Google is your friend
During the confinement, at the start of my search (and not really knowing what I was looking for!), I got a bit bored and started googling the name of the mill/ the river we’re on/ the name of the village in various permutations. Once I had got through several pages of Pages Jaunes, phone directory entries, random directories of local businesses and tourism sites I started coming across links to 19th and 20th century ‘inventaires sommaires’ which are basically inventories of the all the documents held by a particular archive. These can include old lease agreements, judgements, lists of taxes due, charters of sale – all sorts of things. These documents are often not available online so you might never find them unless you know where to look. These inventaires helpfully give a summary of the content of the documents held.
They had all been digitised in Google Books and were free to search. I started searching specifically on Google books and used all the different versions of the village name (look under ‘Topographie’ on the Wiképedia entry to find other versions/spellings that have also been used for your village/town.
For example Auvers-le-Hamon has been known as Auvers, Alversus, Alverscus, Alvers, Auvers-l’Union and Aulnières to my knowledge. And the river Erve which our mill sits on has also been called Arve and Arva in the various documents I have found. Although the mill luckily has always had the same name, medieval charters were usually written in latin, so I’ve also been successful with my random searches using ‘molendinum de la Rocha’. If you are researching a mill like me it’s also worth searching on usine and minoterie which are also used to refer to mills.
Let me give you an example of how Google book searches helped me find a new line of research. Having found quite a lot of Inventaires Sommaires, in previous searches, I googled ‘google books inventaire sommaire sarthe’.
I clicked on the first result and it took me here:
As you can see, this e-book is free to download and you can add it to your library in Google Play for future reference (button at the top). The really useful thing is that you can search the content by typing in key words. I entered ‘moulin de la roche’ and hit ‘search inside’. This gave me 24 results.
Clicking on the page number link will open that page and you can then use the Previous and Next links to work through the pages.
On my third page I found some completely new and exciting information.
The departmental archives of the Sarthe hold lease agreements and plans of various properties from between 1601 and 1700 belonging to the ‘collège de la Flèche’. This ‘collège’ is in fact the Royal College founded by King Henri IV in 1607 and run by Jesuits, nowadays the Prytanée national militaire, a military school run by the armed forces.
This piece of information started me off on a whole new hunt to find out how our little mill had come to be owned by a royal college some 40 kms away. I’m nearly ready to write that one up, so watch this space!
To find all the posts I’ve done on tracing the history of your French home go to the bottom of the page and choose the topic ‘Tracing the history of our French home’.
For snapshots from the mill’s past click on ‘History’ in the top menu.