European Ancestors – Understanding France (25) Franco-Prussian War

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.

  • Began 19 July 1870
  • Fighting began in the north eastern part of France; Alsace & Lorraine
  • Soldiers doing military service we mobilised initially
    • Increased to all soldiers aged 35 years old and under who had completed national/military service
    • Single men under 40 years old in the National Guard
  • Most of the fighting resulted in losses, both in terms of men and territories
    • Suden, resulted in the French surrendering
    • Capture and Abdication of the Emperor, Napoleon III leading to the
    • Third Republic of France.
  • The war continued, heading in the direction of Paris, the siege of Paris started 19 September 1870, but fighting continued in other regions.
  • Food shortages began to affect civilians
  • 28 July 1871, Paris surrendered and subsequently the war ended.

Map below, showing how Europe looked at the end of the War in 1871.

Courtesy of Education Technology Clearinghouse, University of Florida (1)


  • Treaty of Frankfurt led to annexation of territory of Alsace Lorraine
  • Citizen of these regions had to select citizenship:
    • Become German and remain in the region
    • Remain French and emigrate
      • 161,000 opted for French citizenship, but only 50,000 actually emigrated.
      • Those who remained became officially German citizens and the official language became German.
        • From 1872-1919 records are in German,
      • As a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Alsace-Lorraine returned to France

Almost all regions in Alsace and part of the departments of Moselle and Meurthe (54) which are now:

  • Bas-Rhin (67)
  • Hant-Rhin (68)
  • Moselle (57)

As a result of this annexation, a large part of northern France was occupied by German military between 1871-1873. The German military stayed in military or garrison towns, the local had to supply accommodation and food to the soldiers.

There were restrictions, food shortages and of other supplies, leading to outbreaks of Typhoid and Dysentery.

There was revolts amongst workers in some cities, such as Lyon and Paris. The Commune of Paris as a revolutionary government that ruled Paris for two months, between March and May 1871. The lasting change was the creation of the French Third Republic which lasted until the beginning of the Second World War.

The La Commune de Paris of 1871 database is an excellent addition to the French genealogist toolkit. The two month existence of the revolutionary government known as an insurrection, identified the insurrectionists as Communards which gives the name to what is a fantastic database.

The Communards were either arrested and sentenced to death or their charges dismissed. The database, which can be found at provides the following data:

  • Name of those charged
  • Names of the parents
  • Place of birth
  • Place of residence
  • Occupation
  • Charges faced.

(1) – Educational Technology Clearinghouse, University of South Florida – (accessed 26 July 2022)

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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