Monday, December 3, 2012

How I started on my French research

        The family that is responsible for my very first plunge into genealogy are from France. I was a teenager, bored shelving books in a library. No one knew where in France. The older relatives always claimed Alsace - Lorraine because Buffalo, New York had a large community of French-speaking Alsatians that settled there starting in the 1820's. They traveled up the Erie Canal from the New York port when the Niagara Frontier was the " gateway " to the West.

       I never had any evidence of their origins in my American research. I studied the cluster of Alsatian families that lived and attended church with the Fougerons. In studying collateral relatives and their Alsatian neighbors, even the spouses of their children,  I could not pinpoint the origins of my immigrant group. Finally, I got a tip from a few obituaries and an old newspaper article that was found taped in a local library scrapbook collection about the history of streets in Buffalo. It was a secondary source but the article reported that Fougeron Street was named after a family from Belfort. But Belfort was a city, and the Fougerons were farmers.

    I did a weekly trek to the Family History library to crank the " Registres de l'etat civil "  microfilms in the the ' ville de Belfort ' for any mention of the name Fougeron.  Belfort was a military post in the 1790's when my ancestor, Joseph Simon Fougeron, was born. I exhausted all American records for him, his wife and the children that immigrated with them. Census, civil, church records all simply said " France " so I kept cranking the films until I landed on his baptismal. I had his birth date from his tombstone so I knew this was him. I then spiraled on to matching his wife and children's birth dates so I knew I had my group.
Fougeron Street

    Twenty years later, I now know that they hail from a very tiny rural village in the Franche-Comté region. I also have collected the beautifully handwritten French and Latin records documenting my French immigrant family and all their ancestors .

    Now a new interest springs up in my Fougerons research back. In Ellis Island records, I discovered that there were Fougerons in Massachusetts but they were definitely not from my immigrant group. The name is unique enough here where I feel in my heart that they are related. So I will follow this Massachusetts group of Fougerons to see if there are any family connections.

Update : There were related to my Fougeron group through Joseph Simon Fougeron's Great-Uncle from Petitmagny .

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