This blue velvet, gold-embossed gem is a Livret de Famille or family booklet. And if you are getting married in France, you’ll get one too.
The Livret de Famille holds your new family’s official records of births and marriage information. And for the rest of one’s marriage, one must record all big family events in their book: the birth of children, adoption, any deaths in the immediate family, divorce, or separation. All families in France must hold onto their family booklet as it is required for official matters. For example, if you enroll your children in school, if you apply for some visas or citizenship, or if you buy property you’ll be asked to produce it.
I’ll tell you one thing. I will never forget the moment my husband and I received ours. Just after we were married at the town hall, the room was abuzz with the cheers and claps of family and friends. The officiant turned to us and said in French, “Congratulations. You are now a family. And here is your Livret de Famille.” I looked down to see this beautiful little folder in his hand. And with that, it really hit me. We are married!
What a concept, the idea that you have a personal, official record book in addition to your marriage certificate to keep track of your new family history. According to The French Genealogy Blog, this tradition was born when the Paris City Hall burned down in 1871. With it, all birth, marriage, and death records were destroyed. The livret de famille was then instated in 1877. And since then it has served as an additional means to store official records as well as a functional document of identity.
Town halls all over the country issue these when people get married or when unmarried individuals have children. Different regions in France issue livrets of different colors and material. Not all are as fancy as the Parisian ones.
As an American, the concept that this one little book holds so much importance (and is so difficult to replace) is a bit daunting! For now, ours is locked away for safe keeping.