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France Pre-1792

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France Project > Orphaned Profiles Team page > France Orphan Trail Pre-1792 > France Pre-1792 Resources


Finding Baptism, Marriage and Burial Records in France

Before 1793, baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded by the Catholic church, each parish keeping its own registers.

Parish registers are not really different from the civil registration books found after the Revolution, though they are sometimes a bit more challenging to work on.

  • Like with civil registration, parish registers are taken care of by the Archives of each department, so the method to look for an act is the same: once you know the place where an event happened, find the corresponding departmental archives, look for the records corresponding to the parish, and browse them.
  • Parish registers rarely have tables, and acts will usually not be numbered.
  • Towns frequently have several parishes, and each parish kept its own books. So, you need to know in which parish your subject lived, in order to find the register you need.
  • For those who were not Catholic, it may be much more challenging to find records. Some Protestant registers can be found. Information on Jewish ancestors will not be found in Departmental archives prior to the Revolution.

Archives Départementales: Parish Registers

Once you know the date and place an event took place, find the Departmental Archives where it will be available. The France project is keeping a list of these departmental archives. You may also use this list at or browse the Geneawiki pages here. Or use Google: simply type "Archives Départementales <Name of Department>".

For more information see How to use French departmental archives.

How to cite your sources

You will find examples of source citations for French sources in the Source Citation Examples page.

Locations in France before the Revolution

Up to the Revolution, France was organized in provinces. They were replaced by departments on March 4, 1790. For births, marriages and deaths that happened before 1790, we ask that the location data be entered as "Place, Province, France", following WikiTree's recommendations on location fields. See France Location Fields.

It is not always easy to identify the province a modern location was in. When looking for acts, they will be found in the archives of the modern department. This means that you will need to convert the department to the corresponding province.

Conversely, if you are working on an ancestor who migrated, the information on his place of origin will probably include a parish, a province, perhaps a diocese. These must be converted to a modern department in order to find which departmental archives is keeping the original records.




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Categories: France Project