Diversity is evident in Franco-American ancestry

In response to the blog “What to call ourselves“, based on an essay by Denise Larson, I received several “shared ethnic heritage” messages, from those who proudly claim Franco-American or French-Canadian ancestry.

French Canadian immigrants

Franco-Americans are descendants of French Canadian immigrants.

Readers who responded described, what I’ve always found to be, the diversity among those who are Franco-American and/or French-Canadian.

Obviously, French-Canadians have French ancestry. Likewise, Acadians also have French ancestry. In fact, Acadian history in North America even predates the founding of Montreal and Quebec, over 400 years ago. French trappers, traders and fishermen were in eastern Canada before the colonial settlements.

In recent history, the French in North America also includes the (a) Matis (those who have First Nations heritages) (b) Cajuns who were the Acadian refugees of the 1755 Le Grand Derangement, that eventually migrated to Louisiana, (c) Creoles who were from the Caribbean, and assimilated with the Cajuns and the Spanish. There are also French Huguenots, ancestors of the refugees that were driven out of France because they were Protestants. Paul Revere was a descendant of Huguenots.

Those ethnic groups can claim to be Franco-Americans. But, a good friend, the wonderful and late Madeleine Giguere (1925-2005), who was a Franco-American sociologist, explained her understanding of the Franco-American heritage. In her scholarly opinion, she told me, a Franco-American is a person who has familial roots in French Canada, where speaking and communicating in French was the family’s primary language and who were, at least at one time, Roman Catholics. Moreover, a Franco-American can be identified by the use of common French words used at home, like “Memere”, “piton” or cooking the meat pies called “tourtieres’, for example.  Obviously,  I loved dear Madeleine, but I know from experience that the Huguenots would strongly object to her definition. (I’ve heard from the American Huguenots, in the past.)

Mason Wade wrote in his history, ” The French Canadians 1760-1967″, “Nowhere in North America is the cult of the past stronger than in French Canada. The French Canadians live in and on their past to a degree which is difficult for English-speaking North Americans to appreciate.”

This point of view by Wade is reflected in the following social media responses to the blog, titled “What to call ourselves“, based on quotes by writer Denise Larson.

A social media conversation responded to the blog, based on an essay published in the Franco-American Le Forum news. In Larson’s essay, she developed a point of view about how to best describe her ethnic heritage. After resolving her heritage as being French, Acadian, Canadian and American, she considers herself a  Francadian. In other words, a designation formed by the convergence of  FRANce CAnada acaDIAN = Francadian.

Following are some of the comments posted on social media in response to the blog where Larson described her interesting conclusion.

Don Levesque wrote, “Like Larson, I have Acadian and Québec ancestors. Are we the only ethnic group who has trouble finding a self-identifier?” (Based on Wada’s comment, I’d say the answer to this question is “yes”.)

Suzanne Beauregard wrote, ” I know your article is mostly for folks in Maine or New England, but I am of French-Canadian heritage in Michigan. I have tracked my paternal heritage to a soldier who was dispatched to defend Montreal in 1665-1666. His name is Andre Jarret dit Beauregard. Through his sons, my 2nd great grandfather relocated his wife and family to Detroit Michigan in the mid 1850s. They had 6-7 children in Quebec and 3-4 in Detroit! My second great grandmother was a saint!!!  I have always known my heritage to be referred to French Canadian. Not Franco American, or Metis (I have not found any First Nation ancestors) in my family, yet! There are also other groups of folks in the US that refer to their heritage as Creole, as in Louisiana and the South. The French played a huge role in settling the New World. There were French Islands in the Caribbean, French in New Orleans, Texas, up and down the Mississippi, fur traders all over our West, the voyagers around the Great Lakes, French all over the Mid Atlantic states and New England. If we were to ever claim a national heritage reflection/celebration day, how would we refer to ourselves?? That to me is the larger question.”

Barbara Vandewalle, “My grandmother left Canada when she married my Belgian grandfather. So how do I refer to myself?

Paul Paré ‘s wrote about how his ethnic origins were simple: “My parents referred to themselves and our large family members (as well as most of our neighbors) as “Canadiens.” Every one else was ‘les Américains’.”

In my summary opinion, these interesting comments describe an ancestry of immigrants to North America that is ethnically diverse.

Merci encore to all who contributed to this interesting discussion.

Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.