Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Genealogy researchers are familiar with digging through ancestral records stored in public places, where facts and vital statistics are often locked in metal file cabinets.
So, it’s worth the trip to Taconnett Falls Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society, in Winslow, set in a serene wooded location along the Sebasticook River, where the waters blend with the historic Kennebec.
It’s a perfect home for a genealogical society, where researchers are enveloped with artifacts of the past, while focused on their work.
Although the building needs some expensive repairs, the genealogical society created an inviting archival library, with a welcoming mantled fireplace, in the Maine Room.
Thousands of books, files, charts and photographs are clearly labeled and displayed on the former public library’s shelves. Computers, printers and microfilm viewer and printers are also available.
"It's a beautiful building," said Bob Chenard, 74, a Franco-American native of Waterville. Chenard is vice president of the society, which has 75 members.
Chenard is a former Army officer who’s retired from the Federal service, where he specialized in defense training. He began working on Franco-American genealogies in 1989, following his retirement.
He writes and publishes Franco-American genealogy articles and books, including regular submissions for the University of Maine’s newsletter “Franco FORUM.” He’s a director of the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society of Auburn.
In 2008, Chenard received the Maine Genealogy Society's Award of Excellence in Genealogical Service.
Chenard led a tour of the Taconnett Falls Genealogical Society during the annual meeting in June. Taconnett Falls has over 438 linear feet of books and records, plus 44 file drawers containing thousands of organized materials.
Franco-American society members are invited to access Chenard’s extensive data collection, located in the library’s Canada Room.
Although membership isn’t required to access the Franco-American records, its encouraged. Dues are $10 a year. A list of Franco-American data resources available are at the website http://home.gwi.net/~frenchgen/taconnett.htm
As a guest speaker at the society’s annual meeting, Chenard graciously took time to also help me locate my husband’s ancestral records.
He knew exactly where to access the recorded marriage of Rose Anna Morin and William J. L’Heureux, who were wed on May 12, 1925, at St. Andre’s Roman Catholic Church in Biddeford.
This information quickly led to tracing the L’Heureux family’s paternal history back 11 generations. Simon L’Heureux was the first Quebec ancestor, born in 1626, in France. He was among the colonial-era wave of French settlers to New France, arriving in the first part of the 17th century.
Chenard also found family information we didn’t know about.
He located names for three of my husband’s grandfather’s brothers, previously unknown to family members. My husband’s grandfather, Narcisse L’Heureux (1857-1933), died in Sanford. His personal family history is somewhat vague. We know Narcisse married Lumina Savoie in St. Norbert, in Arthabaska County, Quebec, on July 8, 1884. Otherwise, our family knows little about the Canadian family of Narcisse.
Still, there’s an amazing amount of data available for the family’s maternal genealogies of both grandmothers named Emma Martin and Lumina Savoie.
Although genealogy is Chenard’s specialty, his dedication extends to leading financial efforts to help keep the TFC operations solvent for future generations to enjoy. Fund raising efforts are ongoing to help heat and maintain the TFC building as well as to upgrade the collection.