Saturday, May 26, 2018

Calling on FrancoAmerican descendants to take part in St Jean Baptiste Day in Cohoes, NY June 24, 2018

If you are of a descendant of Franco-Americans from Cohoes, NY, this event may interest you.  On June 24th, 2018 at the Harmony Mills you can bring family artifacts, photos, treasures and more to be memorialized in the New York Heritage Digital Collection.  Listen to the songs of Josee Vachon and hear from a speaker, Cynthia Fox, about Franco-Americans in Cohoes. MAKE A RESERVATION by CALLING 518-782-6769.

Details from the organizer, Ms Janet Shideler of Siena College, are below:

"With generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), on June 24, 2018, faculty and students from Siena College and their partners from the Spindle City Historic Society will host an event to preserve and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Franco-Americans in upstate New York. A free performance by renowned singer/songwriter Josée Vachon and a lecture by University at Albany professor Cynthia Fox will be held at Harmony Mills Lofts in Cohoes in order to preserve and subsequently present the story of Francos and the French-Canadian families of which they are the descendants. Digitization stations for preserving historic artifacts brought to us by Franco-Americans will be open from 12 noon to 3 PM; the lecture at performance begin at 1 PM.
Cohoes is located less than 200 miles from the Canadian border, and thus drew French Canadians in search of financial security. Initially 20 families made the city their home in the 1830s. By 1881, Cohoes was the adopted home of over 6,000 Québécois, a number that comprised over a third of the city’s population. The community supported four French-language parishes, three bilingual parochial schools, five French language newspapers, and three French-language amateur theatre companies. The industrial city of Troy also had a French-Canadian immigrant population of nearly 4,000 by 1881, ensuring that the Franco-American community had a significant presence in the region. French Canadians also made their way to the state’s “North Country,” further contributing to their numbers in the state but also compounding the problem of preserving their collective history. Experience and knowledge of New York’s Franco-American heritage are fading fast. In Cohoes, for example, the average age of its francophone residents is 70. In the state’s northern counties, more than 20% of the population still proudly identifies itself as Franco-American. However, assimilation, movement from these rural areas, and the passing of many Franco-Americans mean that this number is down from more than 60% in towns such as Ogdensburg and Tupper Lake. Nonetheless, in 2000 nearly half a million New Yorkers still reported their ancestry as “French,” the term used by most Franco-Americans to identify themselves. In short, throughout upstate New York, one finds a similarly rich Franco-American history and the same need and urgency to preserve it.

That's precisely what this event is intended to do! Those who attend on June 24 are invited to bring a variety of artifacts for digital preservation: family photos, immigration papers, toys, sheet music, immigration papers, religious medals, etc...items that tell the story of the lives of this sizable ethnic community at work, at play, at worship, at service in their new homeland.  The project will continue past the June 24 celebration as we take mobile digitization equipment "on the road" throughout upstate New York this summer and next."

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