Your French ancestors via French private societies
The French Federation of Genealogy was founded by a French duke named Jacques Caumont de La Force on 31st May 1968. Two barons succeeded him in 1977 and 1979 at the head of this genealogical organization. The present-day federal structure has been created by a commoner, Gaston Sagot, who became the fourth chairman in 1986. The French Federation is now at the top of a pyramid of 23 provincial family history unions, subdivided into many local societies, and 4 non-territorial family history colleges, subdivided into societies specialized in certain religions (Jews and Protestants), certain origins (Spaniards, Italians), certain occupations (bank, post-office and railway employees), and certain families.
You can find, on the website of the French Federation of Genealogy, the links to all the federated genealogical societies in France, in their respective provincial unions and non-territorial colleges. Most of these societies have their own websites, where you can find much online information on local families, such as indexes, articles or genealogical trees. All of them have now finished or almost finished to enter in their computers all the church marriage records they found in their local county archives, written down by French vicars before 1793. They have started to enter as well all the civil marriage records from 1793 to 1905, extending their work to baptism and birth entries, and to death and burial entries. All together, the genealogical societies that joined the French Federation of Genealogy managed to produce the most important database in France on your French ancestors, after 35 years of hard work.
This huge database is accessible in various ways. Some federated societies did not want to merge their own data into one single federal database, open to members of other societies. Their data is only accessible on their own websites or on the private space they created on Clericus, a new online service run by a commercial website called Bigenet, working for the French Federation of Genealogy. Other genealogical societies preferred to share their data with other federated societies. They uploaded their respective works on the website of another non-profit federated society called GeneaBank, as well as on the websites of three major commercial companies which prosper on the French genealogical market, Bigenet, Filae and Geneanet.
GeneaBank gives the opportunity to members of other non-profit federated societies to get a certain amount of free genealogical information per year, drawn from the big mutual database of all the societies sharing their respective works. On the contrary, the three major commercial companies sell their online information to Internet users and remunerate the genealogical societies accordingly. Filae and Geneanet do not work exclusively with societies. They both ask individuals to upload their family trees for free on their commercial websites, creating thus a huge transfer of genealogical data from non-profit family history societies to their own private databases.
This transfer of data, with no financial compensation, endangers greatly the French genealogical societies, which have more difficulty now to attract new members. This is why a new federal service has been created on Bigenet in 2016. All the federated societies may open now a free private space in a section called Clericus, where their members can upload their family trees and find new cousins among other members. You have to join one specific society to access its own data on Clericus. A general index of the whole database shows which society has the answer you need.