Prince Edward Island Names, Personal
An understanding of surnames and given names can help you identify your ancestors in the records.
Canadians of European origin usually had surnames. First Nation citizens often did not. In French speaking areas married women usually kept their maiden name in official records. In English-speaking women usually took their husband’s surname. Children usually used the surname of the father.
In French-speaking areas of Canada, individuals may have taken a second surname. In the records this may be preceded by dit. This common practice was to distinguish between families with common surnames like ROY who were not related at all, or to distinguish between branches of the same family. Sometimes a branch of the family adopted the dit name as the family name, and dropped the original surname. For example, the surname AUDET dit LAPOINTE may be listed in these ways:
AUDET, AUDET dit LAPOINTE, AUDET-LAPOINTE, LAPOINTE
See Dit Names in Canada for a collection of name variations for French-Canadian genealogical researchers.
Spelling Variations. Spellings of surnames were not standardized until very recently. With their silent letters, French surnames especially lend themselves to a wide variety of spellings.
The name Boulanger has been written many ways including:
Bolanger, Bulanger, and the anglicized Baker.
In French Canada, phonetic spelling has changed names:
The English name FARNSWORTH became PHANEUF.
When French Canadian families move to English-speaking areas, they may translate their names into English, or modify spelling:
BOISVERT may become GREENWOOD.
ROY may become KING.
LEBLANC may become WHITE.
Most French Canadian and many Acadian family names and their dit-name equivalents are listed in:
Jetté, Rene, and Micheline Lécuyer. Répertoire des noms de famille du Québec, des origines à 1825. (Inventory of Quebec Family Names from the Beginning to 1825.) Montréal: Institut Généalogique J.L. et Associés, Inc., 1988. (Family History Library book 971.4 D4j.)
Additional location to find "dit" names is online at: http://www.afgs.org/ditnames/index1.html