About

History

The Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society (MFGS) originally began as the Father Leo E. Begin Chapter of the American Canadian Genealogical Society. Father Leo E. Begin, O.P. accumulated a small genealogical library during his lifetime and it was his dying wish that this library remain in the central Maine area to serve the Franco-Americans of that region. Through the efforts of Normand Rioux, a personal friend of Father Begin, and Richard Fortin, then president of the American Canadian Genealogical Society of Manchester, N.H., the Fr. Leo E. Begin Chapter of ACGS was formed in December of 1980 and Father’s wish became a reality. The chapter continued to grow and in February 2001, by agreement with ACGS, it was established as an independent non-profit Maine corporation under the name of the Maine Franco American Genealogical Society.

Purpose

We are primarily a self-help genealogical research library dedicated to assisting individuals in discovering their family’s history. Between the 1860’s and 1920’s thousands of French Canadians emigrated to the Lewiston-Auburn area, primarily to work in the textile and shoemaking industries. These immigrants and their descendants became the largest ethnic group in the region and developed a unique culture. The Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the records of this heritage. We are a self-help genealogical library and our goal is to help those who desire to understand their family histories and learn more about their roots.

Membership

All members of MFGS are invited to participate in its operation. Members have unlimited use of the Society’s library in Auburn, Maine. Membership is $20 per year. Other family members’ fees are 50% of the Primary member (S10). The library in Auburn is also open to non-members for a fee of $3.00 per visit.

Meetings

MFGS holds its general meetings semiannually, meeting in April and October. A newsletter is mailed to notify all members of upcoming events, and general meetings.

Library

The Father Leo E Begin Library of MFGS contains over 3000 volumes which include a collection of marriage repertoires from Canada, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont We have 62 books on microfiche and computers containing Family Tree Maker- Census Index (1607-1880); Social Security Death Benefits (1937-1966); 625,000 Maine Marriages on CD (1892-1966). We also have some old, but mostly new Maine obituaries indexed from local newspapers. The original copies of the obituary are on file.

MFGS Officers

President
Vice PresidentArthur Allard
TreasurerLucille Langelier
Corresponding SecretaryConnie Beliveau
Recording SecretaryConnie Hitchcock
Library DirectorFr. Robert Parent
WebmasterSimeon Breault

MFGS Board Members

Jeanne Letourneau Richard Gamache
Rita Melendy Simeon Breault

Father Leo E. Begin, O.P.
Priest – Genealogist
February 27, 1902 – June 14, 1980

MFGS started with Father Leo E. Begin, O.P., Priest and Genealogist.
Father Leo E. Begin, O.P.

Father Leo E. Begin, chaplain, curate, preacher, spent his free time doing genealogy in the United States and Canada. He was born in Megantic, Province of Quebec, not too far from Coburn Gore in Maine. In 1911 the Begin family of ten moved to Lewiston, Maine where the father and two older sons found work in the mills to support the family.

In 1926, he entered the French-speaking North American Province of the Dominican religious order and was ordained to the priesthood in 1931. Known as the Order of Preachers, (the monks use O.P. after their names). Father Begins’ name in religious life was Ange Marie Begin O.P.. Assigned to Maine, he served various institutions and organizations as a chaplain. In 1948 he became a curate at St. Peter & Paul’s parish in Lewiston.

It was Father Begin’s trip back to Megantic with his parents that initiated his interest in genealogy. He began to keep track of his relatives and ancestors among the Begins, the Labrecques, and the Bureaus. Later he met the Dominican genealogist Father Charland, the great archivist Pierre Georges Roy who would become his mentor, Joseph Drouin of the Drouin Institute and Franciscan Father Archange Godbout who was very helpful to him.

Father Begin did research by correspondence and in many Quebec and American cities. In Medicine Lake, Minnesota he found the marriage record (written in French) of his great grandfather Benjamin Begin with Marie Noel. The first Begin ancestor in Quebec was Louis Begin of Honfleur in Normandy, France. Louis’s father, Jacques, also made the trip but drowned before landing in Quebec in 1654

During the course of his life, Father Begin accumulated a small genealogical library. He wanted these volumes to continue serving the Franco-Americans of his home town area of Lewiston, Maine. Thus, shortly after Father Begin’s death, with the help of Normand Rioux of that area and Richard Fortin, President of the American Genealogical Society of Manchester, NH, a Maine Chapter of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society was organized. The first official meeting was held on December 12, 1980, at St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston, Maine with Normand Rioux as the presiding officer. Since Father Begin’s bequest of his genealogical collection was the prime motivating factor in forming a Maine based chapter, a motion to name it the Father Leo E. Begin Chapter of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society was seconded and passed unanimously.

The Chapter continued to operate and thrive and in January of 2001, became an independent nonprofit Maine corporation under the name of the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society. The library of the MFGS continues to be named in memory of Father Leo E. Begin.