MSS-040-Blogging Your Ancestor’s Story

Episode #040-November 10, 2015

Episode 40 Title Graphic

It is so important that we not only research our ancestors, but that we also preserve and share their stories. Today’s guest shares with us how she uses blogging as a first step toward writing a book about her ancestor. She also shares tips for researching both in Québec and France.

Then in Language Tip #40, we’ll look at the meaning of French words used for some common measurements.

French-Canadian News

Franco-American Centre in Manchester, New Hampshire

November 21, 6:00-10:00 PM: Attend the Beaujolais Nouveau Gala, a black-tie affair celebrating the first wine of the season, at Drumlin’s Restaurant at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown, NH. There will be cocktails, music, a 4-course meal, and a French carol sing-along. Go to the website for more details.

November 12, 7:30-8:30 PM: at the Dana Center Lecture Room in Manchester, NH, two students from St. Anselm’s College will present a first-hand account of what it’s like to live and study in France.

French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

November 14, 11 AM, at the Mount Clemens Public Library, Mt. Clemens, MI: FCHSM’s annual potluck. Author Timothy Kent will introduce everyone to his new book, Phantoms of the French Fur Trade, Twenty Men Who Worked in the Trade Between 1618 and 1758, and will give a presentation on “A multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the fur trade and French and Native lifeways.”

Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

  • Novemebr 14: Ed McGuire, “Basic German Genealogy”
  • November 21: Jane Whitmore, “Efficiently Tracing Your Roots in Québec.”

All classes are at 10:30 AM at the Vermont Genealogy Library.

American Canadian Genealogical Society, Manchester, NH

November 21 at the library: Using the Census: A Goldmine of Information-Covers US, state and Canadian censuses.

Language Tip #40- Words for Measurement

Why defining measurement is a bit difficult

  • The standards upon which these measurements were based were variable.
  • Definitions for these measurements were vague.
  • People from the various provinces interpreted the measurements differently.

People in New France attempted to standardize by using the measurements of Paris.

I’ll Take Two Grains of Barley, Please!

Linear measurement was based on grains of barley.

Linear Measurement


In New France, the foot was equal to 12.789 inches. In the 1600s when it was standardized, a pouce was 1.06575 English inches, literally the size of the king’s big toe. The perche de Paris was 19.1835 English feet or 5.847 meters.

The arpent was both a linear and area measurement. For distance, it was equal to about 192 English feet, or 58.47 meters. In measuring land, it was about 5/6 of an English acre.

The lieue marine, or nautical league (there are different types), was 3.45 English miles.

For a complete explanation of measurement terms, see

  • David Hackett Fischer’s Champlain’s Deam
  • Marcel Trudel’s Introduction to New France
  • Chénier, Rémi. Québec-A French Colonial Town in America, 1660-1690. (Ottawa: National Historic Sites Parks Service Environment Canada, 1991)
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Champlain’s Dream. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008)
  • Trudel, Marcel. Introduction to New France. (Toronto: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada, Limited, 1997)

Blogging Your Ancestor’s Story

Today’s guest, Lynne Levesque, has every intention of writing a book about her ancestor, Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier. But as an intermediary step, she has created a blog where she highlights portions of her ancestor’s life. According to her website, the blog was created:Lynne Levesque

  • to tell the story of this remarkable woman amidst the times and places of her life;
  • to record her history for my immediate family and for all the descendants of Jeanne and her second husband Robert Levesque;
  • to provide lessons for those interested in applying their creative talents in new fields, particularly history; and
  • to furnish hints for those embarking on genealogical voyages.

We cover each of these topics in the interview, as well as discussing the following:

Lynne’s decision to create a blog about Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier’s life was the result of a writing course she took in Boston about structuring a non-fiction book. The instructor’s suggestion was to “publish” as much as possible prior to writing the book, including a blog, to not only develop a writing discipline but also to get noticed in social media.

Lynne has discovered there are both advantages and disadvantages to writing a blog prior to writing the book itself.

  • Developing the discipline to write and to put the notes in a readable form
  • Getting noticed
  • Building credibility
  • Cousin bait; aids research
  • The tone and style in a blog is different from that in a book.
  • The blog doesn’t follow the same narrative arc as found in a book.
  • Fitting the writing to a blog distracts from the writing necessary for the book.
  • Blog posts are shorter; so much material is left out.

Lynne’s Research Challenges

  • A major challenge Lynne is facing is weaving Jeanne’s story in with the story of her own research and the historical context of Quebec and France.
  • Jeanne’s first and second marriage contracts give different residences for her parents: Dieppe and Coutances. There was no baptism record in Dieppe. It was eventually found in Coutances. Jeanne was a fille du roi, arriving in Quebec in 1671.
  • To offer your website in both English and French requires a WordPress plugin, and you need to translate the material yourself.

Lynne’s Research Tips

  • Writing an ancestor’s story is a great way to find the holes in your research.
  • Blogging is an excellent way to let the world know your book exists.

Researching in the US

Lynne joined the New England Historic Genealogical Society and used its many resources for French-Candian research.

She used resources at Harvard’s Widener Library. To use the library, your local librarian must write a letter saying that a particular book is not available anywhere else in the system through interlibrary loan. The Widener Library will then issue you a three-month pass. Stacks are closed. Use WorldCat to see if Harvard has anything useful to your research.

Researching in Québec Province

  • At the archives in Québec City and Montréal, it’s easy to find poeple who speak at least some English. At the outer archives, you need to be able to speak French, or bring someone along who does.
  • In Montreal, both McGill and the University of Montreal have a wonderful theses collection; however, they are mostly in French.
  • In Montreal, Lynne also visited the Maison Saint-Gabriel which housed the Filles du Roi and the museum at Chateau Ramezay.
  • In Quebec, besides the archives at Laval University, Lynne visited L’Ange Gardien, Chateau Richer, and Charlesbourg, and received a personal tour of Rivière Ouelle. A tour of l’Isle d’Orléans led to a visit to Maison de nos Aïeux and the actual plot of land owned by her ancestor.
  • Lynne highly recommends leaving yourself open to serendipitous ocurrences, as well as, if possible, visiting the land of your ancestors.

Researching in France

  • Ability to speak French is very important at the archives.
  • Don’t expect to find everything you hope to find in France because so much has been lost to time and wars.
  • Before your trip to France, write up your list of questions, in French, that you want answered. Do as much research online as you can before you go. Anne Morddel’s book French Genealogy from Afar is a terrific first step.
  • Bring your passport with you to any French archive because identification is needed.
  • Connect with people ahead of time.


  • People in France, in general, are not as interested in genealogy as people in America and Canada and are less knowledgable about the Filles du Roi.
  • Keep a record of everything, including a diary or journal of your research path.

Contact Lynne

The blog and a contact form for those who would like to email Lynne are on her website at Besides the blog, Lynne has included on her website reference material, definitions and a cast of characters, and soon plans to include a bibliography and timeline.

Last tip from Lynne: She encourages everyone to write more about their female ancestors.

Follow Up

Don’t forget to check out theses from the links mentioned above. Also check out McGill University’s Open Access Theses and Dissertations page where you can find theses from several universities, including many in English.

Sample theses

From Mills to Millennium: Documenting Social Change through Oral Histories among Three Generations of Franco-Americans in Manchester by Ronald Ernest Biron

Daughters of the King and Founders of a Nation: Les Filles du Roi in New France by Aimie Kathleen Runyan (mentioned in episode #7)

Answer to Reader’s Question

Margie wanted to know why one parish register from Marieville which she located on listed three different parish names: St. Nom de Marie, St. Nom de Jésus, and Ste. Marie de Monnoir. Bob Comeau wrote in with the following explanation:

Marieville as a town and now city is composed of two villages – Marieville and Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir. In the beginning of the history of the town of Marieville these two villages were part of the town. In 1855 Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir became a separate town so there was legally Marieville and Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir and not just two villages within Marieville. They were reunited in the year 2000. As villages and as towns, they each had their own parish. Marieville village has Saint-Nom-de-Marie Church. Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir village has Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir Church. Saint-Nom-de-Jesus is not a physical church but rather the name of the combined parishes.

Thanks, Bob!

DVD Giveaway

The winner of Réveil – Waking Up French was Cecile St. John from Illinois. Congratulations!

Cecile has already received the DVD and viewed it. She emailed me with the following comments:

I received the video Réveil on Monday and viewed it last night.

It was awesome. As one who grew up in a French parish of Massachusetts, descended from Canadian French ancestors on both my maternal and paternal lines, I could relate to much of the content. I and my children attended Catholic elementary schools where we were taught in French 1/2 of the day and in English for the other half. It was the compromise reached between the priests and the public school officials so we could get a French Catholic education.

Now, when I return to the city of my birth, I am saddened that all three French churches and schools no longer exist. One has been replaced with a smaller Spanish parish the other two are simply gone and parishioners have had to go to other parishes.

So far, no Réveil in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Survey #39

Merci to the 37 people who took the time to respond to the survey.

Question: How fluent are you in the French language?

Results:Survey results #39

  • I’m very fluent: 11%
  • I understand/read most of it: 11%
  • I understand/read a bit: 57%
  • I’m clueless: 22%
New Survey

Now it’s time for Survey 40. The question is: Have you discovered any Acadian ancestors?

(If you are reading this months down the road, you can still take the survey because I plan to do yearly updates.)

A Good Chuckle

I received an email from Bruce, another MSS listener. After swapping a couple of messages, his last email to me included the following: When I told friends that I am researching my French-Canadian ancestors and listening to your podcast, they remarked, “You mean that there is even a podcast for that?”

Thanks for the chuckle, Bruce!


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