52 Ancestors : Week # 46 – Different Language

I’m participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge. The writing prompt for this week is “Different Language.”

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in researching our genealogy that I’ve come across is how do I trace a family tree when all of the records are recorded in a different language?

If there is one thing that is stopping me from working this one particular branch of our family tree, it is the language barrier. I really do want to learn more about the Mallettes, the Blaises, the Laverdures and the Garreaus.

They are all relatives of my Husband on his Father’s side of the family.

I’d love to learn more about them all. For starters the why, how, and the when of their arrival in Canada. I’d also love to learn more about their lives here, where did they live, what did they do for a living? My issue is that my Husband’s Grandmother’s family are all French Canadian. Of course, that is not actually the issue, the issue is that I don’t speak French!


Actes d’état civil et registres d’église du Québec (Collection Drouin), 1621 à 1967

Above is an example of the kind of record I find on Ancestry.com. Have a look. There are many issues with reading this document. First, for me is that it is in a different language. Second, it is a poor quality scan because the script on the other side of the paper is showing through. Third, because it is in cursive, which makes it quite hard for me to try and type that into Google Translate.


My husband’s Grandmother’s name at birth was Claudia Mallette. I was lucky enough to meet her a couple of times when we visited Ontario. Nana passed away in 2001.

Here is a record Claudia’s parents’ wedding on November 27, 1905 in Chelmsford, Ontario. Their names were listed on this record as Theophile Mallette (age 30) and Josephine Blais (age 16). The names of the bride and grooms parents are listed as well.

Both sets of Claudia’s Grandparents are listed. We have Stanislas Mallette & Philomene Laverdure and Eugene Blais & Eliza Gareau. These would be my husband’s 2x Great-Grandparents.

Below is the marriage record for Philomene Laverdure and Athanese (Stanislas) Malette from 1868. You’ll notice that the record is entirely in French, and again je ne parle pas Français.

Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967

So, let’s talk solutions shall we? I do live in Canada where French is one of our two Official Languages. Chances are that I know someone who can help me out here. Bingo! Two of my sister-in-laws. Both of whom were in French Immersion school. I’m told they used to use French as their own secret language while growing up. I’m sure one of them could help out. Certainly, if I want to move forward with my research and have these ancestors on this side of the family become more than just names and dates, then I’ll need to reach out for help.

  9 comments for “52 Ancestors : Week # 46 – Different Language

  1. November 11, 2020 at 8:46 am

    You know you can count on me – bilingual sister in law to the rescue!

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. November 11, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    I have trouble with German; my mother’s forebears are all from Germany. I can sort of manage to translate a lot with the help of Google but reading black letter script and the handwriting makes it difficult combined with my lack of language skills – on English records I can guess at words and fill in and then deduce when I cannot decipher words but I am not able to do that nearly so easily in a foreign language.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 12, 2020 at 5:55 am

      That’s exactly it! I’m not as comfortable guessing at the words when they are in another language as I am with English.

      Like

    • November 12, 2020 at 4:58 pm

      I am also dealing with a lot of German records. My blog for this week (coming Saturday) is on dealing with it. Family Search has FREE lessons on learning to read old German script and how to interpret church and civil records.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. November 15, 2020 at 10:53 am

    French degree student here who has also done reserch in French archives! Happy to help!!

    Liked by 1 person

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