France Military Records
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Military records identify individuals who served in the military or who were eligible for service. Most young men were required to serve in or register for military service in France. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family records, civil registrations, biographies, censuses, probate records, military conscription records, and church records.
Some French military records begin as early as the 1500s. They may give information about an ancestor's military career, such as promotions, places served, pensions, and conduct. In addition, these records may include information about his age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and family members.
The records you will find include:
- Conscription records (in the 1800s).
- Muster rolls.
- Personnel files.
- Regimental files.
- Lists of officers
- Pension records.
Many of these records have been centralized at the Military Archives in Vincennes, but the conscription records are kept at the departmental archives. The Family History Library has not filmed military records, except for a few conscription records in the department of Bas-Rhin from 1817 to 1856.
- 1 World War I Grand Mémorial Database
- 2 Confidentiality
- 3 Military Records of Genealogical Value
- 4 Military History
- 5 References
World War I Grand Mémorial Database
A new database, the Grand Mémorial of military records, history, and documents focusing on World War I was launched in November 2014. Thus far, the following departmental archives in France have contributed to the various databases:
Additional records will be added over the next four years. Documents from various former colonies are also included. By the time the project is completed in 2018 the Grand Mémorial database will document about 8.5 million soldiers.
Many records have been indexed. Both simple and expanded search options are available. Index entries lead to images of the actual service records of soldiers with enlistment years between 1887 and 1921. The website also included links to regimental journals, a war graves index, and historical documents.
Military records are kept confidential for 120 years from the soldier's birth. Other sources (such as church records and civil registration) are more easily available and contain much of the same information.
To use French military records, you will have to determine the soldier's specific regiment or ship the sailor served on. If you do not know this information, it may be possible to learn which units were raised in the area where your ancestor lived. To do this, you must know at least the district [arrondissement] where the individual was living when he was of age to serve in the military.
Military Records of Genealogical Value
Research use: Useful for following movements of young men, military regiment assignment and substitute for missing civil registers.
Content: Birth registers and lists of 17-21 year old males, their parents, residence, physical descriptions, current status such as exempt, moved away, deceased, etc.
Military censuses or conscription records may help determine where a person was from. They are not indexed. They are compiled year by year and listed alphabetically in each locality for men who are age 19 and 20. The towns are grouped in cantons and districts. Each department has several districts. Because of this, a search of conscription records can be time consuming. You will need your relative's birth year and birth department before hiring somebody to search conscription records in departmental archives.
Records of French troop assignments [contrôles de troupes] start in 1716. They are arranged by regiment name and the date each company in the regiment was raised. The list shows where the company was raised, commanders, and number of men. It cites the archive number of the company's records and the types of information in the records (such as names of parents and dates and places of birth). Troop assignments from 1716 to 1789 are listed in:
Corvisier, André. Les contrôles des troupes de l'Ancien Régime (Troop assignments of the Ancien Régime). Four Volumes. [S.n.]: Concours du C.N.R.S., 1970. (Family History Library book 944 M23c; not on microfilm.) Volume 2 infantry; Volume 3 cavalry, artillery, militia, French guards, Swiss troops, disabled companies, and colonial navy; Volume 4 indexes by name of the regiment, commanders, or company.
The military archives in Vincennes have not been microfilmed. The archivists occasionally answer letters, but you must know the exact name of the person, time period, rank, and regiment or ship. Do not expect to obtain much information from before 1800.
The following books help you locate French military records:
France. Archives nationales. Archives de la marine, série B service général (Navy archive index). Paris, France: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1969. (Family History Library book 944 A3fn; film 962225 item 2.) Alphabetical index to places, names, subjects, and ships mentioned in subseries B 1-3.
France. Ministère de la Marine. Officiers civils, 1645-1817 (Index of civilian officers attached to the French navy). Paris, France: Chadwyck-Healey France, 1988. (Family History Library fiche 6002208.)
For more historical information about the French military campaigns, use:
- Dupuy, R. Earnest, and Trevor N. Dupuy. Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present. (Revised Edition) London, England and Sidney, Australia: Jane's Publishing, 1980. (Family History Library book 355.033 D929e; not on microfilm.) Text in English.
Percentage in Family History Library: 2%.
Additional military histories are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under:
- FRANCE - MILITARY HISTORY
- FRANCE, [DEPARTMENT] - MILITARY HISTORY
- FRANCE, [PROVINCE] (REGION) - MILITARY HISTORY
- 1793-1896 - France, Brittany, Public Records, 1793-1896 at FamilySearch — index
- 1867-1921 - France, Calvados, Military Registration Cards, 1867-1921 at FamilySearch — index
- 1865-1932 - France, Rhône, Military Registration Cards, 1865-1932 at FamilySearch — index
- 1867-1921 - France, Vienne, Military Draft Cards, 1867-1921 at FamilySearch — index
Thirty Years War
1618-1648: Thirty Years War. Many records destroyed in eastern France. Severe devastation in German areas.
King William's War
1689-1697: King William's War. In England, it was called the War of the Grand Alliance.
Queen Anne's War
1703-1713: Queen Anne's War. Also known as War of Spanish Succession.
King George's War
1744-1748: King George's War.
French and Indian War
1756-63: Seven Years War also known as French and Indian War. Britain consolidates colonial power at the expense of France.
1778-1783: French assistance in the American Revolution.
- Bodinier, Gilbert. Dictionnaire des officiers de l'armée royale qui ont combattu aux Etats-Unis pendant la guerre d'Indépendance 1776-1783 (Officers in the Royal French Army who fought in the United States during the American War for Independence, 1776-1783). Vincennes, France: Service historique de l'armée de terre, 1983. (Family History Library book 944 M2b; not on microfilm.)
- Les combattants français de la guerre américaine, 1778-1783 (French soldiers in the American Revolution). Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969. Originally published as: United States Congress. 58th Congress, Second Session. Senate. Document number 77. (Family History Library book 944 M2cf; film 547088 item 5.) Includes index.
- Captain Joachim Merlant.Soldiers and Sailors of France in the War of American Independence (1776-1783). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1920. FHL Digital book
French Revolutionary Wars
1792-1800: French Revolutionary Wars. France invaded Germany and Italy.
1800-1815: Napoleonic Wars surge back and forth across Europe.
1853-1856: Crimean War. France, Britain, Turkey fight Russia.
1870-1871: Franco-Prussian War. German Empire founded upon defeat of France and took Alsace and Lorraine to form Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen).
World War I
- 1914-1918: World War I. France regains Alsace and Lorraine at the end.
- The World Remembers - WWI Deaths
- 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.