French History and Records for Genealogy
Over the centuries, France’s government and culture has changed many times. These changes often affected record keeping. The good news is that historical change in France sometimes resulted in the creation of valuable French genealogy records. Here are a few examples of how French history may have affected records kept about your ancestors in France.
The Catholic Church and Parish Records
For hundreds of years, the Roman Catholic Church played an influential role in French history—and record keeping.
The French Revolution and Civil Registration
The French Revolution, which started in 1789, upended the monarchy and the Catholic Church’s political power. In 1792, a new law transferred responsibility for official vital record keeping from parish priests to new civil offices.
Censuses and a Nation in Transition
France was slow to conduct nationwide censuses. Citizens feared that being enumerated would lead to greater taxation and forced military service.