This page gives a good explanation of French-Canadian "dit" names. The short version is that:
- Illiteracy and lack of standardized spelling means that many of my 17th/18th century ancestors have several different spellings for their last names.
- A common problem for many people migrating to countries that speak a different language: some of these names have slightly (or even very) different spelling/pronunciation over time.
- Early Canadians had "dit" surnames. E.g. my ancestor from France was "Pierre Boucher", his son migrated to Canada, took a "dit" name and was "Pierre Boucher dit St-Pierre", and by the 1800s they had dropped the Boucher and one man was called "Pierre St-Pierre". (Not a lot of change in the given name, though!)
This is problematic in some of my searches, e.g. Cayer/Cahier/Cayea is a brick wall for me. Also, sometimes a single person has multiple spellings -- or one part or the other of the dit name -- recorded in different places: birth, census, marriage, death.
Is there a convention that makes keeping track of this easier?