I am fortunate that my children’s ancestral background is relatively varied; whenever I get tired or frustrated with one ethnic group, I can move to another. This week, we’ll take a look at how I am going to get started on my wife’s French-Canadian ancestors, a group I have not really worked on in any depth. While the details of this search will necessarily be in upstate New York and the province of Quebec, the methodology behind the apparent madness will be applicable to virtually any crossing of an international or ethnic border. Much of this methodology has served me well when attempting to cross the pond on lines from Europe as well.
Complete My Research in the United States
I Have My Work Cut out for Me
Based upon my preliminary research, it appears that Marie’s family had lived in Clinton County, New York, since at least the late 1840s and early 1850s, starting in most cases with her great-grandparents. It is imperative that I work on documenting as much of this lineage with census and local records as possible before searching records in Quebec. Currently the names of Marie’s four grandparents and four of her great-grandparents are known. Some of these lineages have already been traced into Quebec and are fairly well documentedand then there are some loopholes.
A Couple of Warnings Are Necessary
Two (most important). I must use these online sources as clues (clues, clues, clues) to further research not as facts to put in my files. In the course of my surfing for this article, I found one message board posting that incorrectly speculated on a parentage of one of the ancestors of Marie a parentage that is already well documented. There were at least two responses of “thanks, I’ll add that parentage to my database.” These GEDCOM files and message board postings are an excellent way for me to get clues, but they provide me with clues, not facts. The quality of the postings can vary greatly. And in one case, they would have led me down the wrong path, had I assumed the posting was correct.
So far, I’ve used federal and state census, church, and some local records to create a working family tree of Marie’s family in upstate New York State. I have some clues based upon Internet sites and postings. Based upon a fairly comprehensive family genealogy published recently, one great-grandparent of Marie has already been traced to some of the earliest settlers of French Canada. The book appears well documented. Consequently for now, I have decided to focus my work on the other branches of Marie’s family.
I will then learn about French-Canadian research in general, paying particular attention to the sources that are unique to this area and to any specialized finding aides. It is imperative that I do this before I just start ordering records and making conclusions.
Where to Learn?
The book I’m using to help me get started with my French-Canadian work is Ancestry’s French-Canadian Sources. This book contains information on a wide variety of French-Canadian sources, discussing both primary and secondary materials. With chapters authored by eight genealogists, the book was compiled by members of the French Canadian/Acadian Genealogists of Wisconsin.
While I’ve spent some time working on these families in New York, I have not yet started working with any records from Quebec. Now I think I’m ready to begin that work. I read French-Canadian Sources from front to back and now have a much better idea of what research strategies I should use. I certainly do not remember everything in the book nor am I an expert. However, I am extremely glad that I read the book before I began working on these families in Quebec. And of course, I will pick one family on which to start and not research them all simultaneously. I will not order two hundred rolls of microfilm from my local branch of the Family History Library the next time I visit.
Getting started in a new area usually means wrapping up our research in the “old” first. Next week, we’ll look at some of Marie’s families and what my next research step will be based upon what I’ve learned about French-Canadian records. I have families where I know the place of birth in Quebec, and some for whom I do not. There are families where I have approximate dates of marriage in Quebec and the maiden name of the wife, but no idea where in Quebec the marriage took place. Next time, we’ll see what options I have.French-Canadian Sources--the book from Ancestry.com
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com. Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.