European Ancestors – Understanding France (7) Marriages

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.

During the period of 22 September 1792 and 26 July 1800 marriages had to be celebrated in the main canton, rather than in the commune, which is where they would have expected to have taken place.

Marriages are only legal in France if they have been undertaken in the presence of a civil authoritarian. They may subsequently be followed by a religious ceremony.

The civil marriage registers give many details, such as:

  • the birth date and birthplace of the bride and groom
  • parents’ names, including mother’s maiden surname, for both bride and groom
    • if the parents have died, their death date and death place are recorded.
  • Civil marriage records may even include the same information for the grand-parents
  • Witnesses are listed, (usually four), with their age, occupation, residence, and relationship.
  • Birth information of the couple’s children who are born prior to the wedding.
  • Marriage contract information, if one was made, include the date, the name of the notary, and the town where this contract was written may be included.
  • Civil marriage records may also mention the date of the banns.

A couple was required to announce their intention to give other community members the opportunity to raise any objections to the marriage. These are known as Banns and were required to be lodged twice in the weeks prior to the marriage. Banns were lodged in the parish of both the bride and groom and usually also indicate the parish where the marriage took place, or the residence of the bride. Some registers of marriage banns before 1927 have been preserved.

Marriage Supplements were sometimes filed by the bride and groom as a way of supporting their application to marry. This often included other useful genealogical information such as:

  • Birth record extracts of the bride and groom,
  • Death certificates of the parents,
  • Divorce decree of a previous union of either party
  • The certificates of residence,
  • Information of a Marriage contract,
  • Information and acknowledgement of children,
  • Parent’s consent
  • Military status of the groom

Sometimes documentation on earlier generations may be included. In France these marriage supplements were originally kept by the clerk of the court, but on occasions they may have been given to the departmental archives.

A Marriage Contract was created for the protection of property. The certificate often showed the name and town of the notary and when it was written. These are always deposited with the departmental archives.

In 1877 a family register was created. It seems likely that the need for this came about following the fire in Paris in 1871 when all the birth, marriage and death records were destroyed for events prior to 1860.

This was given to the couple following the marriage. As children were born to the couple it was updated. This was a document held by the couple and very often these pass down the generations.

The current minimum age for marriage is 18 years.

Same sex marriage was legalised in 2013. There 10,522 registered in 2014 and 7,751 in 2015 [1]

[1] –

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.
This entry was posted in European Ancestors, France, Understanding France Series. Bookmark the permalink.

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