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Archive | Franco-American Stories

In this archive category, you will find a significant collection of Franco-American stories. These posts are of interest to Americans of francophone Canadian descent and to their friends and allies.

Most of the stories below present a slice of Franco-American life in the middle of the twentieth century. They were written by men and women who wished to preserve the story of their lives, and in so doing, the authors also preserved a record of their ethnic group that once comprised one-fifth of the population of New England.

A legacy one generation is leaving to another

These accounts record often overlooked details of this significant ethnic group in American life. (Quick: who launched the credit union movement in the US? If you said Franco-Americans you are right!] These Franco-American stories contain much information thought to be too marginal and so too frequently lost to students of history.

A basic function of memoir is to give witness to a time and a way of life gone by. This category, Franco-American stories, succeeds admirably at this task for both a time and a group.

In addition, some of the posts cover the history of early Canada in the days before the Conquest. These cover a time when New France covered most of North America, when North America might rightly have been called New France.

Send us your Franco-American stories.

If you have a Franco-American story, please consider sending it in for our consideration for these pages. [We have no interest in stories about the Continental French (les Français de France) or francophone Africans unless they highlight an interaction with Franco-Americans. We are not interested in stories about anglophone Canadians—again unless they highlight an interaction with Franco-Americans.]

For submission details, click here.


Podcast on writing memoirs

A French-Canadian Legacy Podcast with Denis Ledoux

Listen to this podcast on writing memoirs on the French-Canadian Legacy Podcast. Denis Ledoux talks about writing memoirs in general and the memoir he wrote with his mother We Were Not Spoiled. If you’ve had any interest in writing down your story or someone else’s, this is an amazing episode to listen to.– Louise Simoneau […]

memories of my grandfther

Memories of My Grandfather

My grandfather William Ledoux would be 133 years old were he alive today. I would like to take a moment to honor his life by sharing some memories of my grandfather.

His early years

He was born in Lachine, Québec, on February 17, 1889, the oldest of what would be a family of six children. His mother was 20 and his father 19 at the time of his birth. The family moved from Lachine, then a small town, to Montréal when he was quite young. He grew up in Montréal in an apartment on Papineau Street. Papineau is a major artery today, but in those horse-and-buggy days, it must have been quieter. Two brothers and three sisters followed him in the next 11 years.

My great-grandfather Georges was a blacksmith in those days when there was a big need for blacksmiths. He was however in the last decades of this work as soon the automobile would be coming to replace the horse.

Healing a child

An interesting story about my grandfather’s family was how, in those days, women from the Kahnawake Iroquois reservation on the south shore of the St Lawrence would come to Montréal where they would seek temporary jobs with the women who lived in the apartments. My great-grandmother, a housewife supported by a blacksmith husband, was by no means a wealthy woman. The Indians were even less so. They would come looking for jobs like doing laundry, washing the floor, cleaning out a room.
One day, my great-grandmother Aurélie, had a sick baby on her hands when somebody knocked at the door. My grandmother went to the door to see who it could be. It was an Indian woman seeking employment. My grandmother said, “Oh, I just can’t talk to you now. I have a sick baby. He has just had a convulsion.”

The Iroquois woman asked, “Does madame have any onions?”

My great-grandmother said, “Yes, I do.”

The stranger replied, “Madame, I know what to do for your baby.” The woman entered the apartment and she and my grandmother took some onions and cut them into little pieces and they lay them on the mattress of the bed where they then placed a sheet. They put the child on the sheet. The story has it that the child got better and never had convulsions again.

My own healing

Later on, when I was a baby myself in 1947-1948, I had convulsions. My grandmother who had the story many times from her husband said to my mother, “You have got to place Denis on a bed of onions.”

My mother, being more modern than my grandmother, resisted but, after yet another convulsion, she felt rather desperate to have some remedy to my situation so she said, “Okay let’s do that.”
She and my grandmother sat down and prepared a bag of onions. They lay me on that bag of onions and that was the last time I had convulsions.

Coming Down to the US

In time, my great-grandparents decided that they could not continue their life in Montréal. My great-grandfather had an uncle who lived in New Bedford or Fall River, Massachusetts. This man told my great-grandfather Georges that if he and his family come down to the United States, he would help him to get settled with his family. My great-grandfather decided to take his uncle up on this kind offer and he made his way down to Fall River around 1900.

In Fall River, there were many Canadian immigrants. My great-grandfather spent a decade as a blacksmith but, as time went on, blacksmithing became less and less of a viable occupation. decided to become a mechanic. As a blacksmith, my great-grandfather Georges had many hands-on skills and he decided to become an automobile mechanic. (Many blacksmiths became mechanics.) He had a garage which a cousin of my father told me was the last building on the old road to New Bedford. I have never seen this building but one day I will go down and check it out. My father’s cousin said it was no longer a garage, but when you look at it, you could tell that it had once been a garage.

That is how my grandfather came down to live in the US. My grandparents met on a blind date and were married in 1912. They had five children. I have more memories of my grandfather (and grandmother) elsewhere on this site

My grandfather died on December 23rd 1972. He was a wonderful grandfather and I feel very fortunate to have known him. I have written these memories of my grandfather for family and for you, dear reader. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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publishing independently

My first publication story: independent publishing

Let me share the independent publication story of my first book, What Became of Them. It is a collection of short stories that I had written over a number of years in the 1980s. In 1987, I decided it was time to send the collection out into the world, but I was not ready yet to do independent publishing.I learn to support myself in the creative life.

Taking stock of myself, I knew I had no need to be approved by someone, to have my writing found to be worthy.  I know many writers want to have a “real book,” and by this, they probably mean they want their book to be canonized by someone—the larger the reputation and the more famous, the better.

This sort of approval was not important to me. I was looking for a way to reach my audience which I knew both existed and would want my book.

I also wanted to earn some income from my writing. I understood that my income would come both from sales of the book and from speaking and teaching from the podium my book would allow me to step up on.

Where to send my manuscript?

I gleaned names and addresses I researched in the library and bookstore. After selecting a few of the more promising—they championed topics which I thought would attract my audience and encompassed a territory where my audience lived.

I sent the book out—and then I waited and waited.

I totally understood how a book has to fit into a publisher’s catalog. (A fruit distributor doesn’t, after all, take on a chicken farmer as a client!) A new book must support the company’s mission and complement books that have already been successful.

In addition, a book must promise to earn the company some income (preferably a large one) from its audience.

A losing proposition

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The Pacific Theater

Crossing the Pacific to Reach the World War 2 Theater

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

The military would never tell servicemen where we were going during World War 2, but it was a fairly easy bet that we were headed for Hawaii as a first leg to the Japanese front. The night before we were to board our ship, I had supper in San Francisco with the girlfriend of one of my friends. It would be the last time in a long while that I would have a home-cooked meal.

In the morning, my buddy and I headed out to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard where the ship we were to head out on had undergone some repairs. Like many other ships used by the Americans, this one was a foreign ship that had been more or less stranded far from its homeland and was now helping in the anti-Axis war effort. We were to board it at the yard and begin our trip from there. We reported in and then, hoisting our duffle bags onto our shoulders, took our place to board. There was a long line of men, thousands of men. The line moved slowly, the duffle bags grew heavy. It seemed that when finally we put them down to rest, the line moved again and we’d lug the bags once more. Eventually, we reached a narrow gangplank and walked up it to the ship’s deck. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Marriage in New France: Barthélémi and Marthe Wed

As was the custom in the colony, the wedding was set for a date soon after the contract signing. These were exceptional times. Winter was just three months away, and if Barthélémi and Marthe were to survive the long, cold months at the new farm in Chateau-Richer, there was much to be done. Until she […]

My mother's book has found its audience.

My Mother Passes

On this blog, I have frequently offered excerpts of my mother’s memoir, We Were Not Spoiled. It has been such a satisfaction for me to have written her story and to have been able to hand her a copy. One day, after I had presented her with the hard copy of We Were Not Spoiled, […]