When All Else Fails, Take a Trip…


One bright summer morning, frustrated by lack of information on my French-Canadian ancestors in Bay County and slow responses to inquiries sent to local sources, I packed my young son in the car and we drove from Chicago to Bay City for an impromptu vacation…a genealogy vacation.

Early that Friday afternoon, we hit Bay City and drove to a local Catholic parish where I knew the secrets to my ancestors were locked. After more than two years of requesting lookups from the Church, I simply walked in the door and asked if someone could help me. When the secretary learned I was the persistent woman who wrote her every month, and that I was only in town for the weekend, she graciously showed me into the pastor’s office and brought me the sacramental books from 1850-1900. The gold was in my hands. For the next two hours, I scoured the early records of that parish and found a wealth of information about three generations of my family…information never to be found anywhere else. Most importantly, I found NAMES…yes, they were written in Latin and I still needed to decipher them…but I had NAMES. I had Catherine Couture, Regis Boutillette, and Catherine Bergenois.

This was a wonderful start. But it still only took me back to people born between 1800-1820. I still had no idea which towns in Canada or France I would find them in, or when. Nothing is more daunting that "puddle jumping"…crossing the border back to a foreign country with no idea where to start looking.

Lacking other options (and vacation time used up for another year), I started sending emails to History professors who had done Migration research among the French and French-Canadians. Though still lacking a hometown for Catherine Bergenois, I was blessed to find a History professor from the University of Vermont who not only knew exactly where these families were from, but even corrected the spelling of Boutiyette/Botiere that I had previously found in Bay City records. He corrected it to the standard French-Canadian spellings of Bouthillette and Boutillet. Because of him, and a little novena to St. Jude (true story!), I located the family’s records. Ironically, they were found in the parish of St-Jude just outside of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.  

© 2006, Jan Nearing, LaMere Consulting, Midland, MI. All rights reserved.


Copyright © 2012 all rights reserved Jan Nearing
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