Surname Saturday ~ Rivard “dit” Loranger, “dit” Lavigne….”dit”…”dit”…

Tourouvre, Normandy, France

Tourouvre, Normandy, France

Studying genealogy crosses into uncharted cultural territory on occasion and it is extremely important that one understand nuances of that culture’s history in order to be effective in one’s research.  Though I am a smattering of this and that culturally climbing out on my maternal branches, on my paternal line I am always climbing out of a French-Canadian limb (well with a First Nations twig or two)!

I make the French-Canadian distinction based on my family’s long history in the new world.  Since the 1500s and 1600s my ancestors have been clearing and plowing, portaging and trapping, trading and building, and–let’s face facts–fraternizing and procreating in the land they called New France!  Prior to their lives here in Canada the majority of my paternal ancestors trace their origins back to Normandy, France.

One of the Rivard homes in Tourouvre, Normandy, France (Quite rundown in these more recent photos)

One of the Rivard homes in Tourouvre, Normandy, France (Quite rundown in these more recent photos)

French-Canadian genealogy can be both challenging but also extremely rewarding.  The records available to French-Canadian family historians abound thanks to the diligent record keeping of the Roman Catholic Church however if one is not familiar with the cultural anomaly of the “dit” name then all hope is lost!

When I began my research I knew that the surname Loranger had at some point in history been changed from the surname Rivard.  This was how it had been explained to me by family members.  It wasn’t until I encountered the transition between names that I was confronted with the “dit” name and the change in name became clear.

“Dit” is a form of the French verb “dire” which means “to say or tell”.  In this instance it means “said” as in “said individual”.  The “dit” name–as we have termed it–is in a loose sense a  sort of nickname or alias.  In actuality, it is more similar to the Scottish and their clan names, meant to make the distinction between various branches of a family line.  Truly there are many origins to the dit names used in French Canada and the explanations are almost as varied as the names themselves. Many were originally the “nom de guerre”, a troop name grouping military members, the origins of others truly did approach the origns of nicknames–names based on an aspect of appearance, or based on the place from which the family came.  In the case of the dit name Loranger it is said that perhaps it referred to a supporter of William the Orange but more likely a reference to red hair!  In later years the original surname was often dropped to be replaced by the “dit” name or the “dit” name was simply dropped by others.

Regardless of the origins and understanding of the “dit” name as long as one is aware of their existence there are now very helpful charts to decipher the puzzle of connecting one name to another!

Names of Canadiens baptized in St. Aubin, Tourouvre, France

Names of Canadiens baptized in St. Aubin, Tourouvre, France

My name Loranger was the dit name of my 8th Great-Grandfather, Robert Rivard dit Loranger, the youngest son of Pierre-Nicholas Rivard and Jeanne Mullard of Tourouvre, Orne, Basse-Normandie, France.  Robert Rivard dit Loranger arrived in New France/Canada in 1662 at the age of 24. He was granted land and he married Madeleine Guillet, the 14 year old daughter of a Filles-du-Roi, in 1663.  Madeleine also happened to be his brother’s niece. Robert and Madeleine had 13 children.

Robert had followed his older brother Nicholas Rivard dit LaVigne, already arrived in New France in 1648, and who–in a confusing web of family connections–is also my 8th Great-Grandfather. Robert and Nicholas were both landowners in New France but Robert was not one to sit still.  He cleared land in half to time of others and decided to venture into the fur trade. First signing with the “Company of the North” in 1689 at the age of 50 he decided to partner with friends and relations in 1695 to create their own fur trading business known as the “Compagnie Royale”.

Nicholas Rivard dit Lavigne had been a captain in the militia in Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Nicholas Rivard dit Lavigne`s dit name referred to his title “Sieur de La Vigne” after his mother’s property “Clos de La Vigne” in Tourouvre, France. A road sign marks the location of this property today.

Sign today marking the Tourouvre Property of Jeanne Mullard.

Sign today marking the Tourouvre Property of Jeanne Mullard.

I have to fight the urge to run off on a tangent here describing the exploits of these amazing men and their families but I am losing sight of the focus: Surnames!  While several descendants of Robert Rivard dit Loranger carried on the Loranger dit name and then eventually dropped Rivard, others introduced new dit names which were adopted as surnames, and–as though things weren’t confused enough– still others kept the original Rivard surname.  The descendants of Robert Rivard hold the names: Rivard, Loranger, Feuilleverte, Bellefeuille, Despres, Montendre, and Maisonville.  The descendants of Nicholas Rivard now may hold the surnames: Rivard, Lavigne, Lacoursiere, Lanouette, Preville, LaGlanderie, Dufresne, and Giasson.

If you are of French-Canadian origin and bear any of the above surnames then “Salut! Mes Cousins!”  It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance!
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Those Places Thursday ~~ The Plains of Abraham, New France

"The Death of General Wolfe" by Benjamin West (1770)

“The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West (1770)

My French-Canadian ancestors arrived in New France in the 1500s and 1600s. As I traced my paternal ancestors back further and further I admittedly felt my Canadian patriotism kick into high gear. Discovering that my ancestors were among the founding families of New France, clearing land, trading furs and establishing trading companies, in a harsh new environment has instilled in me a sense of pride in their fortitude and endurance.

As a Canadian student I remember studying the tireless travel of the Coureur de bois through endless wilderness, the arduous journey across the ocean to New France to establish settlements where only forest existed before, and the battles for territory in this new country between the French and the British but at the time I had no idea how attached my family had been to all these experiences, events, and places! Pivotal places as the Plains of Abraham are tied indelibly to the French- Canadian roots of my paternal family tree!

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

The battle of the Plains of Abraham was a defining battle in the Seven Years’ War.  It was the 13th of September 1759, and British Troops, lead by General Wolfe, ascended upon Marquis de Montcalm’s French forces upon the Plains of Abraham after scaling the cliffs at L’Anse-au-Foulon (near Quebec City).  The Plains of Abraham were on a plateau at the summit of Cap Diamants.  A force of 4500, the British stretched across the great expanse of the Plains of Abraham.  Montcalm rushed a response in a battle which meant a defeat for the French and resulted in the death of both leaders–Montcalm and Wolfe!

Named for my 9th Great Grandfather, Abraham Martin, the Plains of Abraham are today recognized as a key battleground in the history of New France and marked a turning point for British control in North America.  Abraham Martin was born in France in 1589.  One of the earliest settlers in New France he arrived with his wife Marguerite Langlois and her family in 1620. He and Marguerite had 9 children together. He was a ship’s pilot on the St. Lawrence and a deep sea fisherman, known as “Pilote du Roi” (the King’s Pilot).  He was granted 12 acres of land on the outskirts of Quebec City in 1635 by the Company of New France, and was then gifted another 20 acres ten years later by Sieur Adrien Du Chesne, a naval surgeon.

The intriguing and somewhat contradictory story of Abraham Martin is one I shall reserve for a future post!  Many French-Canadian’s can boast of him as an ancestor of their own!
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