If you can't get in a visit to France to research your French ancestry, some archivists might be willing to look up a record for you. They are under no obligation to do so, but these tips will help increase your chance of success!
Time Required: 30 minutes
- Write your letter in French. There are several free translation programs on the Internet to help with this. See related links below for sample letter.
- Type your letter, if possible. It is sometimes quite difficult to read handwriting and this could make all the difference to a busy archivist.
- In your letter, be as specific as possible regarding your request. Include full names and dates for the event. If you don't know the exact date, then be sure to estimate within a couple of years, otherwise you are just wasting your time.
- If the record of birth or marriage is less than 100 years old, you will need to provide proof of direct descent - birth certificates for you and each of the ancestors above you in direct line to the ancestor whose record you are requesting.
- Be sure to ask, in your letter, for "une copie integrale" (full copy) "de l'acte de naissance/mariage/deces" (record of birth, marriage, or death), otherwise you may be sent an abbreviated summary.
- Enclose a self-addressed envelope with either a French postage stamp or an International Reply Coupon (IRC), which is available from your local post office. Include an additional IRC with your letter to cover photocopying/typing.
- Address your letter to the appropriate archive (Archives Departmentales) or town hall (La Mairie).
- Clearly print "Faire suivre SVP" (please forward) in the top left corner of your envelope in case your letter is incorrectly addressed.
- On the back of your envelope print "Expediteur/Sender" and your address, so that your letter will be returned if delivery cannot be made.
- If you don't know the address of the archives, then address your letter to "Archives Departmentales" followed by the department name; the department's # followed by three zeros and the name of the Prefecture (capital city); FRANCE.
- If you are unsure of the address of a town hall, then write to "La Mairie" followed by the name of the town/village; the department's number followed by three zeros and the name of the town/village; FRANCE.
- When writing to local town halls or genealogical societies, consider using "special issue" stamps rather than the standard ones on your envelope, as many people really appreciate receiving these.
- If you need some help constructing a letter, then use our Model Letter for Requesting Genealogy Records from France as a guide!