European Ancestors – Understanding France (36) Departments, Districts, Cantons and Communes

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.

Building on from an earlier post (Understanding France 14).

The structure of administration after the Revolution across France changed, and was divided into Departments, Districts or Regions, Cantons and Communes. This is important for those undertaking genealogy research in France, as where you look for information will depend on what you are looking for. Some is held at local level, in the Communes, whilst other material is potentially held at Departmental, Region, or Canton level.

  • Departments  – initially there were 82, but this was expanded as the population grew, especially near the capital. There are now 96 of these excluding the overseas territories. Each Department has a unique number which is used for a variety of administrative reasons – vehicle registration, postcodes for examples.

  • Regions – Until the end of 2015 there were 22 regions, with 5 overseas regions. Following government discussions there was a change from January 2016, there are now 13 + 5 overseas regions

Map courtesy of FRANCE.PUB.COM

  • Districts (arrondissements) of these there are 342 which breaks down into
  • Cantons of these there are 2,054 and that further breaks down into
  • Communes and of these there are 36,529 – this is the lowest level of administration across France.

Click HERE to download a full list of the Departmental Archives for France.

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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