In this new series, you will learn how to search French online archives. Let’s start with the Archives of Bas-Rhin.

History of the French department of Bas-Rhin

To be able to conduct a successful research, it is important to understand the history of the departement. This will determine what you’ll find or not, and why.

Calvin, driven out of Geneva, came to Strasbourg in 1538 to found the Reformed French Church.

Despite its reunion with France following the Treaty of Nijmegen in 1679, Alsace remained German until 1789.

Bas-Rhin is a department of the Alsace region. It was created in 1790 from the territory of Lower Alsace.

Between 1790 and 1795, it was divided into several districts: Benfeld, Haguenau, Strasbourg and Wissembourg; from 1793 onwards, it also had those of Landaunote and Saarland.

In 1793, the Sarrewerden county was attached to it. In the same year, some municipalities of the Ban de la Roche and part of the Schirmeck valley were detached from the Bas-Rhin at the request of their inhabitants, to be united with the Vosges department.

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La République française en LXXXIV départemens : Dictionnaire géographique et méthodique, Paris, 1793

Following Napoleon’s defeat in Waterloo, the peace treaty concluded in Paris on November 20, 1815, removed 70 communes from the department, the Lauter River became its northern limit. Landau’s place was given to Bavaria. The department of Bas-Rhin lost the cantons of Bergzabern, Candel, Dahn and Landau.


Emigration to the United States during the 19th century was marked by several waves. A first wave in 1817 mainly concerned rural Alsatians or textile workers from the Colmar region. Between 1828 and 1837, a second wave affected the inhabitants of the districts of Wissembourg and Saverne. Finally, from 1838 onwards, migrant populations left from all over Alsace.

There are sources in the departmental archives concerning these migrations. Although they are not online, you can consult their inventories by following this link.

If your ancestor is one of the foreigners expelled from France by administrative means between 1815 and 1870, you can consult the AsilEuropeXIX database.

The online archives of Bas-Rhin

Check out the video I made to help you find records on the online archives of Bas-Rhin :

Old maps online of Bas-Rhin

You’ll need old maps to understand and follow the changes within the department of Bas-Rhin. You can find them in Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliotheque nationale de France.