Archiver > ALSACE-LORRAINE > 2004-03 > 1080370831

Subject: Re: [ALS-LOR] Village Records
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 02:00:52 EST

In a message dated 3/26/04 6:21:24 PM, writes:

<< 1. What types of old village records might I search
once getting beyond the absence of church type records?

2. Has anyone found a list of various church records and
how far back are those records dated? If there is no such
record, is there a source for addresses of churches found
in each of the villages? Are the church leaders generally
willing to do searches for family genealogists if we make
a financial contribution? >>


I'll address your second question first. Yes, there are
inventories of the extant church records held at the
Archives Départementales in each département. These
are in the form of published books. In general the
church records at the Archives Départementales are
the ones that were filmed and are now available on
microfilm from Salt Lake City. In some instances there
are records available in the local churches that are not
represented at the Archives Départementales and
therefore not available on microfilm, but that is
the rare exception. For Plaine, Bas-Rhin, the community
you mentioned in an earlier message, the volume on
Bas-Rhin (by Jean-Pierre Kintz) in the series Paroisses
et communes de France indicates that the earliest Catholic
records date from 1692.

I would not recommend writing to individual churches.
Here's my thinking:

1) for the period after 1792 the civil records are almost
always going to contain fuller information, and those
are available on microfilm through 1882 for Alsace,
through 1892 for at least some parts of Lorraine (in
France, because of the 100-year privacy law, you can
get access to records through 1903 now, but those more
recent records aren't available from Salt Lake City, at
least not for Alsace and Lorraine)
2) for the period prior to 1792 the vast majority of extant
Catholic and Protestant church records for Alsace and
Lorraine are available on microfilm and can be borrowed
from Salt Lake City
3) the priests/pastors have no special training in (and
most of them probably no interest in) genealogical research
or deciphering old handwriting; they also have their regular
duties to attend to
4) the more people write to individual parish churches
asking for records, the more likely the priests/pastors are
to view genealogists as pests and the less likely they are
to bother responding to anyone
5) if we genealogists treat the good will of the local guardians
of old records (priests/pastors, town clerks, etc.) as a precious
resource not to be squandered lightly, we make it more likely
that the few among us who truly need their help will actually
have requests answered

I know that there are a lot of generalizations imbedded in that
line of reasoning. Of course there are helpful priests/pastors
and town clerks who will happily do what they can for those
who write or visit in person (some of them are probably as
passionate about genealogy as the rest of us), just as there are
crabby ones who can't be bothered to lift a finger. But I do
think it is up to each of us to do our part first by learning what
records are readily available in books and journals, on microfilm
or microfiche, and then exhausting those resources before
making demands on the time and patience of the harried record

Now your first question. The sorts of records available at the
Archives Départementales, municipal archives and collections
of individual notaries will vary by time period and locality, but
they include: military conscription records; censuses; marriage
contracts; property transactions such as mortgages; estate
settlements; appointment of guardians for widows or minor
children; tax records; citizenship records; election to local
offices (mayor, town council, etc.). Because most of these records
have not been filmed they have to be consulted in person, either
by you or by a hired researcher. They can sometimes be much
more difficult to read than the church or civil records of
birth/baptism, marriage and death/burial that we are used to.
The Archives Départementales are the principal repositories for
such records and they deal with historians and genealogists day
in and day out. The local archives, on the other hand, may be
looked after only by volunteers with whom you have to make
appointments in advance, or they may not be available at all.

Robert Behra

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