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Nominal information is vital to genealogical research. Names, as we know them in Canada, come mostly from Europe. Their present form goes back to the Middle Ages when children were given a first name when they were baptised. The father's surname was transmitted to the child. Many publications exist about the origin of family names. Search for books on names in AMICUS, using titles or subject terms such as:

Names France (or another country)


In France, because similar family names were found in specific geographical areas, nicknames were added to distinguish the families. When immigrants coming from France settled in New France, this practice followed. Some immigrants, mostly soldiers, already had an alias ("dit" name). For other immigrants, the "dit" name was added after their settlement. The family name is linked to the nickname by the word "dit". (e.g. Miville dit Deschênes)

"Dit" names can evoke:

  • Physical features (Le Fort, Le Roux)
  • Moral features (Le Bon, Le Sage)
  • Trades (Le Boucher)
  • Places of origin, including country, province, town, city, village (le Picard, Le Normand)
  • Residences (Du Val, Du Puis)
  • Ancestor's first name (Deblois dit Grégoire, Fasche dit Robert, etc)
  • Actions (Ladébauche, Ladéroute)

Until the second half of the 19th century, either name (family names or "dit" names) could be used in records. After that, only one name was used. Some "dit" names are associated with more than one family name. The family name Lafleur is associated with 56 different family names such as Béique, Biroleau, Soret, Sévigny etc.

Where to find lists of « dit » names

  • at the end of volume 7 of Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'à nos jours by Cyprien Tanguay, also available online.
  • at the end of Dictionnaire des familles du Québec, by René Jetté.
  • in the Répertoire des noms de famille du Québec, des origines à 1825 by René Jetté and Micheline Lécuyer.
  • on the Web site of the American-French Genealogical Society. Surnames French-Canadian : Variants, Dit, Anglicization, etc.
  • on the Web site of the Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique du Québec.

Family Associations

Associations grouping people bearing the same family name exist for Acadian and French-Canadian families. These associations hold family reunions, publish newsletters and bulletins and conduct genealogical research. Most of the family associations have a Web site.


Soundex is a coding system used for surnames. Many American archival records were indexed using this system.

Soundex uses a single letter (the first letter of the surname) followed by three numbers which approximate the sound of the name. A number (0 to 9) is associated with letters of the alphabet.

Vowels (A, E, I, O, U Y) and letters H and W are not considered. Also, if a the same letter occurs twice in a row in the name, it is considered only once (e.g. Lloyd becomes Loyd). If there are fewer than 3 letters, 0 is used for the last digit.

Number Represents letters
1 B P F V
2 C S G J K Q X Z
3 D T
4 L
5 M N
6 R

Examples :

SMITH = S530

Use the JOS Soundex calculator
[] to obtain the code.

To help you identify different spellings of family names, we suggest that you use the following soundex system. It is also valid for non-Jewish names.

Avotaynu Consolidated Jewish Surname Index