|www.woonsocketcall.com||WOONSOCKET, R.I||December 26, 1999|
Surge in popularity of genealogy seen at French-Canadian archives
Surge in popularity of genealogy
seen at French-Canadian archives
By JOSEPH FITZGERALD
WOONSOCKET - The genealogy bug hit Sylvia D Bartholomy 10 years ago when she started asking the "adult" questions.
There s a point in your life when you start asking the big questions like who am I? Where did I come from? How did I get here? says Bartholomy, a Woonsocket resident and member of the American French Genealogical Society, a Woonsocket based non profit genealogical and historical organization devoted to people of French Canadian extraction.
Bartholomy's journey to discover her family roots is more than a hobby. It's a passion that has brought the history of her ancestors to life in a way that has enriched her own life
"It gives you a whole new outlook because your ancestors come alive she says. "You begin to understand the challenges they faced in their lives and you start looking at the big picture."
Bartholomy, for example knew that her grandparents and great grandparents came from Quebec Province, but had no idea from what town or village
After solving that her mystery she traced roots back even further until she eventually discovered ancestors from the 1600ís.
"I was flabbergasted and hooked. It was incomprehensible to me that these records still existed and that you could access them," she says.
What Bartholomy discovered 10 years ago is catching on at a rapid pace as witnessed by the swelling ranks of amateur genealogists using the new tools of the digital age to trace their family trees.
"Itís (genealogy) growing and growing and itís really flying on the Internet," says Bartholomy. "People have more time on their hands today and they understand life in the world more and are trying to find their place in the world."
And theyíre using the World Wide Web to do it.
According to Nielsen/Net Ratings, the three top genealogy websites last month had an audience of 1.3 million people each. More than 160 messages flowed last month through RootsWeb, a vast electronic trading post for genealogical information. And thereís at least seven family tree making computer software programs currently selling like hotcakes. Thereís also the story of Cyndi Howells of Puyallup, Washington. Howells quit her bank job in 1992, bought a computer and began collecting genealogy website addresses. Today her web page has grown to over 300 pages with links to 41,700 genealogy sites worldwide. Two million people visit her site each month.
"Whatís so fun and interesting is you get to use your investigative skills," Bartholomy says. "Youíre solving a puzzle that has to do with your own past. Itís your past youíre discovering. At the same time youíre flushing it out with the stories of history."
Bartholomy and the volunteers at the American-French Genealogical Society have been helping people of French-Canadian descent solve their family tree puzzles and discover their rich heritage since 1978.
The society is actively involved in extracting, collating, and publishing Franco-American vital statistics, parish registers, burial records, and other data consistent with the culture.
The societyís headquarters is in the basement of the First Universalist Church at Snow and Earle Streets and is home to the most complete French-Canadian genealogical library outside of Quebec. The library contains more that 10,000 volumes of repertoires (marriage records), genealogies, biographies, and histories as well as genealogical journals and publications of regional, national and international scope. The society purchased the Drouin institute microfilm collection of vital statistics and is the only source in the United States for this unique collection of microfilm. Over 2,500 rolls of film are included in the collection.
The society has 1,800 members and people of French-Canadian descent come from all over the world to research their family tree.
The society also helps those people who are not French-Canadian with their research. Bartholomy offers the following advice for beginners: "Start with your parents and grandparents.
Most Americans are second and third generation immigrants. After you finish using your city and state records you need to go beyond the United States to find information."
Thatís when genealogy societies become helpful because they maintain vast libraries of information, she says.
"Because the focus of our society is French-Canadian we have collected on microfilm vital records of Quebec that date from the 1600ís to 1940," Bartholomy says.
"These include copies of original church records kept in journal form in French. The Drouin microfilm collection of the Vital Statistics of the Quebec Province covers all the parishes, indian missions and Protestant churches. Itís the only collection of its kind in the United States."