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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: one person using different names in research(L

Hi :)

> Jean Pierre
> Angelique
> Adolphe

Perhaps you are researching some French-Canadians who moved to Louisiana ? These given names you mentioned are typically french ... & I am very familiar with researching in French-Canadian Catholic records.

Some confusion develops because people use the term "first name" when they actually mean to use the term "given name". In America it turns out to be the same thing ... but this is not so with all cultures & America is a land full of immigrants.

Not all cultures use the American standard naming convention which is . For instance, the older typical French-Canadian catholic naming structure is (also seen in other cultures like Germany). The religious name is traditionally supposed to be a saint's name, but in actual practice many catholics use the given names of Joseph & Mary (or Marie or Maria) after the parents of Jesus Christ. So a typical French name would look like ... Marie Angelique Elizabeth MASSE or Joseph Jean Pierre SENNET ... where the "given name" in that culture would be Elizabeth & Pierre respectively. The common thing in this catholic culture is that the "given name" immediately precedes the surname.
It is estimated that to this day, about 75% of the female French-Canadians have a "first name" (not given name) of Marie & 50% of the male French-Canadians have the "first name" (not given name)
of Joseph. This tradition runs throughout my French line.

Now when a French-Canadian moved to the USA, the census taker would come knocking & ask for the household members' "first name". Some catholic residents would erroneously give their first religious name & others would provide their actual given name ... which in a catholic's case might turn out to be thier 2nd or third name.

Sometimes the residents would try to give their actual given names (according to their culture) but the census taker would insist that he had to record their "first name". This is why you see a lot of catholics erroneously being recorded as Marie & Joseph on the northeast American census (near Quebec).

Another old French-Canadian tradition (also seen among the early Dutch of New-York-City) is that while a married women would be known by her married name in her community, a woman was supposed to use her maiden name on all legal documents. Researchers not familiar with this tradition would sometimes make incorrect assumptions that the woman was not married.

Also remember that many of our ancestors were illiterate & some could not speak english well. An english record keeper like the census taker, would record what he heard phonetically & that is why researchers sometimes come across strange spellings of names.

Another French-Canadian tradition are what are commonly known as "dit names" which refer to alternative surnames. Most (but not all) of these sprung up in the 1600s among soldiers from a "nom de guerre" ("war name" in english). An example of one would be "JARRET dit BEAUREGARD" where JARRET is the surname a man was born with & BEAUREGARD would be his nickname obtained during his service in the military. In much the same way, in modern times, we give nicknames to our sports athletes ... for example, when he played football, Orenthal James (or "O. J.") SIMPSON was also known as "The Juice".

Many of these immigrant soldiers stayed on in the New-World to colonize the land. Early on, their neighbours still depended on the fighting skills of these former soldiers, against the Indian attacks. Out of respect & to honour the former soldiers, the neighbours would refer to the families of the former soldiers, by utilizing their "dit name". This tradition continued for a couple hundred years until the Canadian government abolished the tradition by forcing French-Canadians to choose one of the 2 dit alternatives, that their family would forever be known by. In some instances you had brothers who made different choices.

I have a MASSE ancestor & I am not familiar with a SENNET-MASSE connection. I looked for a "dit name" list online & found one here for you to look over ...

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~unclefred/DitNames.html

Good Luck in your research :)
NICOLE


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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