Never underestimate the value of visiting a place. I tend to revisit the same types of places: gravesites, conferences, libraries. But when I branch out to court houses and to historical societies, I’m usually pleasantly surprised: I’m illuminated, I’ve got added information, and often the ‘why’s and wherefores’ are explained, mysteries are solved.
5 years ago my husband and I took a trip to the Maritime Provinces, before heading for Montreal (I’ve written about in another post).
Lucky for me my husband is a very social person and that's handy when traveling to unknown parts.
In this case, we headed for the Eastern Townships of Quebec, hunting through Lawrenceville, Ely, Shefford, S. Stukey and other little towns.
My husband sought his grandmother’s family, the Kendalls who were from this area of Quebec (if you don’t know, Quebec is a huge province)-his father’s mother was born in Quebec. But we didn’t find the Kendalls (for a while).
Out of frustration when my husband saw a sign on a building: “GENERAL STORE and POST OFFICE” he stopped the car. He went inside to ask about the Kendalls. He returned a minute later asking for more names-I gave him 2 family names of women who were likely from old families in the area. This time he popped back out of the store, to call me inside.
I'll abbreviate our conversation and stick to the Allards. I mentioned Joseph Ward Kendall married Samantha Allard as his 2nd wife.
They knew them!-- “Oh! Allards!” the husband said, “They’re an old French-Canadian family.” She added, “Right over there is Allard Road.
I was stunned because this did not fit with what I believed his family would be. I knew they were Scottish immigrants or English to Canada, a few were disaffected Americans or Americans looking for more land (as in the Kendalls).
Multiple Names - “Dit”
I know no French and I dreaded the thought of researching ‘dit’ names, mostly because I was ignorant.
Yet, Samantha Allard’s father’s lineage and her grandmothers, have “dit names.” And I knew if this line, the Allard line, had "dit" names, there would be a lot more (as we're going back so far in time). I couldn't avoid it.
Let's look at the Allard line alone: We need to go back to France--and the first Allard or Alard who arrived in Canada:
My husband's 8th gr grandfather
Pierre Alard II
B Abt 1600 Sainte-Hermine, Vendée, Pays de la Loire, France
D 18 Sep 1703 Beaupré, La Côte-de-Beaupré, Quebec, Canada
àMarried 1665 Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada
Marie-Marthe De Lugré
B Nov 1667 Chateau Richer, Quebec, Canada
D 19 Jun 1699 Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Capitale-Nationale, Quebec, Canada
7th gr grandfather
Joseph Allard (Alard)
B 28 Nov 1694 Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, La Côte-de-Beaupré, Quebec, Canada
D 9 Dec 1767 St. Henri, Mascouche, Les Moulins, Quebec, Canada
à1723 November, a Marriage Contract made with "Cecile Berloin" (Canadian Notarial Record)
Note her 'dit' name:
Cecile Berloin dit Nantel
B 17 Jun 1706 St-Francois-de-Sales, Le Domaine-du-Roy, Quebec, Canada
D 4 Aug 1783 Mascouche, Les Moulins, Quebec, Canada
B 17 Aug 1724 Paroisse St-Charles de Lachenaie, Lachenaie, Québec, Canada
D 20 Apr 1800 Mascouche, L’Assomption-Montcalm, Quebec, Canada
àMarried 18 Oct 1745 in Lachenaie, Quebec
Marie Anne Chalifoux
B 4 Mar 1728 Lachiene, Quebec, Canada
D 28 Mar 1800 Lachiene, Quebec, Canada
B 12 Oct 1769 Paroisse St Henri de Mascouche, Quebec, Canada
D Abt 1807 Quebec, Canada
Magdaleine Tellier [Lafortune]
B 1769 L’Asumption, Quebec, Canada
D 1833 St Roch Le Achigan, Quebec, Canada
Francois Joseph Allard (Alard)
B 31 Mar 1790 Mascouche, L'Assomption, Quebec, Canada
D 1854 St. David d'Yamaska, Québec, Canada
àMarried- another "dit" name
Suzanne Mercier dit Lajoie
B 2 Sep 1798 Repentigny, L'Assomption, Québec, Canada
D 28 Jun 1877 Quebec, Canada
B 1815 Quebec, Canada
D After 1881 Quebec, Canada
B 1810 Shefford, Quebec, Canada
D Before 1880, Quebec, Canada
Their daughter: 2nd great-grandmother of husband
Samantha Elizabeth Allard
Born 10 Apr 1840 West Ely, Shefford, Quebec, Canada
Died 16 Apr 1913 Waterloo, Shefford, Quebec, Canada
àMarried 30 May 1860 Lawrenceville (Shefford Methodist Church), Quebec, Canada
Joseph Ward Kendall (B 1820 D 1898)
|Joseph Ward Kendall and 2nd wife Samantha Allard (Luke Hale K is back, left)|
Isaiah Johnston Kendall 1863–1921
**Luke Hale Kendall 1866–1948 - my husband’s great grandfather
Gardner Ward Kendall 1871–1935
Dorothy Vermilia Kendall 1874–1941
Alpheus Gordon Kendall 1876–1956
Florence Marion Amanda 1878–1935
Jennie Grace Kendall 1886–1908
There areat least 2 “dit” names But, what is a dit name?
I first heard about dit names at my local genealogical society meeting and I cringed inwardly when I heard the brief explanation. I thought I’d escaped its clutches because it’s a French-Canadian thing, I thought.
As you can see above, I was wrong about avoiding it: my husband’s family tree ran me smack-dab into the DIT names. I read a little bit about “dit” names. And it's not as painful as I thought it would be.
Here’s a summary from a nice source below:
What Is a Dit Name?
A dit name is essentially an alias, or alternate name, tacked on to a family name or surname.
Dit (pronounced "dee") is a French form of the word dire, which means "to say," and in the case of dit names is translated loosely as "that is to say," or "called." Therefore, the first name is the family's original surname, passed down to them by an ancestor, while the "dit" name is the name the person/family is actually "called" or known as.
Dit names are found primarily in New France (French-Canada, Louisiana, etc.), France, and sometimes Scotland. They are used by families, not specific individuals, and are usually passed down to future generations, either in place of the original surname, or in addition to it.
After several generations, many families eventually settled on one surname or the other, although it isn't uncommon to see some siblings within the same family using the original surname, while others carried on the dit name.
The use of dit names slowed dramatically during the mid- to late-1800s, although they could still be found used by some families into the early twentieth century.
Dit names were often adopted by families to distinguish them from another branch of the same family.
The specific dit name may also have been chosen for many of the same reasons as the original surname - as a nickname based on trade or physical characteristics, or to identify the ancestral place of origin (e.g. Andre Jarret de Beauregard, where Beauregard refers to the ancestral home in the French province of Dauphine).
The mother's surname, or even the father's first name, may also have been adopted as a dit name.
Interestingly, many dit names derived from military service, where early French military rules required a nom de guerre, or war name, for all regular soldiers.
This practice was a precursor to identification numbers, allowing soldiers to be identified collectively by their given name, their family name, and their nom de guerre.
Example of a Dit Name
Gustave Eiffel, architect of the Eiffel Tower, was born Alexandre Gustave Bonickhausen dit Eiffel in Dijon, France, on 15 December 1832. He was a descendant of Jean-René Bönickhausen, who emigrated to France from the German town of Marmagen in the early 18th century. The dit name Eiffel was adopted by descendants of Jean-René for the Eifel mountain region of Germany from which he had come. Gustave formally changed his name to Eiffel in 1880.
How You Might See Dit Names Recorded
A dit name can be legally used to replace the family's original surname. Sometimes the two surnames may be linked as one family name, or you may find families who use the two surnames interchangeably. Thus, you may find an individual's name recorded with a dit name, or under either just the original surname or just the dit name.
Dit names may also be found reversed with the original surname, or as hyphenated surnames.
Hudon dit Beaulieu
Beaulieu dit Hudon
How to Record a Dit Name in Your Family Tree
When recording a dit name in your family tree, it is generally standard practice to record it in its most common form - e.g. Hudon dit Beaulieu.
A standardized list of dit names with their common variants can be found in Rene Jette's Répertoire des Noms de Famille du Québec" des Origines à 1825 and Msgr Cyprien Tanguay's Dictionnaire genealogique des familles canadiennes (Volume 7). Another extensive source is The dit Name: French Canadian Surnames, Aliases, Adulterations, and Anglicizations by Robert J. Quentin.
The American-French Genealogical Society also has an extensive online list of French-Canadian surnames, including variants, dit names, and Anglicizations.
When the name is not found in one of the above sources, you can use a phone book (Québec City or Montréal) to find the most common form or, even better, just record it in the form most often used by your ancestors.
Powell, Kimberly. "What Is a Dit Name?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-dit-name-3972358. [Accessed 12 July 2020]