My Story

Maple Stars and Stripes fleur-de-lis logoI got sucked in pretty quickly. You know how it is – this genealogy addiction, when food is late getting to the table, and what’s a little dust among friends?

Hi. My name is Sandra Goodwin , and researching my family’s story almost didn’t happen. I spent two years thinking about starting my family history. After all, what would be out there about my ancestors. They were just regular folk. I had nobody famous in my ancestry. My mother’s people were shoe workers and my father’s people were farmers. What could I possibly find on them?

Then one day I picked up a sale book on Scottish genealogy. Now mind you, at the time (there’s a story behind this) I didn’t have a lick of Scottish blood. My father was Swedish and Yankee (whatever that meant), and my mother was pure French-Canadian. But luckily for me, the entire first half of the book was about conducting research here in America. I discovered a world previously unknown to me, a world of census records, vital records, probate records, land records, all just waiting for me to discover them.

The addiction had begun!

That was in 1992. Since then, I’ve spent more than a dozen years as an officer with the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists, I’ve taken several research trips to Québec and Montréal, and I did a DNA test that blew one quarter of my Picture of author Sandra Goodwinancestry out of the water.

You see, my paternal grandfather is listed on my dad’s birth record. So I spent over twenty years researching his English lines (the Yankee side) which ran deep into colonial Massachusetts. Then a few months before my trip to Salt Lake City, one on which I had intended to further research these English lines, a cousin’s DNA test (which followed one taken by my brother) suggested that my grandfather wasn’t really my grandfather. Further investigation has shown that whoever that grandfather was, he was probably Scots-Irish. I may have to dust off that first genealogy book I ever purchased on Scottish genealogy after all!

My background

I retired in December 2012 after a 35-year teaching career. During the last five or so years of my commute back and forth to school everyday, I devoured every genealogy podcast available. So as I planned my future, post-retirement, I knew I wanted to do something in the field that I love, genealogy. But what specifically would I do?

I considered doing research for clients, but when I sat down and analyzed my skills, I realized I’m a teacher. It’s what I do; it’s what I’m good at. I have conducted dozens of genealogy classes over the years to audiences of from eight to forty people. Podcasting became a way to teach, but to larger audiences.

In college I minored in Spanish and teaching foreign languages. I studied three years of French in high school and college. But all of that had been more than thirty-five years ago.

I had also gone on research trips to Québec and Montréal with fellow genealogists who knew no French at all. After helping to translate several phrases or documents for them, I realized there was a need in the French-Canadian genealogy world for those trying to research their ancestors, but who were struggling with the language barrier. And so the idea of Maple Stars & Stripes was born.

My world

My mother

My mother, the largest influence in my life
Annette (Sourdif) Goodwin (1932-2013)

My French-Canadian mother was the largest influence in my life. Family was everything to her. She had a chronic disease, and after helping care for her for many years, she passed away in February 2013. Since then, Maple Stars & Stripes has become my family.

Buddy and Maya

Buddy and Maya

Along with, of course, my two adorably irritating dogs. Maya, labeled a ‘drama queen’ by the vet, is stubbornly sweet. Buddy, on the other hand, is a hyperactive cuddler. Did you notice that both of them have split personalities? They keep life interesting.

I also have a brother and a nephew, who I tutor in, of all things, algebra. My Wednesday afternoons are spent with quadratic equations and polynomials, and by Wednesday evenings my head is ready to explode.

 Maple Stars & Stripes

Maple Stars and Stripes: Your French-Canadian Genealogy Podcast was created as a way to share tips and tricks that might make it easier to research your French-Canadian family here in America as well as to trace them back in Quebec. We discuss ways to make it easier to move around in French-language records, especially if you’re not a native French speaker, as well as take a look at different record groups, repositories, history, geography, culture, and methodology particular to French-Canadian genealogy.

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert in all things French-Canadian, but rather a facilitator. I welcome additions, comments, and corrections on all topics covered. Hopefully, this podcast will eventually become a go-to resource for all things having to do with French-Canadian genealogy!

When Maple Stars & Stripes went live in December 2013, I had a vision of which direction to take it in. But since its existence, that direction has shifted a bit as I’ve come to know you, your struggles, and your needs.

So as I continue to produce content on the “different record groups, repositories, history, geography, culture, and methodology particular to French-Canadian genealogy,” I am also working on products that will help your research go more smoothly, especially if you do not read French. So stay tuned.

Keep up with what’s important by signing up for the Maple Stars & Stripes Newsletter so you don’t miss anything.

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Fun Facts

I am a long-suffering Red Sox fan. Yes, I know that we broke the curse and even won two World Series beyond that, but somehow the suffering continues.

After teaching ancient history for over twenty years, I had the opportunity in 1998 of leading a tour of mostly 6th and 7th graders to Greece. After we got just a bit lost, I flagged down a police car and asked with a definite question in my voice, “Plaka?” The police officer pointed in the proper direction, we found our way, and all was well. Until the next day, when I found out that the gesture that I had used to flag down the police was the equivalent in Greece of giving the middle finger. My students found that rather hilarious, and we were all very thankful that the Greek police are very tolerant of crazy American tourists.

We hadn’t learned Greek before our 1998 trip because of the difficulty with the Greek alphabet. But before our trip to Italy in 2000, my 6th grade students and I decided to spend three lunch recesses a week learning some basic Italian. Once we arrived in Italy, the students couldn’t wait to try out what they had learned. So we went up to a café counter in the airport, and one student bravely asked, “Aqua, per favore.” (Water, please) She then waited for the clerk to hand her a water. But instead, the clerk responded, “Con o senza gas?” I will never forget the look of panic on all the students’ faces. The funny thing was, they had learned the meaning for the words con and o and senza. With or without. So I calmly told them, “Con o senza gas. With or without gas. Carbonated or non-carbonated.” You could see all the lightbulbs go off at the same time as the girl turned to the clerk and proudly told her, “Senza gas, per favore.” It was always great to see the effect that international travel had on their confidence levels.

I taught in the town that I grew up in, the town in which my French-Canadian ancestors had lived for the previous 150 years. That meant that in every class I had, with a little digging, I could find a relationship to at least a handful of them. One student was very unhappy to find out she was related to the teacher, but by December she was finally resigned to the fact. How do I know? Because she signed her Christmas card, “From your cousin. I guess I’ll have to accept it.” Her younger brother, on the other hand, was ecstatic to learn that we were related. Every time I passed him in the hall, he’d smile and say, “Hi, cuz.” How siblings can be so different!

I hate peanuts, but love peanut butter. I hate tomatoes, but love tomato sauce. How weird is that!?


MSS Credits:

4 comments on “My Story

  1. Marie Edwards

    HI Sandra, I just stumbled across your blog site and I couldn’t be happier. My maternal ancestors were French, as Helene Deportes is my 9th great grandmother! I need to get in touch with Susan McNelley. Do you happen to know how I might do that? Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Looking forward to listening and learning. Marie

  2. Anonymous

    Just want to say thank you for the lovely gift of 50 hits from PRDH, one of my favorite places to visit.

    Love your site. I vote you top genealogist with the most energy!

    Dorothy Proulx

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