THE ARCHIVIST'S ARCHIVE
Gabriel Ferrand, when he died in Angoulême in 1816, was described as "Head of the Bureau of Archives of the Prefecture of the Department of the Charente." He was born in Angoulême in 1738. He was a sickly infant, who was given a form of baptism at home, by an accredited midwife, "given the danger of death." Three days later, he was well enough to be brought to the parish church of St Paul. His father was described as a joiner's assistant. His godfather, who was also his step-grandfather, was a carpenter; his godmother was the wife of a barrel maker.
The page of the parish register on which Gabriel Ferrand's baptism is recorded is a mess. His baptism is recorded, and then crossed out. The complicated records of the earlier baptism by the midwife and of the "ceremonies of baptism" in the parish church are written at the foot of the page, and the clerk runs out of space. There are notations in two different clerical hands, in two different kinds of ink, and the last line of the record is torn and discolored. It seems to say that a deletion has been approved, but the end of the phrase is missing. The signatures of Gabriel Ferrand's godfather, and of the husband of his godmother, are written vertically, in the inner margin of the page. His father, Louis Ferrand, is described as a joiner, in the crossed out record; in the record at the foot of the page, this is changed to "joiner's assistant," in a heavy, darker ink.
The entire page, to add insult to the injury to the archivist's archive, was omitted when the parish records of Angoulême were digitized on behalf of the Archives Municipales and is thus unavailable online. The events are omitted, in turn, in the transcription of the register by Hubert Marchadier.
In the online records of the archive that Gabriel Ferrand helped to create, the Archives départementales de la Charente, his baptism is not omitted. In the digitized images of the duplicate register, stored in the departmental archives, the record of Gabriel Ferrand's second baptism begins at the foot of folio 1r, and continues overleaf on folio 1v. There is an additional signatory, Jean Dumergue, a saddlemaker, who appears in the duplicate register. In the record of the midwife's baptism, which is again crossed out, Louis Ferrand is described as a joiner; in the record of the parish baptism, his occupation is itself crossed out.
Gabriel Ferrand's later journey, from this unpromising beginning to his position in the administration of a department which did not exist in 1738, is full of mysteries. His next appearance in the records of the Archives municipales, is apparently in 1756, in the parish of St André, when he signs the baptism record of the daughter of a maker of playing cards; the father is noted as being unable to sign. Then, in 1757, he signs the record of an unusual event, the "parish assembly" of the "craftsmen and notables" of the parish of Notre Dame de la Peyne, meeting in the parish church. The purpose of the meeting was to adopt, as patron of the church, the holy virgin of Chaumes, and to set the Friday of Holy Week as the date of the annual celebration in memory of the martyred patron. Gabriel Ferrand signs "G. Ferrand," in a large and confident hand. It was just before his twentieth birthday.
In October 1763, in the parish of Notre Dame de Beaulieu, Gabriel Ferrand married Marie Adelaide Devuailly. He signed "G. Ferrand," and was described as a "master writer." He is 25. This record, too, is a mess, and there is a large black inkblot which obscures the name of the bride. Two years later, in the register of the taille imposition for 1765, Gabriel was described as a "master writer and master of a boarding school." He and Marie Adelaide had six sons, all baptized in the parish of Notre Dame de la Peyne. In 1790, the provinces of the old regime were abolished, and Angoulême became the administrative center of the new department of the Charente. In 1793, Gabriel Ferrand received one of the early certificates of civism in the town, together with three of his sons. These were required of "public officials not elected by the people and employees who are paid out of the revenues of the Republic." In 1798, he appeared in the records of the general administration of the department as "Citizen Ferrand, Archivist." In 1799, he was "Citizen Ferrand, Head of the Bureau of Archives."
ADC, 3E16/25: 6-7/258. AM-A, GG42/77; GG14/23-24. AM-A, GG8/143. AM-A, "Répartition de la taille," 1765, CC62. GG14/36, 37, 38, 41, 44, 53. ADC, L146. ADC, L131. AM-A, 1E52/426.