We have been studying a family from Alsace of late, a wonderful nineteenth century family that reproduced at a jolly pace. As we read each birth registration, we found that the mother's name was spelt differently just about every time. The lady herself was consistent in her spelling but, if she were not present, wild guesses were made as to the orthography of her name. In some cases, not even the first letter was the same, making reading the tables décennales a dreary chore.
Tatiana, the author of the blog, Yvon Généalogie, writes of a very interesting name change in seventeenth century parish registrations, where the old phrase le fils à or la fille à (meaning "the son of" or "the daughter of") was shortened to just à, which in writing often ended up with the letter A attached to the front of the surname. This was subsequently taken as the surname proper and thus, as she illustrates, le fils à Simon, became à Simon, then Asimon or Assimon. We have written about such name changes when writing about our dear gardener and plasterer, Monsieur Bony.
Beyond the study of name-mangling in parish and civil registrations is the issue of odd terminology. We like oddities, those surprises that bring us up short and -- in an instant -- rearrange our perception of the moment. Reading civil and parish registrations is repetitious work and just as we begin to doze off, invariably, an odd term will snap us awake, even make us laugh. But these terms can be baffling as well, so today we give a mini-lexicon:
- sur le champ - we have read birth registrations in which the recording officer felt the need to state not only the details but that he wrote the registration right away or on the spot: sur le champ. What could the urgency have been?
- cousin issu de germain - this relationship indicates a person who is a child of a parent's first cousin, e.g. a second cousin; or one who has the same great-grandparent. We have seen this mangled as cousin sous germain, which may reveal a bit more about people's lives than we should like to know. Remué de germains has the same meaning. Remuer is to wiggle, fidget, to bestir one's self, the implication here seeming to focus more on the genesis than the result.
- du deuxième lit - even more than the above does this reveal what we would rather not consider. Literally, "of the second bed", meaning of the second marriage. Thus an uncle by a parent's second marriage would be oncle du deuxième lit.
- Utérin - a relation on the maternal side or from the same mother. Frères utérins would be brothers with the same mother but possibly not the same father.
- à la mode de Bretagne - this is supposed to relate to a parent's first cousins again. Apparently, in Bretagne, one's father's first cousin was not referred to as Cousin, but as Uncle or Aunt. Thus, oncle (or tante) à la mode de Bretagne is a parent's first cousin and nièce à la mode de Bretagne is a daughter of a parent's first cousin. However, we have seen this term used with laxity to mean any distant relative.
Have you come across mangled names or terms that mystify you?
©2013 Anne Morddel