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Don’t worry if you run across French ancestors who seem to have two last names with the word dit (pronounced dee) in the middle, as in Jacques Demet dit Beaulieu. The second surname is called a dit name (dit is French for called or said). Dit names differentiated branches of a family, making the names handy for keeping track of a large clan.
Your ancestor’s dit name could be based on locale, a nickname, physical quality or any other characteristic. French genealogy expert Jessica Hacken <arborgenealogy.com> says the practice of taking a second surname was more common in French Canada than in France itself. You’ll find advice for dealing with dit names at <www.francogene.com/quebec/ditnames.php>; get surname variations and known dit names in the American-French Genealogical Society’s database <www.afgs.org/ditnames/index1.html>.
From the July 2008 Family Tree Magazine.