#genchat Treasures: French-Canadian Resources

This past Friday, I got to play host for #genchat, and the topic was French-Canadians. Normally during #genchat there is a lot of give and take and sharing of information. This time, there were a LOT of resources shared, so I thought I’d share them here.

Carver, Jonathan, and Robert Sayer And John Bennett. A new map of the Province of Quebec, according to the Royal Proclamation, of the 7th of October 1763. London, Printed for Robt. Sayer and John Bennett, 1776. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/74694799/. (Accessed October 15, 2017.)

Special thanks for those who contributed information: Jan Murphy, Diane Tourville and especially Rob Gumlaw.

French-Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists – https://books.google.com/books/about/French_Canadian_Sources.html?id=svJKKvIWfUcC
French-Canadian Genealogy, by Rhonda R. McClure – https://www.americanancestors.org/education/learning-resources/read/french-canadian-guide

NH: https://acgs.org
RI: http://afgs.org/site
CT: https://www.fcgsc.org
CA: http://www.fchsc.org
IL: http://www.hvgs.org
MI: habitantheritage.org/home
NY: http://www.nnyacgs.com

French Heritage: https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/frenchheritage/about
mtdna: https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/quebecmtdna/about
mothers of Acadia: https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/mothersofacadia/about/background

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center: http://www.genealogycenter.org/pathfinders/guides/frenchcanadian.aspx

US & Canada Research (10/16 – 10/20): https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_and_Canada_Research_Seminar


Drouin collection on Ancestry, 1621-1968: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1091
Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979 (FamilySearch): https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1321742?collectionNameFilter=false
Bibiloteque et Archives Nationales due Quebec: http://www.banq.qc.ca/accueil/
French Genealogical Word List – FamilySearch Wiki: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/French_Genealogical_Word_List
Quebec Archives: http://pistard.banq.qc.ca/unite_chercheurs/recherche_simple
Maple Stars and Stripes – dissecting records: http://maplestarsandstripes.com/shownotes/mss-013-dissecting-a-french-canadian-baptism-record/
Notarial Records in New Orleans: http://www.legalgenealogist.com/2016/07/27/notarial-records-online/
Dit names: https://genspotters.com/dit-names-and-what-if-your-surname-was-not-the-original-one/
Tackling the Quebec Drouin Collection for English Speakers – http://reachingtheheartwood.blogspot.com/2013/04/tackling-quebec-drouin-collection-for.html
Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) Рhttps://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/home
Parish locator tool: https://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/carte
Quebec Notarial Records, 1637-1935 (Ancestry): http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61062
Library & Archives Canada: https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/Pages/introduction.aspx

National Archives: https://www.loc.gov/search/?in=&q=french+canadian&new=true&st=
Medical issues: http://habitantheritage.org/french-canadian_resources/medical_issues_dna

If you have any other French-Canadian resources, please feel free to share them in the comments!


Ancestor Road Trip: Holyoke, MA

As I blogged about my Markoskis, I began to explore Holyoke, MA’s online resources to give me a greater context for their lives. It became apparent to me that it would be a good idea to visit the Holyoke Library’s History Room and Wistariahurst Museum’s Research Room to see if I could uncover some off-line resources. After all, Holyoke is only a two hour drive away. A day trip would be very fruitful if I did some careful planning, just like I’ve read about on other genealogy blogs.


The first thing I needed to do was decide what day of the week to go. Wistariahurst’s Research Room had open hours on Monday and Thursday, and Holyoke Library’s History Room was open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So Thursday it would be! Wistariahurst’s website said it was open until 1pm, and the Library until 4pm, so I would hit the museum first, then the library. That would give me some time to squeeze lunch in between.

Both websites had finding aids for their collections. Awesome! This helped me see what was in their collections, what might apply to the Markoskis, and how to easily locate the items for a pull request if needed (at the museum, it is always needed). It also helped me prioritize what I wanted pulled.

Another thing I wanted to do if I had the time was visit the “old neighborhood” (what used to be Fountain Street), which has long since been razed and redeveloped, and Mater Dolorosa Cemetery, which was just over the Connecticut River in South Hadley. I’d already been comparing pre-redevelopment maps with Google Maps, so I knew where Fountain Street was; I just had to plot out the most efficient route to drive, as well as determine where to park.

Research Stops and Their Bonuses

First stop: the Research Room at Wistariahurst Museum, which was in its Carriage House. The first thing I learned was that the posted closing hours was at noon, not 1pm (and I arrived at 11:30)! (Lesson: always, always call ahead.) Going in, I was a little apologetic (“I know research hours are almost over, but can I still take a look?”). The small staff was very helpful and accommodating, especially when I provided them my list of things I wanted to look at (that made it so much easier for them and faster for me). I didn’t find anything mind-blowing, except for a few photographs of the area, including an area shot of the Lyman Mills tenements, which they kindly allowed me to photograph.

Lyman Mills housing. Holyoke History Collection, MS 201, Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke MA.

Bonus: the museum was only a block away from an apartment building my grandparents lived in during the late 1970s, so I was able to take a quick walk to take a picture.

Beech Street apartment building. Author’s collection.

After lunch at a friendly McDonald’s (seriously!), it was off to the library, whose ample parking was just across a non-busy street. A funny side note about both the McDonald’s and the library: the public bathrooms are locked; you have to ask for a key. Judging by the surroundings being somewhat run-down, perhaps this was to keep undesirables out.

It turned out that most of what I needed at the library was available on the shelves. My favorite collection was the Holyoke High School yearbooks, going back to 1915. Neither my grandfather nor his siblings seemed to have graduated from HHS (and older yearbooks didn’t have underclassmen pictures like they do now), so I only found my mom’s generation, which included her cousins who lived in Holyoke as well. In my search, it was neat to see the photos from the 1910s and 1920s and all the hairstyles of the day! I also did a little newspaper microfilm searching, since I had just a few events with definite dates to search under. It was nice to know that I remembered how to use the machine!

As I was getting ready to leave, one of the workers asked if I found everything I was looking for. I said, “Well, your finding aid didn’t list anything for the Kosciuszko Club, so I doubt you’d have anything on that.” “Let’s check!” said the gentleman, and he did in fact have one small folder with two newspaper articles about the club, which he copied for me. Moral of the story: even if you don’t think a repository has something, ask about it anyway; you never know! And even if they don’t, they may know where you can get more information. In this case, the worker suggested the Polish Center of Discovery & Learning in Chicopee (which will be my next road trip for this area).

Memory Lane

I had plenty of time to make my more sentimental side-trips. The first stop was the old Fountain Street area, which modern maps basically show as St. Kolbe Drive. Again, parking was no problem, as the lot for the now-closed Mater Dolorosa Church was open. It was sad to see the church that my great-grandparents attended and that hosted my grandparents’ funerals; it was all fenced off due to being closed and on-going issues with the diocese.

Mater Dolrosa Church. Author’s collection.

The one building in the old neighborhood that I remember from my early childhood was the Mater Dolorosa School, which was built in 1959. My grandparents’ rental house was right next to it and my grandmother had worked in its cafeteria for a time. Today, Pulaski Park stretches behind the school and along the Connecticut River. Back in my great-grandparents’ time, it was known as Prospect Park and was named after General Count Casmir Pulaski in 1939. Today, it is very hard to envision the old buildings and tenement housing that stood where some of the park currently extends to. I tried to picture just where my grandparents’ house was, knowing that there was an old tree in their yard. But today there are quite a few trees that have grown large since the mid-1970s.

Could this area be where my grandparents lived? Author’s collection.

From Pulaski Park, you can see the mouth of the canal that fed the mills, and you can see the mill buildings down-river. Despite being a couple blocks from the former industrial are, the old “neighborhood” looks pretty suburban now.

Pulaski Park, Holyoke. Author’s collection.

Finally I had time to run over to Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley. I had not been there since my grandmother’s burial in 2000, and the cemetery is rather large, with its sections unmarked. This is how I found my grandparents’ grave: at my grandfather’s 1992 burial, my uncle took a picture of all of us at the site, showing the surrounding headstones and houses in the background. The houses told me that the grave was not far from the street. I went to Google Maps Street View and saw what the houses looked like today, and the approximate position along the street that the grave would be near. Then I looked at the unique-looking stones and the nearby names. It took a little while, but there it was! My eyes filled with tears as I made my way to the heart-inscribed stone.

My grandparents’ grave. Author’s collection.

After a little visit with my grandparents, I wondered if I could possibly find my great-grandparents in this vast cemetery. Pulling up Find-A-Grave, I looked at the photo taken by Vicha and noted the sloping shape of the stone, as well as the fact that it was in front of pavement — it had to be along a driveway! Since the cemetery is loosely organized chronologically, I thought maybe they might be buried near the next “block”. Looking that way, I saw some sloping headstones along the driveway. “I bet that’s them!” I said, as I walked there.

Well, not only did I find Stanislaw and Joanna Markoski, but right next to them was oldest son Max and his wife, Catherine! (Special bonus photos for my second cousin, who was not able to make the trip.)

Max and Catherine Markoski’s grave. Author’s collection.

Stanislaw and Johanna Markoski’s grave. Author’s collection.

After a good-bye to my ancestors, I stopped for supper at the Friendly’s that was around the corner from my grandparents’ last apartment, which we would go to together when visiting my grandparents. (No locks on the bathroom there!) And on the way out, I had to drive by the house that held that apartment. I was so glad to have plenty of time to spend on the sentimental portion of my journey, thanks to good planning on the research side of it!

U-Turn: Frank Valek’s Whereabouts

When writing about my great-grandparents Adam and Elisabeth Valek, I listed their children and what became of each. The youngest, Frank, seems to have disappeared around 1919.

I think I may have found what became of him; the fly in the ointment is that there seems to be other Frank Valeks in New York State. What I really need to do is sort them all out, which is hard to do with the lack of New York records!

What I found was a 1918 World War I Draft Registration with a Frank Valek listed, who has the same age and also born in New York. Frank was working as a bus boy and living in New York City with a wife, Lizzie. I also see subsequent indexes for National Guard service. Then I see Frank Valek (obviously the same one as on the Draft Card, having the same birthday) on the Social Security Death Index, dying in February 1972 in Albany, Albany County, NY.

I really want to believe that these records are for my Frank. But I know my research has to be more thorough to ascertain this!

U-Turn: Great-Grandmother Bertha Colomy

So long ago, I touched on Bertha Colomy’s June 27, 1900 marriage to Frederick Morton French. At the time, all I knew was that they divorced by 1910. Thanks to online city directories, now I know a little more! (Thank you, HeritageQuest!)

In the 1903 Lynn, MA Directory, I found that Bertha French was living at 63 Autumn Street (where her mother Jennie and stepfather James Starbard lived). It looks like Bertha lived with her mother until about 1905, then in other locations in Lynn.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn. Author’s collection.

So Bertha was at least separated from Frederick after about three years of marriage. Although I still don’t know when the divorce took place, this clue narrows down the timeframe a bit.

U-Turn: Markoskis

I’ve discovered a few things about the Markoskis during the 1930s since I last wrote about them.

One is about great-uncle Stephen Markoski. I wrote that he moved to Springfield, MA in 1931; at least, that is what the 1931 Holyoke Directory said. I don’t actually show him living in Springfield until 1933. My mom, in talking about my grandfather’s Brooklyn years, maintained that the family moved to Brooklyn to be with Stephen. So perhaps he was the one who led the family out of South Hadley.

The second item is about Doris. I found out when she married John Mieczianka: November 26, 1933 in Suffolk County, NY (which is where Riverhead is). So it is likely through Doris’s marriage that the Markoskis made their connections in Riverhead.

This map of Long Island shows Brooklyn in the west and Riverhead in the east. Beers, Comstock & Cline. Map of Long Island. [New York: Beers, Comstock & Cline, 1873] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2005625368/. (Accessed August 28, 2017.)

DNA: The Results Are In!

This past Thursday I got the email from MyHeritage, saying that my DNA testing results were available. Excited, I logged in, clicked on “View Results” and waited for that little wheel to spin and bring up the page.

And there it was – my ethnicity estimate! This is my breakdown:

North & West Europe 50.9%

English 23.8%
North & Western European 17.4%
Scandinavian 9.7%

East Europe 49.1%

East European 46.4%
Baltic 2.7%


My Google Earth rendering of my ethnicity estimate.

Absolutely no surprises here (with the exception of no Irish or Scottish, but on paper, that is a small sliver of my heritage), this matches my paper trail, so I know I’ve been barking up the right trees, so to speak.

So do I match anyone in the MyHeritage DNA database? I had about 250 matches, all at about the fourth cousin or less level. (Some said first cousin twice removed or second cousin once removed, followed by “–fourth cousin”.) I filtered the matches by surname, and many that came up were my more common surnames — White, Williams, Scott, King. Most of the surnames went back to ancestors in the 1600s and 1700s, though! And nothing more recent than surnames of my great-great grandparents. Nothing in Poland or Lithuania yet (though I noticed in MyHeritage’s DNA Terms & Conditions that Poland might not be able to use MyHeritage DNA).

So my next step is to turn to GEDmatch. So far, I put my raw DNA in there, I just have to upload my gedcom. I’m hoping to find more relatives in that sandbox!

U-Turn: Ellis Island Research Room

Remember how curious I was about the Ellis Island Research Room, but really didn’t know anything about it? Well, I finally emailed the folks at Ellis Island, and now I’m glad that I did not take the time to check out the Research Room.

It turns out that it is just access to the Passenger Search Database, which we can access from home. And the “consultations” are just people there who can assist you with your search. I’m sure there are some folks out there that might like this. However, I’m glad that I saved $7 and a block of time that was better spent in the museum itself.

So now we know.