Census records help track Franco-Americans

Posted July 18, 2010, at 6:33 p.m.

Recently I’ve found myself looking at 1880 census records for towns such as Greenville and Dexter to locate Franco-American families.

In the Greenville census, I see people named Brochu and Fecto and Gerow, and Lackida and Merso, Parrent and Turcott and Billdean (Bilodeau). They worked in the woods and on the railroad, for example.

Even the 1860 census had Lacady, Forty and Ronco (Rancourt) families. Forty could have been Fortier or Fortin, but in the census it really does look like Forty.

In Dexter, where my English-born ancestor, Alfred Hart, worked in the textile mill, so did a sizable population of Franco-Americans, including laborers as young as 14 from more than a dozen families with the last name Clukey.

Just as Pelkey once was Pelletier, Clukey refers to Cloutier, the extensive family of descendants of Zacharie Cloutier and wife Xainte (Dupont). Those whose French-Canadian ancestry goes back to early Quebec often have Zacharie the carpenter among their forebears.

For history and genealogy on the Zacharie Cloutier family, see J-Roger Cloutier’s site, http://pages.infinit.net/cloutijr.

In Maine, it’s easy to remember towns with large numbers of Franco-Americans — Madawaska, Frenchville, Fort Kent, Van Buren, Old Town, Waterville, Augusta, Lewiston-Auburn, Saco-Biddeford, Brunswick, Sanford, Rumford. But the French are an important part of other communities, as well.

Those just beginning to look into their Franco-American history can learn a lot by perusing town census records to check for names that might be Franco-American. (Unfortunately for genealogists, those born in Quebec, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia are all listed with “Canada” as the birthplace. To make searching even more difficult, French names may seem to change spelling from one decade to the next.)

Were the children all born in Maine, or some of them or just the most recent child? By looking at places of birth for Clukey families, I found some in Dexter who had been in Maine for 18 years (1862), yet another family who had been here only about a year.

The growth of industry in Maine certainly brought many immigrants from Quebec.

The Greenville area now has an organization to promote the preservation of Franco heritage — FAMLI, Franco-American Moosehead Lake Identity. FAMLI is sponsored by the Franco-American Center at the University of Maine.

For more information on FAMLI, contact Betty Ryder at betty@rydersroost.net.

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The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention last week announced that the new law preventing “fraudulent use” of vital records went into effect on July 12.

I am waiting to find out more about obtaining the “researcher identification card” mentioned in a press release issued by the Maine CDC. I’ll share that information here as soon as I have it.

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The Penobscot County Genealogy Society will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 21, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Center at 639 Grandview Ave., on the corner of Grandview Avenue and Essex Street, Bangor.

Volunteers from the Family History Center will provide an in-depth tour of genealogy-related items available for researchers. These include family histories that have been donated, a comprehensive list of cemetery records in the state and a list of Maine books that include histories and vital records.

There will be a presentation on how Family Search works — the online database at www.familysearch.org — and how it links us to millions of records that can be ordered on microfilm and received in two to three weeks for use at the Family History Center.

The center also has access to other large genealogy sites.

Everyone interested in getting started or going deeper into family research is invited to attend.

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The Brooklin Keeping Society will present “The Village at Naskeag Point — Prehistoric Capital of Maine?” by Steven Cox, archaeologist, 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 29, at the Brooklin School, 41 School St.

Brooklin has at least 60 shell middens along its 13 miles of coastline. During several periods before the Europeans arrived, the area was a bustling hub of activity.

The “Norse coin” is the most famous artifact. The archaeological record also suggests that a large settlement at Naskeag Point was a major trading and fishing center. Studies near Naskeag Point have found materials from peoples who inhabited the Atlantic seaboard, the upper Midwest, the Maritimes and the Atlantic Provinces as far north as Labrador.

Cox led the major archaeological explorations in the area around Naskeag. He will pose some intriguing unanswered questions about Brooklin’s occupants before 1763.

The Brooklin Keeping Society was founded in 2000 for the purpose of collecting, keeping, preserving and exhibiting the history of Brooklin.

On Tuesday, July 27, I will give a program for the Abbot Historical Society on “Tracing Sarah Palin’s Ancestors, Abbot to Alaska,” at 6:30 p.m. at the town hall. More about that next week.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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