Tracing the History of our French home – Part 4

Local historians, past and present

You’ll have seen from my last post, Thank you Abbé Toublet, that one particular local historian has helped me to trace our mill back a thousand years. Yes, you read that right – A THOUSAND YEARS!

Read about it here

There’s no doubt about it. Local historians, past and present, are a very useful resource when tracing the history of your home. If someone else has already done all the leg work it would be churlish not to take advantage of it, surely? As long as you give them credit if you then use their hard work in a blog, for example.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean gate-crashing the next meeting of the local history group (interesting as that would be). There are many more places you can find information that has been researched and shared. It helps if you read French but Google translate or are really handy tools if you need some help.


Have you looked up your village or town in Wikipedia? You’ll no doubt get a basic history there (it’s best to google ‘ + name of your village or town’.) There may be an English language page but it will be far less detailed than the French version.) Once you have read the info, scroll down to the references and you’ll see the sources the writer(s) used. Very often clicking on these will take you to online versions of local history books, charters, theses etc. 

La mairie

If you visit your mairie, town hall and look around, there is bound to be a display of publications by local history buffs on your area. They tend to be quite expensive as they are very limited print-runs, but not only are they informative – they often give a charming insight into the character of the place and the people. If there is nothing at yours, try a neighbouring commune as very often the associations des patrimoines, local heritage/history groups, will research and write about many different places in their local area.

La librairie

Your local librairie, book shop (not to be confused with the bibliothèque which is the public library) should have at least a few books about the history of the area. I found a brilliant book about the history of Sablé sur Sarthe, our nearest town in our E. Leclerc supermarket book section. (They had two shelves of local history books in fact.) This provided a lot of information for among other things, what life was like for René Plassais, the miller at Moulin de la Roche during the French Revolution and the years of civil war which followed.

La bibliothèque

It can get quite expensive to keep buying books so I have joined our local library or médiathèque as ours is known. They have an excellent local history section and the librarian is really helpful.

Book exchanges

Our local boulangerie, the local farm produce shop and several places in town all have book-swop cabinets (often in old public phone boxes I’ve found!) or boxes, which are always good for a rummage. Basically the idea is that you replace the book you take with one of yours that you have read. My copy of Les Vendéens by Alain Gérard came from the farm produce shop and was fabulous for understanding more about the background to the Vendéen wars and how they had affected our village.

Google Books

I’ve found this such a useful resource that I am going to do a post just on this. According to Wikipedia Google has scanned over 25 million books and journals. Although the search engine itself will display results from Google Books, they tend to appear way down in the results list. Have a read of the next post to see how you can short cut this.

Tracing the history of our French home – Part 5 – Google is your friend

To find all the posts I’ve done on the history of your French home go to the bottom of the page and choose the topic ‘Tracing the history of our French home’

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