Archiver > QUEBEC-RESEARCH > 2003-03 > 1047068620

From: "Paula M. Charlton" <>
Subject: [Q-R] What exactly does "dit" mean?
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 14:23:40 -0600
References: <>

Would anyone have any ideas on how or why Cyr became Vincent?
Paula ----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, March 07, 2003 11:08 AM
Subject: Reply to JoAnne: [Q-R] What exactly does "dit" mean?

In a message dated 03/07/2003 8:51:37 AM Pacific Standard Time,
<< I'm new to the Canadien research and have come across surnames with the
"dit" attached to it...Never sure what it meant...
But thought this would be a good time to ask, since the subject came up. >>

Hi JoAnne.

Welcome to the "best" of the lists!

The word "dit" pretty much means "aka...also known as" or "alias". I
previously posted the following item to the might find it useful.

Cheers. Patrick

What are dit names?

A "dit name" (surname) is an alias added to a family name (patronym).
Compared to other aliases given to a specific person (Réné Landry dit l'Ainé
"the elder"; Jean Côté dit le Frisé "curly"; Louis Guertin dit le Sabotier
"clogmaker"), the dit names were generally adopted by several persons within
the family, and often passed on to succeeding generations. (Guéret dit
Dumont; Haché dit Gallant; Huot dit St Laurent). The usage exists almost
exclusively in France, New France, and in Scotland, where we find clans or
septs. Genealogist Denis Beauregard cites a 1471 record of land rented by
his ancestor Barthelemy Hugon dit Jarret (called Bartelemeo Hugonis alias
Jarreti in this and in other documents). There is another Jarret in the area
at this time with another dit name, so we may assume the dit name was given,
in this case as in many others, to distinguish the two families. Barthélemy
was living in Dauphine, like many soldiers of the Carignan Regiment who came
to New France in 1665-1668. While they were not the only ones nor the first
to use dit names in New France, it seems those soldiers are responsible for
the great number of dit names occuring in Québec compared to France, Acadia
or Louisiana . This would explain, for example, why there is a concentration
of families with dit names around Lac St-Pierre where seigneuries belonged
often to retired officers from the various companies of the Carignan regiment
(Verchères, Sorel, Contrecoeur, etc. to name a few).

Antoine Martin arrived in Québec from Montpelier in the south of France
sometime before 1646. He was subsequently known as Antoine Martin dit
Montpelier (place of origin surname). In the very next generation, however,
Montpelier was replaced by Beaulieu, a surname that speaks of land and
countryside, of a beautiful place where one finds repose. The Beaulieus, like
the Martins, Lefebvres, Gauthiers and others, struck by the beauty of the
landscape of Nouvelle France, no doubt sought to immortalize this impression
in the patronym passed on to their descendents. Thus did a surname ultimately
become the patronym.

Additional insight is provided in a letter written in 1896 by Fr Denissen
to historian C. M. Burton of Detroit. (Quoted in Cadillac's Village, by C.
M. Burton) [N.B. Some have challenged the following notion put forward by
The extensive land grants obtained by the early colonists from the French
government were executed in the medieval phraseology used under the feudal
system of holding estate. The settlers, assuming a resemblance between their
holdings and the domains of the French barons and "seigneurs", called their
large, wild farms by certain titles, and affixed these titles to their own
family names, in imitation of the European nobility. In some cases these
titles were confirmed by the government. They viewed themselves as
"seigneurs" in the New World, and took pride in the affixes to their names,
which were perpetuated in business transactions, in baptisms, marriages,
where the affix gave added dignity to the old family name of bride and groom
in the wordy marriage contract. Thus, the owners of large estates in Lower
Canada, at a certain period of the seventeenth century, looked upon
themselves and upon each other as a quasi-nobility, and their children
assumed those titles and the affixes often became the family names.
By way of illustration, take the Trotier family. The Trotiers of America
all descend from Julius Trotier, born in 1590, in the parish of St. Martin,
in the town of Ige, in the province of Perche, France. Julius, who was a
common citizen, emigrated with his family to Quebec about the year 1645. His
children married in Quebec, and raised large families, who obtained extensive
estates and were very lavish in creating titles for the estates as for
themselves. Thus, we soon encounter 'Trotier, Sieur des Ruisseaux', 'Trotier,
Seigneur de L'Isle Perrot', and 'Trotier, Sieur de Beaubien'. Many of these
Trotiers eventually opted to use the assumed title in lieu of the original
family surname. Thus, we have the families of Beaubien, Desruisseaux, etc.,
all of which are traced to common ancestor Julius Trotier.

Dit names, therefore, have varied origins: army companies (Verchères,
Sorel, etc.); place of origin (Breton, Langlois, Langevin, Montpelier, etc.);
landscape (Beauregard, Beaulieu, etc.); the ancestor's full name (Gaston
Guay to Gastonguay or Castonguay); ancestor's given name (Richard, Vincent,
Robert, etc.); and no doubt for various other reasons, including vainglory
or vanity.

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