One thing that can make it difficult to find your ancestor is that he 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, and if you can't find
someone under the name of his child, you may find him under the dit name.
"Dit" in French 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,
very often the dit name was passed down to later generations, either in place
of the original surname, or in addition to it.
Some of his children might then keep the original surname (e.g. Barbeau), and
some might use the dit name (e.g. Lacourse). After a few generations, it's
not uncommon to completely lose the memory of the original name, or to forget
which was the original and which was the dit name. The best example of this
is the Hudon dit Beaulieu family, where you will often find people listed as
Beaulieu dit Hudon. You sometimes might find a name and its dit name hyphenated,
as in François Hudon-Beaulieu. In fact, you can generally assume that
a hyphenated surname (before 1950, anyway) is the surname plus dit name. Just
remember that any Hudon might be the child of a Beaulieu and vice versa.
Some surnames, such as Roy, have had several different dit names. You should
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. So it helps us 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, and François Roy dit Desjardins will be a
descendant of Antoine. If you find a source which tells you, for example, that
Pierre Audy is François Desjardins' father, you should be very
The sources you use may give the name as it appeared in the original document,
or may list all the Hudons and Beaulieus together, under either name. Jette
has standardized spellings, and leaves out "de" when alphabetizing, but he is
faithful to the original surname of the family. So whether you're
looking for a Hudon, a Beaulieu, or a Hudon-Beaulieu, they're all listed
together under "H." Other sources may list the same person many different places,
and some sources consider Beaulieu to be more common, and therefore they
place the Hudons under "B." Don't assume a marriage or birth isn't listed
until you've exhausted all possible names and spellings.
And don't forget
to check under the many spelling variations that were 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 "o" sound at the end of a name might
be spelled ot, eau, au, ault, eault, eau, aux, eaux, aud, or aut.