Moselle, France Genealogy

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Guide to Moselle ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers.

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History

Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. It was created from the former province of Lorraine. In 1793, France annexed the possessions of princes of the Duchy of Luxemburg - a state of the Holy Roman Empire, and incorporated them into the Moselle département. By the Treaty of Paris of 1814 following the first defeat and abdication of Napoleon, France had to surrender almost all the territory it had conquered since 1792. However, with the return of Napoleon in March 1815 and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the Treaty of Paris in November 1815 imposed much harsher conditions on France. There were several border changes at this time. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, almost all of the Moselle department, along with Alsace and portions of the Meurthe and Vosges departments, went to the German Empire by the Treaty of Frankfurt on the ground that most of the population in those areas spoke German dialects.
In 1919, following the French victory in the First World War, Germany returned Alsace-Lorraine to France under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. A part of Lorraine was reconstituted as the new department of Moselle. Thus, the Moselle department was reborn, but with quite different borders from those before 1871. At the declaration of World War II on September 3, 1939 around 30% of Moselle's territory lay between the Maginot Line and the German front. In spite of the June 22, 1940 armistice, Moselle was again annexed by Germany in July of that year. Adolf Hitler considered Moselle and Alsace parts of Germany, and as a result the inhabitants were drafted into the German Wehrmacht. The United States Army liberated Moselle from the Third Reich in the Battle of Metz in September 1944, although combat continued in the northeastern part of the department until March 1945. Moselle was returned to French governance in 1945 with the same frontiers as in 1919. As a result of German aggression in World War II, the French Government actively discouraged the Germanic heritage of the region, and the local German Lorraine Franconian dialects ceased to be used in the public realm. Moselle Wikipedia article for an overview of border changes.

Localities (Communes)

Church Records and Civil Registration (Registres Paroissiaux et Etat Civil) Online

The vast majority of your research will be in church records and civil registration. For more information on these records and how to use them, read France Church Records and France Civil Registration. Fortunately, these records are available online from the archives of each department:’’’
Here is the website for the Department Archives of Moselle, where you will find these records.

See Using France Online Department Archives for step by step instructions on finding and reading these records. For a demonstration of navigating archives websites, watch the video, Using France Department Archives Online.

Online Local Databases and Extracted Records

Groups devoted to genealogy have also extracted and/or indexed records for specific localities, time periods, religious groups, etc. Since church records at the departmental archives are generally not indexed, you might find an index here that will speed up your searching.

Microfilm Records of the FamilySearch Library

The church and civil registration records have all been microfilmed. Currently, they are being digitized, and plans are to complete that project by 2020. Check back occasionally to see if your records have become available. In the meantime, some of them might be available at a Family History Center near you. To find a microfilm: Click on Moselle , find and click on "Places within France, Moselle," and choose your locality from the list.


Writing for Records

Online records tend to cover only the time before 100 years, due to privacy laws. You can write to civil registration offices and local churches who might honor requests for more recent records of close family members for the purpose of genealogy.

For a civil registration office, address your request to:

Monsieur l'officier de l'état-civil
Mairie de (Town)
(Postal code) (Town)
France

For a parish church:

Monsieur le Curé
(Church --see The Catholic Directory for church name and address)
(Town) (Postal Code) France

For other addresses and for help writing your request in French, use French Letter Writing Guide.

Learning to Read Enough French, German, or Latin to Do Genealogy

It's easier than you think! You do not have to be fluent in French or German to use these records, as there is only a limited vocabulary used in them. By learning a few key phrases, you will be able to read them adequately. Because this region once belonged to Germany, many records are written in German.

German

Here are some resources for learning to read German Records:

French

Here are some resources for learning to read French records.

There is a three-lesson course in reading handwriting in old French records:

These lessons focus on reading church record and civil registration records:

Another resource is the French Records Extraction Manual, with this linked Table of Contents. You will be able to practice on actual documents.

Latin

Some Catholic church records will be in Latin.

Search Strategy

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find his birth record, search for the births of his brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of his parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and search for their birth records.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.
  • Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.


Genealogical Societies and Help Groups

Websites