Some French names in the 1820 US Census of the Madawaska Settlement

One of the challenges of using the 1820 US Census to find people in the Madawaska Settlement is the spelling of the names. Since many of the people were not literate, the census taker often had to guess at the spelling; this was just as true of English names as it was of French.

Another complication is that the pronunciation of French in northern Aroostook county (as well as in neighboring parts of Québec and New Brunswick) has its own specificities; thus, Sirois is pronounced roughly like Searway, rather than the Parisian French Searwah. So imagine an English-speaker hearing a French name, in the accent not of Paris but of Madawaska, and trying to figure out how to write it. That's what we're seeing in the 1820 census. Needless to say, many of the names are very difficult to recognize.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in 1820 there was no single, standardized way to spell many names, so even if people could read and write they may have spelled their name differently from others with the same name. This explains much of the variation and the difference between today's spelling and that used in 1820 (the various spellings of the name Thibedeau is a good example).

This is only a guide to deciphering the names. For those names for which I have definite information, I have included the correct spellings of the names in the "Remarks" section on the census transcription pages. This page is meant to be a guide, that is, to suggest possible ways that some common names were spelled; and to suggest possible correct spellings for some of the more common names found in the census to help point you in a direction for further research. Before you assume that the equivalents given here are correct for a specific individual, you should find other evidence for that spelling of his/her name.

If you have any other examples, or know specific names in the census, please . Thanks.

Please note: This is only a guide. You should always check other sources to confirm the actual spelling of names.

Last names

1820 census version ---> "real names"

Adyet = Ayotte

Albare = Albert

Crock = Cyr

Cyer = Cyr

Daggle = Daigle

Debe = Dubé

Dogle = Daigle

Lezert = Lisotte

Markee = Marquis

Markure = Mercure

McCure = Mercure

Mecure = Mercure

Nedow = Nadeau

Pelchey, Pelkey, Peltiere, Peltihey = Pelletier

Sear = Cyr

Sier = Cyr

Tareo, Tarrio = Thériault

Thibadore, Thibedore, Tibadore, Tibedore, Tibbedo = Thibedeau

Turdey = Tardif

"Real names" ---> 1830 Census version

Albert = Albare

Ayotte = Adyet

Cyr = Crock, Cyer, Sear, Sier (there is also a John "Betisiere," who is probably Jean-Baptiste Cyr)

Daigle = Daggle, Dogle

Dubé = Debe

Lisotte = Lezert

Marquis = Markee

Mercure = Markure, McCure, Mecure

Nadeau = Nedow

Pelletier = Pelchey, Pelkey, Peltiere, Peltihey

Tardif = Turdy

Thériault = Tario, Tarrio

Thibedeau = Thibadore, Thibedore, Tibadore, Tibedore, Tibbedo

First names:

1830 version --> "real name"

Bazell = Basile

Betis = Baptiste (usually short for Jean-Baptiste)

John Betis = Jean-Baptiste

Lario = Hilarion

Lorent = Laurent

Loron = Laurent


Return to 1820 census page

Last revised 22 Oct 2004
© 2004 C. Gagnon