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Friday, 27 April 2018

Natural Born Genealogists

The French love history and what it reveals about themselves in particular, a fact which is demonstrated by the undeniable enthusiasm here in France (as indeed elsewhere) for genealogical and palaeographical research. Books, specialised magazines, websites, dedicated groups on social networks... all show this thirst for the appropriation of the past.

Here at the Fondation Napoléon we are frequently contacted by people seeking genealogical information on individuals from the First and Second Empire. We try to direct them to the right sources, and, in the "Online Resources" section of this Newsletter, we regularly highlight databases relevant to genealogical research.

Modern technology has made it possible for national archives, both departmental and municipal at their various levels, to go further, making the documents more accessible, more appreciated, and this in turn feeds demand. But the changes have also exposed the vastness of material in question. A recent appeal by the French Ministry of Culture - asking the public to express its opinion on the choice of what archives should be digitised - bears witness to this popular interest but also underlies a certain embarrassment even clumsiness on their part. Let’s face it, putting documents online inevitably requires a certain amount of technical infrastructure, and, let’s not forget, a significant financial investment.

Here at the Fondation Napoléon, the desire to support the digital preservation of archives was first demonstrated in 2001 with the launch of the napoleonica.org website, followed by the digitisation of certain (physical) books from its library, and we are currently continuing our activity in this respect with the appeal we launched with the French National Archives for the conservation and digitisation of plans and drawings produced for Napoleon I.

Long live the digitisation of the past!

Marie de Bruchard

Fondation Napoléon