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A Conversation with David Gaboury

Updated: Feb 4

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Dave Gaboury, award-winning author of The Gaboury Story: An Adventure Across North America. Mr. Gaboury’s book recently won the 2023 Family History Book Award by the Heritage Education Commission. 

The Gaboury Story: An Adventure Across North America documents the genealogical history of North American descendants of Antoine Gaboury, who immigrated from France to Québec in 1659. Readers have the opportunity to learn about the factors that influenced various branches in the Gaboury family tree, including surname variations such as Gabourie, Gabaree, Gabree, and Gibree. He designed his book so that any person in North America with the Gaboury surname (or a variant of it) can trace individual genealogical history within the larger family tree.

Mr. Gaboury is currently working on a French translation of The Gaboury Story: An Adventure Across North America. Copies of his book are being donated to libraries studying French-Canadian genealogy and heritage.

Q: Could you speak a little bit about yourself and your background, particularly your French-Canadian upbringing? 

A: My ancestors are one hundred percent French Canadian descent. I was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which is a French-Canadian town right on the northern border of Rhode Island. All my relatives lived there—they were all French Canadian. I went to Catholic schools which many French-Canadians did still at the time. In my parents’ generation, the schools were half English and French, but by the time my generation was going to school, all the classes were taught in English—though everyone had a French class starting from first grade through primary school. Unfortunately, I only got through second grade when my father, for work reasons, moved us away from Woonsocket to Minnesota to a very non French-Canadian community, so I lost contact with that culture. I grew up for the rest of my childhood in the Midwest in a non-French-Canadian community, so when I did start working on genealogy, it made me feel more in touch with the culture that I had somewhat missed out on by moving away.

Q: Could you explain to us what your book is about and what inspired you to write it?

A: People in my age group with French-Canadian ancestry typically have some exposure to French-Canadian culture when they were younger but have transitioned away from it. A lot of people in this age group are very interested in learning more about this experience that they had when they were young. I decided to focus on branches of the family that carried on the Gaboury surname, and the book is about these Gaboury branches and anyone who is a Gaboury in North America—it turns out that we’re all related because we’re all descendants from one man in Quebec!

Q: Could you describe the research process for your book?

A: French Canadians have the advantage of having a lot of good resources out there when we’re doing our research because most French Canadians were Catholics and the Catholics kept good parish records. Putting together the old generations of the family is fairly easy until you get to the most recent generations—for privacy reasons, the records about the most recent generations are often difficult to get. To give a complete picture of the family tree, I had to start finding living Gaboury relatives who could tell me more about their branch of the tree. I used Facebook as the social media platform for this, and that process brought together distant Gaboury relatives who would have never met each other had it not been for my research into this community. It was really rewarding for me and it was rewarding for them and it gave me a lot of great information for my research. 

Q: Could you describe challenges you encountered throughout the process?

A: When you’re doing research, there will always be holes in the story because you cannot find information to answer certain questions. Occasionally, as I reached out to family members to learn more about their branch of the family or get photos, I ran into people who didn’t want to talk to me about their family. That’s disappointing because you know that they know some information that you really would like to talk about in the book, but they don’t want to talk to you or people say that they have photos but they’ll never get around to getting those photos to you. It’s very frustrating but you just have to work that into the scope of your project and decide when to keep pushing or when to leave it alone.

Q: How did it feel to find out that you received the 2023 Family History Book Award from the Heritage Education Commission? What was your reaction?

A: I was very excited about that particular group. They’ve been around for a long time promoting historical research and they’ve had annual family history workshops for many years. It’s a real honor to win the award. Books get included in the archives at the University of Minnesota’s Moorhead Library—they have a collection of books written by authors in the region and my book was added to that collection. The inclusion of the book in the archive gets it out there for people, so it’s very exciting!

Q: Are there any specific messages or lessons that you hope readers take away from this book, especially readers hoping to embark on their own genealogical journeys?

A: I think one of the things that I would recommend to people who do genealogy work is to take a step back from your research to share what you’ve done. Doing genealogy work is addictive—

it’s also a challenge. People can get absorbed in it and focus all their time on solving these puzzles and never take any time to share what they’ve learned. Writing the book was a fun project on its own but the appreciation I’ve gotten from people has been overwhelming. I think anyone who does genealogy research can take away that same sense of accomplishment if they’re willing to step away from the research phase and just think a little about sharing what they’ve learned. There’s so many ways to share what you’ve learned. You don’t have to be a writer and you don’t have to be technical—you can just get together with grandkids and tell them stories about the way their family used to live. I think everybody should take some time to really realize the full benefit of what they’ve put together from their research.

Written by Pranavi Vedula, High School Intern

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