France Census

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

A census is a count and description of a population. Censuses have been taken by the government of France, by individual towns, and by some old provinces. These have been taken primarily for military purposes, taxation, or identification of the poor.

French national censuses have not been microfilmed and are seldom used for genealogical research. Unlike the censuses of the United States, Canada, or Great Britain, they cannot be easily used to locate families. Because French censuses are not indexed, it is not easy to find a name in them. Church records and indexed civil registration are better sources.

The first national census listing names in France was taken in the year 1772. Most national censuses from 1795 to 1836 show only statistics without personal names. From 1836 until 1936, a national census was taken every five years except for 1871 (which was taken in 1872) and 1916 (which was skipped).

Census records less than one hundred years old are confidential and may not be searched by individuals. However, some archivists are not strict with this rule and may allow access to census records up to the last 30 years.

Some earlier censuses may have been destroyed because of an 1887 decree, but this law was not applied everywhere. Early town and provincial censuses usually covered a smaller portion of the local population.

Census records do not consistently give the same information, but after 1836 they usually give the surname and given names, age, occupation, head of house, nationality, and sometimes the birthplace. Use the information with caution, however, since the information may have been given to a census taker by any member of the family or a neighbor. Some information may have been incorrect or deliberately falsified.

National censuses are usually found in the departmental archives. They are not microfilmed by the Family History Library. The early local census records (tax records) of a few towns have been published or microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. These are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog in the Place Search under FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT], [TOWN] - CENSUS.

For more details about French censuses see page 81 of Guide des recherches sur l'histoire des familles.

Information collected from 1831 to 1891[edit | edit source]

Information given in personal lists of the population from 1831 to 1891
  1831 1836 1841 1846 1851 1856 1861 1866 1872 1876 1881 1886 1891
Surname  These categories included in all censuses from 1831
Given names
Age [1] yes   yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes  
yes       yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
Marital status yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes [2] [2]
Nationality         yes       yes yes   yes yes
Other questions
[3]   [4]   [5]       [6] [6]

Notes and References[edit | edit source]

  1. Census 1831: "Age" is missing, instead "Year of birth" is recorded.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Censuses of 1881, 1886 and 1891: marital status is replaced by the position in the household.
  3. Census 1831 also asked: Can read or write, Contribution to the role of the commune, Non-taxation, Type of house roofing.
  4. Census 1841also asked: Type of house roofing.
  5. Census 1851 also asked: Religion, Disabilities and illnesses.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Censuses 1872 and 1876 also asked: Place of birth.

Early Censuses (Recensement, centième, denier, registres de la taille et autres registres d’impôts seigneuriaux et royaux)[edit | edit source]

Research use: Provides information for establishing family relationships and linkage.

Record type: Enumeration of population and registration of population movement and lists of residents.

Content: Early census records are local or municipal enumerations taken in connection with taxation. These vary in content but generally contain names of heads of families, and household members either by name or numbers.

Location: Departmental and municipal archives.

Percentage in Family History Library: 5%.

Population coverage: Before 1836, 30%.

Time Period: From 1590 to the present, some from the 14th century. [1]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: France,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1984-1998.