17 Jan

WHAT THE dit???

This weeks #52ancestor challenge is unusual names. With over 15k people, in my family tree there are some very interesting names.

My ancestors seemed to like naming their children after presidents. We have our share of George Washingtons, Thomas Jeffersons, Zachary Taylors, and even a Grover Cleveland!

We have an Independence born, you guessed it, July 4th.

We have a Wade Hampton, Robert E. Lee, and a Sherman Tecumseh.

Colonial New England and the puritan names are always interesting too. Mehitable, Thankful, and Experience are a few of my favorites. After the Indian Wars, we even had two babies named Captive, and Captivity. Yes, there were born while in the custody of the Indians.

But the names that have vexed me the most, and caused me many a frustrating afternoons and evenings, are those damn “dit” names.

Dit is pronounce DEE, and it means basically to “be called or to say” It’s essentially a nickname. A nickname that the French Canadians used to mind boggle their descendants. It was used early in the settlements of Canada up until sometimes the 1900’s.

There are several reasons why dit names occurred. Sometimes it references the family origins, sometimes a characteristic or a job. Often, it came from the father’s military service. Men were given a nom de guerre, or war name. This was an extra identifier to their ordinary names. I guess it was the early French version of dog tags. After their service, the men sometimes took these names as their dit names.

Not only is having an EXTRA name a genealogical challenge, there seemed to be no standard to how they were recorded and no rules as to which children kept it. Sometimes brothers created their own dit names to distinguish themselves from each other. To make matters more confusing sometimes the dit name became their ONLY names, sometimes the dit name became hyphenated with the original. NO RHYME OR REASON.

WARNING: Patience is required ahead.

Let’s look at some of my examples.

Gabriel Celle dit Duclos

AKA Gabriel Celle

Gabriel Celle dit Duclos, was my 10X great grandfather

I have records of him being Gabriel Celle, and Gabriel Celle dit Duclos. Of his 10 children, half of them carried the dit name. In only two generations, about 50% of the family was using Duclos, the other half Celle. I have yet to figure out where the Duclos comes from. If anyone knows please let me know.

Andre Jarret dit Beuareguard. 

AKA Andre Jarret, Sieur de Beuaregard, Andre Jarret.

Andre is my 9x great grandfather, his dit name came from the area in France named Beuareguard where he was born. When he arrived in new France, he began using this dit name. He was granted land which he named Isles of Beaureguard. Because he owned the island, he became Sieur de Beauregard. In a few records this is the only way he is identified. Hard to verify!

As in Gabriel’s example, in only a few generations, we have Beauregards, and we have Jarrets. Not only just Jarrets, we have Jaret, Jared, Jarry and Jarais.

Jean Beanune dit lafranchaise

AKA jean Joseph Beanune, Jean Beanune, Jean Bosne, Jean Bone

Jean was my 9X great grandfather, he was a solider in the La Varenne Company of the Carignan Regiment. He arrived in Canada on September 13, 1655. He had 9 children, 4 carried the dit name lafranchise. I have to admit this is just strange to me. Lafranchise translates to THE FRENCH. Now my Portuguese ancestor, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago, was known as dit Protagulis, but that makes more sense. Not too many Portuguese in New France, but I kind thought there would be a bunch of French? Maybe Jean was super French?

According to http://www.afgs.org/ditnames/index1.html, 20 different family names used dit lafranchaise. Who knew?

I have to tell you, I stressed over this for years. I am now officially over it. It actually gives me more of what I love about genealogy. More to uncover, more mysteries, more to explore.

One of the things that bothered me was how to record my dit names. When I switched to reunion software, that solved that problem. They have a field for suffix in the names section. This is where I record the dit names. There are many sources on the net for dit names if you get stuck.

If we used dit names today what would yours be? I think mine would be Carrie Muniz dit wino.

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