French Parish Registers (FR: Registres paroissiaux) are church records of births, marriages, and burials in France and many of these French Parish Registers are now available for free, online.
Parish records predate government or civil records of births, marriages, and deaths and are often the only available record of these events.
In 1792, after the French Revolution, when the law prescribed that civil records of births, marriages, and deaths be kept and banned priests from keeping these records (between 20 September 1792 and 8 April 1802), some priests continued to secretly record baptisms, marriages, and burials and many of these registers have been preserved.
These registers can provide valuable information – and open new avenues for research in case of blockages – with the mention of godparents, witnesses of religious marriage, burial. *
Parishes were the basic unit of church organization and also functioned in later years as a level of governmental jurisdiction. Parish records were kept from the Middles ages onward as life revolved around local parishes.
The parish registers were kept by parish priests, who entered baptisms, marriages and burials… which concerned almost all the population. The keeping of these registers was made obligatory by the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêt in 1539.**
Most parishes became administrative towns or communes and civil registers (l’etat civil) kept in the communes supplemented & then replaced parish registers.
In 1667 an order required records to be kept in duplicate with an original kept by the parish and commune and then a duplicate sent to the clerk’s office in the registry of the court. This duplication of parish records wasn’t fully implemented until 1737.
Held by the mayors of the communes in the name of the state, it mentions identically births, marriages and deaths of all inhabitants of a municipality without distinction of religion. …The registers, both parish and civil, have been kept in two series since 1737, one kept in the parish, then the commune, the other deposited in the registry of the court. The existence of these two series makes it possible to remedy most of the deficiencies due to losses and destruction.**
In 1792, the French government instituted government mandated recordings of births, marriages, and deaths in France and church parish registers were required by law to be turned over to the government authorities.
French parish registers are now kept at the Departmental Archives in France.
*Pour complter votre recherche. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from https://archives.lot.fr/r/53/pour-completer-votre-recherche/
**Registres paroissiaux et de l’etat civil. (n.d.). Retrieved September 25, 2018, from https://archives.creuse.fr/s/2/registres-paroissiaux-et-d-etat-civil/
Baptism and Death records were kept as early as the 1500s. Marriages typically were recorded beginning in 1579.
Some things you may learn from French baptism records include:
- Date of baptism
- Child’s name
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Father’s full name
- Mother’s full name, including maiden name
- Godparents’ names
- Father’s occupation
- Mother’s occupation
Some things you may learn from French marriage records include:
- Date of marriage
- Groom’s full name
- Bride’s full name, including maiden name
- Age of Groom and Bride
- Places of birth of Groom and Bride
- Occupations of Groom and Bride
- Places of residence of Groom and Bride
- Name of Parents of the Groom
- Name of Parents of the Bride
- Previous marital statuses of the Groom and Bride
- Names of Witnesses to the marriage
Some things you may learn from French death records include:
- Date of burial
- Name of the deceased
- Age of the deceased at death
- Occupation of the deceased
- Date of death
- Place of death
- Cause of death
- Witnesses or declarants of the death
- If you use Google Chrome as your web browser, Google will automatically translate pages to your default search language. You can opt out of this translated page or refresh your browser for a second chance to see the language options.
- Many French websites also have the option to translate to the language of your choice.
- You can also open a second browser window with Google Translate and copy and paste text to that window if you need a translation.
- Here’s a free French Genealogical Wordlist from FamilySearch.
- FamilySearch has a free France Language and Handwriting page with instructions, lessons, and tutorials.
- Here’s a French Glossary of Terms from the Departmental Archives of Vendée (Department 85).
Here is a list of all French Archives by department number. If the archive currently has parish registers available online, the link has been made live. Date ranges available online will vary.
For live links to all France Archives by Department, see French Archives Online.