Researching and tracing your French, Walloon (French Belgium) and French Canadian Ancestors can be an overwhelming feat, especially if you 1) don’t know the language, 2) live in an another country or continent, 3) don’t know the town they’re from (and you need to know it to proceed) 4) finding records and help online 5) deciphering sloppy handwritten old records and 6) brick walls, but once you overcome those hurdles, your genealogical research will pay off.
Over twenty-five years ago, I started my journey researching my French ancestry, and a painstaking and frustrating journey it was. Brick wall, after brick wall. Ancestors who didn’t write anything down (later I found most couldn’t read or write), didn’t pass on family history, never spoke about the ‘old country’ or relatives. I became so frustrated, I wanted to dig them all up, well, at least the ones I knew about, and shake them! Uuugh. By the time I was 20, every French relative known and unknown had died. My dad passed away in 1999, taking whatever he knew to the grave.
At that time I started researching in 1998, Ancestry.com was a fledgling company, French Department archives were not online and my 1 year high school French was about as dead as my ancestors. I started with what I knew of my ancestors (which was very little) and the places they lived at in the USA and proceeded with obtaining bit by bit of information. I searched and ordered every kind of US record and information I could find on the ones I knew about; grandmother, great-grandparents, in the USA; death, probate, marriage, birth, ships lists, school yearbooks, newspaper clippings hoping I would find the towns in France they originated from. Each piece took me a step further to finding them. It wasn’t until I came across a naturalization record in the US, and a death record in Québec, that I finally got the big break.
Today, French departmental records are readily available and accessible online for free, as well as the Archives of Belgium, but can we decipher them? My website and tutorials will help train you to research, find, read, and gather the important genealogical information from parish and civil records and how to network through French Gen sites, in the hope it will help you succeed in your French, Belgian, and French Canadian genealogical search.