MSS-054-The French Institute at Assumption College

Episode 054-October 11, 2016


Today we visit a repository with several one-of-a-kind manuscript collections. Perhaps something hidden away in the French Institute archives, located at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, might provide just the clue you need to extend or enhance your family lines.

The French Institute at Assumption College

According to the website of the French Institute at Assumption College (Worcester, Massachusetts), its purpose is “to foster the study of the French in North America, from the 16th century to today, with particular emphasis on New England.” It “collects, arranges, preserves, and makes accessible books, documents, and artifacts pertinent to its primary focus.”

One of the stewards of this collection is Leslie Choquette, director of the French Institute and professor of history. In our discussion, we covered the following:

Assumption College

  • Founded in 1904 by a French religious order, the Augustinians of the Assumption.
  • Originally a petit séminaire, Assumption trained Franco-American boys for the priesthood. They then established a collège classique, providing a pre-university classical liberal arts education. After receiving a university charter from Massachusetts, they also provided a bi-lingual college education.
  • After WWII, they made a transition to English. By that time, there were not enough students of that generation who knew French. The last class taught in French was in 1960.
  • The French Institute was founded in 1979. It memorialized the French beginnings of the college.
  • The campus moved from the Greendale section of Worcester to Salisberry St. after the tornado of 1953 in which a priest and nun were killed. The new site allowed for future expansion.

Assumption College after the tornado of 1953

French Institute

The institute is “a research center for those with an interest in the history and culture of French speakers in North America and particularly [in] New England.”


The focus of the French Institute collections was to not duplicate materials found at nearby French-Canadian genealogy libraries, but rather to focus on the historical and cultural context surrounding our families.


  • Books donated by Claire Quintal (co-founder and former director of the French Institute) as well as the libraries of several other professors
  • Library of the Dominican Fathers of Fall River
  • Approximately half of the books are in English. A donation from UMass Dartmouth included a large collection of French-Canadian literature in translation.

Archival materials

  • Association Canado-Américaine is “a fraternal benefit society through which French Canadian immigrants could help one another economically and socially.” The ACA based in Manchester, New Hampshire, donated its duplicates to the Institute.
  • The Union Saint-Jean-Baptiste is based in Woonsocket. They are a similar aid society to the ACA. They donated their materials as well.
  • Historical archives of the American Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary: These were the educators of Franco-American families; includes school yearbooks, administrative reports and letters.
  • Letters from the Jobin family: 100 years’ worth of letters (both sides of the conversation) between family in Québec and New England. Surnames include Jobin, Lapointe, Davies, Larocque/Guillet, Gravel, Thibodeau, Handy, Pelletier, and Paradis.
  • Letters of the Arpin/Sansoucy family: This family came from St. Ours to Southbridge, Massachusetts, to work at the American Optical Company; letters range from 1909-1930s. These letters have been transcribed and translated.
  • Paul-P. Chassé Papers: Includes papers on Franco-American history, literature, and culture; bound correspondence; diary
  • Félix Gatineau collection: from Southbridge, Massachusetts; not yet processed
  • Alliance Française of Worcester [Massachusetts]
  • Cercle Jeanne Mance
  • Fédération Féminine Franco-Americaine
  • Parish histories and ephemera


Online resources

  • Under Digitized Materials, you will find links to online resources, including Claire Quintal’s Steeples and Smokestacks. This book is a collection of essays on the topics of Emigration; Franco-American Communities; Religion; Education; Literature, Journalism, and Folklore; the Franco-American Woman; Franco-Americans Today; and the View from Within. You can view the book online, download a page, or download the entire book as a PDF. You can also download three other books by Claire written in French.
  • Native American (western) materials from the Mallet Collection are currently being digitized.

Published Materials

  • Newsletters
  • Mallet Collection: ephemera (scrapbooks with newspaper clippings of Franco-Americans)
  • Microfilmed Franco-American newspapers


Visiting the Library

  • Location: The French Institute is located on the third floor of the d’Alzon Library
  • It is recommended that you email librarian Libby Lipin (em [dot] lipin [at] assumption [dot] edu) or call (508-767-7495) first.
  • The library is open year-round, Monday through Thursday, 8:00-5:30.
  • Assumption College Library Catalog

Leslie Choquette

You can reach her by phone (508-767-7415) or by email at lchoquet [at] assumption [dot] edu.

Leslie’s Upcoming Talks



Annie Vallière, who volunteered last month to locate and translate Quebec records, needs help to locate branches of her family who lived in America. She is searching for information on Charles Teasdale Nuhalt and his parents, Henry Nuhalt and Mary Teasdale. Henry was killed during a French attack on New England, and Charles and Mary were captives taken to Québec. The name in French became Tisdale dit Noël. You can reach her at avallieres29 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Another listener has volunteered to translate French for anyone needing assistance. Ken Proulx of New Hampshire is a retired French teacher. His contact information is now available on the MSS Community Helpers page.


Survey 53

Last episode’s question: Do you have a HOME subscription to which includes the LaFrance database? Choices were yes; no, and I don’t plan to; no, but I plan to; or I’ve never heard of

Results: Only 4% had no plans of subscribing. There was a tie at 28% for people who had a subscription and those who planned to subscribe at some point. A whopping 40% have never heard of

Survey 53

Survey 54

Question: Which genealogy podcasts, other than Maple Stars and Stripes, do you listen to? I’ve included only those that are currently up-to-date. Choices in alphabetical order are: Ancestral Findings, Extreme Genes, the Family Tree Magazine podcast, the Forget-Me-Not Hour, Genealogy Connection, Genealogy Gems, the Genealogy Professional, the Genealogy Guys, Geneatopia, and Research at the National Archives and Beyond!

So head on over to Survey 54 and tell us your favorites.

French-Canadian News

What's Happening HeaderThe Franco-American Centre

Monday, October 17, from 7:30-9:00 PM at the Dana Center Lecture Room, St. Anselm’s College in Manchester, Laurence Armand French, the author of Frog Town: Portrait of a French Canadian Parish in New England, will present Crime & Justice for French-Canadians/Franco-Americans: Major Cases Illustrated. From their website: With the current national and international focus on “equal justice” in the United States, especially when looking at race and ethnic populations, we look at how those of French-Canadian heritage fared in both Canada and the United States focusing on both historical cases and contemporary adjudications.

Then, if you’d like to kick up your heels a bit, you can enjoy some Quebecois soul and New Orleans R&B with Le Vent du Nord. This will take place on Friday, October 28, from 7:30-10:00 PM, again at the Dana Center at St. Anselm’s College.

The Quebec Family History Society

This Saturday, October 15 at 10:30 AM, the Quebec Family History Society will present Keeping the Past for the Present and Future: Preservation Techniques for the Home Archivist with Kyla Ubbink.

Then, if you have Irish lines that married into your French-Canadian lines, you might be interested in How Do I Find My Ancestors in Ireland with Gary Schroder and others on Saturday, October 29, from 1-4 PM. The first class will be held at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church Hall in Beaconsfield; and the second talk will be held at the QFHS Heritage Centre and Library in Pointe-Claire, Quebec. Check the website for cost and details.

The French-Canadian Genealogical Society of Connecticut

The FCGSC will celebrate their 35th birthday with a gala 35th anniversary dinner on Friday, November 11, at Maneeley’s in South Windsor, CT.

The Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

On October 15, Ed McGuire will introduce Organizing Your Research Using Evernote. Then, on October 29, Joanne Polanshek will present Using Timelines to Find Holes in Research. All classes run from 10:30 AM to noon and are held at the Vermont Genealogy Library in Colchester, Vermont.

The French-Canadian Heritage Society of California

The French-Canadian Heritage Society of California will hold its Fall Meeting on October 23 from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Southern California Genealogical Society and Family Research Library in Burbank, CA. Check their website for details.

Get Maple Stars and Stripes

How to Contact Maple Stars and Stripes






NHIFAS Lecture: Crime and Justice for French-Canadians / Franco-Americans

One comment on “MSS-054-The French Institute at Assumption College

  1. pat McGrath

    All these treasures in my backyard! Thanks for sharing.

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