Thursday, July 22, 2010

Family Visit to Maine - Part 2

With the help of MaryAnn Albert, many pictures were taken during my recent trip to Maine of the former homes of the Albert and Gagnon ancestors in Westbrook.
These two families both moved to Westbrook from Canada in the early 1900's to work in the mills. Their residences were in close proximity to the mills for obvious reasons of having easy walking assess to their jobs.

Why did our ancestors emigrate to Maine?  The best answer to this question would have come from our great grandparents of course, but we hardly remember what they look like let alone what they ever said about their lives. To get a sense why French Canadian families left their homeland, I studied a document from a website on Quebec history. There I found a paper called "French Canadian Emigration to the United States1840-1930" written by Claude BĂ©langer. He points out that many families left a traditional rural society and "entered an industrial world, alien to them by virtue of its way of life, language and religion".
What pulled people to move away from their traditional roots were the chances of more prosperity than what they currently had. Their traditional ways of life and religion were not left behind. Besides a strong work ethic, French Canadian culture of Westbrook centered around the St. Hyacinth Catholic Church and most of the children attended the Catholic school across the street until grade eight (shown above). Classes were held in French in the mornings and English in the afternoons.

According to Mr. Belanger, the population of Quebec surged in the time period from 1784 and 1844 creating a deficit of farmland. Even before the population growth, agricultural success was limited by other factors such as a short growing season and distant access to major markets. Surely working class families, like the Gagnons of St. Malo, also must have experienced the same economic downturn causing them to look to the growing industrialism in the states.
Genealogy involves research and even though it was not a priority on my trip, I did get to search for records, pictures and newspaper articles with Mary Ann at the Walker library and at the Cumberland County Courthouse land records office. Here she is locating a map in the Plats room of a Pine Point property that Auguste and Bernadette Albert transferred to Jeanne and Ray Lebel in 1959. Auguste Albert had so many properties bought and sold over the years that we grew tired from writing a list of the transactions.

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