Holidays are perfect for catching the season's best movies and with intense anticipation, I rushed to view the movie adaptation of Les Miserables. As hoped, the movie is spell-bounding. And with the musical on screen, it provides the viewer an opportunity to gain a deeper perspective of the events surrounding the French Revolution.

Revolutionary France coincided slightly with the American Revolution and history reveals that America could not have won her revolt against England without France's partnership.
But unlike America whose independence spurred the formation of a democratic government soon after victory; the French people suffered decades of tumultuous reigns of power. King Louis and Marie Antoinette lost their heads by 1793 but the French people did not see democracy until the mid to late 1800's.

The country rode turbulent waters of oppressive monarchies and overpowering militaries as tens of thousands of revolutionaries lost their lives during various skirmishes until the mid 1800's. Which is the point of subject of Les Miserables: a people's uprising after the death of their leader in June of 1832.

As a family historian, I find the history of the French Revolution intriguing. Although I still search the identity of my French ancestor's parents, it is apparent they likely immigrated to America in the early 1800's. Their reasons for immigration are left to my imagination but with an America free from British hold, my French ancestors must have felt pulled to the promises offered, certainly not unlike the majority of immigrants then and now.

As genealogists uncover more details of their ancestral puzzles, their family history is revealed. But we will never know all the details. Our ancestor's autobiographies will always remain incomplete. It is only with our imaginations guided by historical facts of our ancestor's times can we fantasize their complete story. And though never absolute, a family historian can only provide a good recount of their ancestry if it is told within the framework of their environment.
             
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Do you search for your French ancestor's? Take a look at my Links to French Records page for opportunities to explore.

My plans for this blog during the New Year is to offer a quality story on the first Sunday of each month. If you, the reader, would like an opportunity to be a guest writer then you can email your well written, 500 word or less story to cheryl@searchingforgrandfathers.com. Your publication must be genealogy in nature and I will review it for relevancy to this website.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
(Source: The Daily Beast)

 
 
I am a lazy family historian. I sit at my computer, rummaging through websites, searching for ancestral records and cursing the wind when none are found. I beam with pride at my plump family tree, limbs sprouting with ancestral names, leaves waving with lush, rich stories.

But sadly, I yield when the information ends.

I fantasize the dream of boating across the pond to amble the cobbled streets of my ancestor's homelands in Ireland, Scotland and France. Stumbling upon distant cousins living within picturesque European town lands. And then I pause to consider how much is left--blank names, blank town lands, blank files.

But this week everything will change. I have challenged myself to relinquish my office chair and release myself from the chains of my computer to jump the pond for a head-on, get down-and-dirty dive into a little foreign country:

Arkansas.

Yes, my on-the-road genealogical trip is only a few hours from my home and though I cheat, using it as a little break through the beautiful rolling Ozarks, it is a research trip nonetheless. Sadly, I faced the reality of my lazy expectations of armchair genealogy and accepted what many steadfast family historians realized long ago: the deepest holes have to be dug on-site, not on-line.

It is romantic to dream of researching ancestors within their European homelands
but the deep wells at home have to be dry before journeying a thousand miles away. And I am embarrassed to say I have failed to study the well that is only 200 miles within my grasp. Though Arkansas is a tad bit different than France, I expect to find early 1800 records laced with French surnames such as Lemoux and Jacques; my French American ancestor living within an Arkansas Territory village flooded with French, Cajun and Canadian immigrants.

And so, though my first ancestral road trip lacks the glitter and glory of a romantic European expedition, I load my SUV of ancestral files longing to be complete and head into another vast land: Oklahoma's sister state to the east, Arkansas.

I guess I'll have to tote my French wine and croissants across state line!

Clue:

Do you have French ancestry? Our journey can be a struggle but if your French American ancestor fought in the Civil War, his records could be rich with resources. French Americans were an important Catholic group during the Civil War--most of them serving within the Union forces. Look for their Civil War pensions and you could stumble upon a vast realm of information.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl


 
 
Loving the beauty, art and of course, food of France, I subscribe to a French travel magazine for Americans. And this month, wouldn't you know it, an article on French Ancestry is highlighted.

The author of the article takes his readers with him as he ventures back to France to search for his father's family from the South Western end of the Cote d'Azur.

The author and family researcher, Chris Granet, reconnects with the charming homeland of his father. He provides a glimpse into the process of searching for French ancestors, noting the vastness of genealogical records within the archives of most of France's 101 Departements.

I am proud of my Irish and Scottish Ancestry but I drool every time I glance at French surnames on my family tree. Stumbling my way through the French language since high school French Class, I dream of a life in France, but occasional short trips will have to suffice. And though I am certain my family's culture was heavily influenced by our Irish Ancestry, I like to think the small bit of French on our tree added whimsy and flare.

I have struggled with the identity of my closest French ancestors: the parents of my paternal great-great-grandfather. The little dark-haired, dark-eyed Frenchman from Arkansas left few clues, strangely absent from census records until 1870. And though I have worked my fingers raw, few records have been found. Just my father's descriptive notes of a French grandmother, one census record stating my ancestor's mother was born in France and few fragments more.

Deeper along the lineage, French Huguenots dot the branch as it moves toward the 1600's but for me, I always search for the details of my closest immigrant ancestors--it just feels more real and touchable.

So I continue my struggle, hoping some day to stumble upon the identity of my French great-great-great-grandparents living only a couple of hours away (minus about 160 years.)

In a salute to my French Ancestry, I began a page of links for French genealogical websites. Though the search can be cumbersome due to obvious language barriers, they are worth looking at if you have any inkling of French Heritage. And of course there is quite a bit of information on French Huguenots.

The French Genealogy Blog is well done and in English; informative with fabulous research tips. Also, numerous real French Ancestral Records can be found on Family Search.org.

The Huguenots France.org has an English option, as does Huguenots Picards and several other sites seem friendly to non-French researchers.

If not already, I highly recommend becoming familiar with the geography and Departement Divisions within the country--obtaining a good map for reference while researching is highly recommended.

So take a look at my new French Links Page and come back often as it continues to build. I hope it gives you a peek through your French ancestral window and in time...mine too.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
(Source: France; North America's best-selling magazine about France. September 2012