How to find ancestors in France! Awesome genealogy databases!

DNA genealogy tests are getting more and more popular since it does not cost you an arm and a leg anymore. Now it is possible to find your ancestors in France or elsewhere.

Many people are fascinated by the results, also because you suddenly might notice that you have many relatives and/or ancestors in France.

Just recently I got contacted by a lady from France. She noticed that her and my mom share the exact same last name. She asked how exactly we are related – and I didn’t know.

Of course I asked my mom and she had no clue. She mentioned that there once was a french priest who was related to the family, but she thought that was it.

So I inquired some data about her parents, my grandparents – and the journey began…

How to find ancestors in France!

France has a lot of birth, death, marriage certificates online. You can also find detailed recruitment records and many other things.

Nonetheless it is not easy. You need to understand the language of the websites and the used forms.

It also happens frequently that names are not written the same way in different forms. Some areas of France were French, then German and then French again. So you actually need to understand German and French to be able to read those forms.

It also happens that people move and in certain areas they pronounce and write the name differently. E.g. the name Müller, can also be written Mueller or Muller. So if you search for someone and the name changes it’s much more difficult. Some misspellings are also most of the time included, like Muiller or even Moller. In this case you need to have a place and or birth date to be able to proceed.

It’s pretty similar like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. In the beginning you just see nothing except for many pieces not fitting together. Then you need to start somewhere and after a while an image will start to form in front of you.

Then there are also really huge databases like the “Actes d’état civil archives” in Paris, the capital of France. To find anything there you need to know – the type of document you are looking for – which of 20 different neighborhoods (Arrondissements) – the year and a date. Even then you have to dig through many documents to find anything.

There are also great paid websites like The problem with FILAE is that there is almost too much data, but unfortunately still not everything or everyone. Sometimes the resolution of the documents will not be really great or the names in the database do not correspond to 100% with the findings. It’s also tricky that you get additional search results from people who did set up a family tree on FILAE. Often the results do help but will also confuse a bit.

FILAE is also a great tool to research the distribution of a name in France – like in the following example.

Ancestors in France
Distribution of ancestors in France

In this case (screenshot above) I’ve searched for the name “Zaepfel”. The result shows that the most dense “Zaepfel” population lives close to the German border in an area called “Alsace”, where many people do actually speak French and German.

The next important step in your search for ancestors is to look into local databases – and there are again so many. If you know what you are looking for they are really the best resources, but if you are not sure, you will get lost after a short while… 🙂

Two great local French genealogy databases: – Have a look and let me know if you were able to find anything… 🙂

If you need help to find your ancestors in France you can just use this link:

If you are interested in finding more DNA matches all over the world please read: How to find more DNA relatives!




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