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Searching for French Ancestors with the Tables Décennales

Posted by Sean Daly on Sep 16, 2022
title page of a table décennale

Searching for French ancestors? Geneanet is France’s #1 site for genealogy! Learn about the “tables décennales” or decennial tables, indexes to vital records registers prepared every ten years starting in 1793. They are a key finding aid for French records!

On September 20, 1792, France’s new revolutionary government published a decree providing for civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths in every municipality. Vital records for all would now be registered under the law, superseding the Catholic parish records system. In each town, these numbered registrations were sometimes in a single ledger, sometimes in separate ledgers by type of record, in chronological order. Divorces, adoptions, marriage banns, and declarations of paternity were registered too. At the end of each year, an index was created for births, marriages, and deaths, with names in alphabetical order (although in practice, in larger municipalities, some officials just added names in chronological order, by letter). The decree made provisions for copies of these important registers to be made and shared with the département (county) archives.

Most départements in France have digitized these registers in their archives départementales (AD), which can be viewed free online in most cases for entries over 100 years old (see this Geneanet page in French for links to the AD of each département). Towns also keep a copy, available free upon request (the French government has an online form which may be useful here; be sure to request a copie intégrale). So, what if you know the town, but not the date of an event? Checking the index for each year takes time. Fortunately, the 1792 decree also provided for a separate register — a table décennale or decennial table (TD) — to be prepared every ten years, compiled from the annual indexes, and organized by births, marriages, and deaths. The first such tables were established in 1793; by 1803, every municipality had them.

These ten-year tables open the door not just to individuals, but often to whole families — it is not uncommon to find a marriage, the birth of children, and a death in the family in the same table décennale. Cousins with the same name may be on the lists too! Keep in mind a child may have been born out of wedlock (“enfant naturel“) and a mother may have been as young as 15.

Each entry in a TD refers to the original registry entry by date and often by register entry number, although occasionally by register page number instead. It’s a simple task then to look up a register entry, rich in information: date, names of parents and witnesses, addresses… each a clue for searching further back.

Tip: some month names in the TD may have odd abbreviations, no longer used in France!

  • 7bre = septembre = September, not July
  • 8bre = octobre = October, not August
  • 9bre = novembre = November, not September
  • Xbre = décembre = December, not October

Finding a register entry through a TD

Let’s look at a TD from 1863, for births in the town of Cléon d’Andran in the Drôme département:

Table décennale from 1863

The third entry is for Toussaint Nestor Joseph Audibert, born the “3 xbre 1861” -> December 3, 1861.

Looking up the register entry referenced in the TD on the left we have two birth records in the town in December of that year, including Toussaint’s, and on the right the annual index, in alphabetical order:

Birth records in the register from December 1861, with the year’s index to the right

The register entry (or “acte“) has lots of information: he was given four names, including Tibère, a name that didn’t make it into the index. His father, a lumber dealer, was named Toussaint himself. The ages and names (including maiden name of the mother) are present. And the marginal notes, so important in French genealogy, supply more useful information about the marriage and death of young Toussaint.

If you have already found register entries for your ancestors, consider looking up the corresponding TD. You may learn about a child who was born and died young, or a family of cousins nearby. Keep in mind however that as a TD references the registers for a municipality, a birth, marriage, or death elsewhere will be found in a different TD!

12 comments

Any record(s) of Joyes in Aveyron (or elsewhere in France) settling in England, particularly Sussex? Or, vice versa?


I am looking for Tables Décennales that would include my great-grandmother who lived in Biscoffsheim, Bas Rhin, Alsace from 1853 – 1881.
Thanks.

Answer from Geneanet: Our interactive map we mentioned has a link to the Archives Départementales of the Bas-Rhin département (county), but if you are in a hurry, just search the internet with e.g.:

bas rhin archives départementales

On the AD site, click on “documents numérisés”, then “Registres paroissiaux et documents d’état civil”. This département has an application called Adeloch, enter “Bischoffsheim” (not Biscoffsheim – this is a typo). Click on “Tables Décennales” – the link is here. Try the TD from 1873-1882 and look for your ancestor’s death by finding the page with her last (maiden) name. This will point to the death register entry (“acte”) available on the Bischoffsheim page. If you read it carefully, it will mention her birth date and place, and possibly her marriage. With that information, you can find her birth record!


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