I always thought that I was 100% French Canadian (or as I’m starting to say, Franco-American, since all my ancestors came from France to North America before 1800.) Several years ago, I learned that one of my ancestors, Claude Matthias Phaneuf, was actually Matthias Farnsworth in Groton, Massachusetts. He was captured and brought to Montreal as a young boy during Queen Anne’s War. He was adopted into the French community in Quebec and married into my family tree. So there is a small slice of me that is also English.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to visit the town of Groton to see what we might discover about Matthias’ family. Our first visit is always a cemetery, and there is an “Old Burying Ground” in Groton that seemed like it might be the right place. Many of the graves had been photographed and posted through FindAGrave, but I like to see for myself. I also like to drive through town to see what I can see of the landscape and local history.
On Main Street, we drove past the Historical Society and saw a sign that mentioned a tour that would take place two days later. Since we were still in the area, my husband and I, joined by my sister, returned to check it out. The tour of the renovated “Boutwell” house (the current home of the society) was excellent, and we enjoyed the history it shared of one of the town’s leading citizens. The tour group was small, and as we moved from room to room, folks mentioned why they were visiting. We discovered that a distant (probably 6th or 7th cousin) relative was also on this tour. Darwin introduced himself and where he was from, and we started having a conversation about our common ancestors, the Farnsworths.
As a Franco-American, I know that I am related to every other person who can trace their ancestry back to Quebec in the 17th century. I often meet 6th, 7th, and 8th cousins whenever I start a conversation about ancestors. This was the first time that I found a cousin through my Massachusetts Bay Colony ancestors. It made me realize how many more cousins I have yet to meet. And reconfirmed my feeling that searching for our past can connect us in the present, because I sincerely believe that we are all related.
Happy cousin hunting!