Prior to the Revolution, France was divided into about forty provinces. In 1795 the country was divided up into many more, smaller unites, called departments. While most records are in French, some Catholic church records will be in Latin.

Your Guide to Finding Your French Ancestors

In addition to those who simply migrated from France to settle in America, there are four distinctive groups of French settler to the United States:

  • French Huguenots, protestants who faced suppression in their home country after the revocation of the "Edict of Nantes" in 1685. These settlers went to Germany, Holland and Switzerland, but some eventually migrated to Ameirica.
  • Those who left the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine in France, but were Germanic in origin and retained many of the customs of that culture.
  • Louisiana French (Acadians/Cajuns and Creoles ). Acadians were those french forced out of Acadia, Nova Scotia, Candada in the last half of the 18th century. Many of them settled in Louisiana, where they are often referred to as Cajuns. Creoles, on the
  • French Canadian families who crossed the borders to become U.S. Citizens.
Books, Articles, CD's, Maps, Tapes etc.
On the Web

Boudreau. Beginning Franco American Genealogy. 1986 (out of print) (find in a library)

Pontet. Ancestral Research in France: The Simple Guide to Tracing Your Family History Through French Records (find in a library)

Sagan. Tracing Our French Roots (out of print) (find in a library)


"The French Connection" in Family Tree Magazine June 2001 pp. 44-51


First, bookmark or print out the FHL France Research Outline. and a map of France (the map prints out better than it looks on screen)

You will also want to familiarize yourself with the France Historical Background

Bookmark or print out the French Genealogical Word List (no pdf is up. If you print it, click the "next document" at the bottom of the page to get the whole thing)

If you don't know French and have to write a letter, print out the French Letter Writing Guide.

See what the Family History Library has for France . Click the view related places button in the upper corner to see the deparmentes (or for some material, the pre-1795 provinces. Once you select the county or city you want to search, again click "view related places" to see the records for the towns and villages of that county. Most primary records are kept by the town or municipality. Remember: you will search for records at the national level and county level and local level.

See maps of France at the Perry-Castaneda Library map collection. One map shows the administrative dividions of France. If it appears small and unreadable, click the little multi-arrow icon in the lower right hand corner to make it large. To print it, hover your mouse over the picutre until a small tray with icons appears. Click the printer icon to print, but I couldn't get the whole to print; it cut off. So instead, you might want to save it to your pictures folder and work with it as an image on your computer.

Numbered map of administrative divisions -- regions and departments .

Visit the France Gen-Web site -- which is in French. You may want to use Google's translation tool to help you read what is there. If you have a Google toolbar, you can get a button that will allow you to translate pages by clicking an icon on the toolbar.

The website of the American-French Genealogical Society contains some helpful information.

FrancoGene is "your gateway to Franco-American and French Canadian genealogy on the internet." Don't overlook their database of French in North America. There is no search engine for this database; you must use an alphabetical listing of surnames. Once you find something, don't neglect to click to get full information on the family!

BYU offers these 7 free courses online; just click the "Begin" button, accept their terms, fill in your e-mail address, register and start learning:

  1. France: Immigrant Origins
  2. France: Vital Records
  3. France: Reading French Handwriting
  4. France: Genealogical Organizations and Periodicals
  5. France: The Internet and French Genealogy
  6. French Research: Paris and
  7. French Research: Alsace-Lorraine

Turn on your pop-up blocker and visit's "Beginner's Guide to Researching Your French Ancestry." I usually avoid pages with egregious advertising, but this site is too helpful to omit. For more French records available on line, see's page "French Genealogy Records Online"

Geneactes is a project to gather transcribed french records and make them available at no cost on the internet. You must know the county that you are researching. Once you select a county, click search, then look at the various links provided to see what is offered at each. The records will be offered in a variety of formats.

Beginning in 1836, France took a census every year. Some have been filmed; others are held at the archives of the corresponding deparment.

If you will be researching in the years 1793-1805, you will need to know about the French Republican Calendar.

Inability of the Americans to spell French names and a French cusom of using "dit names" causes researchers some difficulty. The short article "dit names" explains both.

Acadian-Cajun Genealogy and History -- Acadians were French who settled in Atlantic Canada, but in 1755 were forced to leave Canada. Some removed to to Louisiana, where they became known as "Cajuns". This site has over 750 pages to explore, so settle in.

Acadian Genealogy Home Page. It can be a little tricky to get into this site! Scroll down a little until you see the web site index button. If you scroll down further on the first page, you will find a number of resources available for sale, including a CD of information on the website iteself!

The National Huguenot Society webpage offers a wealth of information.

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This page last updated August 20, 2007