History of Bastille Day
France in the late 1780s was a country ruled by a corrupt aristocracy. The country was nearing bankruptcy, the poor had little to no food and the growing middle-class felt powerless over the future of their country. Outraged, a group of Parisians formed primarily of craftsmen and salesman banned together on 14 July 1789 to fight back. Searching for gunpowder for the thousands of rifles they had stolen from the Hôtel des Invalides, the frustrated and angry mob turned their eyes on the Bastille, the hated prison that symbolized the King's brutality and totalitarian power. After hours of fierce fighting, the Governor of the Bastille, Bernard de Launayeven, surrendered the Bastille and the seven prisoners currently held within the prison walls were freed. Two days later, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette recognized the revolutionaries, prior to fleeing to Versailles for refuge, and the National Assembly ordered that the Bastille be burned to the ground.
The Birth of a Republic
This march on the Bastille, a symbol of the hypocrisy and corruption of France's political system, marked the beginning of the French Revolution, and eventually the formation of the first French Republic in 1792. The lasting significance of this event was the recognition that power was not held by the King or God, but by the people. On 6 July 1880 Bastille Day was declared the French National Holiday.
French Ancestors of Bastille Day
If you have French ancestry it is always possible that one of them participated in this historic occasion.
Archives Nationales - Recompenses Honorifiques Vainqueures de la Bastille
Culture.fr - Diplôme de Vainqueur de la Bastille