Genealogy has always been a passion for many people, but computer applications have usually been limited to typing in data and getting information over the Internet that was already available in books.
A CD-Rom called “In Search of our Acadian Roots” has changed that. Grand Falls native Yvon L. Cyr, who now lives in Ontario, had heard about a plan to collect genealogical information for a computer data base during the Acadian World Convention (Congrès mondial acadien) in 1994. Right then and there, he said he wanted to take part. After months passed and nothing new was heard about this project, Cyr decided to take on a similar project himself and found others interested in Acadian genealogy ready to help. This CD-Rom is the result.
The concept is simple enough. All those who contributed sent in a “gedcom,” a file created by genealogy software that can then be sent to someone else who can read the information on his or her own software. New information which completes a family line, fills in missing dates or places or simply corrects information already in the computer can be added, while other information is ignored.
However, there are close to 150 gedcoms on this CD-Rom, resulting in more than 500,000 names. As they come from all over North America, from the Maritimes to Louisiana, from Ontario to the western United States, it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s where Cyr’s CD-Rom is most useful. By properly following instructions, a researcher can compare his or her own gedcom with those of the CD-Rom for possible name matches. When the list of probable matches appears, you may find your great grandfather had the same name and date of birth as the grandfather of someone living in Winnipeg, for example. Further searching will allow you to determine whether these two are in fact the same person. The name and address of the gedcom’s author are included in case you want to contact that person for more information.
All gedcoms accepted by Cyr for the CD-Rom had this in common: the vast majority of names included had to be of Acadian origin, and names that were not Acadian had to be held by people who were of Acadian descent or who had at least married Acadians. When referring to Acadians, Cyr includes those of French-Canadian descent living in the counties of Madawaska and Victoria, as well as Aroostook County in Maine. In fact, experience has shown him that it’s very hard to exclude the French Canadians “cousins” when compiling Acadian genealogical information.
Something had to be done:
Any project of this type requires time and energy. But for Cyr, it was also a way of staying active despite serious health problems. On his Internet page, he explains it this way:
“In June 1980, a cardiologist put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, you only have six months to live…unless you allow us to perform the open-heart surgery you require.” A triple bypass!”
At that time, Cyr was only 39 years old and he had already suffered a second heart attack. But he wasn’t about to throw in the towel. “Me, roll over and play dead? No way!”
Surgery was successful and he returned to work for a different company where he was promoted five times in nine years. But in 1990, he was back in the hospital with what seemed to be a third heart attack. It turned out to be a prolonged angina attack. But the doctor ordered him to stop working. Despite his health problems, Cyr had always been active and the prospect of staying home with nothing to do at the age of 49 wasn’t an enticing one.
He had computers at his disposal, but he rarely had time to use them and they wound up being there for show more than anything else. Now that he had the time, he started working on learning how to fully use the computers and finding out anything he could about data processing. The discovery of the Internet brought a new world to his fingertips. At about the same time, an uncle of his from Grand Falls, Roch Cyr, brought him a lot of genealogical information and got him hooked on genealogy. He resolved to trace his family history by computer.
Over the years, information was gathered and contacts were made with others interested in Acadian genealogy. The aforementioned genealogy project at the Acadian World Convention piqued his interest, and when no one seemed to be following up on this, he took it upon himself to prepare such a tool himself. At that point, not only did gedcoms come in, but shareware program authors were offering the use of their software free of charge. This is one of the many aspects that has kept he price of the CD-Rom relatively low.