Eleanor Dunnell, 87, of Buxton has a good idea about how families can give one another thoughtful holiday gifts by researching genealogies for future generations.

She’s spent many years researching her family’s multiple genealogies, gathering information for her children, nephews and nieces. “I don’t think enough young people know about their heritages, but they should,” she says. “It helps build pride in their heritages, especially for people with French ancestry when their ancestors may have been looked down on.”

Dunnell was raised in Millinocket, in Penobscot County, in the shadow of Maine’s Mt. Katahdin, when the busy paper mills were like magnets for job seeking immigrants. Employment opportunities attracted French Canadians, Italians and Swedish residents to the area.

“I sadly noticed how the French Canadians were put down more so than the other people from Italy or the Swedes,” she observes. Of course, the entire Millinocket area was economically devastated as a result of the mills downsizing. She observes how Mt. Katahdin is attracting tourists to help revive the economy.

“Millinocket once had a large amount of French speaking people working in the area. For some reason, they were the minority people who were looked down on. Thankfully, I believe it’s not as bad now. I’ve noticed when I go back, the French are taking pride in their heritage,” she says. “I will start encouraging the French side of my family to be proud of their heritage.”

She’s particularly focused on interesting genealogy she’s delving into about the Gascoyne name, on her grandfather’s the side of the family. She finds the name Gascoyne first recorded in 1635 in Accomac, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They came to Virginia as colonial settlers. Later, the family moved to New Brunswick, Canada, where her grandfather was one of five children born in Island Falls.

Dunnell is researching documents to determine the reason her grandfather’s parents left Virginia. She suspects they moved to Canada to avoid the stigma of having an ancestry connected to the prejudice of being descended from a free slave.

As a result of her genealogical instincts about the racial prejudice reason for Gascoyne’s migration, Donnell is tracking all the information she can find about the name. She wants her family to be proud of their past, especially if they’re related to a free slave. She’s accumulated a considerable amount of information from learning to use a computer with the help of her son.

Data to affirm her hunch includes information about 100 acres of property ownership in New Brunswick, connected to the Gascoyne name.

Dunnell helped her nephew to learn about the thousands of genealogies traced to Les Filles du Roi (daughters of the king).

These were hardy groups of colonial era French demoiselles (Mademoiselles) in good standing, who were legally adopted by the King of France. In the adoption agreement, the French ladies volunteered to undertake an arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean for the purpose of marrying French soldiers in Quebec.

These women arrived with social status and a dowry as a result of their adoptions.

They played a major role in the population growth of the colonial settlements of New France.

Thousands of stories are written about these ladies. They’re interesting because of the careful way they were selected to be adopted by the King and how they chose husbands from among the soldiers who were introduced to them.

Between 1663-1673., the Quebec records document 852 Filles du Roi arrived in New France. At the time of their arrival, it’s estimated their numbers comprised about 17 percent of the total New France population, estimated to be less than 5,000 people.

In fact, Dunnell is helping her nephew to find how his family may be connected to one of these ladies.

Click here for more information about Les Filles du Roi.