Anglicization of French-Canadian names: what led to Marsh?

+4 votes
282 views

Has anyone seen any instances of a French surname becoming 'Marsh' in English records?  I've seen LeBlanc become White, Levesque become Bishop etc - so my question is: what French surnames could possibly lead to being 'translated' as Marsh?  DesMarais? Something that doesn't mean a marshland but sounds somewhat similar?  Any ideas welcome - i'm grasping at straws here.

My brickwall is my great grandmother Theresa Adelaide Marsh, who wrote 'Marsh' with her own hand on her wedding day in Montreal in 1869.  But so far there are no traces of the parents she named as Alfred Marsh and Janet MacKenzie, and claimed they were deceased when she married.  

I seem to have an awful lot of French Canadian DNA cousins (my 'canadien/ne tag group' on Ancestry has more than 120 with a segment 20cMs or bigger). I wonder if they really all can be accounted for by my one known link to that community: my 5xg grandmother born in 1753.  I don't have any other openings in my tree (barring NPEs, of course) for any additional French Canadian ancestors except on the other side of this brick wall.

So that is why i have started to consider a French Canadian background for Alfred Marsh or Janet MacKenzie.

All thoughts welcomed!

WikiTree profile: Theresa Sword
in Genealogy Help by Shirlea Smith G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by Shirlea Smith
Marche is a fairly common French name with a nearly identical pronunciation to Marsh. If you're looking in a bilingual context, you should always consider Marche and Marsh to be likely variations of each other.

8 Answers

+3 votes
According to Surnamedb.com , Marsh is of Anglo-Saxon origin. That was my mother's middle name. She was named after Jane Elizabeth Marsh whose ancestor was Colonel Joel March, Revolutionary War officer out of CT.

SurnameDB has Marsh as being the 130th most popular surname out of close to 50,000 surnames.
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.1m points)
Thanks Frank!  And thanks for your PM! I've been looking for this family for half a century.  I'm starting to grasp at straws!
That Surnamedb.com full article includes a Godard le la Merse of the year 1194, which seems French to me.
My earliest Marsh ancestor that is known to me is John Marsh born about 1560 in Braintree, Essex, England.
+4 votes
Le Marais.
by Marion Poole G2G6 Pilot (965k points)
Thanks Marion!  I will add LeMarais to my list of possibilities.
+5 votes
Marche? Or perhaps that became Walker...
by Anonymous Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
+2 votes
Marchand meaning merchant is a common surname in Quebec.
by Mark Burch G2G6 Mach 9 (94.5k points)
That's the one I was thinking of too.
+3 votes

Because the marriage of Thomas Sword and Theresa Marsh was celebrated in St. Matthew's Presbyterian Church, I dont think she was a french canadian.

by E Martin G2G6 Mach 7 (73.3k points)
edited by E Martin

Montréal > Presbyterian Church - St Matthew

"Québec, registres des églises protestantes, 1763-1967," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9Q97-YSVB-7B7?cc=1929561&wc=M6X6-6NG%3A224595301%2C224989301%2C224989302 : 21 May 2014), Montréal > Presbyterian Church in Canada St Matthew > Baptisms, marriages, burials with index 1860-1875 > image 1 of 335; Archives Nationales du Québec-Montréal, Sainte-Foy (Quebec National Library and Archives, Sainte-Foy).

ST. MATTHEW'S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Pointe St. Charles, Montreal

http://www.quebecgenweb.com/~qcmtl-w/StMatthew.html

From: "A History of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, St. Gabriel Street, Montreal"
By Rev. Robert Campbell, Montreal 1887

 ...

http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/collection/artifacts/MP-0000.879.13

http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2464267

 ...

http://shpsc.org/en/readings
1860-1867 LDS film # 2027585
1867-1899 LDS film # 2027586
+4 votes

I don't think there is any French involved, the spouse is listed as of Scottish origin on there, and St-Andrew Presbyterian sounds like a Scottish church to me.

I find a Thomas Sword living in Ontario in 1871 census: http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/1871/pdf/4396312_00323.pdf  (2nd page, top), don't know if it's the same man.  With a wife named Janet and a 15 year old son named David.

by Danielle Liard G2G6 Pilot (306k points)
no trace of Theresa A. Marsh in 1861 census that I can find either, nor an Alfred Marsh.  Don't find Alfred Marsh in 1871 census either.  All the Sword's in 1871 census are in Ontario.

Your girl may have been an immigrant from Scotland.
Yes, she certainly might be, or she could have come up from the States.  I find it hard to believe she is so elusive at that time in history, with so many records around!  But her Scottish husband was a deserter from the British Army who around this time dropped his surname and used his middle name Robertson as his surname, so he wasn't interested in leaving a clear trail!

Definitely not the same man.  I've been looking at this Thomas and Janet and family for 30 years, trying to understand if there is a connection.  Haven't found one - my guy popped over to Canada after deserting from the British Army.  His brother Andrew deserted with him, but turned himself in and became reinstated, was in Montreal with his regiment, getting married just before Thomas got married there, and ended up staying in the army for about 20 years and becoming a drill instructor.  Andrew's wife was from the Glengarry area of Ontario, and my assumption for now is that it was Andrew's wife who made the connection for the baby Mary Janet Sword to be raised in Alexandria.  I've been combing Glengarry records and my Glengarry-connected matches for evidence of Theresa Adelaide Marsh or her mother, but so far nothing.

just been looking at what's available for immigration records prior to December 1869 when she marries, if she was from the US forget it, there are no records before the 20th century.  

If she was from Europe, the records are either ship passenger lists or the Grosse-Isle quarantine station records.  I just took a quick glance at the 1869 ships that arrived in this province, there are quite a number of them, and passenger lists one has to comb through visually, no indexation of them.
+5 votes
I would pose the question of English and/or Scottish origins for her.
by Allan Cadran G2G1 (1.7k points)
I would think so too!  But I've been looking for her for 40 years -- now i'm trying to think outside the box.  I had just concluded that she was a figment of somebody's imagination when, about 10 years ago, i finally found her marriage registration, mis-transcribed so the search engines didn't pick it up.
+4 votes
There were a lot of Scottish ancestry 7th Day Baptists who moved from Rhode Island, New Jersey and upstate New York out west over the 1850s or so, and I think 'West' included southern Canada.  This includes the Marshes my family line is named for, and in fact there is an Arthur in that tree, though he's too young to be her father: https://www.familysearch.org/tree/person/details/KWVH-J94  

It might be a new place to poke around with--alas, because they're not blood, my interest in the family tree only goes back to Samuel Marsh, and I haven't previously bothered poking back much further.

(Oops, just realized how old this post was.)
by Celia Marsh G2G2 (2.1k points)

sometimes the late bird gets the worm because the worm stayed in bed.  laugh  One never knows if a late addition isn't what breaks a wall.  Only when a question is closed is it redundant to answer it, and this one is still open.

Thanks Celia and Danielle!  This cold case is still open -- I'm really grasping at straws.  The only reason i'm allowing for a French connection here is because it is Montreal after all, her name includes Theresa which as Therese or Theresa is much more common in an RC setting, and because i might have too much French DNA for it all to be attributed to my one and only known francaise ancestor, my 5xg grandmother.  Except for this brick wall line, there don't seem to be other candidates to explain why i have so many canadien(ne) DNA matches as i have. So i was just opening my mind to the possibility that there might be Nouvelle France lineage behind my brick wall as well.

But I've been thinking that possibly a more useful direction for me might be to browse the whole 1871 census for Montreal, starting with the Griffintown area.  Would you by any chance know which sections of the census that would be? Or the address 183 Centre, if that is not the same area?  I think i've spotted her husband Thomas Robertson Sword in an 1870-71 Directory, living at that address.   

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