Father Leo E. Begin, chaplain, curate, preacher, spent his free time doing genealogy
in the United States and Canada. He was born in Megantic, Province of Quebec, not too far from Coburn Gore in Maine. In 1911 the Begin family of ten moved to Lewiston, Maine where the father and two older sons found work in the mills to support the family.
In 1926, he entered the French-speaking North American Province of the Dominican religious order and was ordained to the priesthood in 1931. Known as the Order of Preachers, (the monks use O.P. after their names). Father Begins' name in religious
life was Ange Marie Begin O.P.. Assigned to Maine, he served various institutions and organizations as chaplain. In 1948 he became a curate at St. Peter & Paul’s parish in Lewiston.
It was Father Begin’s trip back to
Megantic with his parents that initiated his interest in genealogy. He begun to keep track of his relatives and ancestors among the Begins, the Labrecques and the Bureaus. Later he met the Dominican genealogist Father Charland, the great archivist Pierre Georges
Roy who would become his mentor, Joseph Drouin of the Drouin Institute and Franciscan Father Archange Godbout who was very helpful to him.
Father Begin did research by correspondence and in many Quebec and American cities. In Medicine
Lake, Minnesota he found the marriage record (written in French) of his great grandfather Benjamin Begin with Marie Noel. The first Begin ancestor in Quebec was Louis Begin of Honfleur in Normandy, France. Louis's father, Jacques, also made the trip but drowned
before landing in Quebec in 1654
During the course of his life, Father Begin accumulated a small genealogical library. He wanted these volumes to continue serving the Franco-Americans of his home town area of Lewiston, Maine. Thus,
shortly after Father Begin's death, with the help of Normand Rioux of that area and Richard Fortin, President of the American Genealogical Society of Manchester, NH, a Maine Chapter of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society was organized. The first official
meeting was held on December 12, 1980 at St. Joseph’s Church in Lewiston, Maine with Normand Rioux as the presiding officer. Since Father Begin's bequest of his genealogical collection was the prime motivating factor in forming a Maine based chapter,
a motion to name it the Father Leo E. Begin Chapter of the American-Canadian Genealogical Society was seconded and passed unanimously.
The Chapter continued to operate and thrive and in January of 2001, became an independent nonprofit
Maine corporation under the name of the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society. The library of the MFGS continues to be named in memory of Father Leo E. Begin.
The Lewiston-Auburn area is home for Maine's largest number of Franco-Americans.
These people have contributed a great deal to the continued growth and expansion of this community. Many of the mills have closed, many of the tenements have been razed, and many in the younger generation no longer speak French. However, the heritage of these
outstanding people lives on. The Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society is dedicated to the preservation of this heritage. We are a self-help genealogical library and our goal is to fulfill our commitment of helping area people become aware of their roots.