I'd like to know. . .
How do I find someone who is buried in Paris?
There is a central city database but it is NOT accessible to the public. You must demonstrate a family connection to the deceased before they will release any information to you. That means providing necessary documentation which can take time. Once they have proof of your relationship it can then take up to a month before the request is processed.
If you qualify, then by all means contact the following department (in French please):
Service central des Cimetières
71 rue des Rondeaux
75020 Paris FRANCE
Of course, if you know the name of the cemetery it's easy and simple to learn the grave location; that information is available to anyone. Just contact the cemetery in question (the conservation or office), provide the full name and date of death and they should be able to give you the precise location within the cemetery. It works best if you can go in person, of course. . .
Can anyone have access to burial records?
No. Access to records is permitted only to family. And you have to be able to prove your connection to the first owner of the plot!
I would like information on someone who was cremated at Père-Lachaise. Who do I contact?
Only family members can get copies of the cremation registry. For information regarding burials and cremation contact the conservation office.
Where is the oldest burial ground in Paris?
That’s a tricky question since people have been buried in what is now Paris since prehistoric times. The largest, and most famous of all burial grounds, was the medieval Cimetière des Saints Innocents, right in the heart of the city, where Les Halles is today. It was closed in the late 18th century and the bones stored in the nearby charnel house were removed to what is now the Paris Catacombs.
Is it possible to be buried in a Paris cemetery if you're not French?
Marie B., one of the founders of the Friends of Pere-Lachaise says "Unfortunately, the rules to be buried in a Paris cemetery are rather strict: people may be buried in one of these cemeteries if (and only if) they die in the French capital city or if they lived there. Being buried in Pere-Lachaise is even more difficult nowadays as there is a waiting list: very few plots are available. Also, the scattering of ashes in the Garden of Remembrance is for dead Parisians only." For more information regarding Pere-Lachaise burials write to:
8, boulevard de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris FRANCE
Why are there no cemeteries in the first 11 arrondissements?
These arrondissements used to be scattered with many small churchyards which disappeared at the end of the 18th century as they had become overcrowded and thus deemed unsanitary. Burial inside the city then became illegal (with a few exceptions). The remaining 9 arrondissements were not part of Paris until 1860.
What became of the bodies when the city cemeteries closed in the late 18th century?
They were removed to the Catacombes.
What are the burial practices in Paris cemeteries?
Like anywhere else in France, people are buried in coffins which are placed in family or individual graves. Plots can be bought in perpetuity, for 50, 30 or 10 years, the latter being the least expensive option. Even in the case of mausoleums and chapels, coffins are most of the time below ground. As in the rest of the world, cremation is more and more popular; people can either keep the urn at home, scatter the ashes or buy a niche in a columbarium.
What happens to all the remains from the abandoned gravesites?
Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to ossuary in Père-Lachaise cemetery (located in the hill beneath the cemetery chapel and behind the Monument aux Morts).
How does the grave recycling process work?
If a grave has not been tended in a while, it is declared abandoned. The Conservation puts a tag on the grave and tries to contact the family but if they can’t reach them (which is often the case after a hundred years), they just take over the plot, clean it and resell it. This procedure usually takes between 2 and 4 years.
Are burials still stacked one on top of the other?
Yes. Most family plots being no more than 2 or 3 square meters, coffins have to be put one on top of the other. Shelves are usually fitted out to accommodate them.
How accurate are the existing guide maps?
The official maps are generally useful and provide practical information as well as locations of the most notable burials in each cemetery. In regards to Père-Lachaise, there are usually one or two commercial guide maps available, as well as reasonably good basic maps in several guidebooks (such as the American tour guide Rick Steves). Editions Métropolitain maps are usually available across from the Père-Lachaise Metro entrance on Boulevard Menilmontant. Unofficial maps are frequently available for sale at the news kiosk next to the Père-Lachaise metro as well.
What are the caveaux provisoires scattered around the cemetery used for?
The various caveaux provisoires found throughout Père-Lachaise and in other cemeteries are used by local undertakers for provisional interments until grave is ready for final burial.
Can anyone be buried in the older crypts or chapels?
No. Only people related to the first owner of the plot can be buried in that plot. Occasionally, friends of the family can also be buried with them.
Are photographs permitted in Paris cemeteries?
Since graves are considered private property, it is "generally" forbidden to take pictures of them. That said, photographs are widely tolerated in Père-Lachaise, Montmartre and Montparnasse.
Is it expensive to be buried in Paris cemeteries?
It is fairly expensive but the price is the same in all Parisian cemeteries. The most expensive option is buying a plot in perpetuity: more than 16,000€ for two square meters, about the size of one average gravesite in the United States. If you only buy a plot for ten years (the minimum allowed), it will cost you about 900€ for two square meters. To this must be added the cost of the opening the grave, the monument, etc. (Prices accurate as of 2015.)
I see the words ci-git and dite quite a lot on headstones. What do they mean?
Ci-git is a shortened version of an Old French phrase meaning "here lies" or "here rests", while dite simply means "known as" or "also called", and usually refers to someone who was known by a particular nickname while alive.