Bibliography for Tracing French Noble Families
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Tracing noble ancestors in France can be challenging. However, the researcher is blessed with a variety of published and manuscript resources to rely upon. In this partially annotated bibliography I list some of the more valuable books, articles, and indexes to manuscript collections available to the researcher. I also list some works that are less than accurate since you will probably encounter them sooner or later and you should be prepared for them.
This web page originally appeared as a post on a CompuServ genealogy forum in April 1992. It was written as an addition to Michael K. Smith's "Bibliography for Research in British and Continental Royal and Noble Lineages and Heraldry" posted on the same forum as two files, ROYALB.TXT and ROYALJ.TXT. I added this information because his otherwise very detailed and valuable listing lacked crucial works for doing French noble research. This is not a comprehensive bibliography but only an update of my original CompuServ file. It reflects what I have learned over the intervening years by working on the Baillon and Le Neuf research projects. Basically, this represents my working bibliographic notes.
This bibliography only covers the nobility prior to the French Revolution and not during the Napoleonic Empire or the Restoration. These periods are beyond my expertise. I have included a few titles relating to the nobility of New France. These few Canadian citations are far from comprehensive.
Most of these works are in French. With a little effort, and brushing up on your High School French, you should be able to extract valuable information from these sources. You will find many of these books in public libraries with large genealogy collections or through the Family History Library. However, some of them you are more likely to find only at large university graduate libraries, often in storage.
When you suspect you have a French ancestor who was a noble you must launch a research project to verify your suspicions. You can not merely accept vague family traditions or the misleading use of prepositions in your surname. The "de," "de la," and "du" are not signs of nobility. Also, keep in mind that merely possessing a seigneurie, that is, a manor and landed estate, is also not proof of nobility as many wealthy commoners purchased seigneuries. However, if you find your ancestor consistently referred to in original documents as an écuyer (squire), chevalier (knight), or some other noble title, then you have an interesting clue worth pursuing.
The general approach I recommend for tracing a French noble family is as follows:
First look through the key references and construct a detailed research bibliography. Make sure you include all the bibliographic information including any cryptic codes and numbers. These mysterious pieces of information are usually document codes and numbers.
Now systematically hunt for the books and articles on this bibliography. This process usually requires visiting several university libraries and the extensive use of interlibrary loan. Also, some of the items will be found at the Family History Library. Carefully, review what others have found about the family you are researching. Perhaps your problem has already been solved by another genealogist.
If necessary, make up a list of manuscripts to consult in France. Although you could visit France to do the research, few of us can afford this. Besides, when in France why would you want to be in an archives or library when you could be touring one of the most magnificent countries in the world. Instead, I suggest that you order copies of the documents to be made on microfilm. Microfilm is cheaper than paper copies. Processing a microfilm order can take up to and beyond six months. Be patient. I find it is better to get microfilm copies than to hire a researcher in France. This way you can pour over the evidence at your leisure. Be prepared to encounter some difficult to read script.
Lastly, analyze your evidence and make sure you have an original document or a printed source citing original documents to prove the link between every generation. Never settle for less.
I also strongly suggest you find others researching the same family and band together to divide the labor and share the costs. In my own case I have been very lucky to become a team member with some rather brilliant colleagues, namely René Jetté, Roland-Yves Gagné, Gail F. Moreau, and Fr. Joseph Dubé. I consider myself as the junior partner and I am fortunate to work with such talented people and to learn from them.
I would also like to thank Jean-Philippe Gérard for reading over this bibliography and supplying me with some helpful comments.
An important development since I first issued this bibliography is that many of the key resources are now available for purchase on CD-ROM at reasonable prices. I have altered this bibliography to included notices about these CD-ROMs. This means that even a remote researcher here in North American can build an impressive library of resources for doing French nobility genealogy.
Whenever I start a project to study a French noble family I always consult these essential of tools. These key references will show you the state of the knowledge for the family you are interested in researching. They point to published and manuscript documentation about French noble and bourgeois families. Most of the manuscripts will be found in France at the Bibliothèque nationale (BN, National Library) or the Archives nationales (AN, National Archives) in Paris. However, many of the books and articles can be found in North America. The addresses for these important institutions are:
Centre d'accueil et de recherche des Archives nationales (CARAN)
60, rue des Francs-Bourgeois
75141 Paris Cedex 03
The entrance is on 11, rue des Quatre-Fils - 75003 Paris.
Note: The Archives nationales is undergoing renovation until 2004.
Bibliothèque nationale de France
58 rue de Richelieu
The manuscript collection is at the Richelieu site, but the books and many other offices are located at the new library at Site François Mitterrand, Quai François Mauriac, 75013 Paris.
Bibliothèque nationale de France. "Inventaire des instruments de recherche: manuscrits occidentaux." About 2,700 microfiche. Paris and London: Chadwyck-Healey, 1991.
Imagine all the indexes, inventories, guides, and research tools for the Western manuscripts of the Bibliothèque nationale on microfiche and that is what is in this collection. The most important item for genealogists researching French nobles is the "Table alphabétique du Cabinet des titres" (Noms de famille des 6 premières séries, 10 vol. manuscrits). This is the same as bound volumes found at the library under the title "Répertoire alphabétique des séries généalogiques de l'ancien cabinet des titres de la Bibliothèque nationale" (mss., 10 vols., in-fol.1898). The original index is on the shelve near the doorway as you enter the Department of Manuscripts. This index is the key to the crucial Cabinet des titres, that is, the Office of Noble Titles. In these titles you will find evidence submitted to document nobility and proving noble status back several generations. You will find the papers of the juges d'armes (Judges of Arms)with one exception, all members of the Hozier familyand the papers of Bernard Chérin, généalogiste des Ordres du roi (Genealogist of the King's Orders). On this index you will find out what parts of the Cabinet des titres hold documents concerning the surname you are researching. Many of the indexes listed under the Libraries and Archives Guides section of this web page can also be found in this microfiche set. You are more likely to find this microfiche set at larger university graduate libraries.
This index to the Cabinet des titres is now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com. The full citation for this product is:
Grando, Denis, and Christophe Levantal, eds., in collaboration with Daniel Catan and Christian Robert-Leroy, Répertoire alphabétique des six séries généalogiques du Cabinet des titres de la Bibliothèque nationale de France, CD-ROM, based on the original index prepared under the direction of Ulysse Robert (Paris: Générep, 2001).
Arnaud, Etienne. Répertoire des généalogies françaises imprimées. 3 vols. Paris: Privately printed by the author, 1978-1981.
Vol. 1, A-F, 599 p.
Vol. 2, G-M, corrections and additions to Vol. 1, 553 p.
Vol. 3, N-Z, corrections and additions to Vols. 1 and 2, 592 p.
Even before I look at the microfiche indexes of manuscripts, I usually consult Arnaud's index of printed French genealogies. It includes not only nobles but also many bourgeois families. A family citation will often have the province of origin, associated estates, and a code indicating the published works containing information about the family. You will have to refer to the front of each volume for the full bibliographic information that matches the code. Remember to check vols. 2 and 3 for additions and corrections. Arnaud will usually point to all the well known published works. Arnaud also conveniently points to citations for a family in the Jougla de Morenas and de Warren's Grand armorial de France ([1934-1952] 1975), Saffroy (1968-1988), and some original manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale. This tool is in need of an update to catch up with the all the materials published since 1981 in France and Québec.
Arnaud's index is now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com. The CD-ROM contains additional families and corrections. In addition, this same firm sells another CD-ROM entitled Bibliothèque généalogique de France, which indexes published genealogies of at least three generations since 1982. It is meant to complement Arnaud's work.
Saffroy, Gaston. Bibliographie généalogique, héraldique et nobiliaire de la France des origines à nos jours. Imprimés et manuscrits. 5 vols. Paris: Librairie Gaston Saffroy, 1968-1988.
Vol. 1, General topics, nos. 1-16008, xxviii p., 734 p.
Vol. 2, Topics organized by provinces, French colonies, the Latin Orient, and refugees, nos. 16009-33963, viii p., 872 p.
Vol. 3, Genealogies organized by surname, nos. 33964-52222, vi p., 831 p.
Vol. 4, Index, iv p. 538 p.
Vol. 5, Supplement and index, nos. 52223-57484, by Geneviève Saffroy (Gaston Saffroy's daughter).
This is the masterpiece bibliography for the French nobility. Saffroy records published secondary sources as well as some primary source manuscripts in the Bibliothèque nationale and other libraries and archives in France. Although Arnaud points to some manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale, Saffroy's work offers more manuscript citations but is still not comprehensive. I usually check vol. 3 first because it is organized by family surnames. I then move on and check vol. 2 for information about the area in which my noble ancestors lived. The index is of limited help since it is only for authors and titles. Saffroy assigns a unique accession number at the beginning of each citation. Occasionally, other indexes will refer you to Saffroy and then indicate this number. Please see vol. 1, pp. xxvii-xxviii for a list of abbreviations used in the citations.
The obscure code at the end of many citations in Saffroy are the call numbers used at the Bibliothèque national. For example, [8 LM1 26 is the call number for La Chenaye-Desbois and Badier's Dictionnaire de la noblesse ([1863-1876] 1980). In general, if you see the abbreviation BN ms. fr. or BN n. acq. fr. followed by a number in a Saffroy citation, then it is indicating the French Manuscript Collection or the New Acquisitions French Manuscript Collections at the Bibliothèque national. Arnaud (1981) also points to Bibliothèque nationale call numbers and uses Fr. and NA to indicate manuscript collections at this institution. I can not emphasize enough how important it is to read the introductory materials in both Saffroy and Arnaud to understand all their subtleties.
Izarny-Gargas, Louis d', Jean-Jacques Lartigue; Jean de Vaulchier. Nouveau nobiliaire de France: Recueil de preuves de noblesse: Notices de 30.000 familles nobles d'Ancien Régime origines, armes, preuves de noblesse et sources archivistiques. 3 vols. Versailles : Mémoires & Documents, 1997-1998.
Vol. 1, A-D;
Vol. 2, E-L;
Vol. 3, M-Z.
This is a recent and welcomed addition to essential tools for researching French noble families. In this work you will find an index to published and manuscript proofs of nobility, which are rich in genealogical information. The introductory material is particularly worthwhile reading as it explains how one became a noble in France, what positions were ennobling, how nobility could be lost, and the rules for proving nobility in order to enter prestigious social institutions. It is organized by surname and then seigneurie or province. Titles of documents, their date, and location are given for the families listed. Lastly, the blazon of arms, if known, are provided. This reference work should be added to any major genealogical collection with a French interest. More information about this publication, including how to order it, can be found at the Mémoire et Document web site. At this web site you will also see that this book is now available on CD-ROM.
Gérard, Jean-Philippe. Répertiore des ressources généalogique et héraldiques du Départment des manuscrits del a Bibliothèque nationale de France. Versailles: Mémoire & Documents, 2003.
I have been remiss in not adding this important work sooner to this bibliography. M. Gérard provides us not only with a bibliographic guide to many valuable genealogical and heraldry documents in the Department of Manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale, but he also provides practical information about using these documents and gives us some insight into the history and organization of the Cabinet des titres. The book is organized by the catagory of the documents, but there is an index included. This book is available from Mémoire et Document.
The works in this section are genealogical dictionaries that contain published information about nobles and royals in France. Their quality range from excellent and well documented to useful finding aids only to absurd works requiring great caution. Most, but certainly not all, of these works are organized by family surname.
Anselme de Ste-Marie, Père [alias Pierre de Guibours, 1625-1694]. Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la Maison royale de France, des pairs, grands officiers de la Couronne et de la Maison du roy et des anciens barons du royaume. . . . 9 vols. Continued by M. Du Fourny. 3rd ed., reviewed, corrected, and augmented by P. Ange et du P. Simplicien, augustins dechausses. Paris, 1723-1733. Reprint Ed. Paris, Editions du Palais royal; New York and London, Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1967.
This is the definitive work on the royal house and peerage of France. It is the French equivalent of the English Complete Peerage. Once you become accustomed to the way it is laid out, by how a family was associated to the King and his household or when a titled peerage was established, it becomes easy to work with. Considering when it was produced, it is very modern. Père Anselme and his editors showed a great concern for documentation and cited sources in the margins. They even quoted the entire text of documents creating peerages. Each volume has its own index and there is a general index in the last volume. Vol. 9 is dedicated to recording the members of the Order of the Holy Spirit. This rare set is available from the Family History Library on microfilm through the local branches. You should use this set in conjunction with Potier de Courcy ([1868-1879] 1968). Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Aubert de la Che[s]naye-Desbois, François-Alexandre, et Jacques Badier. Dictionnaire de la noblesse, contenant les généalogies, l'histoire et la chronologie des familles nobles de France. 3rd ed. 19 vols. Paris: Schlesinger, 1863-1876. Reprint ed. 10 vols. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1980.
Vol. 1: Aba-Aud, Abadie-Audet
Vol. 2: Aud-Ber, Audibert-Bernardon
Vol. 3: Ber-Bra, Bernardy-Brancher
Vol. 4: Bra-Cha, Brancion-Chabot
Vol. 5: Cha-Coe, Chabot-Coetmen
Vol. 6: Coe-Dou, Coetquen-Douhet
Vol. 7: Dou-Fev, Doujat-Fèvre
Vol. 8: Fev-Gar, Fèvre-Garravet
Vol. 9: Gar-Gue, Garreau-Guenant
Vol. 10: Gue-Iza, Guénégaud-Izarn
Vol. 11: Jab-Lev, Jablonowski-Levezou
Vol. 12: Lev-Mal, Levis-Malesset
Vol. 13: Mal-Mon, Malestroit-Montagnac
Vol. 14: Mon-Nob, Montagny-Noblet
Vol. 15: Nob-Poi, Noblet-Poisson
Vol. 16: Poi-Rev, Poisson-Reviers
Vol. 17: Rev-Rym, Révilliasc-Rym
Vol. 18: Saa-Til, Saarbruck-Tilly
Vol. 19: Til-Zur, Tilly-Zur-Lauben
My first impression of this work is that it was a hack job in comparison to the other available sources. Much of it is plagiarized from earlier works, usually Père Anselme ([1723-1733] 1967). The documentation of other more careful researchers is striped out when they pilfer the words of others. They do not cite any sources based on their own research either. Nor do they include transcriptions of original documents. My opinion of it has become more mild over the years. It is a widely published work that appears in many libraries. Although I use it with caution, it is a convenient finding aid that will notify you if the family you seek is prominent enough to have others write about it. The challenge is then to find where these authors got their data. Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Carretier, Christian. Les ancêtres de Louis XIV: 512 quartiers. 2nd rev. ed. Paris: Éditions Christian, 1981.
This slim volumes list the ancestry of Louis XIV. An appendix shows how he descends from El Cid, Mohammed, and Rurik the founder of Russia. It is also slim on documentation.
Chaix d'Est-Ange, Gustave. Dictionnaire des familles français anciennes ou notables à la fin du XIXe siècle. 20 vols. Évreux: C. Hérissey, 1903-1929.
This work was suppose to eventually cover all the important noble families of France. However, the author only made it through A-Gau. It is at the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library and I will have to copy down the bibliographic detail on my next visit. Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Courcelles, Jean-Baptiste[-Pierre Julien], Chevalier de. Histoire généalogies et héraldique des pairs de France, des grands dignitaires de la couronne, des principales familles nobles du royaume et des maisons princières de l'Europe. 12 vols. Paris, 1822-1833.
This is an example of less than spectacular nineteenth century French genealogy. You are better off using Père Anselme ([1723-1733] 1967). I have never found anything of value in it.
Eyande, Gerald de, comp. Armorial général ou registres de la noblesse de France: nouvelle table générale. Paris: Éditions du Palais Royal, 1970.
This is a surname only index to the published Armorial général (Hozier 1738-1908).
Frotier de La Messelière, Henri. Filiattions bretonnes, 1650-1912: Recueil des filiations directed des représentants actuels des families noble, de bourgeoisie armoriée ou le plus fréquemment alliées à la noblesse, d'origine bretonne ou résidant actuellement en Gretagne, dupuis leur plus ancien auteur vivant en 1650. 5 vols. Mayenne, France: Impr. J. Floch,  1965.
I have not yet used this work, but I have seen it referred to in several other works and it appears to be highly regarded. Once I get a chance to use it I will provide further details. This is an example of a regional genealogical dictionary for nobles. Other such works exists and I hope some day to add some more selected examples to this bibliography.
Gavard, Charles. Galeries historiques du Palais de Versailles. 9 vols. in 10. Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1839-1848.
Louis-Philippe, the Citizen King of the French, created a special shrine to commemorate the crusaders when he remodeled Versailles. Vol. 6, parts 1 and 2, of this work lists the knights, gives some biographical details, and presents their arms. Be forwarned that some of these arms and some of the crusaders are bogus. Nevertheless, it is an interesting work to examine. You can access it online at Gallica.
Hozier, Louis-Pierre d'. Armorial général ou registres de la noblesse de France. 13 vols. Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1738-1908.
It is very important that you understand that the manuscript "Armorial général" is distinct and very different from the published Armorial général. It is also crucial that you know a little about the role of the d'Hozier family.
Shortly after Louis XIII established the office of judge of arms a member of the d'Hozier family occupied the position. A member of this family held the office until the Revolution and later under the Restoration. Their official title became: "généalogiste de la maison du roi, juge général des armes et blasons, et garde de l'armorial général de France." For several generations this dynasty of genealogists were responsible for accrediting the nobility of French families and recognizing and registering their arms. The manuscript "Armorial général" was the result of an interesting tax initiative on the part of Louis XIV. In 1696 the King insisted that everyone register their arms and pay a tax. Those bourgeois without arms, but with means, were granted arms and then taxed. Charles-René d'Hozier was charged with compiling this information into the "Armorial général." He did so between 1697 and 1707 placing the information in 48 manuscript volumes organized by province. Many French familiesincluding many bourgeois familiescan be found in the manuscript "Armorial général" in the Cabinet Des titres. However, the only information you will find in the manuscript is a description of their arms and a drawing of them. Also, it should be noted that some complete rolls of arms collected for the Armorial général in 1696 are available in print for specific regions and provinces. For example, see Meurgey de Tupigny's (1965-1967) armorial of Paris.
Despite the shared title, the thirteen published volumes of the Armorial général is not the same information collected for the 1696 tax and found in the manuscript "Armorial général." The published Armorial général is the work of Louis-Pierre d'Hozier, the nephew of Charles-René d'Hozier. It contains only the most prominent French families at the time of the publication. Each family has a written family history with footnotes pointing to original documents and published sources. The first 10 vols. were published from 1738 to 1768. Supplemental volumes were published in 1868, 1872, and 1908. Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com. For a surname index of these published volumes see Eyande (1970).
Joannis, Jean-Dominique de, and R. de St-Jouan. Les seize quartiers généalogiques des Capétiens. 4 vols. Lyon: Sauvegarde Historique, 1958-1965.
This is a collection of well documented pedigree charts showing the ancestry of each King of France for four generations. It also includes cadet branches of the royal family. Vol. 4 consists of additions and corrections as well as an index.
Le Hête, Thierry. Les Capétiens. Paris: Éditions Christian, 1987.
A nicely done job laying out family trees for the Kings of France and families associated with the royal house. It also contains maps showing the development of the kingdom.
Moréri, Louis. Le Grand dictionnaire historique . . . . 10 vols. Paris: Les Libraires Associes, 1759.
This is biographical dictionary that often contains very interesting genealogical details. There are several editions of this work, some translated into English. These editions vary in there coverage. I have yet to determine the best edition. Moréri tends to repeat his contemporary Père Anselme ([1723-1733] 1967). Nevertheless, he sometimes has information that is not otherwise available. M. Gérard has kindly pointed out that the best edition of this work is the last one consisting of 12 volumes and completed in 1873. This edition is available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Potier de Courcy, Pol Louis. Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la maison royale de France. . . . Paris, vol. 4 and vol. 9 in 2 parts, 1868-1879. 4th ed. Paris: Éditions du Palais Royal, 1968.
This worthy effort to update, correct, and annotate Père Anselme was never completed. Potier did an excellent job on the volumes he was able to finish. There is great coverage of the members of the Order of the Holy Spirit.
Rey, Emmanuel-Guillaume. Les familles d'outre-mer de Du Cange. Reprint ed. New York: Burt Franklin, 1971.
Many French families participated in the Crusades. This is a well documented genealogy of Crusader families living in the Levant based on the historical and genealogical work of Charles du Fresne du Cange.
Saillot, Jacques. Les seize quartiers des Reines et Impératrices françaises (420-1920). Angers: J. Saillot, 1977.
This work is a counterpart to the work of Joannis and St-Jouan. It has pedigree charts for the Queens and Empresses of France.
Saint-Allais, [Nicolas] Viton de. Nobiliarie universel de France, ou: recueil général des généalogies historiques des maisons nobles de ce royaume. 21 vols. Paris, 1814-1843. Reprint ed. Paris: Librairie Bachelin-Deflorenne, 1872-1878.
Another hack job done by a roturier with noble pretensions. I have yet to find anything of value in it. Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Schwennicke, Detlev. Europäische Stammtafeln: Stammtafeln zur Geschichte der Europäischen Staaten, Neue Folge. [European Family Trees: Family Trees for the History of European States, New Series.] First series by Wilhelm Karl, Prinz zu Isenburg, continued second series by Frank, Baron Freytag von Loringhoven. 17 vols. to date. Marburg, Germany: Verlag von J. A. Stargardt , 1978-.
Despite being in German, this is a wonderful work for tracing noble families in France and elsewhere in Europe. For detailed information about this important work, and a key to understanding its abbreviations and symbols, see my Europäische Stammtafeln web pages.
Sereville, Étienne de, and F. de Saint Simon. Dictionnaire de la noblesse française. Paris: La Société Française au XXe Siècle, 1975. Supplement, Paris: Éditions Countrepoint, 1977.
This is a directory of modern day French nobility. The introductory material and bibliography is of special value to researchers.
Settipani, Christian. Les ancêtres de Charlemagne. Paris: Éditions Christian, 1989.
This is a genealogical dictionary of the ancestors of Charlemagne. Many French nobles, and all the royals, can be traced back to this Emperor of the West. Well researched, but I understand you should read the following article before reading the book.
__________. "Les ancêtres de Charlemagne: addenda et corridenda." Histoire et généalogie 28 (1990): 19-36.
This article is now available at http://www.rootsweb.com/~medieval/charladdend.htm.
Sirjean, Gaston. Encyclopédie généalogique des maisons souveraines du monde. Paris: Éditions du Palais-Royal, 1959-, 13 parts to date.
This is a collection of well done fold out pedigree charts and accompanying text and documentation. The parts that have appeared in print deal mostly with French royalty and nobility.
Sturdza, Mihail Dimitri. Grandes familles de Grèce, d'Albanie et de Constantinople. Paris: Privately printed by the author, 1983.
The French became inolved in Greece with the fall of Constantinople in 1204. This work is excellent for not only tracing French crusaders in Greece, but also for connections to Byzantium.
Bird, Jack. "Some Sources for French Genealogy and Heraldry." The Genealogists' Magazine 13:8 (December 1960): 237-241.
Many of the sources in this bibliography I first learned about from reading Bird's article.
Bouchard, Constance B. "Consanguinity and Noble Marriages in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries." Speculum 56:2 (1981): 268-287.
Interesting discussion of consanguinity among the nobility and the impact of the Catholic Church's changing rules. Consanguinity often becomes a crucial issue when trying to untangle possible relationships among Medieval people.
Lart, Charles E. "French Noblesse." The Genealogists' Magazine 7:5 (March 1936): 229-242.
Lart, Charles E. "French Noblesse and Arms." Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London 15:3 (1936): 476-488.
Lart has written clear and concise articles dealing with French nobility on both sides of the Atlantic. These are excellent introductory pieces that help explain the terms used to describe and differentiate the French nobility. He also compares the French nobility to the English nobility.
Mousnier, Roland E. The Institutions of France under the Absolute Monarchy, 1598-1789: Society and the State. Brian Pearce and Arthur Goldhammer, trans. 2 vols. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1979-1984.
Anyone doing French genealogical research on either peasants, bourgeois, or nobles would benefit from reading Mousnier. He has prepared a social guide to the world of our ancestors. His chapters dealing with nobility, heraldry, the peerage, and the royal household are superb.
Molière poked fun in his plays at bourgeois gentlemen who made money in lucrative positions and then tried to pass themselves off as nobles. They are important to us because many of our noble ancestors you will find trace back to an grandfather who was ennobled because of his office. The son would try to pass as a noble and the grandson would usually succeed at the charade. By time the family arrived in New France, they might have been passing as bona fide nobles for several generations. One of the important ways to enhance your families noble pretensions was to make sure your son married the daughter of a true noble family. The downwardly mobile noble would allow his daughter to marry the upwardly mobile bourgeois's son and thus we gain a gateway to the ancient nobility.
Blanchard, François [or Guillaume]. "Les généalogie des présidents du Parlement de Paris et des conseillers du Parlement de Paris jusqu'en 1712." 36 mss. vols. on 4 microfilm reels, 0656806-0656809, Family History Library.
This manuscript provides genealogical information about leading Parisian families involved in the administration of the city. Many of them were ennobled due to their offices.
Bluche, J.-François. Les Magistrats du Grand conseil au XVIIIe siècle, 1690-1791. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1966.
__________. Les Magistrats de la Cour des monnaies de Paris au XVIIIe siècle, 1715-1790. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1966.
__________. L'Origine des magistrats du Parlement de Paris au XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Librairie C. Klincksieck, 1956.
It has been some time since I used these works by Bluche, frankly, I did not keep good notes on them. I do recall they varied in the amount of detail they provided on families. However, he does provide some interesting clues about Parisian administrators and men associated with the royal mint.
Favre-Lejeune, Christine. Les Secrétaires du roi de la grande chancellerie de France: dictionnaire biographique et génélogique (1672-1780). 2 vols. Paris: Sedopols, 1986.
To be a notary and secretary of the King was important because the position carried ennoblement for the office holder and his descendants.
Félix, Joël. Les Magistrats du Parlement de Paris (1771-1790): dictionnaire biographique et généalogique. Paris: Sedopols, 1990.
Huppert, George. Les Bourgeois Gentilshommes: An Essay on the Definition of Elites in Renaissance France. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1977.
This is an excellent historical introduction to the type of ancestor you will probably first encounter in your tracing of noble leads. This are men who have just broken into nobility through merit or money. You get a good view of both the positive and negative attributes of these people struggling to climb the slippery latter of noble success in France.
Lapeyre, André, and Rémy Scheurer. Les notaires et secrétaires du roi: sous les régnes de Louis XI, Charles VIII et Louis XII (1461-1515). 2 vols. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1978.
Vol. 1 contains detailed information about each secretary of the King and vol. 2 has fold out family tree charts.
Villeneuve, Gérard de. Comment rechercher les origines d'un magistrat Parisien. Versailles: Centre Généalogique de Paris, 1985.
This is the first volume of a projected multi-volume work. It identifies the sources of information dealing with the nobility of the robe. Unfortunately, this work does not yet go to the end of the alphabet. To my knowledge, no other volumes have been completed. His book covers ennobled administrators, lawmakers, and judges.
Many nobles came to New France as officers or administrators. Although most of them returned to France after their tour of duty, some remained and founded families that can still be found in Québec, the Maritimes, and Louisiana. The following works concentrated on noble families in Québec.
Couillard Despres, Azarie. La noblesse de France et du Canada. Montréal: Le Pays Laurentien, 1916.
Gadoury, Lorraine. La Noblesse de Nouvelle-France: families et alliances. Ville La Salle, QC: Éditions Hurtubise HMH ltée., 1991.
This book is a historical demographic study of French nobles in Canada. The extensive lists and bibliographies (pp. 161-208) she offers are the best places to start to see if you have a French Canadian ancestor who was noble and to check if there is anything published on the family. Be warned that she does miss some nobles. For example, she does not list Catherine Baillon.
Godbout, Archange. "Baillonde MarleLesueur." Mémoires de la Société Généalogique canadienne-française 1:1 (January 1944): 37-43.
__________. "D'Ailleboust, de Montet, et Hotman." Mémoires de la Société Généalogique canadienne-française 1:4 (June 1945): 231-240.
__________. "Damours." Mémoires de la Société Généalogique canadienne-française 6:3 (September 1953): 114-123.
__________. "Levrault." Mémoires de la Société Généalogique canadienne-française 1:1 (January 1944): 43-48.
__________. "Les Robineau de Bécancourt." Mémoires de la Société Généalogique canadienne-française 4:3 (September 1951): 158-165.
__________. "Vieilles familles de France en Nouvelle-France." Rapport de l'archiviste de la Province de Québec, vol. 53, 1976, pp. 105-264.
Godbout is one of the founding fathers of Québec genealogy. These works contain his research on the noble families of France that settled in New France. Besides the work of Godbout, many items of interest to French-Canadian nobles can be found in the pages of the Canadian journals Bulletin des recherches historiques, Cahiers des Dix, and the Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française.
Jetté, René. Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec des origines à 1730. With the collaboration of the Programme de recherche en démographie historique. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1983.
When Jetté finds a line leading back to France he includes several generations based on the information he had available to him in 1983.
Jetté, René, John P. DuLong, Roland-Yves Gagné, and Gail F. Moreau. "De Catherine Baillon à Charlemagne." Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 48:3 (Autumn 1997):190-216.
Jetté, René, John P. DuLong, Roland-Yves Gagné, and Gail F. Moreau. "From Catherine Baillon to Charlemagne." American-Canadian Genealogist 25:4 (Fall 1999): 170-200.
René Jetté, John Patrick DuLong, Roland-Yves Gagné, Gail F. Moreau, and Joseph A. Dubé. Table d'ascendance de Catherine Baillon (12 générations). Montréal: Société généalogique canadienne-française, 2001.
I am proud to be part of this research team that found and documented a lineage for Catherine Baillon that stretches all the way to Charlemagne. Our work used many of the references listed on this web page.
Jetté, René, Roland-Yves Gagné, John Patrick DuLong, and Paul Leportier. "Les Le Neuf: état des connaissances." Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 51:3 (Autumn 2000): 209-227. This article has been translated into English and is being published in three parts in Michigan's Habitant Heritage, starting with the October 2002 issue. For an important update on the Le Neuf family, see René Jetté, "Du neuf sur les Le Neuf," Mémoires de la Société généalogique canadienne-française 53:2 (Summer 2002): 143-144.
This is the result of another research team, with overlapping membership from the Baillon team. Here we document a royal lineage back to Charlemagne for the Le Neuf brothers.
Lart, Charles E. "The Noblesse of Canada." Canadian Historical Review 3:3 (September 1922): 222-232.
This is Lart's introduction to the French nobility in Canada. It is a good companion piece to read with the works he has on the nobility in France.
Massicotte, Edouard-Zotique. "Inventaire des actes de foi et hommage conservés aux Archives judiciaires de Montréal." Rapport des Archives nationales du Québec (1921/22): 102-108.
These are the acts of faith and homage the seigneurs of Canada performed to retain their property.
Quebec, Legislative Assembly. Edicts, Ordinances, Declarations and Decrees Relative to Seigniorial Tenure. Quebec: E. R. Frechette, 1852.
__________. Titles and Documents Relating to the Seigniorial Tenure. Quebec: E. R. Frechette, 1852.
These official publications consists of English translations of French seigneurial documents relating to Canada.
Roy, Pierre-Georges. Inventaire des concessions en fief et seigneurie fois et hommages et aveux et denombrements conservés aux Archives de la province de Quebec. 6 vols. Beauceville: L'Eclaireur, Ltée., 1927-1929.
This is inventory of seigneurial concessions, homages, and census for new France.
__________. Lettres de noblesse, généalogies, érections de comtés et baronnies insinuées par le Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France. 2 vols. Beauceville: L'Éclaireur, 1920.
Because of charlatans like Cadillac, it was necessary periodically to have Canadian noblemen register their proofs of nobility. Since nobles did not pay many taxes, this was also a measure to detect tax frauds. This is a collection of proofs that the Canadian nobles had to submit to verify their social status.
Sulte, Benjamin. "La Noblesse au Canada avant 1760." Mémoires de la Société royale du Canada (September 1914): 103-135.
This is a basic introductory article to the nobles in New France, somewhat dated now.
This section covers works on coats-of-arms, seals, and orders of knighthood. The arms our ancestors used and the orders they were awarded can turn into clues you might need to use to solve a genealogical problem. This was certainly the case in the research we did on the ancestry of Catherine Baillon. We used a seal and a display of arms to solve two different problems and to prove the link between generations.
Before proceeding with citations on these topics, I would like to direct your attention to the French Heraldry and Related Topics web page. This is one of my favorite sites to visit. François Velde has done a tremendous job providing us with information about French heraldry, nobility, royalty, and orders. He also has pages dedicated to heraldry in general and for other ethnic groups at Heraldica. Velde is the leading expert on French heraldry on the web and he often posts to the rec.heraldry Usenet news group.
Abzac, Arnaud d'. Art du blason et recherches sur armoriaux. 5 vols. Available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Vol. 1: Familles des provinces de l'Ouest;
Vol. 2: Familles des provinces de l'Ouest (continued);
Vol. 3: Familles sur toute la France;
Vol. 4: Familles des provinces du Sud-Est;
Vol. 5: Familles de l'Ile de France, Vexin, et Normandie.
I have yet to see this CD-ROM product, but I am intrigued by it as the author relies on many other works to compile his armorial.
Colleville, Ludovic, comte de, and François Saint-Christo. Les ordres du roi, répertoire général contenant les noms et qualités de tous les chevaliers des ordres royaux militaires et chevaleresques ayant existé en France de 1099 a 1830 . . . Avec une histoire des ordres du Saint-Esprit, de Saint-Michel, de Saint-Louis, etc. Paris, Jouve, 1924. Photocopy. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms, 1968.
This contains a list of the noble men initiated into the King's Orders and the dates of their enrollment. The orders include the Order of the Holy Spirit founded in 1578, the Order of St. Michel founded in 1428, and the Order of St. Louis founded in 1693. In addition there was also the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel founded in 1607 and the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem established in 1060. These last two are not covered in this book. Lastly, there was also a Military Order of Merit founded in 1759 for Protestants. The other orders were exclusively Catholic. A reprint edition of this work is now available from Mémoire et Document.
Crayencour, Georges de. Dictionnaire héraldiques. 2nd rev. ed. Paris: Editions Christian, 1985.
Nicely done dictionary in French of heraldry.
Demay, Germain. Inventaire des sceaux de l'Artois et de la Picardie, recuillis dans les dépôts d'archives, musées et collections particulières des départements du Pas-de-Calais, de l'Oise, de la Somme et de l'Aisne, avec un catalogue de pierres gravées ayant à sceller. 2 vols. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1877.
__________. Inventaire des sceaux de la collection Clairambault à la Bibliothèque nationale. 2 vols. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1885-1886.
__________. Inventarie des sceaux de la Flandre, recueillis dans les dépôts d'archives, musées et collections particulières du département du Nord. 2 vols. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1873.
__________. Inventaire des sceaux de la Normandie recueillis dans les dépôts d'archives, musées et collections particulières des départements de la Seine-Inférieure, du Calvados, de l'Eure, de la Manche et de l'Orne avec une introduction sur la paléographie des sceaux. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1881.
Demay provides us with several valuable books containing descriptions of seals in various collections. Pierre de Clairambault (1651-1740), as the genealogist of the prestigious Order of the Holy Spirit, had an extensive collection of seals depicting the arms of the nobility and royalty. We were particularly fortunate on the Baillon project because Demay had inventoried seals from Picardy, Flanders, and Normandy, all areas we were researching. Typically, Demay transcribes the motto on the seal, describes it in detail, indicates the original document the seal was attached to, and provides an identification number so you can examine the seal or, more likely, a plaster cast of the seal in La salle de sigillographie et d'héraldique at the Archives nationales. Some illustrations are also included.
Devreaux, Pierre. Blazons et armoiries: témoins de notre histoire. St-Malo, France: Éditions d'Art Derveaux, 1987.
__________. Provinces de France: histoire et dynasties. St-Malo, France: Éditions d'Art Derveaux, 1989.
Devreaux is an excellent heraldry artist who has made some spectacular wall charts showing the lineages of the French kings, the dukes of Burgundy, and the Dukes of Brittany. These charts include beautifully done colorful images of the arms of the husbands and wives. These two books are illustrative of the quality of his art.
Dubuisson, Pierre Paul. Armorial des principles maisons et familles du royaume. Original ed. 1757. Reprint ed. Paris: Éditions du Palais royal, 1974.
This little book presents drawings of the arms of the top nobility mostly from Paris and Ile-de-France. He provides the blazon as well and often names the family's seigneuries.
Fauteux, Aegidius. "Armorial du Canada français." 2 vols. Typed manuscript at the Salle Gagnon, Bibliothèque centrale de Montréal, n.d.
This manuscript is worth consulting if you do not find what you seek in Massicotte and Roy's French Canadian armorial. Unfortunately, it is not published and you must consult it at the Salle Gagnon, Bibliothèque centrale, in Montréal.
__________. Les Chevaliers de Saint-Louis en Canada. Montreal: Les Éditions des Dix, 1940.
The Royal and Military Order of St-Louis was founded by Louis XIV to reward officer for bravery and service. Many members of the Canadian elite were granted this prestigious award. This book identifies the Canadian holders of this honor and the date they received it.
Gandilhon, René, and Michel Pastoureau. Bibliographie de la sigillographie française. Paris: A. et J. Picard, 1982.
This is the essential bibliography pointing to all the published works listing seals in France.
Héron de Villefosse, René, ed. Armorial de la ville de Paris. Engraved by Beaumont, Graveur ordinaire de la Ville. Paris: Éditions Contrepoint, 1977.
Beautifully done set of engravings showing the arms of the mayor (Prévôt des marchands) and aldermen (Échevins) of Paris before the French Revolution. Not well documented, but so far I have found it to correspond well with other data my colleagues and I have collected on some of these officials.
Hozier, Jean-Françios-Louis d'. Recueil de tous les membres composant l'ordre royal et militaire de Saint-Louis depuis l'année 1693. 2 vols. Paris: J. Smith, 1817-1818.
This book is organized by the date in which a gentleman was made a knight in the Order of St-Louis. Because it lacks an index, it is difficult to search. Also, some Canadians are missing from this compilation. Lastly, it ends its coverage in 1743. You are better off using Fauteux's Les Chevaliers de Saint-Louis en Canada (1940) who used this work in preparing his own. Nevertheless, this work is worth consulting if you are searching for someone who held this order, but was not French Canadian or Acadian. It this list is easily accessible online at Gallica.
Massicotte, Édouard-Zotique, and Régis Roy. Armorial du Canada français. 2 vols. Montréal: Beauchemin, 1915-1918.
Hand drawings, of unimpressive quality, showing the arms of Canadian nobles and French administrators. Otherwise, a fine general resource.
Mathieu, Rémi. Le système héraldrique français. Paris: J. B. Janin, 1946.
This book is an excellent introduction to the practice of heraldry in France.
Meurgey de Tupigny, Jacques, ed. Armorial de la généralité de Paris. 4 vols. Macon, 1965-1967.
This is a well done example of a concentrating on the "Armorial général" manuscript of arms for a particular region, Paris. It has the blazons (technical descriptions of coats-of-arms) for the families living in and around Paris. It also has blazons for corporations, churches, and guilds. He also has a list of published armorials based on the "Armorial général" manuscript for other provinces. The introductory material in these volumes is an excellent explanation of the 1696 arms tax and the history of the "Armorial général."
Jougla de Morenas, Henri, and Raoul de Warren. Grand armorial de France. 7 vols., Paris: Les Editions Héraldiques, 1934-1952; reprint ed., Paris: Frankelve, 1975.
Vol. 1, Introduction to French Heraldry, Aa-Bat, nos. 1-3333, 398 p.
Vol. 2, Bat-Coe, nos. 3334-10570, 470 p.
Vol. 3, Coe-Fie, nos. 10571-15369, 390 p.
Vol. 4, Fie-Mar, nos. 15370-23075, 537 p.
Vol. 5, Mar-Ric, nos. 23076-29045, 473 p.
Vol. 6, Ric-Zyl and Bibliography, nos. 29046-35429, 537 p.
Vol. 7, Supplement, A-Z, 447 p.
This is a collection blazons for the French nobility. The surname and occasionally the associated estate names as well as the province of origins are recorded. Each family is assigned an accession number. Frequently a drawing is made of the arms. Some families have partial genealogies and family tables included. The authors also mention the sources for their information including manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale. Unfortunately, the inclusion of sources only starts haphazardly with the letter "E" in vol. 3 and does not become standard until vol. 4. Vol. 7 is a supplement with additions and corrections. It is important to get a description of your ancestor's possible arms. This will become a visual clue that you will learn to use in your research to differentiate families with similar surnames. The Grand armorial de France is the best place to start your search for the arms of a French family. This work is now also available on CD-ROM from Mémoire et Document.
Paris, Louis. Indicateur du Grand Armorial Général de France: recueil officiel dressé en vertu de l'édit de 1696 (34 volumes de texte et 35 volumes d'armoiries) par Charles d'Hozier, Juge d'Armes. 2 vols. in 1. Paris: Librairie Nobilaire de Mme. Bachelin-Deflorenne, 1865.
This is an alphabetical index of surnames and seigneuries appearing in the manuscript "Armorial Général" of the Cabinet des titres.
Pastoureau, Michel. Traité d'héraldique. 2nd ed. Paris: Grands manuels Picard, 1993.
This is a scholarly and technical work on heraldry. It is well illustrated. It contains a detailed bibliography pointing to many other valuable tools.. I must confess that I have picked it up several times to read it, but never make it past a few pages. I find it less accessible than Mathieu's (1946) book on French heraldry.
Renesse, comte Théodore de. Dictionnaire des figures héraldiques. 7 vols. Bruxelles: O. Schepens, 1894-1903. Reprinted in one volume. Leuven: Jan van Helmont, 1992.
This is an ordinary of arms, that is, a tool to look up owners of arms based on the design of the arms. It should be used in conjunction with Rietstap's 2nd ed. ( 1884-1887).
Rietstap, Johannes Baptist. Armorial général. 2nd ed., much enlarged. 2 vols. Gouda: G. B. van Goor,  1884-1887.
This is perhaps one of the best known and most widely available armorials covering arms from several European countries including many from France. This armorial contains only blazons, the technical description of arms. For drawings of the arms see the illustrations by Rolland and Rolland ([1903-1926] 1967).
Robert, Ulysse. Indicateur des armoiries des villes, bourgs, villages, monastères, communautés, corporations, etc., contenues dans l'Armorial général de d'Hozier. Paris, 1879.
In the frenzy to record arms and tax the bearers of them in 1696, the French also carefully recorded corporate arms, that is, arms of villages, towns, monasteries, guilds, etc. This is an index to corporate arms in the "Armorial général"manuscript. You ancestor might not have carried arms, but perhaps his town or guild did have arms.
Rolland, Victor, and Henri V. Rolland. Armorial général de J. B. Rietstap, Supplément. 7 vols. La Haye: M. Nijhoff, 1926-1954.
Corrections and additions to Rietstap ( 1884-1887).
__________. Illustrations to the Armorial general by J. B. Rietstap. 6 vols. in 3. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Co., [1903-1926] 1967.
This is a set of illustrations for Rietstap ( 1884-1887) and the supplements by the Rollands (1926-1954).
Roman, Joseph. Inventaire des sceaux de la collection des pièces originales du Cabinet des titres à la Bibliothèque nationale. Paris, Imprimerie nationale,1909.
This is an inventory of seals found attached to original documents once submitted to tax courts to prove nobility. It has a description of the seal, the motto, the name of the document and a unique number you can use to examine the seal at the La salle de sigillographie et d'héraldique of the Archives nationales in Paris. This was projected to be published in two volumes. However, only vol. 1, covering A-M, was published. The manuscript for vol. 2, N-Z, can be consulted in the Archives nationales.
French genealogists have compiled some rather well done reports, especially considering when some of them were working. Here I list some of the family histories I have seen in my research that have impressed me as valuable examples.
Bertrand de Broussillon, Arthur. La maison de Craon 1050-1480. 2 vols. Paris, 1893.
__________. La maison de Laval 1020-1605. 5 vols. Paris, 1895-1903.
These are two excellent and well documented books on important French families. They are models of completeness. Bertrand not only cites medieval cartularies, he includes the relevant
parts in his appendix. Cartularies are charters usually preserved at monasteries and recording donations of the devoted. They are packed with genealogical data and are essential for doing medieval research.
Butkens, Christophe. Trophées tant sacrés que profanes du duché de Brabant. 2 vols. La Haye, 1724, supplement 1726.
This is a wide ranging work covering the Dukes of Brabant and associated families. At one time Flanders and its neighbors were in the cultural sphere of the France. Many Flemish-French noble families can be found in this work. The Family History Library has part of this work on microfilm.
Duchesne, André. Histoire des rois, ducs et comtes de Bourgogne. Paris, 1619. Available online at Gallica.
__________. Histoire de la maison de Chastillon sur Marne. 2 vols. Paris, 1621.
__________. Histoire généalogique de la maison de Montmorency. 2 vols. in 1. Paris, 1623.
__________. Histoire généalogique de la maison de Vergy. 2 vols. Paris, 1625. [Available through the Family History Library.]
__________. Histoire généalogique de la maison royale de Dreux. 8 vols. in 1. Paris, 1631.
__________. Histoire généalogique des maisons de Guines, d'Ardes, de Gand et de Coucy. 2 vols. Paris, 1631. Available online at Gallica.
__________. Histoire généalogique de la maison de Béthune. 2 parts in 1 vol. Paris, 1639.
André Duchesne (1584-1640) was the father of scholarly genealogy in France and had an impact on the development of this field across western Europe. He was one of the first to take great care to cite his sources. His work on the great feudal families is rare and not yet microfilmed. Yale University Library has most of them in their Rare Book Collection.
Jetté, René. Traité de généalogie. Montréal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1991.
Jetté's treatise on genealogy is a breakthrough work for a number of reasons. However, in the context of this web site, his most important contribution was to point out three lines going back from Québec and Acadia to Charlemagne. Although one of these lines he latter modified when further evidence came forwardsee the article by Jetté, DuLong, Gagné, and Moreau (1997 and 1999) cited in the Nobility in New France sectionhis work has been an inspiration to several other North American French researchers to try and trace back other noble families.
La Roque, Gilles André. Histoire genealogiqve de la maison de Harcovrt, enrichie d'vn grand nombre d'armoiries, alliances, genealogies, matieres & recherches concernants non seulement les range & les interests de cette maison, mais encore l'histoire generale. 4 vols. Paris: S. Cramoisy, imprimeur ordinaire du roy et de la reyne, 1662.
The Harcourt family of Normandie was related to many local families as well as families elsehwere in France and in England. The last two volumes contain transcriptions of proofs in the first two volumes. This set is difficult to work with because of its confusing organization and lack of a thorough index. However, if you have a family with any ties to the Harcourts, then you must consult this work. Now available on CD-ROM from GeneaGuide.com.
Pâris, Bertrand, with the contribution of Paul Leportier. La Famille de Corday. Mayenne, France: Éditions Régionales de l'Ouest, 1994.
This well researched and documented book is of interest because the Le Neuf and Le Gardeur families of New France have a matrilineal descent from the Corday family. Furthermore, this same family gave birth to the heroine Charlotte Corday who stabbed to death the revolutionary rabble rouser Marat in his bath and was guillotined for her effort!
I must explain my approach to libraries and archives. I treat them as military objectives. I first identify the targets of choice, that is, the libraries and archives most likely to hold the data I am interested in. I then learn everything thing I can about the targeted institution including organization, catalogues, cataloguing systems, manuscript indexes, online resources, and guides. I then prepare a specific mission list of what I want to find and in what collections I hope to find it in. If writing, I make up a very specific request pointing to exact citations. If visiting, I make up a detailed hit list of what I want, where it should be, and how I found out about it. I have yet to find a librarian or archivist who is not impressed by my level of preparation and who has not helped me willingly. In my opinion, an unprepared general request for information is a disservice to yourself and to the staff at these often overwhelmed institutions.
Archives nationales de France. Guide du lecteur. 6th ed. Paris: Archives nationales, 1993.
This is the basic how-to-use-the-archives manual. You should read this over before you write or visit the Archives nationales. It is updated frequently.
Bernard, Gildas. Guide des recherches sur l'histoire des familles. Paris: Archives nationales, 1981.
In my opinion, this is the best published guide to French genealogy. He discusses in detail what is available in both the Archives nationales and the Bibliothèque nationale. See in particular pp. 193-217 and 226-227 coving nobles, orders of knighthood, and heraldry.
Bibliothèque nationale de France. Guide pratique de la Bibliothèque nationale. 2nd ed. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1989.
Like the guide for the Archives nationales, this is essential reading before visiting or writing to the library. It too is updated frequently.
I have listed in this section as many Bibliothèque nationale catalogues as I can find that I have used in the past. Others may exist. Working with them you will soon observe that there are several series of manuscript numbers referring to difference collections that were donated or collected at distinct times. The French Manuscript Collection (often abbreviated as fr. ms.) is a closed series. Nothing new has been added to it since 1862 when the French Manuscripts New Acquisition Collection (often abbreviated as n. acq. ms.) was opened and where the new contributions have been placed. With a manuscript number and a series name, for example, Anciens petits fonds français, you should be able to refer to the correct catalog and look up a short description of the manuscript of interest. These documents can only be found at the Bibliothèque nationale and to my knowledge they have not been microfilmed by the Family History Library.
Keep in mind that the Bibliothèque nationale is not organized like any American or Canadian library you are familiar with. Its collection has grown over centuries not decades. Works dealing with genealogy were not all donated at the same time. This is why you have to look though all the catalogues listed here. Each of these catalogs also contains an index.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue des manuscrits de la collection Baluze. Compiled by Lucien Auvray and René Poupardin. Paris: E. Leroux, 1921, 24 cm.
Étienne Baluze (1630-1718) was the librarian for Colbert, the famous minister of finance for Louis XIV. This collection holds some armoriesa collection of drawings of armsand divers papers of the genealogist André Duchesne.
__________. Catalogue des manuscrits de la collection Clairambault. Compiled by Philippe Lauer. 3 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1923-1932, 24 cm.
Pierre de Clairambault (1651-1740) was a Genealogist of the King's Orders. Unlike his compatriot Bernard Chérinwhose papers were deposited in the Cabinet des titresClairambault's papers were not donated until after the French Revolution and were kept separate. Unfortunately, many of his papers were burnt by the revolutionaries. You might also want to check for seals in the Clairambault collection (Demay 1885-1886).
__________. Catalogue des manuscrits des collections Duchesne et Bréquigny. Paris: E. Leroux, 1905, 24 cm.
It is only the section of this catalogue dealing with André Duchesne (1584-1640) and his son François Duchesne (1616-1693) that interests us. André conducted many studies of the most important noble French families of the Middle Ages.
___________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: table générale alphabétique des Ancien et Nouveaux fonds (Nos 1-33264) et des Nouvelles acquisitions (Nos 1-10000). Compiled by Alexandre Vidier and Paul Perrier. 6 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1931-1948, 24 cm.
Vol. 1, A-B;
Vol. 2, C-D;
Vol. 3, E-K;
Vol. 4, L-M;
Vol. 5, N-R;
Vol. 6, S-Z.
This is an alphabetical index of persons and places found in the extensive manuscript collection of the Bibliothèque nationale. If you find a name of interest here, then you must record the manuscript number as the first step. The second step is to track down the manuscript number in one of the other descriptive catalogs of the Bibliothèque nationale listed in this section.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: ancien fonds (Nos 1-6170). 5 vols. Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1868-1902, 31 cm.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: ancien supplément français (Nos 6171-15369). Compiled by Henri Omont. 3 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1895-1896, 24 cm.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: ancien Saint-Germain français (Nos 15370-20064). Compiled by Lucien Auvray and Henri Omont. 3 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1898-1900, 24 cm.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: anciens petits fonds français (Nos 20065-33264). Compiled by Charles de La Roncière and Camille Couderc [attributed to Henri Omont on the title page]. 3 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1898-1902, 24 cm.
The third volume of this set covers the Cabinet des titres. It gives basic information about what can be found in each item of the collection.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Catalogue général des manuscrits français: nouvelles acquisitions françaises (Nos 1-10000, 20001-22811). 4 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1899-1918, 24 cm.
Vol. 4, pp. 517-740, contains an index for mss. 10001-11353, 20001-22811, which is not covered in the general index. Small sized manuscripts are numbered below 20000 and large sized ones above 20001. I have learned that the Bibliothèque nationale has continued to add manuscripts to this collection and they are up to at least 16427 and 25245 respectively. There are apparently published continuation summary inventories covering these additions.
__________, Département des Manuscrits. Les Catalogues du Département des Imprimés. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1970.
A list of the catalogues and indexes for the printed books at the Bibliothèque nationale. You will need this to untangle the complex card catalogue system they have. The Bibliothèque nationale now has an online card catalogue for its publications, called Opale, but not everything is in it yet.
__________. Les Catalogues du Département des Manuscrits: manuscrits occidentaux. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1974.
This lists many of the catalogues, inventories, and indexes that have now been microfiched. This is an important guide for understanding the tools available to you for locating information in the manuscript collection.
__________. Collections manuscrits sur l'histoire de provinces de France. Compiled by Philippe Lauer. 2 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1905-1911, 24 cm.
This is a descriptive catalogue with an index to the provincial collections in the Bibliothèque national. Only the following provinces are covered: Anjou, Artois, Bourgogne, Champagne, Flandre, Languedoc, Lorraine, Maine, Périgord, Picardie, Touraine, and Vexin. If your ancestor originates from one of these provinces, then I suggest you check this index.
Bluche, François. Les Pages de la Grande-Écurie. 3 vols. in 4. Paris, 1966.
In order to take advantage of social perks, the nobles had to prove their nobility to the King's genealogists. These are the proofs people submitted to place their sons as pages in the King's Great Stable. Similar documentation had to be submitted for other various royal sponsored institutions and schools.
Chauleur, Andrée. Bibliothèque et archives: comment se documente? Guide pratique à l'usage des étudiants, des professeurs, des documentalistes et archivistes, des chercheurs. . . . 2nd ed. Paris: Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, Economica, 1980.
This is probably the best overall guide to libraries and archives in France and how to use them.
Dechène, Louise. "Concise Inventory of the 'Cabinet des Titres' (Collection of Title Deeds) of the 'Bibliothèque nationale' (National Library) Paris, Pertaining to Canadian Families." French Canadian and Acadian Genealogical Review 2:2 (Summer 1969): 121-134.
This is a good introduction, as far as it goes, to the papers of the d'Hozier dynasty of judges of arms and genealogists of the King of France in the Cabinet des titres. Dechène explains the parts of this collection and the provenance of the records. It is especially of value to Canadian researchers since she lists the Canadian noble families with records appearing in the Cabinet des titres.
Directions des archives de France. Catalogue des instruments de recherche des archives départementales, communales, et hospitalières: dan les services d'archives des départements en vente au 30 juin 1981. Paris: Archives nationales, 1981.
Over the decades the staff of the various departmental archives have created a number of research tools, such as, guides, indexes, summary inventories, repertoires, etc. This book lists the published guides by departments available in 1981.
__________. État des inventaires des archives départementales, communales, et hospitalières au 1er janvier 1983. 2 vols. Paris: Archives nationales, 1984.
This is another and more detailed list of research tools and unpublished card indexes for departmental archives available in 1983. Before you visit a departmental archives you should always check first for a published guide to the collection and search any published indexes you can find in North America.
Direction des Bibliothèques et de la Lecture publique. Répertoire des bibliothèques et organismes de documentation. Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1971.
This is a directory of public libraries, departmental archives, and other repositories in France. Each repository is briefly described and occasionally special genealogical collections are mentioned. Although it is now out of date, you might still want to use it to locate repositories of interest. I believe a supplement was published in 1973, but I have not found any more recent update.
Favier, Jean, gen. ed. Les Archives nationales: état des inventaires. 4 vols. Paris: Archives nationales de France, 1985-1991.
Vol. 1, L'Ancien régime, by Anne-Lise Rey-Courtel;
Vol. 2, 1789-1940, probably by Anne-Lise Rey-Courtel;
Vol. 3, Marine et outre-mer, by Anne-Lise. Rey-Courtel, in press, probably printed by now, but I have not seen it;
Vol. 4, Fonds divers, by Anne-Lise Rey-Courtel.
This tool list all the manuscript and published inventories, indexes, and guides for working with various sets of documents. It is best used in conjunction with the État général des fonds.
__________. Les Archives nationales: état général des fonds. 5 vols. Paris: Archives nationales, 1978-1988.
Vol. 1, L'Ancien régime, by Étienne Taillemite, documents relating to France before 1789;
Vol. 2, 1789-1940, by Rémi Mathieu;
Vol. 3, Marine et outre-mer, by P. Boyer, M. A. Menier, and E. Taillemite, documents concerning the navy and overseas possessions;
Vol. 4, Fonds divers et corrections et additions aux tomes I, II, et III, by R. Marquant, divers collections with corrections and additions to the first three volumes, includes information about the archives of the notaires of Paris;
Vol. 5, 1940-1958: fonds conservés à Paris, by Chantal de Tourtier-Bonazzi, modern collections conserved at Paris.
The official guide to the collection of the Archives nationales. Here is housed many materials concerning the nobility and royalty. Vol. 1 covers the materials relating to the Ancien Régime. Each set of documents is briefly described with the period of coverage indicated. I use this resource to identify documents I might want to order and look through when visiting Paris. It is also excellent for untangling cryptic source citations in other works.
Geoffray, Stéphane. Répertoire des procès-verbaux des preuves de noblesse des jeunes gentilshommes admis aux écoles royales militaires, 1751-1792. Paris, 1894.
Documents proving nobility that parents submitted to gain entrance into the Royal Military Schools and the Royal College of La Flèche.
Hozier, M. d'. Indicateur nobiliaire, ou table alphabétique des noms des familles nobles. Paris: Doublet, 1818.
This is a surname guide to the papers in the Cabinet des titres. I do not believe it is very detailed.
Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Direction du Livre et de la Lecture. Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques des départements de France. 7 vols. Old series, Paris, 1849-1885. 64 vols. New series, Paris: Plon-Nourrit et cie. and Éditions du Centre national de la Recherche scientifique, 1886-1989.
This set is a catalogue of the manuscripts found in public libraries and departmental archives of France. Each volume is dedicated to a different region or repository and has an index. You must check each volume and pay particular attention to those done for your ancestor's region of origin. Saffroy (1968-1988) does point to this collection under the abbreviation CGMBPF. However, he is not complete in his coverage. I believe that this is still an ongoing publication project and their might be more volumes published since 1989. For an index see Popoff (1993).
Newman, Lindsay Mary. Libraries in Paris: A Student's Guide . Scorton, England: Conder Research, 1971.
Popoff, Michel. Index général des manuscrits: Décrits dans le Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France. 3 vols. Paris: Références, 1993.
Ricour, David Du Boys, comte de. Liste des filles demoiselles reçues dans la Maison de Saint-Louis fondée à Saint-Cyr par le roi, 1686-1766. Paris, 1879.
__________. Liste des pages du roi de la Petite et de la Grande écurie, 1680-1765, suivie de la liste des pages des ducs d'Orléans, 1721-1729. Paris, 1880.
These are lists of young ladies of quality admitted to the royal school at Saint-Cyr and young gentlemen admitted into the great and little royal stables as pages. The proofs of their nobility should be found in the Cabinet des titres.
Welsch, Erwin K. Libraries and Archives in France: A Handbook. Rev. ed. New York: Council for European Studies, 1979.
Willems, Joseph-Hubert, and Jean-Yves Conan. Liste alphabétique des pages de la Grande écurie du roi. Suresnes, 1966.
__________. Liste alphabétique des pages de la Petite écurie du roi. Suresnes, 1966.
These are indexes for the nobility proofs submitted by the pages of the great and
little royal stables.
This section is incomplete. I have to add some French journals. I am aware of GE-Magazine and La Revue française de généalogie. However, I have never really looked through them closely. This is an oversight I must remedy. Meanwhile, I thought I should include what I had and add to this section later.
This is a key website for anyone doing French genealogy. It is a partnership site between several book dealers and associations interested in French genealogy and heraldry. Their online bookstore is extensive. Well worth periodic visits to see what is new.
14, rue Littré
This is the best bookstore I have found offering the widest choice of titles on French genealogy, nobility, and royalty. I had the pleasure of visiting this store on one of my trips to Paris. It was like paradise. You can order Gé[néalogie]-Magazine: la généalogie aujourd'hui (1982-) and Histoire et sociétés: annales de généalogie et d'héraldique (1993-, formerly called Histoire et généalogie: annales de généalogie et d'héraldique [1985-1993]) from this company. It is one of the GeneaGuide.com partners.
Mémoire et Document
3, rue des frères Coustou
This is a new establishment that I have not visited. However, its web site has an impressive array of genealogical items for sale including reprints of many books of interest to people researching their noble ancestors.
Éditions d'Art Derveaux
5, rue Cunat
The source of beautifully illustrated wall charts containing heraldic images.
Anglo-French Family History Society
31 Collingwood Walk
Andover, Hampshire SP10 1PU
This society is dedicated to English-speaking people researching their ancestors in France.
P.O. Box 250
Rockport ME 04856-0250
This prestigious quality journal covers many topics of interest to Medieval genealogists and has some French content. It is now edited by Charles M. Hansen and Gale Ion Harris, owned by the American Society of Genealogists and published by Picton Press.
Society of Genealogists
14 Charterhouse Buildings
London EC1M 7BA
Occasionally, this English journal has some interesting articles on French research and Medieval genealogy.
Héraldique et généalogie: revue nationale de généalogie
et d'héraldique (1969-)
Email: h.g at eurogeneal.com
This journal replaced the Bulletin généalogique d'information du centre généalogique de Paris (1956-1968). There is a CD-ROM available from GeneaGuide.com, compiled by Philippe Houël de Chaulieu, which indexes these journals from 1956 to 2000. It too is a GeneaGuide.com partner.
I want to thank Peter de Loriol Chandieu for sending me a comprehensive list of French genealogy journals that he found in Héraldique et généalogie, no. 153 (October-December 1999): 305-317. There are obviously many more genealogy journal in France than I knew about from my own research.
La Revue française de généalogie (1979-)
12, rue Raymond-Poincaré
Willems, J. H., and Jean-Yves Conan. Armorial français; ou Repertoire alphabetique de tous les blasons et notices des familles nobles, patriciennes et bourgeoises de France. 17 vols. to date. Dison: G. Lelotte, 1964-.
I do not know if this semi-journal is still in print. The last issue I have seen was done in 1984. It is an interesting hodgepodge of facts and illustrations regarding the French nobility and heraldry.
Warning: All of the above works are helpful tools. However, it is absolutely essential that you track down original documents to back up any research you do. All of these works contain errors of transcription or omission. The grades I assigned to these works are subjective.
Please let me know if there are any works I have missed that you think should be added. Also please contact me should you notice any mistakes in spelling or grammar. At 45 I have not yet mastered some of the basic mechanics of writing in my native tongue. I make even more mistakes in French since I do not have a French web spell checker yet.
Thank you for visiting this page and I hope you find it helpful.
This page, and all contents, are Copyright © 1998 by John P. DuLong, Berkley, MI. Created 26 December 1999. Last modified 19 August 2006.