What are ‘dit’ names?

[Source:  Various unattributed sources on the internet]

One thing that can make it difficult to find your French Canadian ancestors is that they may have been using a different surname from the one that you expect. You will need to make yourself aware of any “dit” names that might be associated with the surname you’re tracing.  If you can’t find someone under the name of their parents or their family, you may find them under the dit name.

“dit”  in French (pronounced ‘dee’) means “say”, and in this context it means “called.” In other words, a person might be Pierre Bourbeau dit Lacourse, which means that he had an ancestor named Bourbeau, but he chooses to use the name Lacourse instead. So he is Pierre Bourbeau called Lacourse.

People might take a dit name to distinguish their family from another family of the same name living nearby. Often it was a sort of nickname, often picked up during service as a soldier. Or it might refer to the place in France where the family originated. Sometimes it was the mother’s surname, and sometimes the father’s first name was used, either instead of the surname (for example, Hebert dit Emmanuel) or in addition to it (Jeanbard Castonquay). In any case, the dit name was often — but not always — passed down to later generations, either in place of the original surname, or in addition to it.  Occasionally, surnames and dit names were hyphenated and many dit names survive to this day in that form.

Sometimes the children of a parent using a dit name might keep the original surname (e.g. Bourbeau), and some might use the dit name (e.g. Lacourse), or some might continue the ‘Bourbeau dit Lacourse’ usage.  After a few generations, it was not uncommon to completely lose the memory of the original name, or not know which was the original and which was the dit name. The best example of this in our family tree is the Lalonde family where might find a the name Lalonde, or the name L’Esperance, or the name and its dit name hyphenated, Lalonde-L’Esperance. In fact, you can generally assume that a hyphenated surname (before 1950, anyway) is the surname plus dit name. To compound this difficulty, archive records often do not record dit names and many amateur genealogists do not preserve the variations.  Dit names were usually dropped soon after immigration to the U.S. but often caused  considerable confusion to early census takers.

Some surnames, such as Roy, have had several different dit names and the different dit names indicates an entirely different family. For example, Siméon Roy dit Audy and Antoine Roy dit Desjardins were not related to each other. Such cases help to distinguish who’s who among their descendants if the descendants use a dit name. Pierre Roy dit Audy will be a descendant of Siméon Roy dit Audy, and François Roy dit Desjardins will be a descendant of Antoine Roy dit Desjardins. This can lead to a lot of errors in tracing family trees.

Also, you may (will!) encounter many spelling variations, which was a common occurrence before written records proliferated and the ability to read and write became more common. Any name that starts with a vowel, for example, might also be found with an H in front of it (Emond, Hemond, Ayot, Hayot).  And the phonetic “o” sound at the end of a name might be spelled ot, eau, au, ault, eault, eau, aux, eaux, aud, or aut.  The name Vermette may be an english pronunciation of the French name Vermet, evolving over time to Vermette as members of the Vermet family emigrated south to the United States (and often back to Canada in their old age).  Just to speculate, Vermet just may also be the French evolution of the Dutch name Vermeil.  Genealogy is fun. 

Here is a partial list of common dit names and their equivalents [note: source unknown]. You can also find extensive lists of dit names in the sources Jette and Tanguay.

Acelin – Asselin
Agnier – Haguenier
Alarie – Lart
Albert – Beaulieu
Allaire – Daillaire
Amiel – Miel
Amiot – Lincourt, Villeneuve, Vincelot
Amirault – Mirault
Anctil -St-Jean
Angers – Lefebvre
Anse – Bernard, Hains
Arbour – Harbour
Ardouin – Hardouin
Arnaud – Renaud
Arrivé – Delisle, Larrivé
Artigny – Rouer
Asselin – Ancelin
Aubertin – Bertin
Aubin – Delisle, Mignault, St-Aubin
Aubuchon – Desalliers, Leloyal
Audebout – Belhumeur
Audet – Lapointe
Audy – Roy
Auger – Baron
Babin – Lacroix, Lasource
Bajolet – Drouet
Bard – Jeanbard, Jombard
Baron – Auger, Caillault, Defoy
Baucher – Montmorency, Sansoucy
Beaubassin – LeNeuf
Beaubien – Trottier
Beauchemin – Petit
Beaudoin – Courcival
Beaulieu – Albert, Chauvin, Gourdeau, Hudon, Martin, Moulin, Philippe, Thomas
Beaumarchais – Juchereau
Beaumont – Couillard
Beausoleil – Bercy, Malboeuf, Normandin
Beignet – Besnier
Bélanger – Catherine
Belfonds – Genaple
Belhumeur – Audebout, Brunet, Charpentier, Philippe
Belisle – Billion, Germain, Goyer, Leborgne, Lefebvre, Marboeuf, Rotreau
Bellechasse – Berthier, Marsolet
Bellefontaine – Fortin, Godin
Bellerive – Couture, Crevier, Groton
Bellesîles – Gagnon
Belleval – Fournier
Bellou – Hamelin
Belmont – Martin
Bénard – Bonenfant, Bourjoli, Carignan
Bernard – Anse, Jolicoeur, Gonthier
Berthier – Bellechasse
Bertin – Aubertin
Bidon – Jobidon
Bienville – Lemoine
Bigot – Duval
Blanchard – Raynaud
Bléry – Cauchon
Blondin – Leclerc, Sureau
Blouin – Laviolette
Bois – Charlebois
Boisjoli – Fafard, Griveau, Liénard, Ravion, Renaud
Boismenu – Monet
Boismorel – Petit
Boissonnault – St-Onge
Bonenfant – Bénard
Bonin – Deslauriers
Bonsecours – Fauteux
Bordet – Brassard
Borgia – Levasseur
Boucher – Boucherville, Desroches, Ducuron, Grandpré, Grosbois, Morin
Boulanger – Lefebvre
Boumois – Gauthier
Bourbon – Merdieu
Bourbonnais – Brunet, Dumay
Bourdelais – Arcand, Brane, Courrier, Desormaux, Talon
Bourgeois – Laverdure
Bourgouin – Duverger
Bourguet – Etienne
Bourguignon – Bourgouin, Colleret, Couturier, Dessureaux, Verreau
Bourjoli – Bénard
Boutot – Thiboutot
Brasseur – Bordet
Breton – Bion, Courtois, Elie, Girard, Hautbois, Robert
Briand – Georget
Brillon – Régnier
Bricourt – Herbin
Bruneau – Petit
Brunel – Brunet, Limousin
Brunet – Belhumeur, Bourbonnais
Cadillac – Lamothe
Cahouet – Caouet
Canard – Renaud
Cantin – Quentin
Carignan – Bénard, Bourbeau, Duclos
Caron – Dussault, Laviolette
Carrière – Jamme, Lebrun
Casse – St-Aubin
Catherine – Bélanger
Cauchon – Bléry
Cavalier – Deslauriers, Rivet
Chabot – Lamarre
Chambeau – Fleury
Champagne – Aubin, Beaugrand, Dupré, Fontenelle, Gouin, Handgrave, Rémy, Sylvestre
Charbonnier – Desjardins
Charland – Francoeur
Charlebois – Bois, Joly, Jolibois
Charpentier – Belhumeur, Sansfaçon
Châtillon- Berson, Godin, Hardy, Mignault
Chauvin – Beaulieu
Chenneville – Babie, Bigot
Chety – Joubert
Chevalier – Biétry, Cardinet, Cheval, Lhullier, Potère, Sauvage
Clément – Labonté
Clocher – Marquet
Coderre – Emery
Comtois – Carry, Gilbert, Royer
Corporal – Hus
Couillard – Beaumont, Deschênes, Desilets, Després, Lafleur
Courberon – Damours
Courcival – Beaudoin
Courtois – Breton
Courville – Abraham, Baret, Billy, Cadieux, Lefebvre, Piet
Couture – Bellerive
Couturier – Bourguignon
Croustille – Langlois
Daignault – Daniau
Daigle – Daigre
Dallaire – Allaire
Damours – Courberon
Dandurant – Marcheterre
Daniau – Laprise
Deblois – Gregoire
Defoy – Baron
Deladurantaye – Ladurantaye, Morel
Delbec – Joli
Delisle – Arrivé, Aubin, Bienvenu, Bonin, Gauthier, LeGardeur
Demers – Dumay, Monfort
DeNevers – Brantigny, Brentigny
Denis – Lapierre
Deschamps – Hunault
Deschênes – Couillard, Miville
Deshazards – Maheu
Desilets – Couillard, Desrosiers, Guyon, Huard, Mousseau
Desjardins – Beaudin, Charbonnier, Delboeuf, Louvard, Roy, Verger
Deslauriers – Bonin, Cavelier, Cordeau, Dion, Favreau, Hébert, Ménard, Normandeau, Renard, Renaud, Tinon
Desloges – Poirier
Després – Couillard, Dupré, Guyon
Desrochers – Bertrand, Duquet, Houde, Jean, Perrault, Sevestre
Desroches – Boucher, Laroux, Tinon
Dion – Deslauriers, Guyon
Dolbec – Dufresne
Dubois – Boutret, Filiau, Quintin
Duchesne – Lapierre
Dufrenay – Guyon
Dufresne – Bouin, Dolbec, Fournier, Thunay, Vernas
Duhamel – Sansfaçon
Dumay – Demers
Dupont – André, Gaudais, Locquet
Dussault – Caron, Toupin
Drouet – Bajolet
Duclos – Carignan
Duplessis – Gardet, Gatineau, Guillemot, Moreau, Perrin, Sirois
Dupré – Després
Duval – Bigot, Charles, Chevreul, Lelièvre, Meunier, Renaud
Elie – Breton, Hélie
Emery – Coderre
Émond – Edmund
Eschambault – Fleury
Estiambre – Sansfacon
Etienne – Bourguet, Clérin
Fafard – Boisjoli
Fauteux – Bonsecours
Fleury – Chambeau, Eschambault
Fortin – Bellefontaine
Foucher – St-Aubin
Fournier – Belleval, Dufresne
Francoeur – Brûlé, Charland, Leclerc, Moreau
Gagnon – Bellesîles, Belzile
Garnier – Grenier, Pellerin
Gaudreau – Gotreau
Gauthier – Boumois, Comporté, Delisle, Gaultier
Gautron – Larochelle
Georget – Briand
Gervais – Talbot
Gilbert – Comtois
Gobloteur – Pelletier
Godin – Bellefontaine, Châterneau, Petit
Gonthier – Bernard
Gotreau – Gaudreau
Grandmaison – Barbary, Drouet, Leblanc, Thériault
Gregoire – Deblois
Guyon – Desilets, Després, Dion, Dufresnay, Durouvray, Lemoine
Hamelin – Bellou
Harbour – Arbour
Hardouin – Ardouin
Hébert – Deslauriers, Jolicoeur, Laverdure
Herbin – Bricourt
Houde – Desrochers, Gervais
Huard – Desilets
Hudon – Beaulieu
Hunault – Deschamps
Hus – Corporal, Cournoyer
Jean – Desrochers
Jobidon – Bidon
Joli – Delbec, Charlebois
Jolicoeur – Amand, Bernard, Bruneau, Dubois, Dupuis, Hébert, Normand
Jombard – Bard
Joubert – Chety
Juchereau – Beaumarchais, Duchesnay
Labonté – Clément, Couturier, Laporte, Petit, Rousseau
Labourlière – Laplante
Lachance – Pepin
Lacroix – Babin, Bourgault, Delaunay, Lefebvre, Major, Neveu, Roberge, Voisin
Lafleur – Albert, André, Cauchon, Couillard, Dugas, Gendron, Parenteau
Lagacé – Mignier
Lamarre – Chabot
Lamothe – Cadillac, Giboire
Langlois – Croustille
Lapierre – Bardet, Denis, Duchesne, Joncas, Meunier, Roberge, Toupin
Laplante – delaBourlière, Madore
Lapointe – Audet, Clément, Godard, Robin, Simon
Laporte – Labonté
Laprise – Daniau, Daignault
Larchevêque – Lévesque
Larochelle – Gautron
Laurent – Provençal
Lavallée – Bouchard, Giguère, Paquet, Richard, Vallée
Laverdure – Bourgeois, Dutartre, Gély, Hébert, Valiquet, Verret, Vignault
Laviolette – Beaumont, Blouin, Caron, Dubois, Dumont, Greslon, Maillot, Prévost
Lart – Alarie
Leblanc – Dussault, Grandmaison, Jérôme, White
Leborgne – Bélisle
Lebrun – Carrière, Renel
Leclerc – Blondin, Clair, Francoeur
Lefebvre – Angers, Bélisle, Belleran, Boulanger, Courville, Faber, Lacroix
Lelièvre – Duval
Lemoine – Bienville
LeNeuf – Beaubassin
Lepage – Pagé
Leroy – Roy
Levasseur – Borgia, Carmel, Chaverlange
Lévesque – Larchevêque, Sansoucy
Lhullier – Chevalier
Liénard – Boisjoli, Durbois, Léonard
Limousin – Brunel
Lombret – Simard
Maheu – Deshazards
Malboeuf – Beausoleil
Marcheterre – Dandurant
Marquet – Clocher
Marsolet – Bellechasse
Martin – Belmont
Meunier – Lapierre
Michaud – Michel
Michel – Taillon
Miel – Amiel
Mignault – Aubin, Châterneau, Labrie
Mignier – Lagacé, Magnan
Miville – Deschênes
Monet – Boismorel
Monjoly – Sansfaçon
Montmorency – Baucher
Moreau – Duplessis, Duportail
Morel – Deladurantaye
Morin – Boucher, Chenevert, Valcourt
Noel – Labonté
Normand – Jolicoeur, Labrière
Normandeau – Deslauriers
Normandin – Beausoleil
Pagé – Lepage
Pasquier – Paquet
Pellerin – Garnier
Pelletier – Gobloteur, Legobloteur
Pepin – Lachance
Perrault – Desrochers
Petit – Beauchemin, Boismorel, Bruneau, Coulange, Godin, Labonté
Phocas – Raymond
Poirier – Desloges
Pothier – Laverdure
Prévost – Provost
Provençal – Laurent
Quentin – Cantin
Quintin – Dubois
Raymond – Phocas
Raynaud – Blanchard
Régnier – Brillon
Rémy – Champagne
Renard – Cardon
Renaud – Canard, Châterneau, Davenne
Reynaud – Arnaud
Rivet – Cavalier, Durivet, Dusouchet
Rotreau – Bélisle
Rouer – Artigny
Rousseau – Labonté
Roy – Audy, Chouigny, Desjardins, King, Leroy
Royer – Comtois
St-Aubin – Casse, Foucher, Serreau
St-Jorre – Sergerie
St-Onge – Aubé, Baril, Boisson, Joly, Martineau, Ménard
St-Pierre – Boucher, Boulanger, Marquet, Perrault, Prudhomme, Rivet
Sansfaçon – Charpentier, Duhamel, Estiambre, Monjoly
Sansoucy – Baucher, Béchet, Girardin, Lévesque, Suprenant, Vallée
Sergerie – St-Jorre
Serreau – St-Aubin
Sevestre – Desrochers
Simard – Lombret
Sirois – Duplessis
Sylvestre – Champagne
Taillon – Michel
Talbot – Gervais
Talon – Bourdelais
Thériault – Grandmaison
Thiboutot – Boutot
Tinon – Deslauriers, Desroches
Toupin – Dussault, Lapierre
Trottier – Beaubien, Valcourt
Valcourt – Morin, Valcourt
Vermet – Leforme, Vermette
Verreau – Bourguignon

Villeneuve – Amiot, Arnould, Bourbeau, Labbé