Through your efforts to read French records dating back to the 16th century, you will come to know both the development and individual characteristics of the records and become proficient in reading the text and format. As you gain an understanding of what the records are saying, an appreciation for the people who made a diligent effort to create them will develop. Record keeping in France, especially civil, parish and notarial registers, was highly regulated by the French Crown. The French government enacted very specific regulations determining what information should be contained in each type of register, which is a tremendous aid in reading and understanding French old records. Naturally, there were local and regional influences which affected the registers; however, there are also extensive general similarities found in all records. For example, the Crown prescribed the form in which Catholic church parish registers, were to be kept. Each time a child was christened, a couple married, or a person buried, the parish priest or one of his assistants was to make an entry in the register, recording the name of the person, where the event occurred, and the date it happened.
Although the specific requirements for
keeping registers have changed from time to time, the formats have stayed
basically the same. This tutorial will introduce you to those basic formats;
that is, it will focus on the specific information contained in each
record and where in the record that information is usually found. Those just beginning to learn to read and understand old
French records should go to TECHNIQUES AND TOOLS on
the sidebar and read each of the pages there. Then go to the CIVIL
REGISTERS pages under DOCUMENTS and begin with the page
about birth records. Those with more paleographic experience can go to a specific
document type under DOCUMENTS for
sample transcribed and translated documents with explanatory notes and
commentaries about that document type and is essential components.
Much of the text on this page was adapted from p. 1-1 of
French Record Extraction - An Instructional Guide, © 1981 by Intellectual Reserve and Alain Marie, Lire les Archives Notariales. Please consult this resource for more detailed guidelines ofFrench Spanish document extraction.