FAQs: What are French 'Dit' Names?

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What are French 'Dit' Names?

A 'dit' name is an alias given to a family name. Compared to other alias or a.k.a. that are given to one specific person, the 'dit' names will be given to many persons. It seems the usage exists almost only in France, New France and in Scotland where we find clans or septs.

Among some reasons of 'dit' names, we find:

  • Surname used in the army (can also be combined with another reason)

  • Place of origin (Breton, Langlois, Langevin, etc.)

  • Land owned or inhabited by an ancestor (Beauregard is an example)

  • The full name of the ancestor (Gaston Guay -> Gastonguay -> Castonguay)

  • The first name of an ancestor (Vincent, Robert, etc.)

  • Keeping the original name (in local language) during the process of standardizing names to French

  • Miscellaneous

Name Spelling Variations 'Dit' Names Source
Amiot Amiault, Amiot, Amiotte, Amyot Bocage, Hautmény, Larpinière, Lincour, Neuville, Villeneuve, Vincelot Source
Amyot Amiault, Amiot, Amiotte, Amyot Bocage, Larpinière, Villeneuve Source

How to deal with them

A generic person's name is built like this:

Joseph Jarret dit Beauregard

Joseph is the first name

Jarret is, in this case, the patronym or ancestral family name

Beauregard is, in this case, the dit name

After some generations, it is no more obvious what is the specific patronym or dit name, so we will find Beauregard dit Jarret. Moreover, it is also possible both family and dit names are switched the first time someone used a dit name.

In the records, dit names are actual alias, that is, they can be legally used to replace the original patronym. Because of this, one will find the same person known as:

Joseph Jarret

Joseph Beauregard

Joseph Jarret dit Beauregard

Joseph Beauregard dit Jarret

What this means? If you are looking for the marriage of a Joseph Beauregard married with Jeanne Joachim, you may find it as Joseph Jarret married with Jeanne Laverdure (a dit name for Joachim).