My husband’s French-Canadian ancestors have some very long names. One of them is “Marie Madeleine Dupuis Dit Montpellier.” It’s hard to tell what Marie’s surname is. Is it Dupuis or Montpellier? Well… it may be both. “Dit” means that Marie is called or named Montpellier. But Montpellier is probably not the original surname. It could be the name of the region from where Marie originated, it could be her mother’s surname or it could be a nickname. Montpellier could be anything. The only thing I know is that Marie is known as Montpellier. Her father was Joseph Dupuis Dit Montpellier. A quick Internet search for Montpellier tells me that it is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, so I imagine there’s a connection. Paul W. Truax, in his book, “LaForce Descendants in North America,” explains that it was a way for New France (Canada) colonists to imitate European nobility by attaching titles to their expansive land grants. It brought prestige when used in business transactions, marriage and baptism records. Truax uses the expression quasi-nobility and also self-proclaimed and his research leads him to believe that these “dit” titles, were viewed with great importance, even more than the original surname, which was often abandoned for the “dit” name. Truax’s candidness gives personality to these people who lived in another era.
Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret Genealogy – A How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy II – Uncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors and Secret Genealogy III – From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians. Available here:
Secret Genealogy II: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-II-Christian-Ancestors/dp/1484053222
Secret Genealogy III: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-III-Jewish-Anglo-Saxon-Acadians/dp/148407579X