Practical genealogy: the guide to carrying out your research


How to set off in search of one’s origins and ancestors? Genealogy is increasingly popular among the French and is no longer a hobby reserved for seniors. This French passion has become intergenerational in a few years. Two-thirds of those under 35 have already undertaken genealogical research, according to a recent Ipsos survey commissioned by the site. Yet in practice, doing one’s genealogy can be very difficult, both in the document search process and in the construction of one’s family tree. François Lerebourg, genealogist and creator of the “Généatique” software, tells Planet his tips for carrying out his genealogical research step by step.

According to the genealogist, “the first thing to do is above all to question his relatives”. He recommends contacting his parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents to collect all the family documents they have at their disposal. The genealogist advises to question the elders to find out if they know a date, a place of a marriage, a death or any other family event to which they would have been invited. “Clues” that could help people looking for their genealogy to collect the “basic documents” necessary for this research.

“The first step is therefore to collect these family documents, these elements which will serve as the basis for the construction of your genealogical quest”, explains François Lerebourg. This can in particular be a document which serves as a genealogical basis such as the family record book which has been transmitted from generation to generation sometimes from the great-grandfather or a marriage certificate. He recalls that genealogy is a serious science “which relies above all on official documents” in order to achieve reliable genealogical research.

If you choose the marriage certificate, “you then have to go and ask the municipal archives for a copy of the marriage certificate of your parents or grandparents”, explains the founder of Geneatic genealogy software. François Lerebourg explains that it is possible to carry out his procedures by mail “by simply asking for his direct ancestry”. The parents’ marriage certificate can be the starting point for genealogical research. “It’s going to be very interesting because it’s going to show both sides of the parents with the husband’s parents and the wife’s parents with their birth years and places of origin.” Thus, in a single act, one can already take a leap of two generations in relation to the person who undertakes the research.

When you are a beginner, the idea is to go step by step generation after generation to go back in this genealogical investigation. Note that there is a directory of all the departmental and French archives in general on which it is possible to connect and consult the digitized acts. There are also parish registers for the Churches since before the Revolution, there was only that. To help you find your way around, there are ten-year tables listing, in alphabetical order, all the civil status documents (births, marriages and deaths) registered in a municipality for 10 years.

In a second step, going through software will quickly become important to clarify the information collected. “We are going to have a lot of people, names, dates, places so to classify them, this is where the genealogical software, and in particular our Genetics, becomes important. It allows as the we find data to feed the genealogy tree”, explains François Lerebourg. In his research, we will receive many photocopies of documents. The software makes it possible to collect and classify these documents. The Généatique software allows you to help you decipher these documents thanks to paleography tools. “They will allow you to read and transcribe one by one all the lines of old documents that are sometimes difficult to decipher to better organize yourself”, explains the genealogist.

These deciphered records, you may then be able to “hook” to people and events by scanning them into your family tree. This makes it easy to find them and to be able to read them again to discover points of detail that we had not noted on first reading, such as details on the ages or professions of his ancestors in order to ensure that he this is indeed the ancestor we are looking for. The important thing is to work step by step by updating your family tree step by step, it is also possible to print it to see more clearly.

Genealogy software is also often equipped with search suggestions. “In fact, Généatique will analyze, each time we are on a person file, the additional data existing around this central person. It will analyze the file of parents, children, spouses and witnesses and thus suggestions for places to go and find this document that we miss”, explains the creator of Généatique.

François Lerebourg specifies that there is also a “consistency check” on the software to ensure the reliability of information such as the possibility of being a mother according to the ages of the people as well as the duration mentioned between two births. “A lot of checks are carried out on the data entered on the person files”. The specialist recalls that it is essential to check the veracity of his filiation by meticulously consulting several original acts in order to be able to finalize and “hang a branch on his family tree”.

There are even geolocation functions to be able to track the movements of people. “We have tools that allow us to show on a map the movements of people over the course of their lives, from their birth to their adult life through their childhood. 50 years ago, mobility was less important so it It is interesting to control the movements of the people registered on each card of his family tree”, specifies the creator of Généatique. By going through all the events of the files, the software makes it possible to show in a geographical diagram the mobility of people on a line. “We don’t all come from the same city, so we can see arrows coming from different municipalities and different countries to show us our diversity”.

It is also possible to come into contact with people who are related. “Géné allows people who use our software to be able to publish their genealogy on the internet and thus transmit their family tree to others. A service open to other software such as Filae or Geneanet”.

Genealogy software will make it possible to find all the people who have or have had a family name over several generations at all times. “It’s interesting to do a search on his name and to have ideas on where we can find this surname on the territory”. Genealogy is above all appreciated by seniors because it is almost a full-time job according to François Lerebourg. “Consulting archives online, going there to consult the original documents that cannot be consulted online in the departmental archives, joining a genealogy club, all of this takes time. There is even a National Federation of Genealogy”, specifies the specialist.

As for the motivations of genealogy enthusiasts, it is, according to François Lerebourg, “the curiosity of its origins”. “Some people sometimes fantasize about the origins of nobility and others want to know what their ancestors were doing during the French Revolution and other major events in history,” says the specialist. Thanks to digital technology, documents are now accessible and genealogical research is open to everyone. “Some even embark on genealogical tourism in search of their origins”, concludes François Lerebourg.