Need help with research in France

+4 votes
I do not speak French, have never done any research in France. This is probably not possible because I have so little information, but I would appreciate any help in finding the parents, emigration date, etc. of Hector A de Cleyre (Declair, Declare). He was born about 1835 in France and emigrated to the US sometime before/about 1860. Was married with two children (oldest born c 1863) and living in Bingham, Clinton Co., Michigan on the 1870 census.

Any help appreciated.
WikiTree profile: Hector de Cleyre
in Genealogy Help by Shirley Dalton G2G6 Pilot (475k points)

5 Answers

+4 votes
Fascinating! Thanks, David. This is a big help for my research.
+5 votes

There are some good resources in France such the departmental archives of both civil and church records. There are also some sites such as (subscription, but some aspects are usable without charge) and Geneanet (free and subscription modes).

French civil and church records tend to be formulaic: all records are basically laid out the same. It is generally not to hard to pick out the essential facts of names, dates, and places. With a French genealogical word list and an online translator it is not too hard. 

I have found that what I can remember from my high school French of more than 50 years ago was generally adequate.

Handwriting is generally not a significant issue.

As an example, I never studied Latin, but was able to pick up enough to read old German church records.

by George Fulton G2G6 Pilot (341k points)
Thanks for the tips George, I'll give it a try.
+4 votes

A private tree on Ancestry is listing the following:


Hector Augustus De Claire


Harriet Elizabeth Billings


Carolus Ludovicus (Louis) DeClaire


Victoria Bailleul


1836 Belgium


27 May 1906 Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (2.4m points)
Thanks, Doug. I missed that one.
+3 votes

Carolus Ludovicus DECLEIRE and Victoria BAILLEUL got married in Woumen (Belgium) in 1834
by D Q G2G6 Mach 6 (68.7k points)
+2 votes

Hector Augustus Decleyre emigrated from Antwerp with his mother and 6 younger siblings on board the ship William Jarvis, arriving in New York on 13 July 1854, see New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891, image 369/571, 3rd line, August Decleyre. They are recorded as being from Germany (and some names have been germanized), but the same is true for all other passengers on board so it should not be taken too seriously. Also, his age (18) has been misread as 28 in the Familysearch index.

His father probably travelled earlier. He can be found with his third wife and some of the children in Detroit on the 1860 census, but Hector is not with them anymore.

Hector's exact place of birth is still unknown. Without a guess of the place, it is hard to find him as most records are not indexed. I suggest to search first in Woumen, Belgium. Also, finding his marriage record (on 28 March 1861 with Harriet Elizabeth Billings, maybe in Leslie Michigan) may help.

by Julien Cassaigne G2G6 Mach 2 (20.4k points)
Thanks very much, Julien. I tried to find the immigration record and couldn't. So I'm very appreciative that you did locate it for me. As to his place of birth, on all census records where I find him he says he was born in France. What was the relationship between France and Belgium at that time, early 1830s?
I would say probably in the North of France (département du Nord), where many Belgian workers (most of them Flemish) came to work, first as temporary workers and later to stay.

Here is an article (in French) about the Belgian workers in that area around 1850

In 1848, they represented 6,7 % of the population.

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