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Professor Discusses Research On Upstate New York’s French-Canadian Heritage

Professor Janet Shideler
Siena College
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Professor Janet Shideler

A Siena College professor has embarked on a research project to investigate and preserve the heritage of French-Canadian workers in upstate New York.  French professor Janet Shideler is trying to catalogue and tell the stories of the nearly one million miners, textile and other workers who moved from Quebec to New York.  She says the “I Remember” project stems from her graduate experience at McGill University in Montreal.
 “I was a tour guide taking people from western Massachusetts up to Canada and was hired to that since my specialty at that point was French Canada they thought I would be able to give them a glimpse into Quebec. Well surprise to me as I looked at the list of passengers for one of those trips I saw Closhen, Beaucheman, LeBlanc, and every single name without exception was a French-Canadian or French name. And I turned to a gentlemen in the front Monsieur Rivard and I said what is this about? And he said we’re Franco-Americans. All of our families immigrated from Quebec. There was really little known about this population of almost one million who had left French Canada to immigrate to the Northeastern United States. And so I was stunned. And Monsieur Rivard said you know someone has to tell our story.”

The research is being funded by a Common Heritage Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Family stories and artifacts are being collected and digitized.