A Question for the MSS Community

Maple Stars and Stripes fleur-de-lis logoFor those of you who do not belong to the MSS Facebook page, I have a question for everyone:  When you are working on your French-Canadian ancestry, what’s the biggest problem you face?

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17 comments on “A Question for the MSS Community

  1. Lilly Moore

    My biggest frustration is that I cannot speak or read French!!!

      1. Cecile (Peloquin) St John

        Searches are by name, location, date, which are easily understood in English. I recommend you make a Friend of someone who can translate document text for you. many of us who attended French schools and had to learn the language – or who grew up in a bilingual home – will gladly help others. That’s the best part about the genealogy community.

        1. Sandra Goodwin

          Hi Cecile- You are correct that the genealogy community is one of the best and most helpful. And many people would very appreciatively reach out when they have a document that is unusual. But I think the problem for non-French speakers is the sheer volume. If you need to translate every baptism, marriage and burial record for not just your direct ancestors, but all the collaterals as well, you would be constantly hounding people. Can you imagine being up front and asking: I have 1400 documents to translate. Will you help? But that’s what it amounts to, and most people would feel like they’re imposing. So they muddle along. That’s why it’s important to at least be able to work your way through the “typical” records, and ask for help for the “atypical” ones.
          How does everyone else feel about that? Especially those of you who don’t read French?

          1. Cecile (Peloquin) St John

            I agree wholeheartedly with Sandra Goodwin and thank her for her clarification of the issue. I should have referenced “atypical” records when advising people to seek a friendly French speaking person to assist with translation of a document they are relatively certain pertains to their family.

  2. philipnoel9

    not knowing why I cannot find a record. The idea is that I think that I am looking in the right place, but I am not finding any clues. Having written this much, I realize that I am saying that I just don’t know all the possible resources, which I think is a function of lack of experience.

  3. Sandra

    I am unable to figure out scripted church Records. special have a hard time the the letters in the words

  4. Pat Balkcom

    I would like to know more about how to research land and court records. There are resources online but they are in French.

  5. Claire Poulin

    My difficulties are usually connected to the period when the ancestor/family leave Canada and move to Maine. With the habit of changing surnames, often anglicizing them somewhat inconsistently at times and then not always recording birth or other records, the search sometimes goes cold. In Canada, church and other records are very helpful, but some US immigrant records are not available or hide to find. My Franco-American research has been more difficult from the 1850’s to early 1900’s

    1. FrancoAmericanGravy

      Claire Poulin makes an important point in her comment. Establishing and making the connection across the border from Quebec/Ontario to New England AND New York can be frustrating and confusing. All the published resources about dit names and Anglicized names don’t come close to grasping the imagination of our FrancoAmerican ancestors who made the crossing, changed names, locations and sometimes even religion. Once a researcher established the line in Quebec, the research is a piece of cake in comparison!

  6. Susan Spencer

    I certainly agree with all the previous comments. My greatest hurdle is so many men with the same surname and given name across generations with no idea about where my men came from in Canada. Even though I know some of their migration in the States. No idea what dit name they would have used.

    Technically, I find the Canadian sites hard to navigate. Some of the French i.e. in the Drouin is not too hard because of the similar records, but I can not imagine browsing the notarials in French on microfilm ( I have been looking at some in English for loyalists).

    Sandra, your podcasts have been a great help and I appreciate the time and effort it must take to education us. I especially like hearing the French. Thanks for all you do.

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      You’re welcome. All these comments are very helpful. It gives me insight into what direction to take with the podcast.

  7. Cecile St John

    Naming conventions create problems in finding the correct record and wondering how to record the information in a family tree. Examples: “dit names that suddenly appear without explanation in a family tree when they did not previously exist in the family tree; “dit names” that are sometimes but not always used; the name of a child that changes in later years from that on the baptismal certificate – especially when the baptismal name was recorded as Marie, or a male’s middle name is later used for the first name, and that middle name never appeared on the baptismal record; French family names that were Anglicized when the person moved to a community in the United States, then reverted to the French spelling on a later move to another community; how to locate or record St Jean: as two words, with or without a hyphen, with or without a period, or as one word. I can handle the difference between a French Parish record and a English civil record within the same U.S. community; but many of the other changes are difficult to discern and make locating or ensuring I have the correct record difficult, if not impossible.

  8. Sue

    I live in Georgia so can’t travel to visit repositories and must rely on online sources and books. Also trying to read faded or badly written records in French since I haven’t had French since I was a high school student in Massachusetts. I have met cousins I didn’t know about because my grandfather’s sisters translated their mother’s maiden name from Boisvert to Greenwood. So glad I looked at FTM CD’s back in the 90’s, otherwise I’d have never met my Minnesota relatives!

    Thank you for all you do Sandra, very helpful information!!

  9. Walter Barton

    I’m with you Susan. Sandra has done us a big favor when it comes to learning french. you can read it and then she pronounce it for us. I wish i had listen closer to my mother when she talked to her sisters in french.

  10. Jean-Richard Pelland

    I think for me the hardest thing is tracking the various lines of my family across the United States. The French-Canadian diaspora was such that they settled in so many different states and record availability varies so much from state to state. I am particularly frustrated by efforts to limit access to records in some jurisdictions. Occasionallly, the name changes can also be challenging. For example, Pierre Pelland became Peter Balise in Hatfield, Massachusetts and I have no idea why or how this surname change came about. Also, Pelland is a dit name for Martin, which is far too common. It took me decades to locate Martin families in New York and Massachusetts that are Martin dit Pelland families. I am still trying to find the descendants of one such family that moved from Holyoke MA to CT. I am also less than pleased with Franco-American priests who in some cases abandoned the long-standing French-Canadian practice of naming the bride and grooms parents on marriage records and only listed the witnesses. Oh well, what’s life without a few challenges? Did I mention that I wish there were more notarial contracts available online? Jean-Richard Pelland http://www.pelland.org

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