Help, my ancesters were from "Alsace-Lorraine"

 

This page is dedicated to help researchers who have the type of above quotation.

The first part will start by destroying a myth : "Alsace-Lorraine" does not exist !!!
NEW : Historical point of view updated April 1st 2002.
The second part will try to give you some hints on the tracks of your ancestors
A third part with some personnal links ....

It surely can be bettered, send suggestions by mail guillaume@roelly.org

Part 1 : "Alsace-Lorraine"

"Alsace-Lorraine" does not exist : The region is a notion only seen by the Germans even if the name has spread to other languages (even in French) but Alsace and Lorraine are two different regions.

More than this, the "Alsace-Lorraine" is constituted of the actual Alsace region and part of the actual Lorraine region : so the German and French point of view are not the same. To be correct, try to bannish the "Alsace-Lorraine" expression from your vocabulary.

The notion of "Alsace-Lorraine" dates from the 1870-1871 war between France and Prussia. Prussia won and annexed some French land, these areas were :
-the department of "Bas-Rhin" (67) that German called "Unter-Elsass"
-the German-dialect speaking area in Lorraine (which was situated in two departments : "Meurthe" and "Moselle"). The French speaking zone of these departments remained French and was named "Meurthe et Moselle" (54); and when returned to France the German-dialect speaking zone was named "Moselle"(57). The german called this area "Lothringen"
-The "Haut-Rhin" department, cut to its end-of-war front line. The southern part stayed French and was named "Territoire de Belfort" (90). The northern part when returning to France kept the name "Haut-Rhin" (68). The German called this area "Ober-Elsass"

The numbers between parenthesis are the numbers given nowadays to departments. Department is the french sub-division for a region. There are about 100 departments in France.

So to make it simple the "Alsace-Lorraine" is dept. # 57-67-68 in an actual point of view.

The whole Alsace-Moselle area was German between 1871 and 1918 and was again annexed between 1940 and 1945. This first annexion led to massive emigration to some places in France and overseas :
-Paris (F)
-the Belfort area (F)
-Algeria
-the USA.

Second Part : historical point of view

Lorraine was quite always linked to the realm of France
Alsace was owned by France since Louis XIV time (treaty of Westphallia 1648)
The town of Mulhouse was linked to the Swiss canton of Basel til 1799, where an economic blocade caused the town leaders to ask France for unification.

The 30-Years War (1618-1648) was the major religious and political war affecting the Alsace and the Lorraine where ninety percent of the population was killed. It took about 15 years after the end of the war for emigration to overcome the lack of population, this emigration came mainly from Switzerland, Baden Duchy and the French Champagne region.

NEW : Religious facts

Alsace has a particular situation in french history. Louis XIV was not king in Alsace, but Landgraf, that is to say vassal of the german emperor ! Louis XIV did not introduce much his religious repressions. The majority of the alsacian population (principaly urban), still in life after the 30-years war, was lutheran protestant. The repopulating policy of Louis XIV consisted in calling catholics from Switzerland, Germany and inner-France. Some reformed protestants came about the same time and suffered in Alsace the french autorities repressions. Most of them became lutherans or emigrate towards the more wellcoming german provincies.

Some other swiss people, anabaptists protestants, chased by the lutheran swiss protestants, emigrated toward Alsace, in the southernest aera, situated actually over Sundgau and Territoire de Belfort. They were chased from there by dragonnades. Some emigrated towards the Montbéliard county - at the time under Wurttemberg lordship - other emigrated towards Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (Markirch) et Ribeauvillé (Reipotsweiler). These two alsacian towns were not depending from the king of France, Alsacian Landgraf, but from the Duke of Deux-Ponts (Zweibrücken), protestant and tolerant.

Alsace was indeed a land of relative religious peace, going in some villages up to the "simultaneum", which is the usage of the same church for lutherans and catholics. There are indeed no huguenots (reformed) truely alsacians, but some on-their-way protestants staying one or two generations in Alsace and that did emigrate some time after.

Part 2 : How to Search

Have a look at Geneanet http://www.geneanet.org/ where a lot of French genealogists index their data
Have a look ar Worldconnect : http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/  where a lot of US genealogists index their work.
Have a look at CousinsGenWeb program http://www.francegenweb.org/cousinsgenweb and click on the number of the departments you search. This program is made to help genealogists make a connection when sharing surnames & places. For now this program is mainly in French but slowly English pages are being made available. Do not hesitate to ask webmasters about English versions of their sites.
By the way I'm webmaster for such sites on departments #25 & #39 . These are departments on the swiss border. You can have a view it at http://www.racinescomtoises.net/articles.php?id=1 . I'm still a little lazy : pages are still in French only. They should be translated the day I switch to php pages.

The places to write in France to obtain the copy of a birth/wedding/death record are called "Mairie" (Mayor's place), you must thus know that :
quite each tiny village (down to 100-person villages) have one "Mairie",
few French know English,
the law doesn't oblige them to answer genealogical queries,
the writing in old books is awfully difficult to read.

To be helped you can contact a french association of genealogists. These would be people sharing the same hobby as you. Avoid contacting professional genealogists in France, they're not interrested in old material, just in inheritances researches.

General suggestions :

Realize that most of these sites do not offer an English support capability. To write to them, search for the "Ecrivez-nous" or "Pour nous écrire" words

Lorraine

54

55

57

88

Union des Cercles Généalogiques Lorrains - official site
Union des Cercles Généalogiques Lorrains - non official site
Cercle Généalogique de Moselle-Est
Cercle de Bitche
Cercle de Généalogie et d'Histoire du Pays de Charmes

 

Alsace

67

68

Cercle Généalogique d'Alsace
Atelier de Généalogie de l'Arrondissement de Wissembours et Environs - AGAWE
Fédération Généalogique de Haute-Alsace

Alsace 68 : Haut-Rhin is the one and only department whole of France (one compared to the 100 departments) where his local authorities have created a support for genealogists. They're called CDHF and have a rather large webpage http://cdhf.telmat-net.fr/  . It is available in English. Click on the flag at the bottom of the page.

Part 3 : Personnal Pages to find other hints or direct information :

If you want to look at my personal data click on http://guillaume.roelly.org

Good links for information in English :
http://www.genealogienetz.de/reg/ELS-LOT/alsace.html
http://members.aol.com/RobtBehra/AlsaceA-Z/GenInfo.htm
http://members.aol.com/jaw5623/private/alsace/

Good links for information in French :
http://perso.club-internet.fr/nbill/
http://www.weinland.nom.fr/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alsace/

One reference for emigrating alsacians.
The Alsace Emigration Book, by Cornelia Schrader-Muggenthaler, 1989-1991, Apollo, Pennsylvania, USA: Closson Press; ISBN: 1558560351 (Bd. 1) und 1558560866 (Bd. 2). This covers the 1817-1870 period