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Surname Guide

 

The heart of the upstairs research center consists of a database of biographical sketches of all the Acadian exiles known to have arrived in Louisiana. Those exiles who have been identified are included on the Wall of Names on the first floor of the Memorial. Location of the biographical sketches of these Acadian immigrants is based in large part upon a surname search. The names of individuals in the sketches are drawn from the Wall of Names.

As seasoned genealogists are painfully aware, there was no attempt to standardize the spelling of surnames until the nineteenth century. Surnames were rendered phonetically. This creates a particular problem for Acadian genealogical and historical researchers. The hard "o" sound is one of the most common last syllables for surnames in France's Centre-Ouest region, the area from which most of the original Acadian colonists were drawn. In the French language, the hard "o" sound can be created by approximately a dozen different combinations of vowels and consonants, and all of them were utilized by colonial (and metropolitan) scribes with no effort at consistency. In a particularly notorious example, one colonial Louisiana scribe rendered a surname seven different ways in two documents drafted one day apart. The following example will help illustrate the point: The common Acadian/Cajun surname Breaux appears in the following forms in the colonial records: Brau, Braud, Brault, Braut, Braux, Breau, Breaux, Breault, Bro, Bro, and Brot.

To avoid the resulting confusion as much as possible, the Acadian Memorial employed two sets of criteria to standardize the spelling of Acadian surnames included in the facility's noted Wall of Names. The spelling of surnames for the Acadian exiles who arrived before 1785 conforms to a surname guide developed and published by famed Canadian / Acadian genealogist Stephen White of the Université de Moncton. This guide utilizes common Canadian spellings for Acadian surnames. These spellings sometimes differ markedly from those of their Louisiana counterparts. For example, Boudreaux is rendered as "Boudrot" in White's guide. Surnames of the 1785 Acadian immigrants appear as they do in the original passenger manifests of the seven so-called "expeditions." (If unsure, consult the alternate spelling field. It will indicate "1785 spelling.")

Surnames in the biographical database follow these established conventions. Thus, although the developers of the Memorial's database have attempted to include common Louisiana spellings wherever space permits, researchers particularly first-time genealogical researchers would be well advised to consult the on-line surname guide before beginning a search in the biographical database.

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