From Mills to Millennium: Documenting Social Change through Oral Histories among Three Generations of Franco-Americans in Manchester

by Biron, Ronald Ernest, D.A., FRANKLIN PIERCE UNIVERSITY, 2012, 107 pages; 3540308


The Franco-Americans who emigrated to the New England region did so during the industrial revolution, fleeing the starvation and overpopulation in Canada. Those who settled in Manchester, New Hampshire, also developed a community on the West Side of the city making the transition from Canada to Manchester's little Canada section easier for French immigrants. The West Side held the religious traditions and social and fraternal organizations with which this group was familiar. In addition to the history of Manchester, the researcher drew from sociological theories on assimilation, the interdisciplinary theories on place attachment and identity, and combined these approaches with the oral history of place memory.

This dissertation contains the oral histories of sixteen Franco-Americans representing three generations ranging from ages nineteen to ninety. The intent of the collection is to preserve the lived experiences and memories of the Franco-American in Manchester. In order to provide a framework for understanding the oral histories presented here, four major themes were provided: family, education, religion and discrimination. The shifts observed across the generations in terms of the perceived role that the four themes play in their lives are detailed in the narrative portion.

There are two components to this study on Manchester's Franco-Americans. The oral histories captured on the accompanying two hour and forty minute film are supplemented in the written document by recorded memories. Excerpts of written narratives also ground the interviews within the historical backdrop of the Franco-American in Manchester. The film is central to the study and provides videoed interviews from individuals with a French Canadian heritage. This study documented how attitudes and traditions changed across three generations of Franco-Americans within the greater Manchester area.

The groups were characterized by and uniquely identified through the traditions and rituals of this rich culture. The identity with the Franco-American traditions and culture has lessened through the succeeding generations. In addition, the increased emotional separation from the Roman Catholic Church and geographic mobility away from the West Side is noted with its subsequent impact on identity with Franco traditions. All participants were recorded using state of the art video and audio equipment. The film included here is edited for dissertation purposes.

AdviserMargaret Moore-West
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsCultural anthropology; Social research; French Canadian culture
Publication Number3540308

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