and visit French genealogy sites. Write down words, and translation snippets you’ve come across into your notebook/Evernote/OneNote. I’ve provided flash lists on common words found and used in French records to print out and study. You’ll need to refer to when examining records. There are free online lessons, French language programs, and workbooks, new and used, available at to help you on your way. 

Do not become frustrated. As in all things, it takes time, study and practice to get where you want to be. If I can learn to do it, so can you!

Now, onward to Tutorial 1 – Dates –>


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