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December 13, 2010

Oh Those Dit Names!

1670 Baptism. Translation of underlined portion
“Jean, fils de Simeon le Roy dit Ody”
Jean, son of Simeon LeRoy dit Ody”
Image Source:
Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968
A reader on my Olive Genealogy Facebook Fan Page reminded me of the problems genealogists can encounter searching French ancestors who may have used dit names.

A dit name is an alias given to a family. A dit name doesn't just apply to one person, but to many members and generations of a family.

A dit name might be derived from any of the following:

* A nickname
* A location of origin
* Land owned
* Name used in Army
* Various other reasons

I have an ancestor who settled in New France (present day Quebec) in the 1660s. His name was Simeon LeRoi. His dit name was Audy. So in the records we might find him as

* Simeon LeRoi dit Audy
* Simeon LeRoi
* Simeon Audy
* Simeon Audy dit LeRoi

The LeRoi/LeRoy surname underwent great changes, becoming LeRoy dit Audy or Ody, Audy and Ody in New France (Quebec), and Laraway (with variant spellings) or LeRoy in the United States and Canada.

Some of Simeon's sons assumed the Audy dit name as a surname and there are Audy descendants today who are from Simeon LeRoi.

At least one of his sons (my ancestor) assumed the Larroway surname when English speaking clerks in New York began recording the French Le Roi as LeRoy and eventually Larroway

Some descendants use the LeRoy surname.

It's a challenge to trace backwards but researchers need to stick to it and keep those name variations in mind (dit names, accidental name changes, deliberate name changes, spelling variations, phonetic misinterpretations, etc.

So keep searching and don't give up if you are faced with a challenging ancestor. Check to see if he may have been from New France at one time. Perhaps a dit name enters into your challenge.


Julee said...

I was once told that the "dit" stood for the area that there person was from.

I have many of them in my lines from France and from Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

Julee, WVC, UT

Tina Lyons said...

Congrats on being nominated for Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Blogs!

Daniel Dillman said...

Thanks for posting this! My ancestry is largely Anglo and Germanic, but I relatively recently added a French Canadian line who just happened to have a dit name. I had no idea what that signified, so I merely recorded the data as I found it. My earliest member from that line is Francois-Xavier Baudreau dit Graveline b. 2 Dec 1720 in Montreal, Communauté-Urbaine-de-Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Now that I know what the dit is, I can be on the lookout for other connections that may not have adopted it.