MSS-004-More French-Canadian Name Variations

Maple Stars and Stripes fleur-de-lis logoThere are so many ways to spell certain sounds in French that it sometimes becomes difficult to even recognize a name as the one for which you are searching. In episode 4 of Maple Stars and Stripes (, we take a look at the many ways of spelling the long O sound and why it’s not always a good idea to rely on a Soundex search when trying to find an ancestor in an online database.

In episode 2 (, we covered dit names. Here we look at other types of name variations that can also make it difficult to find a hard-to-locate ancestor.

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Enjoy listening!



5 comments on “MSS-004-More French-Canadian Name Variations

  1. Suzanne Sommerville

    You have wonderful suggestions in these podcasts, especially for those who are unfamiliar with French, either spoken or written. I have known French (Canadian French from the 17th and 18th centuries) that I heard from my earliest moments of life. I read and understand it, although I have not had much opportunity to write it or speak it in recent years. I have done extensive research in colonial and notarial and other original documents.

    One comment in this podcast needs revision:

    “Also, the English names of captives and native Indian names were difficult to pronounce in French. Therefore, Farnsworth became Phaneuf. The digit 8 is placed in Indian names that contain a sound similar to huit, the French word for the number 8.”

    Actually, the symbol that looks like /8/ is a digraph for the sound /ou/ or of English /w/ before a vowel. On the original handwritten documents, it is a combination of two Greek letters that look like a /u/ on top of an /o/. I can send you examples in a Word document with the images in digital form. Let me know where to send this, if you are interested. PRDH transcribes it as /ou/ in every instance in its certificates, but before a vowel it takes the sound of English /w/.
    Suzanne Boivin Sommerville
    of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

    I have posted a link to your podcasts on our Facebook page

  2. Christine Thiffault

    Great podcast! My last name is Thiffault (yes, with that long O sound), and I am a member of the family association Les Tifault d’Amérique ( The association has been researching the descendants of Jacques Tifault and Marie-Anne L’Écuyer (married in 1687 in New France) over the last 30 years, and found at least 37 ways of spelling our family name: Tifau, Tifaud, Tifault, Tifaut, Tifaux, Tifeau, Tifeaut, Tifeaux, Tiffau, Tiffaud, Tiffaul, Tiffauls, Tiffault, Tiffaus, Tiffaut, Tiffauts, Tiffaux, Tiffeau, Tiffeault, Tiffeaux, Tiffiau, Tifo, Tiffo, Thifau, Thifaud, Thifault, Thifaut, Thifaux, Thifeau, Thifeaut, Thifeaux, Thiffaut, Thiffault, Thiffeau, Thiffeault, Thyfault, Tefoe. As you may have guessed, that last variation is only found in the US. I think your podcast will not only help Americans find their French-Canadian ancestors, but French-Canadians find their American cousins! Keep up the good work!

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Hi Christine, If there were a prize for most name variations, I believe right now you’d be holding the trophy!!! You make a very good point at the end. I have a g-g-grandfather who buried his wife in Quebec and then moved to Massachusetts with a couple of his children. I’ve often wondered if other descendants have traced their line back to this couple and are now wondering, “What happened to pépère?”

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