European Ancestors – Understanding France (1) (Census)

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Flag adopted 15 Feb 1794

This post is part of a series about genealogy in France. You can read the complete series HERE.

  • 1791 was the first population census, but it is rare to find a surviving document from that time.
  • The majority of towns and cities have their records dating from 1826 or 1831.
  • Census held every five years, except during periods of war
    • 1871 Census was held in 1872 as a result of the Franco-Prussian War.
    • 1916 Census cancelled due to the First World War
    • 1941 Census cancelled due to the Second World War
  • The information contained within a Census document has evolved over time:
    • Surname and first name
      • Women might be listed under their maiden name
    • Occupation
      • Those without an occupations will either have the box empty, or will be filled with sp or sans
      • Type of employment (not all)
        • owner or employee (name of employer, if relevant)
    • Marital status
    • Relationship to the head of the household
    • Age, or year of birth
    • Address (from 1851)
    • Nationality and place of birth (not all)
  • Census for Paris only exist for the following years: 1926,1931, 1936 and 1946
    • Electoral rolls exist and can be found at the Paris Archives.
  • Date of each census can be found written at the bottom of the last page on the census.
  • Census records can be found in the department offices for each region and these are often digitised, and go up until 1936.
    • You can do an internet search (Google is probably best)  for the name of the town + “archives departementales” 
    • Not all regions use the same terminology, and these might be found under different names:
      • recensement
      • denombrement
      • recensement de la population
  • Most of the census are unindexed, which is OK for a small town or village, but really it is best for you to know where your ancestors lived, the information can be found in birth, marriage and death records.
    • Filae does have several indexed census’ – 1872, 1901-1911
  • Enumerators frequently used abbreviations:
    • d for ditto, a wavy line or id (abbreviation for the Latin word of idem, meaning same)

About Julie Goucher

Genealogist, Author, Presenter, native Guildfordian, avid note taker and journal writer. Lover of Books, Stationery & History; Surnames, Butcher & Orlando One-Name Studies. Pharos Tutor for all One-Name Studies/surname courses as well as Researching Ancestors from Continental Europe.
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