"dit" Names etc.

Rita Elise Plourde

* There are two reasons why there are so many variant spellings of some names.

* First: most of the citizens of the 1600-1800 were illiterate. Of these, a precious few could sign their names. However, the priests,seminarians,missionaries, monks & nuns were the most educated groups in the citizenry. Only an elite few were educated beyond what we, today, would consider a basic elementary education.

* Consequently, many of the clerics & notories, who under the French system of administration were charged with recording "vital statistics" wrote the names as they knew them to be in France, as a precious few of the immigrants/colonists signed them, or as they heard them (phonetically).

* That is why one sees Garau, Garrault, Gareau,Garo, etc... even amongst the sons of a particualr ancestor. A good example are the descendants of Louis Houde...some of the variant spellings found are: Houd,Houle, Ould,Houde,Hood,etc.

* The second reason for variant spellings is: As the colonists migrated within Nouvelle France/New France & eventually beyond the areas of French-speaking Canada ( ex. to current-day USA, the Caribbean, the West Indies, etc.) recorders of "vital statistics" who were not French speakers, usually spelled names phonetically, or changed them because they didn't have a clue how to write them.

(Ex. Rochefort became Rushfort in the Carolinas, Champagne became Shampang, Thibodeaux became Thibodo, or Tibodo. LeBrun was changed to Brown & Leblanc to White, etc.etc.)

* The "dit" names have an interesting origin. The English translation of "dit" is "said". The Colonists of Nouvelle France added "dit" names as distinguishers. A settler might have wanted to differentiate their family from their siblings by taking a "dit" name that described the locale to which they had relocated ( ex: since the Colonists followed the customs of the French feudal system, land was divided amongst the first born sons [primogeniture] . Soon there was not enough land to divide any further.

* Perhaps an adventurous younger son would decide to establish himself, with or without a family, in another area... say a fertile piece of land near some streams... he might add des ruisseaux (streams/creeks/rivulets) to distinguish himself from his brothers. When he married,or died, his name might be listed as Houde dit DesRuisseaux, or Desruisseau(s).

* The acquiring of a "dit" name might also be the result of a casual adoption, whereby the person wanted to honor the family who had raised them. Another reason was also to distinguish themselves by taking as a "dit" name the town or village in France from which they originated... ex: Huret dit Rochefort.

Rita Elise Plourde (10) is a member of AFGS and contributer of cultural, or historical comments in response to the queries posed by volunteers in the AFGS Volunteers mailing list. She is a bilingually educated ( K thru college) Franco-American anthropologist, who was raised in a multicultural environment. Rita continues to explore, examine &extol the culture of her French/Acadian/Quebecois ancestors & contemporary relatives. Her primary aim as an AFGS member is the sharing of information & research regarding her French/Acadian/Quebecois ancestors, their culture & their legacy.

(Source: American-French Genealogical Society
Surnames French-Canadian : Variants, Dit, Anglicization, etc.

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Some examples of dit names used in conjunction with the Jerome surname:

Jerome - Latour
Jérome - Beaume
Jérome - Beaumeleblanc
Jérome - De la Tour
Jérome - Latour
Jérome - Leblanc
Jérome - Longtin
Jérome - Patry
Jérome - Rivière
Jéróme - Hélie
Jérôme - Baumeleblanc
Jérôme - Beaume
Jérôme - Delatour
Jérôme - Lonquetin
Jérôme - Patry
Jérôme - Rivière

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