Sunday, August 24, 2014

French "dit" Names

When you're looking at French-Canadian family trees, it doesn't take long before you run into people with names like "Jacques Choret dit LaFleur".

What's the whole 'dit' thing?

Basically, it comes down to a way of distinguishing different branches of families with the same surname.   So, if you've got two clans of Chorets living in the same locality, one group might adopt a 'dit' name to make it clear which group they belong to.  (Note that these clans needn't be related to each other at all.)  'Dit,' of course is from the French verb 'dire' (to say), so the obvious translation for "Choret dit LaFleur" is "Choret (that is to say) LaFleur" and generally that's the name you'd use when referring to someone conversationally: "Hey, did you hear what happened to Jacques LeFleur the other day?" - that sort of thing.

On official records though (baptismal, marriage, death, etc.) the actual family surname is used, though in many cases the 'dit' name often appears.   Sometimes it's hyphenated, e.g,  Choret-LaFleur.

What I've found is that they exist for a few generations and then get dropped.   Occasionally, the reverse happens: the 'dit' name endures and the family name disappears.  This has led to some degree of head-scratching on a few dead-ends (see the previous post on Ferdinand (né Tousignant) Vandreuil my great-great-grandfather).  

Where do they come from?   Interestingly, many seem to have been chosen from someone's military service: where the 'dit' name is the name of the company they served under, or sometimes their commander, the nom de guerre.  Sometimes it's a placename, or related to a trade (both of which are common origins for family names as a whole).    You'd think that this would make things a little easier, but consider that if everyone in a military company is using the same 'dit' name, then you end up with more confusion: for example, there are over 200 family names using the 'dit' name LaFleur!

About the only American equivalent I've seen to this would be the phrasing you hear among the upper classes, e.g., "the 'Greenwich' Barclays" (as opposed some other set of Barclays that don't live in Greenwich), but of course even in this case no Barclay would ever refer to themselves as 'Greenwich'.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Consanguinuity in the Second Degree - or - Why My Eyes Hurt

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been using Drouin to fill in some of the gaps in the 19th century ancestors on my mother's side.

One of the dead-ends is my 2nd great-grandfather, Ferdinand Vaudreuil (c1839-1916).   Turns out I had his marriage record from 1869 on-hand, but never examined it.   What an eye-opening experience!  It took me quite a while to decipher the handwriting (and translation from French to English), but one thing stood out immediately:  "2ème au 2ème consanguinity".    Second-degree consanguinity means "first cousins" and that's a particularly interesting situation for Catholic marriages of the period because marriage between cousins required dispensation from the church in order to proceed.   So I can only imagine what kind of examination would be involved there.

His bride-to-be, Marie-Clarisse Bélanger (1844-1917) was well-documented (the Bélangers are one of the larger Québec families going back (in my tree) to the 16th century (Nicolas Bélanger, 11ggp, born 1558).  But in terms of suggested hints that offers, the Vaudreuils end at Ferdinand (and Ferdinand isn't a common name, nor Vaudreuil).   The marriage record - which typically lists both sets of parents - didn't have any of that information for Ferdinand.

But - since they were first cousins, they shared a set of grandparents, and I had already identified both sets for Marie-Clarisse:

  1. Pierre Bélanger I (1783-1861) and Marie-Victoire Hébert (1783-1877); and,
  2. Jean-Baptiste Maillot (1784-) and Marie-Madeleine Pérusse (1882-1879).
So, it came down to one of their kids marrying into the family whose children included Ferdinand.    Since we had to end up with a Vaudreuil, that meant one of Marie-Clarisse's aunts, i.e., sisters of her parents: Pierre Bélanger II (1814-1892) and Thérèse Maillot (1814-1892).

Pierre had seven sisters:
  1. Marie-Victoire (1809-1890)
  2. Marie-Rosalie (1810-1811) 
  3. Marie-Geneviève (1811-)
  4. Victoire (1815-1815)
  5. Marie-Martine (1817-1817)
  6. Marie-Sophie (1826-1916)
  7. Marie-Louise (1830-1830)
and of these, only Marie-Victiore and possibly Marie-Geneviève were contenders, the rest either being too young to give birth in 1839 or dying in infancy.

Thérèse had eight sisters:
  1. Marie-Sophie (1808-1855)
  2. Marie-Magdelaine (prob. Madeleine, 1811-)
  3. Marguerite (1813-)
  4. Marie-Angélique (1813-)
  5. Marie-Suzanne (1814-1888)
  6. Emilie (1819-)
  7. Marie-Anne (1820-)
  8. Esther (1824-1848)
and all except (probably) for Esther could be Ferdinand's mother.

So, looking into their pasts, I searched for marriage records, but came up empty-handed.  No Vaudreuils!   It wasn't a complete accounting: I couldn't find husbands for Geneviève, Angélique, or Suzanne.   Victoire married a Lemay, Sophie married an Auger, Marguerite married a Tousignant, and Emilie married a Hamel.


Back to the marriage record.   It did almost mention something about a Victoire Lemay - but the relationship wasn't easy to discern at first.   I thought it said nephew (neveu) but actually it was "veuf" = "widower"!   So Clarisse was actually Ferdinand's second wife.   Searching for her, I found a Victoire Lemay that died in 1838, and her burial record listed her spouse as Ferdinand Vaudreuil.[1]  From there, I just needed to find THEIR marriage record and hope that I would get luckier in terms of parental identification.   (By now my eyes were in pain from all the squinting trying to read messy 19th century handwriting - in French, guessing at half of the scribbled words.)

But it paid off:  Ferdinand's father is Basile Tousignant, Clarisse's uncle by way of Marguerite Bélanger.

One more mystery solved!

So WHY "Vandreuil"?

Ferdinand's surname was "Tousingant dit Vaudreuil" - at least earlier in his life.  At some point, he dropped the Tousignant, and just went under Vaudreuil.   (More on 'dit' names in an upcoming post.)
For the MOST part, people with 'dit' names used the whole thing (sometimes you'd see them hyphenated).   Typically after a generation or two they'd fade away, but sometimes the part that would get dropped would be the original family name.

I have to wonder what the circumstances were for this marriage.   Getting re-married after you spouse dies is very common, but usually in the case where there's a lot of children in the house who need a step-parent.   As far as I can tell, Marie-Victoire was the first child (and I'm not sure she survived infancy).  It doesn't appear that this was a "shotgun wedding" - their first child wasn't born until 1871.  Nor is it a case of "Québec needs women" where there simply aren't enough potential brides to go around.  It would be interesting to learn what the process was for the Church to grant dispensation for first-cousin marriages.

[1]  Sadly, the very NEXT record on the page was for a Marie-Victoire Vaudreuil, born on the same day.  Apparently Victoire died in childbirth.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jacques Gaudry I (1594-1637): I'm my own grandfather (sort of)!

I managed to sort out Thérèse Maillot (3ggp; 1815-1892) and getting her connected to her ancestors through Drouin (see previous post).

Lately, that means turning distant cousins into great-grandparents because with 22,000+ people on the tree, I'm running into the same people through different branches.     This results in people being related in a few strange ways (and the expression "strange bedfellows" sometimes takes on a new meaning), one of which is that someone can end up being a great-grandparent multiple times.

Even stranger - and it happens more and more the further back you go - is that the same person can be a great-grandparent multiple times but in different generations.   This sets up the weirdness where someone - for example Jacques Gaudry I (1594-1637) is a 9th great-grandfather through one set of people, and an 11th great-grandfather through another!

How this happens is basically a circumstance of one set of people tending to marry earlier than another set, or where by luck one branch tends to have people who were all the oldest kids in the family, while the other has lots of youngest kids.

So in Jacques case - here's tree one though his son Nicolas:
  1. 11ggp: Jacques Gaudry I (1594-1637);
  2. 10ggp: Nicolas Gaudry dit Bourbonnaire (1621-1669);
  3.   9ggp: Marie-Charlotte (Christine) Gaudry (1660-1729);
  4.   8ggp: Charles Hamel (1679-1755)
  5.   7ggp: Marie-Angélique Hamel (1703-1753)
  6.   6ggp: Marie-Angélique Grenier (1729-1767)
  7.   5ggp: Marie-Geneviève Choret (1756-1824);
  8.   4ggp: Pierre Sévigny II dit Lafleur (1779-1865);
  9.   3ggp: Marie-Céleste Sévigny (1809-1870);
  10.   2ggp: Alexandre Guimond (1842-1930);
  11.   1ggp: Elusippe Guimond (1871-1926);
  12.       gp: Anne Guimond (1895-1954) 
Then, through Nicolas' younger brother Jacques Jr.:
  1.  9ggp: Jacques Gaudry I (1594-1637);
  2.  8ggp: Jacques Gaudry II dit Bourbonnaire (1637-1691);
  3.  7ggp: Marie-Angélique Gaudry (1685-1726);
  4.  6ggp: Marie-Angélique Tessier (1722-1768);
  5.  5ggp: Michel Maillot II dit Laviolette (1742-1816);
  6.  4ggp: Jean Maillot (1784-);
  7.  3ggp: Thérèse Maillot (1815-1892);
  8.  2ggp: Marie-Clarisse Bélanger (1844-1917);
  9.  1ggp: Ernestine Vaudreuil (1875-1916);
  10.      gp: Anne Guimond (1895-1954).
For the first branch, the average age of the parent at the birth of the child is 27.4, and 33.4 years for the other, which creates quite the gap over ~10 generations!

Note that Ernestine Vaudreuil is the 7th cousin once removed from her husband, Elusippe Guimond.

So - is Jacques Gaudry an 11th great-grandfather, or a 9th?   And is his father (René, c. 1570-1619) a 10th or a 12th?

Here's a chart:

Click for larger image.

I'm getting better at this!

I've been making inroads in some of the "dead ends" of great-grandparents.

For most of them, they were born or were married in the late-18th/early-19th century, right when Tanguay ends, so there's no easy documentation to peruse.   Instead one has to start relying on Drouin, which is actually quite good, EXCEPT the records are all hand-written and (of course) in French, so you have to deal with crazy penmanship and translation issues.

Furthermore, all of the entries are long-winded repeat information that could EASILY have been compressed into a line on a spreadsheet :-):  "On the eighteenth of November in the year of Our Lord, seventeen hundred and ninety-two, after the required three banns were read at the parish in the church on the previous three sundays, we record the marriage contract of Jean-Louis Somelastname dit Someothername son of father Louis-Jean and mother Marie-Ernestine-Desanges Hermaidenname dit Herfathersditname; the parents residents of this parish, etc., etc.,"   So it can be rather difficult to untangle, especially if the recording priest wasn't exactly a model calligrapher.

So, last weekend I worked out the Daigle branch of the family, starting with Marie Daigle (3ggp) back several generations through Tanguay   It hasn't been without some frustration.   The first French-Canadian Daigle (D'Aigle) was actually Austrian (as in from Vienna), and like immigrants from all over the ages, had some trouble working out what his name was supposed to be in his new country of residence.

Before "Daigle" became his family name, he went by D'Eyme.   This caused me an entire morning of frustration because Tanguay recorded two different marriages, both to someone named Marie-Anne.
One Marie-Anne - Croteau, and the other Marie-Anne Proteau.   If you look at the Drouin record, it's hard to tell in the priestly scribbling whether the necessary-to-be-established first letter is a C or a P.

Of course - at first - I wasn't aware of the Daigle-D'Emye alias, and this caused problems because the marriage record (Marie-Anne Croteau) has a date of 1685 (which isn't listed in Tanguay - I suspect he omitted it on purpose because HE was also confused).   This is a problem because Marie-Anne's father's marriage was in 1686, and while there's no baptism date for Marie-Anne, she'd be no older than 9.   The marriage record DOES say she's 19, though, so there's a mistake somewhere.

OK - so Tanguay goofed - or so I thought, and I went through and annotated everything (myself making a mistake because I didn't read the entire date in the marriage record, putting down 1680 - "seize cent quarte vignts" missing the "cinq" that followed), backed out of Marie-Anne's father's record (which got complicated because HIS father IS a great-grandparent on another line), etc., etc., etc.

Then looking at the other family trees available (and finding my 1680/1685 error) realized that Daigle was D'Eyme in the original record, and came to the (still incorrect) conclusion that someone had attached the record in Drouin to the wrong person.  ARGH!   Undid EVERYTHING, deleted the notes, and started over looking for the REAL Daigle marriage record.

One problem is that I've become less interested in all the things that other people attach to their ancestor records because there's a LOT of "cutesy crap" that really has nothing whatsoever to do with the person but is more some weird faux-fantasy application to what the contributor things the person was like (I get the impression they see these people as inhabiting Harlequin romance novel covers more than being people tied to their surroundings out of day-to-day desperation.)...   But, sometimes there are very useful gems in there, and I should be more diligent about weeding through it.   Turns out someone HAD made a notation with the VERY critical information that Joseph Daigle - when he arrived in Canada - had used the name Joseph D'Emye.   Looking THAT name up in Tanguay found the Proteau marriage (aha!) and the correct link was made.

(So Tanguay DID make a mistake:  Marie-Anne Crouteau did NOT marry Joseph Daigle and they did not have a son André.   André's mom is Marie-Anne Proteau.)

I find it weird that more people haven't delved into Drouin, including   Most of the time the "automatic" metadata is next to useless:   Jean Smith, born 1750-1850, married 1750-1850, so you tend to hit "Ignore" for those references because they're just too vague.   In reality the actual dates ARE there - they're just in the handwritten text, and you have to work it out.    I suppose it's still too much to hope that optical character recognition has improved to the point where it can handle handwritten long-form prose in French, but it would be a start!