MSS-053-Silent Presence: The French in New England-Pt 2

Episode 053-September 20, 2016

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Today we conclude our discussion of the silent presence of the French in New England with guest Jeanne Douillard. Jeanne shares with us her personal experiences that influenced the writing of her soon-to-be-published book, I Remember… Je Me Souviens…, which includes the story of the Silent Presence.

Silent Presence: The French in New England

Jeanne and I discussed the following:

  • Jeanne reviewed the similarities and differences between the settlements in Canada and Acadie.
  • After the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, some Acadians returned back to their homeland, but on poorer lands and in small family groups. They remained a subject population and oppressed.
  • The Canadians were under British rule also. They were still under the control of church and state, but the state had changed from French to British. The British government gave concessions to the French population in fear that they would turn on them.
  • By the late 18th century, the British government began to formally use the influence of the Roman Catholic Church to “keep those people down.”
  • Each time the habitants began to think in terms of taking charge of their own lives, something happened to put a stop to it.
  • The result was a collective feeling of low self-worth.
  • By the end of the 19th century, almost 1,000,000 French-Canadian people had immigrated to the US. Many chose New England because of the need for factory workers. They were ideal candidates for these jobs because they were hard-working yet not prone to question authority.
  • Today there are quite a few Acadian and French-Canadian descendants in New England, yet they remain virtually invisible.
  • Jeanne shared her personal experiences growing up in New England, with Franco-Americans being thought of as passive, weak, and stupid. She is afraid that these thoughts were internalized by many of the Franco and Acadian descendants.
  • Jeanne and I discussed the opposite experiences we had growing up even though we lived only thirty miles apart.
  • Jeanne quoted authors Annie Proulx in Bird Cloud and David Plante in American Ghosts.
  • Jeanne surmises that “underneath the pain, rage and grief lie dormant, suppressing the soul of a people…” and that, although not weak, the Canadians and Acadians “had developed a sense of powerlessness in the face of powerful outside forces, forces of both Church and State…”
  • She hopes that this discussion leads to healing.


This led us to a discussion of the word “Canuck,” a term I always thought was simply a synonym for French-Canadian. She grew up, as did many others in the Northeast, understanding it as a derogatory term. For Canadians, there seems to be no negative connotation at all associated with “Canuck.” How do mid-westerners see this word?

One of the reasons I wrote the blog post Is Canuck a Bad Word? is because, after my discussion with Jeanne, I realized how my casual use of the word may have offended some people, although that was not the intent. So if nothing else, perhaps people like me and Canadians now have a better understanding of who and how that word may offend; and perhaps those for whom the word is very emotional may understand that not all people are using the term in its most insulting context. As Jeanne hopes, perhaps discussion can lead to healing.

I Remember… Je Me Souviens…

Jeanne’s book, I Remember… Je Me Souviens…, will be published next month. It includes three stories: this one about the silent presence; the story of the Deerfield raid in 1704 from different points of view; and her experiences in France in 2014 and 2015 searching for her ancestral roots.

You can reach Jeanne at silentpresence1 [at] gmail [dot] com or through her blog at, where you can sign up for announcements and to be notified when her book is published. She is available for speaking engagements. Her next scheduled presentation is in Chicopee, Massachusetts, date to be announced.

Jeanne is also a contributing author of two other books. The first is Building a Better Life: the French Canadian Experience in Western Massachusetts. In the other, Heliotrope: French Heritage Women Create, Jeanne contributed a narrative poem about growing up in a petite Canada.


Annie Vallières of Trois-Rivières, Québec, has volunteered to help Maple Stars and Stripes listeners obtain records and translations and to offer tips for anyone looking for assistance. You can reach her at avallieres29 [at] gmail [dot] com, and I have added her contact information to the MSS Community Helpers page.

Blogger Elizabeth Banas used information from episodes 47 and 48 in her post A Rare Neurological Disorder: Is There A Canadian Connection? Be sure to read her moving story.


Episode #52 question: Do you currently have a HOME subscription to PRDH? (If you’re not familiar with the PRDH, see episode # 26, the PRDH.)

Results: 56% of those who answered had a home subscription to PRDH. 44% didn’t. Of that 44 %, exactly half didn’t plan to subscribe, and half planned to at some point.

Survey 52 graph

This episode’s new survey question is, “Do you have a HOME subscription to which includes the LaFrance database?” Choices are yes; no, and I don’t plan to; no, but I plan to in the future; or I’ve never heard of

Go to to participate.

French-Canadian News

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The American-French Genealogical Society

Saturday, October 1, 9 AM: Fran Tivey will present How to Use the Film Room Resources. Classes are held at the AFGS Library, 78 Earle Street, Woonsocket, RI, and begin at 9:00 AM (unless otherwise noted).

The Franco-American Centre

Thursday, September 22, 7 PM: Franco-American concert at the Alva de Mars Chapel Arts Center in Manchester, NH. This concert will include the world premiere of Acadian-inspired work for flute and piano by Adrienne Albert.

The French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

Saturday, October 1, beginning at noon: In celebration of French-Canadian heritage week, join the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan for a series of events. At noon, Diane Wolford Sheppard will present a talk on French Detroit’s History and Culture and their Impact on Detroit’s Founding Families; at 1 PM Karen Marrero, PH. D., will present Angelique’s World: Marriage, Family, and Regime Change in Old Detroit; at 2 PM, Jay Gitlin, Ph.D, will speak on The Last Time We Saw Paris: The Franco-American Bicentenary Committee of 1901, Cadillac’s Chair, and the Forgotten Past of Le Détroit; then at 3:00 p.m. you can enjoy Genot Picor and Trois Buffouns. These events will be held at the Detroit Historical Museum.

Saturday, October 8, 11 AM, at the Mount Clemens Public Library: annual French-Canadian pot luck. Celebrate with French-Canadian dishes, and bring copies of your favorite French-Canadian recipes.

The Quebec Family History Society

Saturday, September 24, 1 to 3 PM: How to Use the Quebec Family History Library. Classes are held at the QFHS Heritage Centre and Library in Pointe-Claire, Quebec.

The Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

  • September 24: Understanding & Using DNA Ethnicity Maps with Ed McGuire
  • October 1: Using Grand Army of the Republic Records for Genealogy: Union Veterans of the Civil War and Their Descendants with Liam McCone
  • October 8: Purple Hearts Reunited: How Military Medals Find a Home with Capt. Zachariah Fike, founder of Purple Hearts Reunited

Classes run from 10:30 AM until noon and are held at the Vermont Genealogy Library in Colchester, Vermont.

The American-Canadian Genealogical Society

September 24, Puritan Restaurant, Manchester, NH: Fall Conference and Annual Meeting. The three presentations are on New England and New York captives; French-Canadians in Lawrence, Massachusetts; and the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company of Manchester. Registration begins at 8 AM.

The French-Canadian Heritage Society of California

October 23, 10 AM to 4 PM, Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library in Burbank, CA: Fall Meeting. Check their website for details.

Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society

September 24: Fall Conference. Speaker Denyse Beaugrand-Champagne will give two talks: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, a Treasure Trove of Genealogical Resources and Coroners’ Files at Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

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