WITH access to the internet French families are now able to research the fate of their ancestors who may have died by the guillotine during the French Revolution.
The site, Les Guillotinés, allows families to log on and uncover the appalling injustices carried out over a three year period; from 1792 to 1795.
The site is the work of Raymond Combes, a computer programmer and amateur genealogist. It is the most comprehensive online list of victims of France's Revolution and in trepidation people can find the answer to the site's question; "Do you have an ancestor who was decapitated?"
With an estimated five million French people descended from victims of the Revolution many people are sure to follow the hundreds of thousands of people who have already logged into the site.
The official figures for those who died is around 17,500 but Mr Combes already has over 18,000 names which he has based on lists compiled for the 1989 bicentenary of the Revolution and also from documents sent by users of the site.
Mr Combes has discovered many of those guillotined were never registered officially and although he is constantly adding names this cannot be done without documentary evidence.
As well as those guillotined there were thousands massacred in violence which rampaged across France at the end of the ancien régime.
"That," Mr Combes, told the Times, "was an important part of our history, but I am not sure all that violence really served a purpose."
What the site has proved is that it was not just the nobility that lost their heads but ordinary citizens such as farmers, peasants and agriculturers.
Facts about the guillotine
- The guillotine was named after Dr. Joseph Guillotine who pressed for decapitation machines to make execution quicker and more humane in France. Contrary to popular belief Dr. Guillotine did neither invent or die by the guillotine. It was in fact invented by Antoine Louis.
- The blade weighed around 40kg (88lbs) and dropped at a speed of 7 metres a second.
- Doctors have suggested victims could remain conscious for up to 30 seconds after decapitation.
- Forerunners of the guillotine, the Halifax Gibbett and the Scottish Maiden were used in Briton from the 13th century.
- The last man to be executed by guillotine in France was Hamida Djandoubi, 10 September 1977, for the torture and murder of his former girlfriend Elizabeth Bousquet.