MSS-008-Jetté’s Dictionnaire

Episode 008-March 18, 2014

Searching for ancestors whose surnames begin with an L-apostrophe presents its own set of problems. In episode 8, we look at what factors will help us overcome those problems. Then we also look at Jetté’s Dictionnaire genealogique des familles du Quebec, a very reputable source of early Quebec families based on the early PRDH.

Jetté's Dictionnaire title page

French-Canadian News

A message from Michael, a listener, brought up the point that listening to native French speakers can evoke memories of childhood gatherings with family. Have you ever experienced that? And what are you doing to preserve the language for either yourself or future generations? Share your thoughts in the show notes comments.

Suzanne Sommerville shared the following: “Your listeners / readers may also be interested in the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan’s Filles du Roi and Carignan Regiment project and three articles currently published on our website about Filles du Roi from our journal, Michigan’s Habitant Heritage.” Thanks, Suzanne.

Michigan's Habitant Heritage articles

Language Tip #8: French Elision and Surnames

French elision is when you drop a vowel if the next word begins with either a vowel or the mute ‘h’. It would be like saying ‘th’elephant’ instead of ‘the elephant.’

So in French, we see:

the friend           SHOULD BE          le ami           BECOMES           l’ami

the uncle           SHOULD BE          le oncle         BECOMES           l’oncle

We see the same thing with surnames:

L’Anglais           L’evesque

These names can be written with or without the ‘L,’ and with or without the apostrophe. It can be written one way in the record and another way in the index. All possible spellings must be checked.

Example: George L’Anglais appears this way in the census…

George L'Anglais, 1920 census, Burlington, VT

George L’Anglais, 1920 census, Burlington, VT

…yet this way in the index.

George L'Anglais, 1920 census index

George L’Anglais, 1920 census index

In 1870, the Rich Bar, California, census shows a Peter Anglais, no L or apostrophe:

Peter Anglais, 1870 census, Rich Bar Township, CA

Peter Anglais, 1870 census, Rich Bar Township, CA

Rosalie L’Evesque appears in the census this way…

Rosalie L'Evesque, 1910 census, Minneapolis City, MN

Rosalie L’Evesque, 1910 census, Minneapolis City, MN

…yet without the L or apostrophe in the index.

Rosalie L'Evesque, 1910 census index

Rosalie L’Evesque, 1910 census index

Remember that in the cursive writing taught a hundred or more years ago, a capital S and capital L were very similar, to the extent that indexers often confused them. So, in this 1920 census record,

Philip Levesque, 1920 census, Fall River, MA

Philip Levesque, 1920 census, Fall River, MA

Peter Levesque is indexed as Peter Sevesque:

Philip Levesque, 1920 census index

Philip Levesque, 1920 census index

So if you have ancestors with that L’ at the beginning of their name, be sure to search for the surname both with and without the apostrophe, with and without the L, and if you still can’t find it, try it with an initial S instead.

Jetté’s Dictionnaire

René Jetté’s Dictionnaire généalogique des familles du Québec was published in 1983 and is based on the PRDH database, making it much more reliable than Tanguay. Jetté includes individuals and family groups, and he also carries many families back to their origins in France.

Jetté’s Dictionnaire includes the following lists:

  • all parishes that were in existence before the 1730 cutoff date
  • notaries for this time period, the years of their records, and the location their services covered
  • vital records and census entries for unidentified or unconnected individuals
  • name variations found in the records within the book
Chauvin-Archambault family, Jetté's Dictionnaire

Chauvin-Archambault family, Jetté’s Dictionnaire

This is a typical family entry. The top area gives information about the husband, Michel Chauvin dit Sainte-Suzanne. In parentheses are the names of his parents with mother’s maiden name. Next we find out where he was from in France: the parish of Ste-Suzanne in the arrondissement of Laval in the old province of Maine, which is today in the department of Mayenne. The next area is for unique information about this individual. Often it is information from a census, such as:

typical census information in Jetté's Dictionnaire

typical census information in Jetté’s Dictionnaire

“30 ans au rec. 67, à Beauport” means that this person was 30 years old on the 1667 census for Beauport.

But in Michel’s case, “passé en France entre 08-10-1650 et 08-02-1651, où il était déjà marié à Louise DELISLE” means that he headed back to France between the 8th of October 1650 and the 8th of February 1651, where he was already married to Louise Delisle. She was from Voutré in the same arrondissement and province as Michel, and she was his cousin. The meaning of the source abbreviation is found on p. xxiv.

The single line between the spouse sections is marriage information. The single tree icon means it is Michel’s first marriage (at least, that they knew about). They were married 29 July 1647 in Quebec. The ‘ct’ indicates a marriage contract dated the 22nd of the same month as the marriage, recorded by the notary Bancheron.

Next comes information about Anne Archambault. After her parents’ names, we see that she remarried in 1654 to Jean Gervaise.

Next come the two children she had with Michel Chauvin. Paul was born (n) and baptized (b) on the same date, 27 March 1650, in Montréal. He died (d) on the 8th and was buried (s) on the 9th of April 1650 in the same place, Montréal (id.)

Charlotte was born (n) and baptized (b) 5 May 1651 in Montréal. She married Jean Beaudoin in 1663.

The next sentence, “adoptee par Jean Gervaise et Anne Archambault,” which means ‘adopted by Jean Gervaise and Anne Archambault,’ could be misconstrued if you didn’t remember what we learned in episode 2 ( We learned that nouns and adjectives become feminine when an ‘e’ is added, like ‘dit’ for men and ‘dite’ for women. Since that sentence comes right after Jean Beaudoin’s name, was he the one who was adopted by Jean Gervaise and Anne Archambault? Did Charlotte marry her adopted brother? No. ‘Adoptée’ with the extra ‘e’ at the end refers to a female. It was Anne who was formerly adopted by her mother and step-father.

Where to Find Information on Jetté’s Dictionnaire

To find which libraries near you carry Jetté’s Dictionnaire, check Also look for Jetté’s 2001 Corrections and Additions to his dictionary.

Denis Beauregard has compiled a complement to Jetté with corrections and additions in his Dictionnaire généalogique de nos origines. Check out his wonderful website at And be sure to check out his database.

And Now, for a Bit of Humor

A convincing argument for learning French:

A man went into a restaurant and was seated. All the waitresses were gorgeous. A particularly voluptuous waitress wearing a very short skirt and legs that wouldn’t quit came to his table and asked if he was ready to order.

“What would you like, sir?”

He looked at the menu, scanned her beautiful frame top to bottom, then answered, “A quickie.”

The waitress turned and walked away in disgust. After she regained her composure, she returned and asked again, “What would you like, sir?”

Again the man thoroughly checked her out and again answered, “A quickie, please.”

This time her anger took over. She reached over, slapped him across the face with a resounding “SMACK!” and stormed away.

A man sitting at the next table leaned over and whispered, “Um, I think it’s pronounced ‘quiche’.”

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Thanks to Margie Beldin for translation assistance!




One comment on “MSS-008-Jetté’s Dictionnaire

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Tip: Podcast #8 | Family Circle 14

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