The American-Canadian Genealogical Society was founded in Manchester, NH by a group of people that included Roger Lawrence, Lucille Caron-Lagasse, Armand Lagasse, Marguerite Bournival and Henri Chapdelaine. The first meetings were held at the home of Lou Verrette with Paul Munson and Father Gerard Boucher present. Henri Chapdelaine was appointed first editor. There were 61 Charter Members who were the foundation of the Society.
The first officers included Roger Lawrence, president; Lucille Lagasse, vice president and corresponding secretary; Jeannette Pothier-Dinwoodie, recording secretary, and Jean Pellerin, treasurer. Three directors were chosen: Leo Bisaillon, Robert Bisaillon, and Lou Verrette.
At the general meeting of December 7, 1974, the report of President Roger W. Lawrence included the notification that the genealogical library of the late Reginald Olivier of Sanford, Maine, one of our charter members, might be available for purchase by ACGS. Mr. Olivier had spent 25 years building his collection and the membership recognized it as a valuable acquisition. Mrs. Olivier realized that the collection would be a valulable tool for the Society. She agreed to sell it to us for $1,500 partially financed by a voluntary assessment of $10 each. The balance was lent to us by Robert Beaudoin, M.D.
The basement of Ste-Marie’s Church was our first home. Then, we moved to President Jean Pellerin’s house at 165 Oakdale Avenue. The library remained there until the house was sold, and we moved to Villa Augustina in Goffstown. This was our home until Lucille Lagasse offered us her home for our library. Soon after, our holdings grew to such an extent that it became necessary to find a larger location.
It was during Jean Pellerin’s presidency that Father Fern Croteau, then pastor of St. Anthony’s parish, made the basement of the parish rectory available to us. The Society continued to grow both in membership and holdings. It was at this time that the Father Leo Begin Chapter in Lewiston, Maine, was founded. This was done to honor the wishes of Father Begin, an early member who had willed us his private collection, provided the books remain in Lewiston.
Having outgrown our current home, our next move was to the Association Canado-Américaine. This was negotiated by then president, Richard Fortin, and the immediate past president, Jean Pellerin. Thanks to president-general, Eugene Lemieux, we occupied the basement of the ACA building. At this time, the ACA placed a large number of its genealogical holdings on permanent loan with the ACGS.
Again, the Society’s growth made it necessary for us to begin a search for a larger location. It was during the administration of Richard Gagnon that negotiations were completed for our move to L’Ecole des Saints-Anges (Holy Angels School), Ste-Marie’s parish. Mark Gauthier was the next president and he coordinated the move to this site. We remained there until the Spring of 1994.
In 1990, Pauline Cusson was elected to the first of four terms. Shortly after our 20th Anniversary celebration in September of 1993, Treasurer Gerald Lalaonde was contacted by a friend, indicating that there was a piece of land going on the market that ACGS might be interested in buying for the purpose of building our own “home”. We walked the property, met and agonized about the cost of building our own library. A few days prior to submitting an offer on the land, Gerald Nash “sniffed out” a building that, two years previously, was offered to us at $350,000.
In December of 1993, this same building had gone the way of many buildings in Manchester – bankruptcy of the debtors and, in turn, collapse of institutes holding the notes of bankrupted debtors. Enter “Resolution Trust Corp.” (RTC) and Gerry Nash. He discovered that this building, which had been pulled off the market to be sold at auction, was back “on the market”. The bidder did not meet a minimum requirement set by the RTC. Gerry contacted the realtor and we were on our way to owning our own home. The Board of Directors met at the building on a very cold, dreary, Friday-after-Thanksgiving and on December 16, 1993, President Pauline Cusson signed the contract to purchase the building at 4 Elm Street, known to many of our members as the former “Blessed Sacrament Elementary School.”
Some of the cash came from an appeal letter that Lucille Lagasse sent in 1991 to which many of our members responded generating upwards of $20,000. By the end of April 1994, our new home was ready. We had replaced the roof, ripped out the old, near-collapse, oil-burning furnace and replaced it with a cleaner gas-fired system, replaced and/or repaired the plumbing in bathrooms and radiators, demolished the interior dividing walls on the 2nd level and turned the 6,000 [plus/minus] square feet four classrooms into an open space environment.
In May of 1994, we held a rigorous Building Fund campaign co-ordinated by Gerry Nash and Lucille Lagasse. Every member was contacted by mail to explain our Building Fund Drive later by phone. Thanks to Lucille’s appeal to St. Mary’s Bank, we were allowed to use the bank’s outgoing 800 lines to make these hundreds of call. Many people made three-year pledges to purchase a leaf or two on our Tree of Life that graces the entire wall on the landing between the 1st and 2nd levels of our building. These wonderful donors and many more who made a contribution to the Building Fund are listed in a book just to the left of the Tree. Because of their generosity and through their commitment to ACGS, we were able to raise $75,000 to reduce the debt of 1994. [The building was paid off in its entirety in the year 2001.]
Following Pauline Cusson’s terms in office and the move to a new building, Roger Lawrence again served as president. He was followed by Pauline again and Anne-Marie Perrault. It was during Anne-Marie’s term that major renovations to the first and third floors were planned and approved. The renovations were completed under Albert Hamel’s administration.
In 1979, in response to a request from the Reverend Clarence J. d’Entremont, an American-Canadian Genealogical Society (ACGS) charter member, the Board of Directors authorized the appointment of an Acadian Committee. Its charge was to set up a subsidiary group to carry on the work of the disbanded New England Group, la Société Historique Acadienne, originally founded by Father d’Entremont and Attorney Pierre Belliveau of Boston in 1967.
The Acadian Committee, led by Robert S. Gaudet of Nashua, NH, then Vice President of ACGS, also included Mrs. Marie Jeannette Pothier-Dinwoodie, Richard L. Fortin and Jean L. Pellerin. The Committee established a charter and guidelines approved by the parent Society, ACGS. In October of 1980, a genealogical conference totally dedicated to the Acadians was held in Manchester at Notre Dame College at which time the Acadian Genealogical and Historical Association officially came into existence and chose the following for officers:
President, Robert S. Gaudet, Vice Presidents, John P. Leger of Littleton, MA and Adrice Thibeault of Gardner, MA, Secretary, Miss Lillian Leger of Fitchburg, MA, Cultural Activities Coordinator, Donald Thibeault, Gardner, MA, Population Research, Doris Leger, Waltham, MA, Newsletter Editor, Paul D. LeBlanc, Leominster, MA and Co-Editor, Danny R. Landry of Barre, VT. Members of the Acadian Committee were also designated as permanent Councilors.
The new Association (AGHA) established a newsletter called L’Étoile d’Acadie which was widely circulated and had as its theme: Dans le monde entier, l’Acadie cherche ses enfants [Acadia searches for her children, the world over] which had been submitted by one of its very early members Aurore Bilodeau of Leominster, MA. AGHA was active and very successful for a period of five years during which it was instrumental in acquiring the microfilmed records of the Archdiocese of Moncton from the Center of Acadian Studies at the University of Moncton. The Association meetings and conferences were held generally in Massachusetts however, several gatherings were held in o ther New England states. In the last year of its existence, AGHA had a membership roll of over 700 from the U.S., Canada and overseas. In 1985, AGHA was dissolved and its assets remained with the parent organization where the researching of Acadian genealogies is always a priority.
Past presidents of AGHA: Robert S. Gaudet, Nashua, NH, John P. Leger, Littleton, MA, Adrice Thibeault, Gardner, MA, Richard L. Fortin, Manchester, NH, Paul Belliveau, Leominster, MA, Lillian G. Leger, Fitchburg, MA and Edward G. d’Entremont, Lexington, MA.
The following presidents of ACGS have continued to move ACGS forward as we crossed into a new century and the world of the Internet. They were: Albert W. Hamel, Roger Lawrence, Robert Neveux, Craig Donais, Marcel Jussaume, Gerry Savard and Pauline Cusson.
We are very grateful for this history researched, written and provided by Richard Fortin #254 for the ACGS 25th Anniversary booklet.