Friday, March 19, 2010

The Gagnons of Saint Malo

The parents of Bernadette (Gagnon) Albert, Pierre and Diana Gagnon, brought many children into the world. In the 1910 United States Census in Westbrook, Maine, we see the whole gang. Families this size were very common for French Canadians.
Of course, they would never know that having this many children would provide a gold mine for a genealogist interested in tracking family history.
So far, I have located four birth records from the group including Bernadette’s (shown below). Hope you know French…but to help out, Jane Lindsey from the California Genealogical Society provides a loose translation below the image.
30 march 1902  We the undersigned priest of this parish have baptized Bernadette Alexandra born the twenty seventh of this month, legitimate daughter of Pierre Gagnon, day laborer and of Diana St Pierre of this parish.The god father is Wilfred Lemieux? and god mother Delia Gagnon also of this parish of Saint-Venant-de-Hereford and the father has declared he knows the signer. -L E Gendron  Priest
Peter and Diana Gagnon were both born in Canada in the 1860’s. Can you imagine being around at the time of the American Civil War? Of course, the Gagnons did not move to the states until the 1900’s. Their last record in the Canadian Census was in 1901.
While the Gagnon’s hail from Saint Malo, Quebec, the more famous Saint Malo is the one in France. It is a walled port city on the gulf of Saint-Malo, an inlet of the English Channel. A couple of interesting facts from this area of France:  the founder of Canada, Jacques Cartier, was born in Saint Malo, and Saint Malo was a base for French pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the neat things about writing a blog is choosing pictures to attach to text. In my writing, I like to relate time and place and try to connect the family context to the context of the larger society (family history to general history). One of the most fascinating achievements of Gothic architecture in Europe is located on the Gulf of Saint Malo - the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel - founded in 708.
The location of Saint Malo in Canada is one of the eastern townships of Quebec province. The website called Eastern Townships describes local residents living in an “environment of forests, farms, and waterways that supply their livelihood”.  At 2100 feet it is the highest municipality in Quebec. The parish of Saint Malo was established in 1863, the same year that Pierre Gagnon was born, and incorporated as a municipality in 1910.
Here is a map of this town’s location and its proximity to New Hampshire. If you are interested in visiting Saint Malo, they have a harvest festival every August.
Sources for some text and pictures in this blog entry:,,
The birth and census records come from


Anonymous said...

Hi Craig, Very interesting post with the history, etc. Nice blog!--Lisa

Judy Curbow said...

I love your blog....the name Gagnon caught my attention. Did any of your Gagnons ever end up in Texas or in Arizona? My husband's great grandmother married "Unknown Gagnon" in the late 1920s or early 1930s - and he is our greatest mystery !
Judy Curbow