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Jewish Genealogy in Comtat Venaissin on 15th and 16th centuries

The "Minor Records" Method for Speeding up the Research

by J.-C. Hérelle-Carcassone (who died in 2004)

  • The "Minor Records" Method

by Stéphane Lallich

Carcassone families of l'Isle sur la Sorgue practised during 15th and 16th century a marriage strategy which consisted of marrying their children with the nephews and nieces of the same blood and also combined with any holder of the name of Carcassone. This extended to Vaucluse and Languedoc. Mossé de Carcassone(*) of l'Isle (1620-1680), respecting this tradition, is married in Carcassone of Carpentras: 2.07.1668, Mossé’ son Aron married in Nerthe, to the daughter Jassuda de Carcassone, Carpentras. The act passed by the notary Pierre Guilhen.

Family loyalty to a given notary

Another practice in Carcassone, was to be faithful to a dynasty of notaries, father and son or predecessors and successors. The notary Pierre Guilhen worked for forty years, from 1620 to 1680. But before 1620, there are no Guilhen’s, nor members of this family who were notaries. The preliminary work consisted in reconstituting the genealogy of this notary, by seeking his customers, 1590 to 1622, the predecessors of Pierre Guilhen were three: François Mathieu, Philippe Mathieu and François Kid. Their activities intersect in an extremely complex diagram. Nevertheless, the research carried out on these three notaries was profitable; it was possible to get to the parents of Jassuda de Carcassone, Mordacai de Carcassone and Anne Cohen, although their marriage certificate was not found.

How to explore kilometers long of archives?

Mordacai had two children who married in Carpentras and one in Cavaillon. Unfortunately, he disappears from Carpentras in 1600 and from what can be found there is no trace of him in Carpentras. Where was it before 1600? An act for François and Philippe Mathieu August 3, 1600 "... the lender of 25 guilders..., Mordacai de Carcassone, sometimes living Avignon.. " How to find him in Avignon in a maze of thousands of registers? Something had to be invented to find our Carcassone in a reasonable time.
The departmental records of Vaucluse, comprise, for Avignon city, nearly 2000 notaries having written 8000 registers, that is to say two kilometers of shelves. With eight hours of research per day, the exploration of these registers would require three centuries! If the examination related only to the period specific of 1480 to 1590, there would still be 4000 registers to study. These figures seemed discouraging but after a few weeks of reflexion, we set up a method of fast research as follows:

  • existing statements of marriages and wills
  • minor notarial records, such as ackowledgements of debt
  • From the selection of the thousands of notaries of the 15th and 16th centuries, five records specializing in the recording of commercial contracts.

The Minor Records Method

I - The statements of major records such as marriages, wills, donations, of Canon Paquin in the 18th century, and especially the work of Mrs Garcin of the CGV (Genealogical Circle of Vaucluse and adjacent grounds). Mrs Garcin’s Herculean work over the last 15yrs.
Unfortunately, since 1580, one hardly finds any notarial record for our Jewish families. Why? The answer is difficult, several reasons are suggested:

  • tax reasons: 10 to 15% of the amount of the declared dowry.
  • obligation to record the acts, at least in the cities
  • political risks of the time when it was not good to acknowledge the existence of a dowry of 600 livres.

For all these reasons and others which remain to be discovered, matrimonial conventions did not pass by the notaries of the large cities, but in small villages being more discrete, acts were found in Bedarrides and Saint-Dizier-Venasque, concerning of Cohen, Carcassone and Cavaillon, these families were domiciled in Carpentras.

II - Not finding more major records, one must go back on oneself to other records. However, in the registers of the 15th century, one discovers a great number of obligations (ackowledgement of debt), transfers, receipts, prices made (estimates concerning repairs of houses), purchases of fodder, oil, etc.

Firstly the genealogy of the notaries

Finding the notaries quickly is done like this, let us suppose that we are looking for a David de Carcassone; instead of going through all the tables in the register, the classification is ordered by first names, it is sufficient to only examine letter D. If the register does not have a table, or if the table is not alphabetical but sequential, decipher the first word of the of the record, that is to say obligation, acquired... etc, and locate the recipient..
Then, the key point, it is necessary to go up the sequence of each notary up to the first point of contact: in this example, it is the first obligation passed through our David by the notary XYZ, who will indicate connection to us. This notary does not know this David yet, but will show any bonds with the father or the brother, (for example: Solomon de Carcassone, son of Massip...)
In Avignon, Mordacai de Carcassone was found in 67 last minor acts in Carpentras and in as many in Avignon. How to make sure that Mordacai discovered in Avignon is the same person as the one who lived in Carpentras since 1600? Thanks to the scientific comparison of the signatures: Mordecai signed in more than 60 acts in Carpentras and as many in Avignon. The comparison reveals a correlation of the graphic signs from 85 to 95%. This is an exceptionally high number and thus very convincing.

Another enigma remains to be solved: the marriage of Mordacai has not been discovered yet, how to find his parents? In three acts of 1593, 1595, 1601, two marriages and an act of renting of a house, it is clearly written that Mordacai has a brother called David de Carcassone, called Babin. Thanks to the method used to search the acts described above, a paper was discovered of 10.01.1583 mentioning: "David de Carcassone, known as Babin, son of Massip called Marroquin", this mention was found in ten other acts. Thus, via David, the connection of Mordacai to father Massip was established. Thanks to David, it was possible to find the marriage of Massip de Carcassone with Regina de Pampalonne the 20.10.1530 in Avignon.

Conclusion: Time saving is obvious

Of the 4000 relevant registers, approximately 200 were examined, i.e. 5%. One can estimate that 70% of specific information on this Carcassone branch was found. Moreover, other information obtained was useful: approximately 50 indications concerning other Carcassone families of Avignon, whose relationship was not established yet with Massip, approximately 300 various indications concerning the Jewish families Saint-Paul, Cohen, Valabrègue, de la Garde, Ravel, Astruc, Rouget, Athar, de Pampelone, de Lambesc, Lisbonne, Vidal, de Puget, Lunel, Roget, Naquet, Alphandéry, Cresque, de Lates. Knowing how many registers are deposited in Avignon go back to the years 1150-1200, the way is opened with new promising research!


(*). The writing of the name Carcassone is made with only with one "n" in général in registers and records of Midi and Limousin regions. The origin of this family remains unknown; some indices to be studied, give Spain, Marocco, Isle de France in the France's realm. Presently, no link is known with the city of Carcassonne.