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GENEALOGY - Labour of love

Yvon Cyr

Guelph man's passion for genealogy turns up extensive Acadian lineage

Janet Baine
May 29, 2000

GUELPH -- Yvon Cyr is hooked on genealogy, and he's found a million people who share his Acadian heritage.

Cyr bubbles with enthusiasm as he sits at his computer wearing his blue and red Acadian vest with the yellow star. New e-mail messages -- he gets as many as 150 a day from around the world-- land in his inbox as he speaks to a reporter.

Many are requests for information and he answers each individually. He also keeps five mailing lists and has his own extensive genealogy Web site.

This is his version of forced early retirement. "I've done more in the last two years than in 10 years before that because of the Internet," he says.

Cyr suffered his first heart attack at age 39 and 10 years later, after a bypass operation, his doctor ordered him to retire from his senior management position at Inglis Ltd.

"I was digging myself into a hole and I had to stop. For the first six months, I just stopped everything." When he confessed to an uncle that he was going crazy, the uncle asked if he had ever considered genealogy.

"I didn't even know how to spell the word," he said. Cyr was entrusted with two boxes containing scraps of paper with details of the lives of relatives going back six generations. He set to work and found his uncle had given him a gold mine.

Cyr may love genealogy, but he speaks even more passionately about the tumultuous Acadian heritage he and his wife share. The Acadians came to Nova Scotia from France in the early 1600s. When war broke out between the French and English 150 years later, the Acadians were deported to the eastern United States and Louisiana.

Some ended up back in France or in England. Children were separated from their parents and were put on different boats, with the assumption that they would be reunited when they arrived, but frequently this didn't happen.

Cyr says his family escaped deportation by walking from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick where they started all over again. But some people spent their lives searching for lost family and many Acadians are still tracking down their kin.

"This is probably one of the reasons why Acadians are so hungry for information into their families," Cyr says.

Click here for details on the CYR/SIRE Family Genealogy CD-ROM, now available

He has traced his ancestry back 14 generations to Pierre Sire, who came to Canada from France. He's also traced his wife's, mother's and mother in-law's family histories.

His was the first Acadian genealogy Web site and he has helped countless others trace their roots. He pulled together 150 Acadian family trees for a CD-ROM in 1994 for the Acadian World Congress. In 1999, he did another Acadian CD-ROM, collecting a million names. Cyr sells his CD-ROMs, but said that if he collects five per cent of the money he has put into his hobby; he'd be a happy man.

"The biggest payoff for me is the e-mail I get from a woman who says thanks a lot, I've been looking for this for five years," he said.

But there are other payoffs, like the laughter that struck him when he went to find the grave of his great-grandfather, who he knew to be a drunk. He knew the priest had the grave dug outside the village cemetery. But 100 years later the cemetery had grown and seven graves in a row with rusty crosses, one with his great-grandfather's name on it, were those of the village drunks. They were now right in the middle of the cemetery.

"I was sitting in the cemetery, laughing my butt off in the rain. The irony of it."

Next Saturday (May 20, 2000), Cyr will be visiting his home town of Grand Falls, N.B., where he to be emcee at his nephew's ordination. He expects to enthrall his audience when he tells them about the lives of his nephew's six ancestors who also served God as priests or nuns. Then a few days later, he'll talk to the genealogical society of Grand Falls and meet a man he has corresponded with for some time.

"I'm known not just in Canada, but throughout North America as the Acadian man," he said.


"The best advice I can give is to record your sources," Yvon Cyr says. Some people focus on quantity but accuracy of information is very important and keeping the source of the information helps track discrepancies that may come up later. While several software programs are available, it's important to choose a program that is "gedcom" enabled, so family histories can be transferred in or out without any manual transcription.

Check local resources like the Church of Latter Day Saints and search the Web. Cyr's own Web site,
www.acadian.org has links to other genealogy Web sites. His e-mail address is [email protected]


The above noted article was written (and posted here with thanks) by Janet Baine and published in the May 20, 2000 issue of the Kitchener-Waterloo Record Newspaper.


Click here to view article in MacLean's Magazine on September 20, 1999

Click here to view article in Time Magazine on April 19, 1999

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