France Naturalization and Citizenship

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In France before the 1789 revolution, everyone born outside of the kingdom was a foreigner even if born of French parents. All persons born in France, even of foreign parents, were French.

From the 1100s to 1789, citizenship was frequently limited to individual cities (burgess records) and associated with craft guilds. Burgess and guild records are available only for selected cities. They are difficult to find and use. Church records are usually more available and easier to use.

After 1789, naturalization applications concerning the whole of France are found in the judiciary series [série judiciaire] at the National Archives. An index to earlier naturalization records is:

France. Archives nationales. Lettres de naturalité et de légitimation, 1674-1787: table alphabétique (Index to naturalizations and legitimations 1674-1787). Paris, France: Chadwyck-Healey, 1988. (FHL fiche 6002227.) The index lists names, place of origin (nation or city), year of naturalization, and source reference.

In 1871 Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by Germany. Some of the former residents of Alsace-Lorraine declared their preference for French citizenship. Three hundred ninety-five alphabetical, printed lists of these declarations were published in France. Ministère de la Justice. Bulletin des lois de la République française (Lists of persons preferring French citizenship). Paris, France: Imp. Nationale, 1872. (FHL film 787,154-787,166.) These lists help locate where a particular surname appeared in Alsace-Lorraine in 1872. They give name, birth date, birthplace, residence, date of the declaration, and notes. These lists include about 950,000 names.