Are you sure you’re not Franco-American?

In honour of my current fundraising campaign, for the next 45 days I’ll be posting thoughts and notes here about Franco-American identity and culture.

One thing I ran into again and again in researching my solo show, Piecework: When We Were French, was people who were unaware of the extent of their French ancestry because at some point along the line a surname was changed. Sometimes it was the carelessness of an immigration official that led to a change that was easier to accept than argue about. For others, adopting a new name made it possible to conceal their origins, opening doors in the U.S. that would have otherwise remained closed to a “Canuck.” Still others adopted an anglicized spelling of their French name to preserve the correct pronunciation: Hebert became Abair, Chauvin became Shoven, Proulx became Prue.

In my own family there were Brodeurs who became Brothers, Belangers who became Bakers, Bernards who became Barnards, and Cyrs who became Sears. If you’ve done any genealogical research you might have run into a stumbling block caused such a change. Curious who might be hiding in your family tree? Check out this list of Anglicized French surnames.

Future posts will contemplate what made these changes necessary and desirable for our ancestors. In the meantime, please consider joining the conversation by contributing to my on-line fundraising campaign.

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7 thoughts on “Are you sure you’re not Franco-American?

    1. I am a Blais, well sort of, My Grandparents were from St Anselme. My Great Grandparents were an adoptive Blais but DNA says Dion, a Grenier, a Roy, a Marquis, and I am expanding it daily. Dad was born in Minnesota but did not speak English until he started school. I am the keeper of the Quebecois traditions in the Family, learning as much as I could before losing my Grandparents and now parents, My DNA came back 97% which means even my Moms side is tied to France

  1. my fathers surnames tree has Fortin, Roy/Roi, Levesque, Tourville, Blanchette, Provencher, Gosselin, Morissette, Lavigne, Gautron, Cadot, Loiseau, Chartier…i would say that my father is French Canadian…dang near 100% LOL

  2. Hi, I just found out I am French Canadian this past July; My great, great great grandfather, Charles Boivin, changed the family name from Boivin to Weaver in the 1830’s (?) when he and his family emigrated to Vermont. I guess he wanted to sound American; although it may have had something to do with the war of 1812, I don’t know for sure. Now I have spent the last few months furiously doing my Dad’s family’s French Canadian geneaology–it’s proven to be very easy, and especially so since I happened upon some distant cousins on the internet who have been a great help to me!! One is a writer named Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, another is Jim Weaver, and another is Mary Zucker–we are all related, either though the Boivns on my Dad’s side, or the Hinse’/Douglas/Deshaw side of my paternal grandmother. It has been fascinating! We are related to Celine Dion, Madonna, Jack Kerouac, Hillary Clinton, etc. etc.! All because 5,000 Frenchmen emigrated to Canada in the 1600’s and then proceeded to marry each other for the next 400 years—it is a very unique gene pool…

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