LEWISTON – Just north of the Maine border, right after driving through Jackman on Route 201, lies a three-county region in the south-central part of Quebec. Many local Franco-Americans who can trace their ancestry to the region can find a treasure trove of information in a recently published history book.

“Histoire de Beauce-Etchemin-Amiante,” written in French, was co-authored by Barry Rodrigue, PhD, assistant professor of arts and humanities at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College.

Rodrigue, who lives in Bath, refers to the tome as “une grosse brique,” or large brick, in reference to the book’s hefty appearance. The 1,051-page paperback is an extensively researched work that moves from the dinosaur age to the year 2000.

“We were able to identify the kind of dinosaurs moving in the Appalachian highland where the border is today. Back in those days, the mountains were the size of the Rockies. There was a small brontosaurus and prosauropod, a small dinosaur the size of three Volkswagen Beetles. They actually had a raised-up, beetle back,” said Rodrigue.

The book also covers native American traditions, early settlements, industry, culture and religion. One chapter, titled “Les annees difficiles (1930-1945),” covers the difficult period of economic distress and world war.

Serge Courville and Pierre C. Poulin from Laval University in Quebec collaborated with Rodrigue on the book. They cite 17 contributors, including Bruce Bourque, the state of Maine’s chief archeologist, who helped supply information on the Colonial period. Robert Chenard of Waterville provided genealogical background, such as on the Rodrigue and Doyon-Mathieu families, who were the first two families from south-central Quebec to settle in Maine in the early 19th century.

Rodrigue, who also serves as the scholar for the Franco-American Collection at L-A College, noted that his ethnic background is a mixture of Algonquin, Irish, French and English.

“I represent this diverse background, one of the hallmarks of the French experience in North America. The French, more than others, intermarried a lot in the early days,” he said.

Rodrigue said the book should have a special appeal to those whose ancestors immigrated to the Quebec region in the 18th century. “For any of the French families who came to the New World before 1760, it’s statistically impossible that they don’t have one ancestor in common. Technically, we’re all cousins,” he said.

“Histoire de Beauce-Etchemin-Amiante” is available at the USM/L-A College bookstore. For more information, call 753-6614. Extensive Franco-American resources can be found at www.usm.edu/lac/francoresources. The Web site focuses on programs available at L-A College and the Franco-American Collection, the largest archival collection of its kind in the state.


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