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    Researching French Waldensians


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    NOTE: After the Reformation, most Waldensians in France were quickly absorbed into the local Protestant church. In such cases, you will need to seek these ancestors in the records of those churches, or in the local civil records. For assistance, see the BYU Independent Study course, Huguenot Research and whichever of the series of Independent Study courses about French research applies to your particular research objective.

        Some Waldensians lived in France rather than in the Piedmont Valleys. After the initial flush of persecution from the Inquisition in the fourteenth century, most French Waldensians lived either in Dauphiné (the modern departments of Isere, Hautes-Alpes, and Drome) or in Provence (Basses-Alpes, Var, and Bouches-du-Rhone).

        We first mention sources for Dauphine and Provence, and then highlight sources you should consult regardless of where your Waldensian ancestors lived in France.

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    WALDENSIANS FROM THE DAUPHINE (now Isere, Hautes-Alpes, and Drome)

        For assistance in researching Waldensians from the Dauphiné, see these sources:

        This Waldensian parish register, which includes the surrounding hamlets, was not microfilmed with the others. Therefore, the families were not included in the Piedmont Project.

        But the Mentoulles parish register has been published in the Bulletin de la Societe d'Histoire Vaudoise (since volume 40, 1919, called the Bollettino della Societa di Studi Valdesi). The register, generally covering June 1629 through October 1685, was printed in volume 22 (1905), pages 51-292. A detailed index of names is included.

        Records for the year 1674 were missing from the register, but the French government at the time had required that a civil copy be registered. The civil copy for 1674 was later found and printed in Bollettino volume 133 (1973), pages 49-56.

        The PFO extracted the printed Mentoulles parish register (including 1674), much like the other parish registers had been extracted in the Piedmont Project years earlier. However, this time the results were not placed on family group records, because the FHL wasn't accepting additional family group records at the time.

        Everyone in the Mentoulles register with enough information to identify them was included. Therefore, you can find individuals from the Mentoulles area in the familysearch.org database, but they are not grouped into families. To find siblings, you will need to use the indexes in the printed version.

        Because the entries identify other relatives, you should obtain a copy of the entire entry.

        The only access to the printed register is at the FHL in Salt Lake City or through Interlibrary Loan.

        If you cannot get access the entire volume, you may wish to begin by requesting a photocopy of the index(es). An index of "married persons" is found on pages 253-264; the index of individuals covers pages 264-287. From these indexes, you can determine which pages in the body of the register you need to have photocopied.

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    Waldensians from Provence (Basses-Alpes, Var, and Bouches-du-Rhone)

        If your French Waldensian ancestors lived in Provence, you should find helpful clues in the following:

        Audisio has searched the notarial records of Provence broadly and deeply and his references are worth pursuing.

        Here are some examples of the localities where abjurations have been published so far:

    Issue 32: Merindol (explanation, pages 3-8; list, pages 9-15)
    Issue 35: Peypin d'Aigues (pages 17-21)
    Issue 37: Joucas (pages 17-22)
    Issue 40: Sault (page 12)
    Issue 53: La Motte d'Aigues and Cabrieres d'Aigues (pages 6-16)

        Note that, unless a young man subsequently escaped to settle elsewhere, these folks became Catholic and most of them stayed Catholic. But these records are filled with Waldensian surnames, clearly related to other Waldensians, and may give you clues.

        The FHL subscribes to this journal, but the issues have not been microfilmed. It may be available through Interlibrary Loan, but probably the simplest access is to use the FHL photocopy service.

        You must provide to the FHL the call number, name of the book or periodical, and the specific pages to be copies. NOTE: The FHL doesn't have the staff to try to find which pages might be helpful to any given patron. To obtain this service, you *must* provide the specific information that permits them quickly to find the volume on the shelf and photocopy the exact pages without searching. You will be notified of the charges for the copies and postage.

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    FRENCH NOTARIAL RECORDS

        Regardless of which area of France your Waldensian ancestors came from, you should check the notarial records of the French department they lived in. French notarial records are among the richest in Western Europe. Some French notarial records go back to the 1300s and even before.

        Some of these records, such as the marriage agreements and wills, contain great detail.

        At some times and in some places, Waldensians were disenfranchised. In such situations, they couldn't make legal documents such as are found in notarial records. But you won't know whether or not your ancestors are included in the records until you look.

        You have basically two choices for researching these records:

    1.     Find a researcher in the French department ("county") where your Waldensian or Protestant ancestors lived. See the BYU Independent Study course, France: Genealogical Organizations and Periodicals for efficient ways of making contact with those who can help you. Note that you may have to pay a fee for the service if research must be performed. The course, France: The Internet and French Genealogy would also be helpful.
    2.     Search the printed volumes yourself. The books are titled Inventaire sommaire des archives departemenatales de (name of the department) [Summary inventory of the departmental archives of (department name)]. Typically, each department has several series of records, so you need to find those with the records of the notoires (notaries). A list of hospitals, or minutes of town meetings in the 1700s discussing local taxes, won't help you much.

        The FHL in Salt Lake City has many of these volumes, but they have not been filmed. According to the Union List of Serials and Mansell's National Union Catalog, the following libraries also have at least some issues. You may be able to borrow volumes of interest to you.

    California: San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo
    Connecticut: Yale University, New Haven
    D.C.: Library of Congress
    Illinois: McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago; Newberry Library, Chicago; University of Chicago
    Massachusetts: Harvard University, Cambridge; Andover-Harvard Theological Library
    Michigan: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    New York: Columbia University; New York Public Library
    Pennsylvania: Crozer Theological Seminary, Chester; Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia

        Your local librarian should be able to help you.

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    THE WALDENSIAN BULLETIN/BOLLETTINO

        Another very useful source are a few of the articles in the periodical or journal called the Bulletin (Italian: Bollettino). It is published by the Societa di Studi Valdesi (Society for Waldensian Studies), formerly known by the French name Societe d'Histoire Vaudoise (Waldensian Historical Society).

        The journal was originally published in French. After some years with articles in either language, Italian became the standard with volume 40 (1919).

        Following are some of the lists and articles in the Bulletin that may reveal information about your French Waldensian ancestors or their relatives. Depending on your language abilities, you may not be able to understand the whole article, but at least you can skim the lists and recognize the names of interest.

    "Resume alphabetique des Vaudois du Pragela, refugies en Suisse en 1730" [Alphabetic Summary of Waldensians from Pragela, Refugees in Switzerland in 1730], by T. Gay. (BSHV 27 [1910], pages 15-19)

        "Les Vaudois refugies de Piemont en Suisse en 1731" [Waldensian Refugees from Piedmont in Switzerland in 1731]. (BSHV 29 [1911], pages 14-30)

        By 1731, a number of French Waldensians had sought refuge in the Piedmont Valleys, and so the above listed article should be checked.

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