French dit Names

PÉPIN DIT LACHANCE
If you are specifically looking for "our" name, LACHANCE or, as it was originally known, Pépin dit Lachance...
Click on the Horseshoe Image.  This will take you to a separate page (Lachance - Where did the name come from?) that describes what I know, or have heard, about how some of us became LACHANCE and what I know about the origin of the "dit" name LACHANCE.

Otherwise, below is what I've learned about the "dit" names we all continue to encounter.

Pépin dit Lachance - Dit Names
Say What?

What The Dit?

Anybody who works with genealogy has learned about the proverbial "brick wall" and how to use them to "bang your head" over and over again, until you just want to give up or you've knocked your self out completely.   It's rumored this is good exercise as it appears hitting your head on a wall burns up to 150 calories per hour!  So if you're trying to lose weight, by all means, keep doing what your doing!  Otherwise...

Many researchers with French-Canadian ancestors are often confused or stopped in their tracks by the ever-present usage of what is known as "dit" name.   In our Québec research, one of the things that can make it difficult to find your ancestor is that he/she may have been using a different surname from the one that you expect.  Aside from the intentional name changes and/or corruptions introduced upon arrival in North America, you should also make yourself aware of any "dit" names that might be associated with the surname you're tracing. (see PRDH link below) IF you can't find someone under the name of his/her child, you may just find him/her under the "dit" name.
"dit" in French means "say" and in this context, it means "said" or "called."
In other words, the name of our ancestor, Antoine Pépin dit Lachance, means that he had an ancestor named Pépin, but he uses the name Lachance instead.  So, he is Antoine Pépin called Lachance.
What is a "dit" name?
Simply put, a "dit name" is an alias given to a family name.  Compared to other "aliases" or "a.k.a.'s"(also known as) that are given to one specific person, the "dit" names are given to many persons.

Some surnames, such as Roy, are known to have several different "dit" names.  You should also be aware that usually a different "dit" name indicates a different family. For example, Siméon Roy dit Audy and Antoine Roy dit Desjardins were not related to each other. The same is true for Pépin dit Lachance and Caillot dit Lachance - they are not related families.

According to the PRDH (see below) "From a practical point of view, an individual can be designated by a nickname at just about any time, and no rules can be made to predict when."
Reasons for "dit" names
Some reasons "dit" names may have been used:
Surname used in the army (can also be combined with another reason)
Place of origin (Breton, Langlois, Langevin, etc.)
Land owned or inhabited by an ancestor (Beauregard is an example)
The full name of the ancestor (Gaston Guay -> Gastonguay -> Castonguay)
The first name of an ancestor (Vincent, Robert, etc.)
Keeping the original name (in local language) during the process of standardizing names to French
Miscellaneous
As an aside, our name "Lachance" would most likely fit under the "Miscellaneous" heading.  See "The Lachance Name" page for more.
Lachance.org - Links to more Dit Name Information
LINKS TO OTHER SITES THAT MIGHT HELP:
If you should happen upon a link that no longer works, please contact me to let me know

The first link here is that of PRDH - Le Programme de recherche en démographie historique (The Research Program in Historical Demography).  This site is at Université de Montréal who undertook the exhaustive reconstruction of the population of Quebec from the beginnings of French colonization in the seventeenth century.  I would highly recommend this site (and the subscription service that goes with it) if you are involved in French Canadian Genealogy.  The link goes to the English version for non-French speakers.

PRDH - First and Last Names
Of particular interest is the link called family name-nickname associations on this page, this is a list of all family name-nickname associations found in documents prior to 1800.

Nickname Associations 
Go directly to the nick-name search page

ThoughtCo - What is a Dit Name?
ThoughtCo is an education website that launched in March of 2017.  Another explanation  of dit names appears here.

Wiki - Dit name
Of course there will always be Wiki (I think)
dit Confusion
Just a bit more to help with the confusion of it all...

This article was written by Rita Elise Plourde and published on The American French Genealogical Society of Woonsocket, RI website sometime ago.  Again I hope I'm not violating anybody's copyright here but since it's educational, I thought it'd be ok to publish it here.

"There are two reasons why there are so many variant spellings of some names.

First, most of the citizens of the 1600-1800 were illiterate. Of these, a precious few could sign their names.  However, the priests, seminarians, missionaries, monks and nuns were the most educated groups in the citizenry.  Only an elite few were educated beyond what we, today, would consider a basic elementary education.

Consequently, many of the clerics and notaries, who under the French system of administration were charged with recording “vital statistics” wrote the names as they knew them to be in France, as a precious few of the immigrants/colonists signed them, or as they heard them (phonetically).

That is why one sees Garau, Garrault, Gareau,Garo, etc… even amongst the sons of a  particular ancestor.  A good example are the descendants of Louis Houde…some of the   variant spellings found are: Houd, Houle,  Ould, Houde, Hood, etc.

Second, as the colonists migrated within Nouvelle France/New France and eventually beyond the areas of French-speaking Canada (to current-day USA, the Caribbean, the West Indies, etc.) recorders of “vital statistics” who were not French speakers, usually spelled names phonetically, or changed them because they didn’t have a clue how to write them.

For example, Rochefort became Rushfort in the Carolinas, Champagne became Shampang, Thibodeaux became Thibodo, or Tibodo. LeBrun was changed to Brown and Leblanc to White, and so forth.

The “dit” names have an interesting origin. The English translation of “dit” is “said”.  The Colonists of Nouvelle France added “dit” names as distinguishers. A settler might have wanted to differentiate their family from their siblings by taking a “dit” name that described the locale to which they had relocated ( ex: since the Colonists followed the customs of the French feudal system, land was divided amongst the first born sons [primogeniture] . Soon there was not enough land to divide any further.

Perhaps an adventurous younger son would decide to establish himself, with or without a family, in another area… say a fertile piece of land near some streams… he might add des ruisseaux (streams/creeks/rivulets) to distinguish himself from his brothers.  When he married, or died, his name might be listed as Houde dit DesRuisseaux, or Desruisseau(s).

The acquiring of a “dit” name might also be the result of a casual adoption, whereby the person wanted to honor the family who had raised them. Another reason was also to   distinguish themselves by taking as a “dit” name the town or village in France from which they originated… ex: Huret dit Rochefort.

Rita Elise Plourde is a member of AFGS and is a bilingually educated Franco-American anthropologist, who was raised in a multicultural environment.  Rita continues to explore, examine and extol the culture of her French/Acadian/Quebecois ancestors & contemporary relatives."

Cadillac's Village

And finally, yet another good resource is the book, "Cadillac's Village" or "Detroit under Cadillac"

I've included an excerpt offering an explanation from an old book (originally published in 1896) named "Cadillac's village," or "Detroit under Cadillac." With list of property owners, and a history of the settlement 1701 to 1710. Compiled by C. M. Burton.  This is a 2-page PDF document and I think, worth the read.  Feel free to open it, read it, print it, or place it over your eyes to block the light so you can take a nap in peace.

The entire book may be viewed on line at "archive.org" by clicking HERE. or you may open and/or download my PDF EXCERPT HERE.


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