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Regional Research > States > France > Lorraine



The former Duchy of Lothringen (Lorraine) became a French province in 1766. Later the German-speaking area of Lorraine became part of Elsass-Lothringen, German Reichsland after the Franco-German war of 1870-1871 until 1918 when it reverted to France.
Today, the region of Lorraine is divided into the four departements of:

  • Meurthe-et-Moselle
  • Meuse
  • Moselle
  • Vosges

This region has it's borders to the north with Belgium, Luxembourg and the German states of Saar and Rhineland-Palatine, to the east with the region of Alsace, to the south with the region of Franche-Comté and to the west with the region of Champagne.

Political Division

  • Before 1648:
    Since the 12th Century, Lorraine was divided into many states among which the Duchy of Lothringen, the Republic of Metz and the Bishoprics of Metz, Toul and Verdun were the most important ones. All these states belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. In 1648, according to Treaty of Westphalia, Metz, Toul and Verdun became French cities.
  • 1648-1766:
    The Duchy of Lothringen, then surrounded by French territories, was repeatedly occupied by the French troups. When the Duke Stanislas Leszcynski died in 1766, the Duchy of Lorraine became a French province.
  • 1790:
    After the French Revolution of 1789, France was divided into départements and Lorraine was made of the four départements of Meurthe, Meuse, Moselle, and Vosges. Nancy, Verdun, Metz and Epinal became the capitals of these départements.
  • 1871-1918:
    At the time of the French defeat of 1871, the German-speaking parts of the département of Meurthe and of the département of Moselle were merged to build one of the 3 districts of the Alsace-Lorraine Reichsland:
    • Bezirk (district) of Lothringen with capital Metz and (8) Kreise (counties):
      • Bolchen
      • Chateau-Salins
      • Diedenhofen
      • Forbach
      • Metz-Stadt
      • Metz-Land
      • Saarburg
      • Saargemuend.

At this time, the remaining French-speaking parts of the départements of Meurthe and of Moselle were linked together and became what is still the present département of Meurthe-et-Moselle.

  • 1945-present:
    • Meurthe-et-Moselle: département 54; capital: Nancy
    • Meuse: département 55; capital: Bar-le-Duc
    • Moselle: département 57; capital: Metz
    • Vosges: département 88; capital: Epinal

Religious Division

Before 1802, five dioceses existed in Lorraine:

  • Metz
  • Toul
  • Verdun
  • Nancy
  • Saint-Dié

(Nancy and Saint-Dié were created in 1777). All of them belonged to the ecclesiastical province of Trier. The diocese of Toul was suppressed in 1802 and its parishes were shared out among the dioceses of Nancy, Verdun and Saint-Dié. Since then, these dioceses belong to the archdiocese of Besancon (today called the apostolical region of Besancon).

Court Districts

The communities of Lorraine were subordinated to the Parliaments of Metz, Nancy or Paris until the French Revolution. In 1900, during the Alsace-Lorraine period, the highest court was the Oberlandesgericht in Kolmar.
The lower courts were:

  • Landgericht Metz with (12) Amtsgerichte:
    • Ars
    • Bolchen
    • Busendorf
    • Chateau-Salins
    • Delme
    • Diedenhofen
    • Dieuze
    • Metz
    • Remilly
    • Rombach
    • Sierck
    • Vic
  • Landgericht Saargemuend with (11) Amtsgerichte:
    • Albesdorf
    • Bitsch
    • Drulingen
    • Falkenberg
    • Forbach
    • Grosstaenchen
    • Rohrbach
    • Saaralben
    • Saargemuend
    • Saar-Union
    • St.Avold

History of Lorraine

Associations and Societies

Genealogical and historical Societies

federates the following societies:

    • Cercle Généalogique de Briey, 4 rue Emile Gentil, 54150 Briey
    • Cercle Généalogique de Blénod-les-Pont-à-Mousson, 2 rue de la gendarmerie, B.P. 34, 54140 Jarville
    • Cercle Généalogique de Charmes, 16 rue des Capucins, 88130 Charmes
    • Cercle Lorrain d'Ile de France, 20 avenue de Vorges, 94300 Vincennes
    • Cercle Généalogique de Liffol, 20 route d'Haréville, 88500 Liffol-le-Grand
    • Cercle Généalogique de Liverdun, Rés. Toulair, 54460 Liverdun
    • Cercle Généalogique de Longwy, 3, rue du 22 Août 1914, 54620 Baslieux
    • Cercle Généalogique du Lunévillois, 5 rue Lahalle, 54300 Jolivet
    • Cercle Généalogique de Meurthe et Moselle, 4 rue Emile Gentil, 54150 Briey
    • Cercle Généalogique de la Meuse, B.P. 271, 55006 Bar-le-Duc Cedex
    • Cercle Généalogique de la Moselle, 1 allée du Château, 57070 St-Julien-les-Metz
    • Cercle Généalogique de Moselle-Est, Centre social D. Balavoine, 57800 Cocheren
    • Cercle Généalogique de Nancy, 46 rue du Général Patton, 54410 Laneuveville devant Nancy
    • Cercle Généalogique du Pays Messin, 1 allée du Château, 57070 St-Julien-les-Metz
    • Cercle Généalogique du Pays de Nied, Foyer culturel, 57320 Filstroff
    • Cercle Généalogique de Saint Avold, 2 rue Chapelle, 57500 Saint-Avold
    • Cercle Généalogique de Saint Dié, 13 rue St Charles, 88100 Saint-Dié
    • Cercle Généalogique de Sarrebourg, 29 rue de la Montagne, 57220 Boulay
    • Cercle Généalogique de Thionville, 3 rue Mozart, 57330 Hettange-Grande
    • Cercle Généalogique de Vittel, 187 quai Joffre, B.P. 128, 88804 Vittel Cedex
    • Cercle Généalogique des Vosges, B.P. 128, 88804 Vittel Cedex

Historical Associations and Societies

  • Société d'Histoire et d'Archéologie de Lorraine, Archives Départementales de Metz

Genealogical und historical Documents

Church Records

Church registers are sometimes available from 1648 when the Thirty Years War ended. Some few registers go back to 1600, but most of them begin before 1690. The region has always been predominantly Catholic with only a few well known Protestant strongholds like Metz and Courcelles-Chaussy, Badonviller, Fenétrange, Ogéviller, Bayon, Neuviller, Phalsbourg, Lixheim and Saint-Mihiel. Priests were in charge of the recording of baptisms, marriages and burials until the French Revolution. Parish registers are usually available until 1792. All the Church records of the départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse and Vosges were put on microfilms which you can consult at the Family History Library. The département of Moselle was only partly microfilmed.

Civil Registration Records

Births, marriages and deaths registers begin in 1793. Convenient indexes called tables décennales exist for each category of records and each index always covers a period of 10 years. A yearly index which appears after the records of each year, was usually made. Like the Church registers, all the civil records and the indexes of the départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse and Vosges are available on microfilms which you can consult at the Family History Library. The département of Moselle was only partly microfilmed.

Other Records

Census Records and Polling Lists

  • Every 5 years a national census was made in France between 1836 and 1936. One was deferred from 1871 to 1872 and those of 1916 and of 1941 were cancelled because of wartime. The following censuses occurred in 1946, 1954, 1962 and 1968.
    A census list of names usually displays the following information:
    • Family and given names
    • Age or year of birth
    • Occupation
    • Address
    • Position in household (since 1881)
    • Nationality
  • Since 1848, when the law which established the universal male suffrage in France was passed, polling lists are useful to genealogists. They are available either in town halls or at the Départemental Archives. In France the vote was given to women only in 1945.

Emigration Records

  • Options of Alsatians and Lorrainers
    In 1871, many people desired to leave Alsace-Lorraine and their names were recorded in these records of 523,000 persons, arranged in 395 alphabetical lists which the French government published in supplements to the Bulletin Des Lois [Bulletin of Laws]. They list birth dates, place of birth and some list destination. Family History Library microfilm numbers are: 787154 (middle) to 787166. (Note: The last two films also give information on persons emigrating to the USA and Canada.)
  • Options in hardcopy.
    These records have also been transcribed into book form. They are collected in 11 volumes organized by destination. See Publishers for information on availability from the Centre départemental d'Histoire des Familles.
  • See also a number of more specialized books on emigration in the Bibliography section.

Military Records

Conscription lists and personal notices are available at the Départemental Archives. The covered period is 1798-nowadays. Most of the French military records are stored at the Service historique de l'armée. No answer is made to any written request, but this center welcomes searchers who notify of their visit a few days before their arrival. Information about officers and other ranks can be retrieved since 1791 and sometimes even since 1715.

Notarial Records

A search of these records is a rather difficult and time-consuming task but exploring this source is worth the trouble. Notarial records usually begin before the Church records and they are available at the Départemental Archives.
The most frequent records found are:

  • sales (often contain useful information)
  • loans (lenders and borrowers are sometimes relatives)
  • leases (usually of little genealogical interest)
  • marriage settlements (give an approximate date of the marriage and list parents and other relatives. Many are for marriages of widows or widowers)
  • exchanges (often of land or buildings between coheirs)
  • wills (contain interesting information but most are from the well-to-do)
  • inventories after death (very interesting documents with detailed information about the dead person like her possessions, her way of living and a list of other official records she made).

Note: the web page Genealogy in France by Denis Beauregard contains a nice summary of records available in France, which is partly applicable to Lorraine.

Bibliography and Literature

note: listings in [brackets] indicate libraries holding the work.

Historical Literature


  • Brasseaux, Carl A., "Foreign French", Nineteenth-century French immigration into Louisiana, 1990-92, Lafayette, Louisiana, Center for Louisiana Studies, University of Southwestern Louisiana; vol. 1: 1820-1839; vol. 2: 1840-48.
  • Castro, Lorenzo, Immigration from Alsace and Lorraine: A Brief Sketch of Castro's Colony in Western Texas 1871, San Antonio.
  • Chevalier, Tracy, The Virgin Blue, Penguin Books (historical novel of an American woman tracing her roots in 16th-century France).
  • Putnam, Ruth, Alsace and Lorraine from Caesar to Kaiser: 58 B.C.-1871 A.D., 1915, New York and London: G.P Putnam's and Sons. Reprinted 1971, Freeport, NY, Books for Libraries.
  • The Thirty Years War, Geoffrey Parker (ed.), 1984, 1991, New York and London: Routledge.


  • Fouché, Nicole, "Un épisode du peuplement du Texas: Henri Castro et les émigrants alsaciens 1842-1856", Revue d'Alsace, vol. 114, fasc. 592 (1988), p. 93-112
  • Laybourn, Norman, L'émigration des Alsaciens et des Lorrains du XVIIIe au XXe siècle, 1986, Strasbourg, Association des Publications près les Universités de Strasbourg. [26 libraries in the US, one in Canada; two in Japan, four in Europe]
  • Valloton, Benjamin, "Alsaciens et Lorrains aux Etats-Unis d'Amérique", L'Alsace française, no. 21, 21 May 1927, pp. 401-422.


  • Neu, Heinrich, "Elsässer und Lothringer als Ansiedler in Nordamerika", Jahrbuch der Elsass-Lothringischen Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft zu Strassburg, 1930, Heidelberg, vol. 3, pp. 98-129 [FHL microfilm 1071428, item 4; Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; University of Notre Dame; Indiana University; Harvard; University of Missouri, Columbia]
  • "Auswanderung in Elsass-Lothringen in den Jahren 1871-1905", EMGV 1:182

Historical Periodicals


  • University of Nancy II, Annales de l'Est, a quarterly of historical articles about artistic, intellectual and economical subjects in eastern France. A yearly booklet Bibliographie lorraine is also published. It lists every new book published about arts, history, archeology and literature in Lorraine.
  • Académie nationale de Metz and University of Metz, Cahiers lorrains, a quarterly devoted to the regional research.
  • Société d'archéologie lorraine and Musée historique lorrain, Le Pays Lorrain, articles about literature, arts, history and popular traditions.
  • Association pour l'étude et la sauvegarde de l'habitat rural, Villages lorrains, articles about patrimony and rural housing.

Genealogical Literature

Genealogical Periodicals


  • Law, Hugh T., "Locating the Ancestral Home in Elsass-Lothringen", German Genealogical Digest, Vol VI, Number 3, 1990, $8.
  • Marianne Doyle, French Ancestors (since 1987), 2923 Tara Trail, Beavercreek, OH, 45434-6252, USA. Yearly subscription $8 (6 issues)
    French Ancestors is a bimonthly newsletter dedicated to a better understanding of the French heritage of western Ohio. Its purpose is to explore the historical, cultural and genealogical background of ancestors from northeast France (Alsace, Lorraine, Franche-Comté) and bordering areas, who settled primarily in Darke and Shelby Counties in the mid 1800's.


  • U.C.G.L., Généalogie Lorraine, a quarterly published by the local genealogical society for Lorraine.

Gazetteers, Atlases and Maps


  • "Alsace-Lorraine: Atlantic Bridge to Germany"

The first book to be completed in the new "Atlantic Bridge to Germany" series is "Alsace-Lorraine". It has been completely revamped with new maps (from 1876-1898 era) showing the majority of the more than 5,600 places named in the book. Each place is identified by German and French names, Kreis (county), Bezirk (government district), and what years there are records available at the Family History Library. The first sixteen pages contain Alsace-Lorraine information dealing with history, geography, websites, books of interest, several mpas showing historical divisions, and more.

Compiled by Linda Herrick and Wendy Uncapher. 192 pages, paperback, 8.5" x 11". Cost $20.00 plus $3.00 shipping and handling for the first book and $1.00 for each additional book. WI residents add appropriate sales tax.

Order from: Origins, 1521 E. Racine St., Janesville, WI 53545



  • Thode, Ernest, Genealogical Gazetteer of Alsace-Lorraine, 1986, Indianapolis, Heritage House (PO Box 39128, Indianapolis, IN, 46239, USA), 137 pp., maps. [Also available from Ernest Thode, RR 7, Box 306, Kern Road, Marietta, OH 45750-9437, USA. Cost $17.50 postpaid, $18.64 postpaid in Ohio (state sales tax)]
    The gazetteer (place-name dictionary) portion of this book is arranged alphabetically, with French, German, and a few Latin and English place-names, including rivers, streams, mountains, castles, and the like, all arranged in a single list. It assumes no special knowledge of French or German diacritical marks and symbols. Listings show some records availability -- town archives, Catholic records, Jewish records, LDS records, military vital records, Protestant records, university records, and civil vital records.
  • Les communes de l'Alsace-Lorraine. Répertoire alphabétique avec l'indication de la dépendance administrative. I. Nomenclature française avant 1871. II. Nomenclature allemande de 1871-1915. III. Nomenclature allemande de 1915-1918. [Communities of Alsace-Lorraine - Alphabetical directory with administrative dependency. - French placenames before 1871. German placenames from 1871 to 1915. German placenames from 1915 to 1918] re-printed and available from UCGL, B.P. 8, F-54131 Saint-Max, France


  • Sittler, Lucien, L'Alsace: Terre d'histoire [Alsace: a historical land, contains very good maps about the territorial history of Alsace from the Middle Ages to modern times]
  • Wolfram, Georg and Werner Gley, Elsass-Lothringischer Atlas, 1931, Frankfurt am Main: Selbstverlag des Elsass-Lothringen-Instituts, series: Veröffentlichungen des wissenschaftlichen Instituts der Elsass-Lothringer im Reich an der Universität Frankfurt [of especial interest for showing the distribution of Catholic and Protestant parishes]


  • On-line Map of Alsace (21K) presented by Évariste
  • Road and tourist map of "Alsace-Lorraine", map #242 of the yellow series by Michelin, scale 1:200000
  • FHL microfilm 068814, Karte des Deutschen Reiches, scale 1:100000, 1km = 1cm covers Germany during 1914-1917.

Map Publishers for the Lorraine region

  • Editions Christian

14, rue Littré 75006 Paris, FRANCE

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