Dit Names

In a previous post, I used a French Canadian “dit” name.  Dit roughly translated is “says” and means AKA, also-known-as, or nickname.  When you have large families living in one area and giving each other all the same first names, a nickname for the last name is a handy thing.  It can also be the result of a nickname from a regiment or other identifier.

My ancestor, Andre Barsa dit LaFleur was in the Carignan-Saliere Regiment.  In The Good Regiment by Jack Verney, his division didn’t seem to take LaFleur as a regimental nickname.  So far I don’t know its origin.  Andre’s grandchildren begin to take Gagean instead of Barsa/Breza/Berza/Berserat as their surname but retain the dit LaFleur.  There’s a story there, a trip to Bibliothèque Archives nationales Québec in Montréal is in order.

In the meantime, do “dit” names impact research?  YES! We’re at the mercy of the priests and indexers and probably to the individuals themselves.  I have seen where they use both names, or one, or the other.  Spellings vary wildly.  So the individuals and the priests are in play for these problems.  The priests’ handwriting or condition of the record make the indexers jobs that much harder.  What will happen when no one is taught cursive anymore?  Who will read the records?  And this is just in Canada.

Once the individuals came to the United States, the priests and town clerks recorded only one name.  Individuals often kept to one name although in Hooksett, NH, I have seen some individuals and families switch between their names, along with anglicized versions, early on.  I often check a great list compiled by the American French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket, Rhode Island:  http://www.afgs.org/ditnames/index1.html   I can easily see if the two names might even be connected.  Then I track the family members under both names as much as I can, going back to the last Canadian generation as well, and only when there is too much coincidence, feel comfortable that the two names go together.

Another clue mentioned to me by a researcher at American Canadian Genealogical Society in Manchester, New Hampshire is that the “dit” name is usually a compound word, i.e. DuFord, LaFleur, LaRonde, etc.

As kids, when Guy LaFleur was a dominant player on the Montreal Canadians, my siblings and I joked that he was “Cousin Guy.”  I have since found out that his dit name is Birolou.  He’s probably a cousin way back to Zacharie Cloutier along with everyone else, but he’s not a Gagean/Breza dit LaFleur.

If your last name is LaFleur, don’t just assume we’re close cousins.  We might be; careful research will reveal the truth.

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Who is Prosper Raymond?

Genealogists are at the mercy of the information gatherers and after them, the indexers.  Information gathered is only as good as the questions asked and how much information the responders really  knew.  When the information taken is hand-written, or the physical record is damaged, then the person compiling an index or repertoire is challenged on spelling.

Delphine LaFleur (or Gagean dit Lafleur depending on when and where) marries Prosper Raymond in 1886, just when good record keeping is taking hold in New Hampshire.  Unlike later marriage dates in the St-John-the-Baptist of Suncook repertoire, early marriages were mostly recorded without the bride’s and groom’s parents’ names.  After this marriage record, Prosper and Delphine Raymond drop off the face of the earth.  Don’t appear on a census, nor are any family baptisms or deaths recorded.  Where did they go?

Enter 2010 and the Mormon Family Search Pilot – http://www.pilot.familysearch.org.  Looking over my brick walls, I think to myself, give Delphine a fresh look.  Let’s see if FamilySearch’s indexers come up with something new.

A search under Delphine LaFleur comes up with an incomplete marriage record to someone named Emon and two birth and two death  records for children in the right time period where the father’s name is given as Severe Emond.  Not quite similar to Prosper Raymond, not quite matching, either. However, I had been watching Sever Emond’s family because they lived next door to my other LaFleurs in the census, and the wife’s name was Delphine.

The census takers complicated matters further by calling this family Edmond and Josephine Hamel in the 1900 census.  Luckily, they were living in the household of Delphine’s sister, Catherine Bibeau, and one of Delphine’s and Sever’s children found on FamilySearch was residing with them.  Delphine is called Josephine in another census as well.  Whether she sometimes went by that name or the civil authorities were recording it incorrectly is anybody’s guess.

Whereas a search for Prosper Raymond never yielded any meaningful hits, Sever Emond made sense right away.  He immigrated from Yamaska, the same town where Delphine was born.

The locality where family events occur also made this a difficult family to follow.  While this couple was married at St-John-the-Baptist in Suncook, which has repertoires  for baptisms/marriage/deaths, their children were born and died in Hooksett, NH, where there’s only a marriage repertoire and I have to rely mostly on census, state records, and town reports.  It was essential to have the correct name.

Luckily for me, new tools and new indexers are coming online all the time.  Another brick wall falls!

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We might be cousins

This blog will be dedicated to genealogy, mainly French Canadian, where we’re all cousins.  My husband is not French Canadian so I may find reasons to post my research about his family.

The past four years have been a journey.  As far as I knew my family was in Canada then came down to New Hampshire.   What a surprise to find myself looking in Maine, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and Oregon for the siblings in my great great grandfather’s generation.

I always wondered what type of name LaFleur is.  Turns out there are lots of LaFleurs and because it’s a nickname, we might not be cousins, or close cousins, but we can figure it out pretty quick.  My uncle told me to find “Gagean.”  I learned about ‘dit’ names. I also found that names will change in a generation and not just by crossing borders into the US.  A family that began as Barsa/Breza dit LaFleur, becomes Gagean dit Lafleur.  Why?  Still planning to research that one.

I took French recently as an adult learner in college and have been able to use that skill to read the church records.  And I’m always learning something new in history; it’s more nuanced than what we’re taught in school.

Sometimes we’ll talk about food, because really, how can you talk about family and not mention food.

Stay tuned.  In the coming weeks, I’ll begin with a couple of brick walls where I think my experience will provide clues for others.  After all, I’m almost still a beginner.

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