March 21, 2011

Juliana L'Heureux: New home needed for Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society

Juliana L'Heureux

AUBURN — The Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society is looking for a new home.

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Normand Angers is president of the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society in Auburn. Angers needs to find a new home for the society's collections before June 1.

The Society's comprehensive library, packed with thousands of records about family histories, is currently housed in Auburn's Great Falls School. But a recent decision by the City Council to demolish that part of the school is forcing the Society (MFGS) to find a new home, hopefully in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

Moving the Genealogical Society is a big responsibility, says Normand Angers, 79, a Lewiston native and lifelong genealogy researcher who is president of the Society. He is also a volunteer at the library. All of Angers' ancestors and those of his late wife Monette Richard of Brunswick share French-Canadian ancestry.

For the past 10 years the nonprofit Genealogical Society has been located in a large room in Auburn's Great Falls School, the former Edward Little High School, on High Street. Angers said they've been told the demolition will take place on June 1.

Although some people are offering ideas for a new location, it will be a challenge to find a suitable location before the demolition deadline, he said. One requirement, made in the bequest of Father Leo E. Begin (1902-1980), a Dominican priest, is that the library he donated to the Society remain in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

"We hope the community will support our future work for Maine's French society and culture," Angers said. "Our members take pride in guarding and protecting our genealogical treasures."

Financial support for the genealogical operations and the collections comes primarily from the modest $20 a year annual subscription fee paid by 165 Society members scattered all over the United States and Canada.

The Society has the largest French-Canadian and Franco-American Genealogical Library in Maine, Angers said. The society sells CDs of data online at the Society's website, at www.ancestors-genealogy.com. Among the records are thousands of organized entries about marriages, citizen naturalizations and cemetery records.

For example, one CD can be purchased for $24.95 containing 12,699 marriages recorded between 1869-1970, at Lewiston's St. Peter and Paul Church (now a Basilica). The Society is presently helping genealogy researcher Jane Fogg, of Rochester, N.H., to write a book about Maine's American Civil War veterans because some came from Quebec and New Brunswick, Angers said.

Angers is an expert at helping families trace their ancestral histories. It's common for Franco-American families to trace their roots back as many as 10 to 12 generations by quickly referencing the thousands of records archived in the Society's bookshelves and on computer. Within minutes of my interview with Angers, he was quickly able to locate data about my mother-in-law Rose Ann Morin, born in 1895 in a small Quebec town named Roxton Falls. He located her baptismal record and the names of her parents.

In addition to preserving the Society's collections, Angers records the data he obtains at the Saints Peter and Paul Basilica in Lewiston about new baptisms and other vital statistics conducted in the parish.

Angers was born in Lewiston and attended St. Peter's School and St. Dominic High School. He is a retired chief electrician who worked at Lewiston's Pepperell Mill and at St. Mary's Hospital.

His grandfather Joseph Sirois introduced him to genealogy in 1947, when they were interviewed by Gabriel Drouin of the genealogical Drouin Institute from Montreal about their family's ancestry.

"I've been interested in genealogy ever since," he said.

Information about the MFGS and ideas about relocation can be sent via e-mail to nlangers@aol.com


 

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