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!
Difficulty Level: Moderate 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 of the event, 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).
- 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 are writing to an archives and do not know the full address, then address your letter to "Archives Departmentales", followed by the name of the department, then on the next line the department's number followed by three zeros and the name of the Prefecture (the capital city of the Department), followed by France on the last line.
- If you are writing to a town hall and are unsure of the address, then write to "La Mairie", followed by the name of the town/village, on the next line the department's number followed by three zeros and the name of the town/village, and "France" on the last line
- 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.