A Canadian Family

Genealogy & Vintage Postcards

“You like po-tato and I like po-tahto!” Pt.1

The Mignier “dit”  Lagacé Surnames

THE GREAT DIVIDE        EARLY TIMES        MODERN  TIMES

While corresponding with readers (most recently: Earline Bradt, Evelyn Nolan, Fred Lagacy, James Wilson and nmdon) about the Lagacé/Mignier/Meunier/Miller descendants of French Canadian pioneers Andre Mignier dit Lagace and Jacquette Michel, what strikes us all are the many ways in which Andre’s original surname has evolved. Family historians won’t find this unusual. Almost everyone who sets out to do their family genealogy finds surname variations – but this surname is something really “special”.  

So for the benefit of those just starting their study of Lagacés, Migniers, Meuniers or French Canadian Millers, I thought I would provide a little overview of the spelling variations I’ve run across.

Further posts will provide further examples and a pronunciation guide.

THE GREAT DIVIDE

In 17th century Nouvelle France (Quebec) our first ancestor’s name had several variations including: Andre Megny / Mignier / Minier “dit Lagacé”.  Many websites also refer to him as  “Lagachette” instead of Lagace on the theory that he was a “sharpshooter”. The word “gachette”  does translate as “trigger”  so it certainly could have been a nickname (just like Mack the Knife!) but I haven’t seen that name on a primary document  – nor do I see it in traditional references such as Drouin, Tanguay, the BMS2000, or documents such as the seigneurial land grants, or Father Casgrain’s history of Riviere-Ouelle. Nevertheless, I’d love to know where this theory originated.

There’s been a lot written about “dit names” and I notice it’s often translated as “nickname” but I prefer to keep the French term nom de guerre  because to me, nickname has an informal sound. It refers to an official extra name assigned to the soldiers for the duration of their military service. In France it was strictly forbidden for this name to be passed on to the next generation. As far as I know it’s only in Quebec that the dit names began to be used as surnames.

Here’s a short excerpt from an article by Luc Lepine (see Link for full article)

Noms de guerre and the French soldier

When a soldier enlists in the French army, he is given a nickname or nom de guerre, for example Philibert Couillaud dit Roquebrune, soldier of the régiment de Carignan (4). This nickname takes on an official character. It becomes the equivalent of an identification number. The soldiers are recognized by their family names, their first names, and their noms de guerre. In daily life, the nom de guerre replaces the real family name especially when the soldier speaks a dialect or the provençal language. In the absence of a nom de guerre, he is given the same one as his name. Thus in 1651, soldier Antoine Beaufour dit Beaufour makes a deal for the baking of flat cakes at Fort Saint-Louis de Québec (5).


So the “dit” name was very useful to differentiate between soldiers, and then in Quebec it continued to be used to differentiate between families. A good example are the Quebec Meuniers. There were five early Meunier pioneers and they were differentiated by the “dit” names: Duval, Lapierre, Le Monnier, Le Mousnier, Menier/St-Jean and Munier/Bellerose. I’ve deliberately used Meunier as an example here because if you are an American Miller of French-Canadian descent you need to know that not all Meunier/Millers are descendants of our Andre Mignier dit Lagace.

So now that’s easy, right?  We get 2 neat divisionsMigniers and Lagaces – with a variety of spellings. You would think so!

EARLY TIMES

If you sift through records from the first generations, you’ll find a great deal of inconsistency in the surnames. In fact, you’ll find some people referred to in as many as 4 different ways (i.e.Lagace/Mignier, Mignier/Lagace, or just Mignier or just Lagace) – and all of this with variant spellings of course. Here are some Mignier variationsfor 1st generation historical documents. Does your head hurt yet? 

Document 1:

andre-megne1top

 

andre1bottom1

Document 2:

menierdocument2small

Document 3:

meigner32

 

MODERN TIMES

LAG  Lagacee  Lagacie  LaGacie  Lagacy Lagasce Lagase Lagasee  Lagasey  Lagasi  Lagasse  Lagassi  Lagassie  Lagassy   Lagasy   Lagesey  Lagasse  

LEG Legace Legacy Legacey Legasse  Legassey Legassie  Legassy  Legasy  Legecy  Legesey

ME  Meignier  Meignin   Mennier  Meunier   Meuniere   Meunire 

MI   Migne   Migner   Mignier   Minier

Also Meunier translated to Miller (mainly U.S.A.) 


Feel a headache coming on?  

Take a moment to enjoy this  language lesson

courtesy of  Fred and Ginger!


 

Related Posts:  

Portal – Lagace Mignier

Coming soon: “You like po-tato and I like po-tahto!” Pt.2

Links:  

 The Military Roots of the “dit” Names by Luc Lepine, PhD  Historica

 Ancestral Notes

The Kings of Chazy Lake and Associated Families

March 8, 2009 - Posted by | . |

2 Comments »

  1. Hi Evelyn, that’s really interesting, I wasn’t sure what the dit names were all about, and no, I didn’t get a headache, lol.
    Thanks for stopping by to let me know about your article, I’ve been neglecting my site for a while, too busy blogging here.
    I’ve been getting my subscriptions all organized in Google Reader and figured I’d go there to update my blogroll, I had to move it to it’s own page. Have a good night and take care, Earline

    Comment by Earline | March 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. Greetings Evelyn,
    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. Please go to the GeneaBloggers Group blog at http://www.geneabloggers.com to see which geneablogger has been featured this week.

    Kathryn

    Comment by LOOKING4ANCESTORS | March 9, 2009 | Reply


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