Recording of dit Surnames

After returning to working on my French Canadian side I am trying to re-visit the best way to record dit Last names. I originally used the Names tab with the Alternate Name to record it. However, that was before I discovered the Multiple Surname method of entry.

What is the more common way of recording this? Is the Alternate name used more for spelling variations?


This is where the Family Nick Name is used. It can only be accessed by using the Name Editor.

I’d say Alternate names would be used in cases where a person has changed their name (eg Married name).

I’ve been experimenting with dit names in my french canadian ancestry as well. It is a tricky subject since dit names are valid legal names. A child may be born using both surname and dit name and later only referenced by the dit name in marriages or births of their children.

The Family Nick Name mentioned above is one option as a ‘dit’ name is essentially a nick name.

Another option is to use multiple surnames. This can be done in the name editor (I believe there is a + button near the surname field). The first row would be the surname and the second row the ‘dit’ name. It also gives you the ability to add a prefix/suffix to each surname which can be useful for adding the ‘dit’ prefix in the second row.

Thanks. Yes from what I have read they explain them as Alternate names, and I have seen children take the dit name going forward.So, I guess I am still waffling. I think for the most part I have recorded them as alternate names. I think the mulitple surnames shows up in the graphs and such. I haven’t seen how alternate names show up in reports and such.

So, still waffling between but thanks for the input.

I’m in the same boat. It’s on my to-do list to standardize and fix all of the dit names in my tree as well. Gramps also gives you the ability to group surnames with alternate spellings which may be helpful.

In France, particularly in little villages where a lot of persons wear the same lastname, the dit name is much more a complementary name than an alternate one. Complementary to designate more accurately who people are speaking about. It become alternate when childs wears that dit name too, inheritating it. But I don’t see that often (never?) (in registers I have seen >1600, may be before but I haven’t seen it - I don’t have seen registers <1600)

Edit/note: In the English version of Gramps there is an “alternate name” field, the same field on french version of gramps is “nom dit” (dit name)

I also have a similar major name harmonization task ahead of me.

Multiple Surnames is a workaround to deal with issues of couverture. (That is, the issues related to the old European legal fiction of marriage making spouses one person… but where the woman had no rights or say.) MOST genealogy software has an issue where it only shows the birth name. (FindAGrave being a welcome exception where maiden names & terminal married surnames are visible for listed siblings.) Meanwhile, the women spent most of their lives known by their husband’s name. Most public docs (like the obits, family & professional histories) omit her maiden name. That makes it a pain to find which daughter/sister was “Mrs. Smith” in those sources… particularly if multiple daughters married into a particular line.

So I used Multiple Surnames to add the husband’s surname for each marriage. (Yes, it is ugly for the women with 5 marriages.) Now I need to go back and harmonize the Origins for both surnames (and add “Mrs. John Smith” & “Mrs. Jane Smith” married alternative names to each Jane Jones.) Once I add the variant, the search finds married names. Since the Alternative Names are mostly invisible, the Multiple Surnames gives married names more visibility.

But being consistent in creating the couverture-oriented married name variants is difficult. It will probably need an analysis routine to build out the variants. Sorta like the SyncAssociation tool does for harmonizing reciprocal Associations.

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