France Finding Town of Origin
|France Research Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
- 1 Finding the Town of Birth
- 2 Important Tips
- 3 Documents in the Home
- 4 Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives
- 5 Search Genealogies Compiled by Others
- 6 Records to Search in the Country of Arrival
Finding the Town of Birth
In order to research your family in France, it is essential that you have identified the place where they came from. You must know the city, town, or parish that they came from. A few records are indexed, but many records will require going directly to photocopied local records, which are only available by town name. it will be difficult to identify the place of origin by going directly to France sources. Therefore, you will need to search in United States (or other country of arrival) sources first.
Before you can begin to search in the records of France you must find that one record that gives the name of his or her hometown. You must also know enough about the ancestor to positively identify him in the records. Dates (even if they are approximate), places, and familial connections are key to helping you decide if a person you find, who has the same name as your ancestor, really is your ancestor.
- Do you know the name of his parents?
- Do you know his birth, marriage, or death date or can you calculate an approximate range of years to search for his birth, marriage, or death?
- Do you know the name of his wife? Did they marry before or after coming to the United States?
- Do you know the names of any of his siblings?
- Do you know the names of any children born in France?
Documents in the Home
Often the document you need to pinpoint the place of origin of your Poland ancestor is already found at home. These might include the following:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates or licenses
- Death certificates
- Funeral cards
- Family Bible
- Naturalization papers
- Citizenship papers
- Military service records
Emigration Questions to Ask Relatives
Find the oldest living relatives that you can and ask them:
- What do you know about our first ancestor to come from France? (open-ended)
- Have you ever heard mention of towns in France where the family lived?
- Do you have contact with any relatives in France?
- . Do you have contact with other branches of the family in the U.S.?
- . When _____________ came from France, did he travel with other family members?
- . Do you know when _________________ arrived and which port city?
- Did _______________ever become a citizen?
- Did_________________fight in World War I or II?
- When they first came, were there already family members here who they joined?
- Did_______________ever mention their parents in France?
- Were they Catholic?
- Do you have any old letters or postcards from France family?
- Do you have any pictures of family members in France?
Search Genealogies Compiled by Others
- Collecting Previous Research by Others Part Two: Online Family Tree Collections
- Collecting Previous Research by Others Part Three: Digitized Books
- Collecting Previous Research by Others Part Four: FamilySearch Wiki Tools
Records to Search in the Country of Arrival
- Search census records, available for the United States, Canada, England, and other countries. Censuses are often taken every ten years.
- Try to locate your ancestor in every census during which he or she was alive. This information provides a good framework for further research.
- The 1850-1880 U.S. federal censuses sometimes list a French state or province as birth place.
- The censuses for 1900 to 1930 ask for the year of immigration and whether or not the person was naturalized. This information can help you find naturalization records or a passenger list.
- Censuses can be accessed online. Links to both free and subscription websites are found at United States Census Online Genealogy Records.
- State census records vary in availability and the type of information they contain, but they are always useful as another source to document an ancestor in a specific locality. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online state censuses.
Vital records, or civil birth, marriage, and death records document important events in an ancestor’s life. Many states have posted statewide indexes on the Internet. Understand that any birth, marriage, or death certificate gives information about other people besides the primary person it is about
- 1. It is important to remember that a birth certificate for a child might tell it's parents' birthplaces.
- 2. Marriage certificates might name birth dates and places of the bride and groom. They might also give the names and birth places of the parents of the bride and groom.
- 3. Death certificates are very important. Birth and marriage certificates might not have kept by a state during the earlier years of your ancestor's life. There is a greater chance that your ancestor died after detailed record-keeping began. Death certificates frequently state birth date and place. They also state the names of parents and their birth places.
There are wiki articles giving details on how to find vital records of each state.
- You can select the state of interest and the record (birth, marriage, or death) from this list:
- Many records may be online. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State, for online vital record databases.
Websites such as FindAGrave and Billion Graves are making it easier to get information from headstones, which frequently give birth dates, and occasionally give birth places. Each state has additional collections of cemetery records. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to other online cemetery records. Every state also has a Cemetery topic page you can search, for example, California Cemeteries, Washington Cemeteries. etc.
Obituaries are an excellent source of biographical information about immigrants. In addition to names and death dates, you can learn about surviving family members, church affiliations, spouses, parents, occupations, burial places, and hometowns in the old country. Even if a place of origin is not given, an obituary may provide additional research clues, such as the date or ship of immigration or traveling companions. Much of this information cannot be found in other sources. For many immigrants, an obituary is the only “biographical sketch” ever written about them. See U.S. Online Genealogy Records by State for links to online obituary collections. If the town of death is known, Google newspapers in that town and contact them to see if they kept archives of their obituaries.
- The application for the Social Security card may also contain a town of birth. These records are available for deceased individuals who died after 1935 when Social Security began.
- The Social Security Applications and Claims Index does not cover every application--it has sort of an eclectic mix of what got included. If you find your ancestor in the Social Security Death Index but not in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, you can send away for a copy of the application.
Draft records for World War I and II ask for birth place, which can be listed as just France or in greater detail.
- U.S. WW I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 Index and images.
- U.S. WW I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 Indexes and images. ($)
- United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 image browse, alphabetical by state.
- United States, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 Images with partial index.
- U.S., Alien Draft Registrations, Selected States, 1940-1946,($), index and images.
Passenger Arrival Lists
Passenger lists, especially in the 20th century, may list birth place, last residence in mother country, and name and residence of a close relative in the mother country. Study the records of fellow passengers, as frequently relatives and neighbors traveled together. United States Immigration Online Genealogy Records is a comprehensive list of passenger arrival databases that you can search right now from your computer. There are many, many databases. The following search strategy will make your search more efficient.
Suggested Search Strategy
- Check the partner website indexes, as these cover many, many databases at once. The FamilySearch Historical Records databases is free to search with a free registered account. The other websites are subscription-based but can be searched for free at a Family History Center near you. Try to search each partner site because their search engines can often bring up slightly different results.
- If it is difficult for you to get access to the subscription databases, next try Additional Nationwide Collections Not Included in Partner Sites. These websites have a lot of overlap with the subscription websites.
- Search a nationality, religious, or political group collection that applies to your ancestor.
- Search the state collection for the first state where your ancestor lived.
- Read Tracing Immigrant Origins to learn about many other records that substitute for immigration records.
- Naturalization records may also list an ancestor’s birth place.
- Prior to 1906 any U.S. court could naturalize foreigners. Many pre-1900 records only list “France” as the country of citizenship; however, there are notable exceptions, so these records should be checked routinely.
- The process involved two sets of papers: a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen, and a petition filed some time later.
- Beginning in 1906, naturalization records became more detailed, as the responsibility shifted to the Federal government.
- More information about naturalization records, along with helpful links, is found at Beginning Research in United States Naturalization Records and United States Naturalization Online Genealogy Records.
- U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, ($), index and images