Politicians, stay-at-home dads, academics and businesswomen - they all know the value of family and the joys of keeping in touch. But what is on their family photos? How often do they call their mother, and what celebrity do they secretly admire? Get ready to find out through the MyHeritage interview series!
Anne Morddel is an American genealogist in Paris and the author of the blog ' The French Genealogy blog'. Her interest in genealogy dates back to the young age of 14, when she caught the 'genealogist bug' and decided to interview her grandmother about every single relative she could recall in order to understand her roots.
Since then she's come a long way, not only becoming a professional genealogist, but a librarian, researcher and even children author. She's a globetrotter too, having lived around the world until she found herself in France more permanently together with her French partner and children. In search for her childrens French ancestors, she began to learn about genealogy in France until she felt ready to share her insights in the blogosphere. Started in 2009, her hugely successful blog aims to make sense of the wealth of French resources out there and covers topics ranging from french weblogs to French food and drink and from archives to book reviews. This week, she's celebrating its one year anniversary with a gift guide to doing the preliminary research of French ancestry. On this occasion we set out to ask her a but more about her, her blog and research:
When did you set up your website and why?
I set it up because, while there are many sites explaining how to research on the internet, I found none that explained French resources in English. The purpose of my blog is to provide a sort of manual showing people how to research genealogy in France when they come from an Anglophone background. It has been great fun for me, as I go all over Paris and France to investigate, test and photograph archives facilities.
What interests you about genealogy?
The stories of lives! And the history. I recall being quite young and asking my grandmother to tell me the stories of her childhood and early adulthood. The San Francisco earthquake and fire, speakeasies and flapper dresses in the 1920s, her grandparents’ pioneering in Manitoba – to me, it all sounded like the movies come to life. Every family I research still yields the same level of fascination, for everyone is a part of history and has an interesting story.
What makes genealogy in France different from genealogy elsewhere?
The delightful logic of the French mind has meant that documents are kept clearly and logically and so, are quite easy to research. Additionally, records of births, deaths and marriages have been kept by law since 1539, and informally from the mid-fifteenth century. This means that, once an ancestor is correctly identified in France, it is often possible to trace back at least to the 1600s, which makes the work very rewarding and the clients happy.
Is genealogy popular in France? if so why?
For long, genealogy was ridiculed in France as an activity of the nouveau riche trying to claim noble connections. That is no longer the case. To say why it is popular would require a greater analysis of the French psyche than I think I can make, but my personal opinion is that, as traditions and local differences disappear, and as populations become more and more mobile and people lose their roots, genealogy is a way to re-establish one’s sense of being connected to a people and place.
What is the most interesting thing you've found out about your family?
That we are not very interesting is, to me, interesting. We come from solid farmers for the most part, people who led simple lives on the land. Only in later generations, as people lived more in cities, did my ancestors move into the professional classes. Yet that farmer gene remains, for my brother and I cannot resist planting vegetables wherever we live. He even has a flock of sheep and llamas as a hobby!
What is on your favorite family photo?
It is a composite, actually, of my great-grandmother, then of my grandmother, then of my aunt, and finally of me, all in turn wearing an heirloom necklace. I hope to add a picture of my daughter wearing it one day.
What is your favorite holiday and how does your family celebrate it?
Ours is a bi-cultural and bilingual family, so there are two favorite holidays, both involving food: Thanksgiving, which is celebrated with family in America when possible, and Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day), simply because it is during the summer, when all the family are in the country together, relaxed, happy, having those massive French outdoor meals together.
What MyHeritage feature do you like most?
The true internationalism of it. I have found so many, many names there that I have not been able to find anywhere else. It is one of the first places I look when beginning a new project and, often, I need go no further.
What famous person would you like to have in your family and why?
I cannot think of anyone in particular. Someone who had noble ideals and accomplished something fine and good for humanity would be nice. I would be proud to be related to Greg Mortenson but I am not.