LEWISTON – A “Trace Your Heritage” initiative has been launched by the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society and the Franco-American Collection at USM/Lewiston-Auburn to coincide with this year’s Festival de Joie on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 5 and 6.

Open houses will be held at both institutions to highlight the centuries-old presence of Franco-Americans in this corner of North America.

A poster on New France (1604-1760), now being distributed throughout Maine, underscores the history and lists French family names and their places of origin in France.

The list reads like sections of the telephone books of Franco-American communities in the state. Many other names of French colonists have long since been Americanized, phonetically spelled or otherwise been altered over the last 400 years. Most French names in these phone books can be traced to the shores of 16th and 17th century France.

During the open houses, people will have the opportunity to discover how to trace their family’s journey from France to Maine.

At the Genealogical Society, located at the Great Falls School on High Street in Auburn, individuals will be offered an introduction to the use and search of marriage records, birth and deaths records, and have the chance to compare notes and information with society members.

The building will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 6 and 7. The usual $3 daily fee will be waived. The Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society was founded 25 years ago based on the private collection of the Rev. Leo E. Begin, OP.

The Franco-American Collection at USM/Lewiston-Auburn, located at 51 Westminster St., will feature a special exhibit on the old-time St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations in Lewiston-Auburn, as well as recent publications on the counties and parishes of Quebec.

Most L-A residents of French descent come from these regions. The collection, which is the largest repository of materials on Franco-Americans in Maine, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6.

For more information, contact the Genealogical Society at 786-3327 or the Franco-American Collection at 753-6545.

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