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Winter 2004
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 4   No. 4

They Came From…highlights dates in France history of which may prove of interest to the genealogist.

A Timeline of events from 1334-1916
Note: Some dates in Canadian genealogical history are shown in this chronology because many persons of French descent settled in Canada (especially Quebec).


1334 First entries in oldest surviving French parish register begin this year.
1523 Mennonites arrive in France, mostly in Alsace-Lorraine region.
1539 Parish registers rare until this date when Francis I required priests to keep baptismal records that show date and hour of birth.
1541 Protestantismbegins in earnest in France.
1545 Hundreds of Waldensians executed in towns of Cabrieses and Merindol.
1559 Paris synod decides that pastors should keep record of Protestant baptisms and marriages.
1563 Council of Trent requires that godparents' names be recorded in baptismal certificates.
1572  Large-scale migration of Huguenots begins after St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre occurs in this year.
1579 Priests required to record deaths and marriages in parish registers.
1598 Edict of Nantes grants religious freedom. Many French Protestant records date from this year, which are arranged by town or province depending on denomination.
1667 Parishes required to make duplicates of parish registers. Many do, but compliance was not universal. Most registers covering the period prior to 1792 have been turned over to departmental archives.
1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Many Protestants flee the country, and some Protestant records are destroyed. Some French Protestants show up in abjuration records when they renounced Protestantism and converted to Roman Catholicism rather than face exile or death.
1763 France loses its Canadian land holdings to the British in the Treaty of Paris, which ends the Seven Years War (French and Indian War).
1781 Fire destroys many pre-1860 civil registers of Paris. The government has reconstructed 3 million of the estimated 8 million destroyed records.
1787 Louis XVI signs the Edict of Tolerance.
1791 British Parliament enacts Constitutional Act, which splits Quebec into provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Each province is to be governed by a legislative council appointed for life, and a legislative assembly to be elected by the people.
1792 Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths begins in France. Most civil registers 100 or more years old will be found at departmental archives.
French consuls are assigned the duty of recording births, marriages, and deaths of French citizens in foreign countries.

Divorce permitted in France during the period 1792-1816.

1801 National Archives of Canada holds records of immigrant settlers and passenger lists for the period 1801-1849. A card index known as the Miscellaneous Immigration Index covers these records. The index is online at .
1836 The government does a census every five years. These census typically provide surname, age, occupation, nationality, and sometimes birthplace, but are difficult to access because they are not indexed. Census records are also kept strictly confidential for 100 years after completion.
1872 The government does a census in 1872, because Franco-Prussian War delays census that should have been done in 1871. A census is then done every five years during the period 1876-1911. These census typically provide surname, age, occupation, nationality, and sometimes birthplace, but are difficult to access because they are not indexed.
1884 Divorces permitted in France beginning in this year.


Pre-1900 vital records of Quebec are in the custody of 9 regional offices of the Archives nationales du Quebec. Records 1900-present are kept at the Ministere de la Justice at Quebec City.
1916 Census that was to have been done this year is never accomplished after being postponed by World War I. Census-taking resumes on five-year schedule in 1921.

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