MSS-002- The Dreaded ‘Dit’ Name

Episode 002-December 17, 2013

In episode 002, we learned how to pronounce the French words dit and dite. We also covered why and how dit names came into existence, and how to use them to your advantage instead of letting them become a brick wall.

Language Tip #2-Dit/Dite and French Adjectives

In the last episode (MapleStarsandStripes.com/1), we learned that we only pronounce a final consonant if there is a silent ‘e’ after it. So dit does not rhyme with ‘sit.’ It would more closely rhyme with ‘bee.’ Dite, on the other hand, would rhyme with ‘feet.’

Because French is a Romance language, its nouns are classified as either masculine or feminine. Masculine nouns must be described by adjectives in the masculine form; feminine nouns must be described by adjectives in the feminine form. Because chien, the word for ‘dog,’ is masculine, it would be accompanied by the French article le (the) and adjective blanc (white). Also, adjectives come after the noun. So ‘the white dog’ would be:

le chien blanc

the dog white

Since maison is a feminine noun, ‘the white house’ would be:

la maison blanche

the house white

Therefore, dit refers to a male and dite refers to a female.

The Dreaded Dit Name

Dit and dite come from the French word dire, to say. So Antoine Forget dit Latour loosely translates to Antoine Forget called Latour.

Dit names are thought to come from soldiers’ noms de guerre, given to distinguish soldiers with the same name, perhaps an indication of each soldier’s unit. There are also many other reasons why dit names were used:

  • Nom de guerre
  • Distinguish two unrelated families with the same surname
  • Distinguish different branches of the same family
  • Indicate place of origin
  • Indicate place of residence
  • Indicate a physical characteristic
  • Indicate a personality trait
  • Use the name of an ancestor
  • Indicate occupation
Where to Find Lists of Dit Names

002-Tanguay dit names

002-Quentin dit names

002-Sullivan

002-AFGS

  • PRDH (Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique du Québec)

002-PRDH dit names

If you are stuck and can’t get back any further on a particular line, make a list of alternative names for your surname in question. Then go back to the records in the location where your ancestor should be. See if you can find him or her in those records under a different name.

UPDATE (November 14, 2014): The Fédération québécois des sociétés de généalogies has published a resource for those searching for dit names or other name variations. You can download the .pdf at http://federationgenealogie.qc.ca/Fichiers/patronymes2.pdf. Read their article about surnames here: http://www.semainegenealogie.com/capsules/les-noms-de-famille (in French).

 

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17 comments on “MSS-002- The Dreaded ‘Dit’ Name

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Very hard indeed.
    My ancestor was André Mignier dit La Gâchette.
    The Mignier name was also written Minier by some priests. Mignier dit Lagacé would also be Lagacé dit Mignier. Mignier was also written Meunier. So people whose surname is Meunier could be in fact Lagacé (or Lagasse in the U.S.), but not always.

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Pierre-I see your dit names and variations are all in the AFGS database except the Minier spelling. Perhaps you could submit that one. You never know whom it might help.

  2. Pierre Lagacé

    I wrote this

    Hi,

    My name is Pierre Lagacé.

    There is also the variation of Minier that exists for Mignier and Lagacé.
    It does not appear in your list.

    Here is an example.

    That the marriage act of my great-great-grandparents.
    Stanislas Minier dit Lagacé and Onésime Cadieux (Lésime Caieux)

    Pierre Lagacé

  3. alyska

    Hello!

    I’ve really been enjoying your podcast, and it’s been quite helpful as I’ve worked my way through my father’s maternal side, which seems to be almost entirely French Canadian (with the possibility of some Métis or other First Nations blood in one of the lines as well.)

    The podcast on dit/dite names has been particularly helpful, as I’ve been trying to figure out all of the combinations (as well as anglicizations) and spelling variations for each of my lines.

    If you’re ever in need of another name to puzzle through, I’d love to commiserate with you.

    My main lines are:
    – Franker –> Francoeur –> LeClerc dit Francoeur (well-documented, along w/Paradis)
    – Delibac/Dillaback –> DeLubac –> St Jean dit Delubac / DeLubac dit St Jean (a complete brick wall, and my main focus right now. Native blood is here or in Bodric line.)
    – Gelino/Gelina(s) –> Gelineau –> Jullineau (well-documented, but haven’t figured out how my guy fits in)
    – Bodric –> Beaudry or Boudreau? (Also a mystery, but may be half/adopted sister of Delibac.)

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Hi Alyska-
      Our French-Canadian ancestors certainly wanted to keep us on our toes with all those name variations. I’m glad that the podcast is playing at least a small part in helping you wade through them all.

  4. Pierre Lagacé

    Try this one… Cayo or Kayou which is Cadieux.

  5. Pierre Lagacé

    Newcity which is Villeneuve… Easy one…

  6. Pierre Lagacé

    I forgot about some Myers in the U.S. who are descendants of Chrétien Lemaire whose real name could be Chrétien Brackmeyer a soldier from the Hanau chasseur regiment. He fought during the War of the Independance on the side of the British.

  7. Jennifer Grandchamp

    Wow.. Just happenedupon your podcast and I’m so happy that you’re doing this. with a dit name as my surname, it’s always perplexedme as to why my name is so uncommon and not found in France. I’vealso been successful in finding my emigrant French ancestor, Pierre Guillet, even though my American ancestors use the surname, Deaett. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    Regards,
    Jennifer Grandchamp (Cornelier dit Grandchamp)
    Los Angeles, California, USA

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Welcome, Jennifer. Your surname may be rare, but I’ve never ever seen the last name Deaett before. Sometimes the rare names are a whole lot easier, though. Every Sourdif I come across is definitely related in some way!!

  8. gayle lagasse

    I share the andre mignier dit lagasse ancestor. My great grandfather was Joseph Lagace married to Mathilda Gauthier. His son, my grandfather was hermenegilde lagasse married to auxila dupre, the daughter of leon dupre and marie zoe. Laurence. I am trying to find the parents and siblings of Joseph.

  9. Marijo

    Your website is just what I needed! I only wish the transcribers for Ancestry.com would read your posts. I have found ancestors where the “dit” was transcribed as a name “Oile.” Thank you for your wonderful work.

  10. Maple Stars and Stripes

    Thanks, Marijo. I’m glad you’re finding it useful.
    Unfortunately those transcription errors are the negative result of outsourcing. I wouldn’t do any better if I were transcribing Chinese names with Chinese characters.
    My genealogy society had a project years back where we transcribed tombstones. We tried doing a Jewish cemetery, including transcribing the Hebrew characters. We gave up because there were about 3-4 symbols that looked like some form of the number 7. We couldn’t tell them apart, so we gave up trying. We didn’t want to mis-transcribe something and offend somebody. I can just imagine how badly we could have bungled it.
    Now if only Ancestry understood that!

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  12. Michael Lafreniere

    I am wondering what the proper way would be to enter “dit” names into a genealogy program such as Family Tree Maker or on Ancestry. Is there a style guide that provides guidance on this? And a related question, you sometimes see an individual’s last name reflected several ways in various records. Which one should be used as primary, the name as listed in a baptismal record?

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Hi Michael-I have software that allows me to enter as many name variations as I find. So I enter each name on a record as it appears. I would enter the surname as ‘Destroismaisons dit Picard.’ I don’t know of any style guide; everyone is limited by what their software will allow. It’s also a matter of personal preference.
      As for the primary name, I always use the birth name as primary; but as I said, I enter all variations that appear. That’s how I do it.

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