By Juliana L’Heureux
Franco-Americans, by definition, are descendants of Canadians. Recently, a Canadian family blood relation found our American relatives while searching for genealogy information on the Internet. His discovery unlocked memories about his French-Canadian upbringing being similar to experiences of Franco-Americans.
In fact, Jacques L’Heureux, a native of Trois Rivieres in Quebec, an astrophysicist and distant cousin living in Columbia, Maryland, is building a family Internet web page with genealogy links he finds from among thousands of his French-Canadian and American relatives.
"Since your family lives in the New England area, you are most likely descendants of Simon Lereau dit L’Heureux and therefore my cousin," writes L’Heureux.
In fact, our family is descended from Simon Lereau, a French habitant who arrived in Nouvelle France around 1652 from St. Cosme-de-Vair in France. On November 27, 1655, he married Suzanne Jaroussel on Ile d'Oleans in Quebec. . Their seven children included two sons, Pierre and Sixte. "Simon is my eighth great grandfather via his son Sixte," writes Jacques L’Heureux.
Although Jacques is French-Canadian, he recalls visiting relatives in Biddeford when he was young. "My great uncle, Ovila Sauvageau moved from Quebec to Biddeford to work in the textile mills. When I was a teenager, I went many times to visit his family. I quickly became aware of all the French Catholic parishes with everyone talking French and going to Mass with sermons in French. Of course, we also went to visit Old Orchard Beach," writes L’Heureux.
"Unfortunately, I lost contact with these descendants of my family after my parents died. All I have in my genealogy database are the names of Ovila Sauvageau who married Lorette Paradis in Kennebunk, ME in 1933. Lorette was previously married and had a daughter Dolores. If you know anyone from Biddeford or Saco, you might ask if someone remembers my relatives," he asks?
Memories of his French-Canadian culture are reminiscent of a traditional Franco-American upbringing. L’Heureux recalls how he enjoyed eating "la melasse" (molasses) as a special childhood sweet treat. Also, "ploys" or Acadian buckwheat pancakes, are the same things as "galettes de sarrazin" (buckwheat cakes) that L’Heureux used to eat in Quebec. "Proud French-Canadian people never admitted they really ate galettes because it meant saying you were poor and could not afford anything else," he recalls.
Quebecois French, have several translations for "ploye". Sometimes the word is actually a short term for "bouchon" or plug. An electrical plug that goes into a wall is also a "ploye". It is possible the root of the Acadian word "ploye", refers to the small size of the traditional pancake because it is only about three or four inches in diameter.
L’Heureux wonders if Franco-Americans use as many Quebecois French words as he recalls speaking when he grew up in Canada? "For example, he used the word ‘sing’ to describe a ‘sink’, or ‘evier’. Other words with Old French derivations are "les chars" for automobiles, "les petits chars" for trolleys or street cars and les gros chars for train. Of course the word "char" comes from the Old French word for chariot.
To chat with L’Heureux about our family genealogy, the French-Canadian culture or to view the family web page, see http://www.happyOnes.com.
Back to Top
Published June 22, 2000
Copyright 1999-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux