Friday December 20, 2013 | 09:18 AM

         One of the largest genealogy searches Raymond Gaudette of Biddeford was asked to help with, was researching the names in the Chasse family. A group from Canada asked for this help. They were seeking to reconnect with their relatives who remained in Biddeford, after other members of the family decided to return to their Quebec origins. Several hundred names were located in this large Chasse family search, says Gaudette. 

          Franco-American genealogy is the specialty of experienced researchers at the Franco-American Genealogical Society, in Biddeford. A group of volunteers dedicate their knowledge to helping others to find their relatives and colonial era ancestors.

They specialize in French ancestry beginning in France and continuing through Canadian migrations to Acadia and throughout New England.Raymond Gaudette Franco American Genealogical Society

Raymond Gaudette of Biddeford, is a genealogy researcherwho assists with the data

Raoul Goulet, president, and Gaudette, Vice President, joined the Franco-American Genealogical Society in Biddeford over 20 years ago. They help researchers to get started on tracing their family trees. Meanwhile, they’re busy archiving the Society’s vast collection of data on computer discs. They’re preserving their work for future generations to access the information accumulated by the Society, since 1982, when the organization was founded in Biddeford. The Society’s collection includes over 3,000 books, organized in a private section of rooms, located at the back of the McArthur Public Library, on Main Street in Biddeford. This location is convenient, especially because members can also access the microfiche data stored on film in the McArthur Library’s archives, when additional genealogy information is needed, especially to locate newspaper obituaries. 

Members pay a modest $15 per year or $20 per family. Dues members sign in to access the genealogy room for their research during the library’s operating hours. A one time free access is offered to guests when they’re accompanied by a member.

“We want to get the word out about our genealogy collections,” Gaudette says.

Raoul Goulet and Raymond Gaudette

Raoul Goulet, (right) is president and Raymond Gaudette, is Vice President of the Society

Gaudette, 77, is a French speaking Franco-American who grew up in Biddeford.  He’s retired after working 43 years at Biddeford’s Pepperell Mills. He volunteers at the Genealogical Society with his wife, Yvette Danis Gaudette. They researched the family names for each of their parents. Gaudette traced his family’s Acadian roots to 1692, when his first ancestor arrived in Nova Scotia (then named French Acadia).  “Gaudette names are related to ten percent of all Acadian families. We’re closely related to the names Hebert and LeBlanc,” he says. He researched his mother’s name, Lemieux, dating to 1632, and his wife’s mother’s name, Letourneau, dating to the 1650s.

            Local church marriage records are typically available at the Society for the St. Joseph’s Parish in Biddeford, beginning in about 1883. Some marriage records are available from earlier years, when the sanctuary was located in the basement, before the church was built. Similarly, marriage records are available for weddings performed at St. Andre’s Church and St. Mary’s Church (from about the 1850s), both in Biddeford. Local obituaries beginning in 1902, and following years are generally available and the published notices are accessed in the microfiche newspaper files.

            “We continue to purchase genealogy data,” say Gaudette. Currently, the Society owns many volumes of Canadian and American marriages. Also owned are the Loiselle Files, containing about 500,000 marriages in Quebec and the Moncton files of marriages.  Forty-nine volumes of the Drouin Genealogical books are owned, indexed by male surnames, and a separate set of files, stored on microfiche, indexed by female surnames, provides data on marriages in the Province of Quebec from 1700 to the 1930s.  Annual reports containing historical stories with genealogy information are available at the Society.

Franco-American Genealogical Society Annual Reports

Annual Reports contain interesting historical genealogy stories

            For information about the Franco-American Genealogical Society, email Gaudette at  gaudette123@maine.rr.com or check the website http://www.mcarthur.lib.me.us/franco-american_genealogical_society.htm

About this Blog

Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.

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