Genealogist Helps Flesh Out Family Trees

by Rachael Esch     Sunday  April 20 1997

 Free Press Correspondent


            When Paul Dumais was growing up, his uncle used to tell stories about ancestors who included an Indian woman, a strong man and a naval hero. In 1967 Dumais started a genealogical search to learn whether these stories were true. Twenty years later, he is still hooked on this family history hobby, what he calls, “putting more leaves on the tree”. Dumais was one of 40 Vermonters of French-Canadian descent who attended a conference hosted by the Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society on Saturday to learn from genealogist Robert Quintin how to further their research on family folklore and family trees.


            A Rhode Island teacher, Quintin has turned a 20 year hobby into a carreer and now makes it his business to teach French-Canadians how to trace their family histories. Quintin offered general guidelines on how to “flesh out” family history. Of particular importance for French-Canadians researching their roots, said Quintin, is an awareness of “dit” names. In the absence of family names, the “dit” names were given to people based on profession, locality, or personal traits, and subsequently could differ from one family member to the next. Also the anglicization on many names, described by Quintin as “what happens when a French name enters an English ear and is written by an English hand”, also led to confusion in searching records.


            Because the greatest source of ancestral records were collected by parishes, many of which have the same name, genealogists should also be familiar with the Quebec Counties. In beginning a search for ancestral roots, Quintin particularly recommended “Beginning Franco-American Genealogy” by the Rev. Dennis M. Boudreau and a copy of the Quebec map. He urged amateur genealogists to delve into the history, not simply the facts, of their family. There are two types of people who search for their roots, Quintin said, “those who are interested in names, dates and places, and then those who who are also interested in the times in which these people lived. After we learn the genealogy, we’ve got to put flesh on the bones of our ancestry.”