Some French names in the 1840 US Census of Aroostook County

One of the biggest challenges of using the 1840 US Census to find people in the French-speaking parts of Aroostook is the spelling of the names. Although the 1840 census taker, Gorham Parks, was better educated and seems to have known more French than the ones who did the 1850 census, since many of the people were not literate, he had to guess at the spelling.

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 1840 census. Needless to say, many of the names are very difficult to recognize.

Another thing to keep in mind is that in 1840 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 1840 (Michaud vs. Micheaux is one 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.

In addition to the problem of spelling French names, there is also the challenge of what are known as "dit names"; that is, in some families two different last names were used either together or separately. Thus, someone with the last name of Roy may have been listed under Roy, or under Voisine, or under both. Here is a list of dit name equivalents from this region. For more information on dit names see FrancoGêne's page on Dit Names and Linda Jones's page on dit names.

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

1840 census version ---> "real names"

Boilieau = Beaulieu

Bournage = Bernêche

Chambelleau = Chamberland

Clavelle = Clavette

Connet = Charette

Cornea = Corneau/Gorneau

De Fuer = Dufour

Demo = Dumont

Deshon = Deschênes

Dibbee = Dubé

Elbert = Albert

Godrow = Gaudreau

Gonyon = Gagnon

Jerret = Guérette

Johnsrow = Gendreau

Lizert = Lizotte

Loveway = Lavoie

Marcure = Mercure

Maury = Morin

Meray = Morin

Micheaux = Michaud

Mijeaux = Michaud

Orwy = Roy

Pegot, Pigot, Pequot = Picard

Pelkay, Pelkey, Pelquet = Pelletier

Potter = Poitras

Rey = Ruest

Sanfasan = Sansfaçon

Sansforsan = Sansfaçon

Searway = Sirois

Sozier = Saucier

Sucier = Saucier or Soucy

Tadee = Tardif

Tallieux = Thériault

Thadee = Tardif

Vilet = Violette

Willet = Ouellet

Yesenton = Yarrington

Return to 1840 census page

Last revised 7 Jun 2004
© 2004 C. Gagnon