How should French “dit” Surnames be Recorded?

+3 votes


WikiTree has guidelines for correct entry of surnames but further clarification might be useful.  I will use one person as an example.  He is Pierre Audet dit LaPointe (Audet-58).  I place “Audet dit LaPointe” in the “Current Last Name” area and “LaPointe” in “Other Last Name(s)”.   This keeps the Current Last Name in agreement with official records of that era.

It has been suggested that the name be simplified to put “Audet” in the “Current Last Name” and “dit LaPointe” in the“Other Last Name(s)”.

Can we come up with a consensus of whether either of these or another method is desirable?

in Genealogy Help by Al Wopshall G2G Crew (860 points)
retagged by Liz Shifflett

4 Answers

+3 votes
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (764k points)

The above answer is not sufficient.  The "dit" designation is not a kind of nickname related to the family name but the legal surname found in official records.  WikiTree specifically states that “Current Last Name” is what name the person went by. 

Look at (Audet-58) to see that the "Current Last Name" does not accurately reflect Pierre's surname.  It only shows his birth name.  An important part of his name is missing.


One has to understand that a "dit name" is not part of the family name at birth eventhough it appears on a legal document like a birth or death registry. It was used to differentiate persons of the same first and last name living in the same environment, at the same period. The "dit name" was not on their personnal birth registry entry.

Therefore, it is definitely a "aka". In my own opinion!
+7 votes
Each person needs to be researched and their last name should be the one that was used by the community that they lived in.  The dit name was used to differentiate people in the community with the same first and last name.  Many times the dit name only survived for one generation, but often times it carried on for several generations and frequently the dit name survives as the last name.  Canadian singer Avril Lavigne has a last name that originated as the dit name Lavigne.  Her family name might have been Rivard, Tessier, Poutre, Lachaise, Levasseur, Nadeau, Soucy, Bourtier, Poudret, Bernard, Brodeur and Saviot.  Somewhere the family name was dropped rom useage.

I don't think it's possible to come up with steadfast rule on dit names.  I think we owe it to our ancestors to refer to them with the name they would have used and responded to when they were living.  The Drouin Collection a huge library of scanned images from the original parish records.  From these you can see the name that was used while the person was living.  Sometimes you can even find their actual signature.  I don't think we should be changing someone's last name just to fit our standard's or rules.
by John Hebert G2G4 (4.9k points)
Thank you for the reference to The Drouin Collection.
+6 votes
by Rob Ton G2G6 Pilot (274k points)

Just so I can present both sides of the argument:

The following two sources are the only ones I can find quickly that absolutely refute that dit names are effectively aliases. Both have copied from the same source (only one credits the actual author)

I'll hedge my bets and stick to my original answer that is supported by universities, archivists, and professional genealogists. (Also see nom de guerre)

When I first imported my GED file the dit names were put into the suffix box but this truncated the name and it was not useful. The style recommendation suggested to put the dit name in various places. I choose to use the nickname box in part that many others were using it and a couple of genealogy text suggested its use like Encyclopedia of Genealogy and Burton below.
+5 votes
the ''dit'' name is a legal name. IT's part of the family name.  This come from orphelin child who did adopted by the oldest sister and the child take there onw family name + husband of the siste name.  Can be to an illegitime child, who take tte name of their mother + the name of her husband .   Some use th both name, other one of them, and this one can write differetly from one act to anoter on.  Example: Miville dit Deschênes:

born:            Miville       father  born certificat Miville dit Desch^nes

marriage      Dêchênes   father  Miville


and their children can have in their birh certificat   all those names and be differetnt from one child to another one.  one is Miville dit Deschênes, Miville, Deschênes or Deschaîne or Dechêne,  all those family are in use in Québec on this moment, but it is consistant for each family.
by Anonymous Blais G2G6 Mach 1 (15.2k points)

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