The Mairies (Municipalities) of French departments or communes do not have any obligation of doing genealogical researches. Instead, they have the obligation to preserve in the best possible way their documents, so even the extraction of photocopies is very restricted, and photos must be captured without flash. When you ask them for a civil document 75 years older or more, it is reccomendable to give them the most accurate information: commune, names, dates, kinship. By law, records less than 75 years old are closed for personal privacy, in case of births and marriages. Death certificates are freely available for consultation to anyone. Extraction or copy of civil records is free of cost.
Patrimonial Code Law, Nº 2008-696, of July 15th of 2008, Artícle 17:
Article L-213-2: 1- "Public records are communicated automatically to the expiration of : Seventy-five years after the date of the document, or the most recent document in the folder, or within twenty-five years after the date of death of the person if the delay is less than that time:...e) For marriage and birth records, after their closure".
Documents less than 75 years old, are restricted by these regulations: 1) Vital records with NO FILIATION (without the parents' names) can be required by any person. 2) Vital records WITH FILIATION are ruled by these laws:
Policy Statement on Civil Status, of May 11th of 1999:
Sub-Section 2, Paragraph 200: "Extracts without filiation must be delivered to every person, not being necessary to justify motives for that request ".
Section 2, Paragraph 197: "Every person, adult or emancipated, can obtain, by indication of the last and first name of his or her parents, complete copies of his (or her) marriage and birth certificates. Ascendants or descendants of the person to whom the act concerns, his (her) spouse, or his (her) legal representative can also obtain the same copies by supplying the indication of the usual first and last name of the parents of that person".
Sub-Section 3, "Unauthorized persons policy": Paragraph 197-3: "It's important to remark that: -Minors not emancipated cannot obtain by theirselves complete copies of their birth certificates. - A concubine not assimilated to his (her) spouse. -Brothers and sisters, even being heirs of the person to whom the act concerns, cannot obtain complete copies ".
Request of vital records can be done through Internet to: ACTES D'ETAT CIVIL EN LIGNE
1) Vital civil records of more than 75 years old do not need to be justified, (but a polite explanation is always a rule of courtesy). Their whole content cannot be denied to anyone, but the original document, for better preservation, should be exhibited and manipulated as few as possible. Precisely, because of it, they try to put all vital records on line: two objectives are simultaneously achieved: to give the public information, forced by law, and, on the other hand, documents suffer fewer aggressions like the blows of light of photocopies, handling, exhibition to different temperatures, and so on. The main objective of these "Mairies" is the highest preservation standards of the cultural patrimony.
2) Death certificates may be freely asked by every person, no matter which date they have.
3) Birth and marriage certificates less than 75 years old WITH FILIATION only can be required by: spouse or parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents; relatives in direct line, or their legal representatives.
It is forbidden to deliver vital records to: brothers, sisters, (collateral relatives, even being legal heirs), and any other kind of relatives, like uncles, nephews, cousins, etc. And also to concubines who cannot demonstrate a solid marital relationship.
4) Birth and marriage certificates less than 75 years old WITH NO FILIATION, may be freely asked by anyone. But, as they don't have information about parents, these kind of certificates are, obviously, useless for genealogical purposes.
MODELS OF LETTERS
(These letters are only models; they are not any official forms to be strictly respected. Any one could write something similar to this text, provided that it be courteous, respectful, and could clearly explain the objective of the research).
There is also a form, used by the Mairies, which might be attached to your request: