One Man, Two Names, Two Countries

The Life story of Norbert Albert Amiot dit Villeneuve or Albert Villeneuve

The Villeneuve/Paquet family of Maskinonge, Quebec – after immigration to Ishpeming, Michigan

Why would a person, born with one name, change that name or use another?  Certainly, there are people who are hiding from the law and change their name.  There are people who change their name because their birth name is mispronounced.  A person may also change their name to avoid discrimination because their surname represents a hated minority group, like our immigrant Polish and German ancestors did in the period of the two world wars.[1]

The Amiot dit Villeneuve family however may have changed their name for entirely other reasons.  The parents and seven known children are followed to determine the correct name for one member of the family – Norbert Albert Amiot dit Villeneuve or Albert Villeneuve. 

BACKGROUND

In the French-Canadian communities of North America, particularly in the province of Quebec, from the 1700s into the late 1800s, the naming practice called dit names was utilized.  The word dit has come to mean alias or “so called” and is believed to derive from the French verb dire, meaning “to speak, say”[2].  In this narrative’s example, the surname from France was Amyot[3].  At some undetermined point, the family in question attached the “dit” name Villeneuve, so that the surname appears in records in New France[4] or Quebec as “Amiot dit Villeneuve”.  Sometimes these additional names represent a move to new land, a colonial leadership title, or a physical characteristic that distinguishes one man from another within a soldier group.

The research into the seven known children of Joseph Amiot dit Villeneuve and Julie Gregoire[5] may help to determine whether Norbert Albert Amiot dit Villeneuve born I 1840 in Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada is the same man as Albert Villeneuve of Ishpeming, Marquette, Michigan buried in 1914. 

RECORDS SEARCHED

Norbert Amiot dit Villeneuve was born on 3 March and baptized on 4 March 1840 in Maskinonge[6], Quebec[7] to Joseph Amiot dit Villeneuve[8] and Julie Gregoire.  He was the fourth of seven children.  His siblings were Antoine, Joseph, Adeline, Olivier, Pierre and Peter.  Each were identified with variants of the Amiot dit Villeneuve name on baptismal, marriage and burial records[9]:

First nameBaptismal nameMarriage nameName at death
AntoineAmiot dit Villeneuve Villeneuve
JosephAmiot Villeneuve
AdelineAmiot dit VilleneuveVilleneuveVilleneuve
NorbertAmiot dit VilleneuveAlbert VilleneuveVilleneuve
OlivierVilleneuve Vinlove
PierreVilleneuve Villeneuve
PeterVilleneuve  

Antoine and Adeline were noted in baptismal records with their father’s surname as “Amiot dit Villeneuve” while Joseph is listed with his father Joseph’s surname as “Amiot”, and all other siblings’ baptismal records noted the father’s name as “Villeneuve”.  The earliest census record found with some of these siblings was the 1851 Canadian census[10] and all are listed as “Villeneuve”.  All children born to this marriage after 1851 show the name “Villeneuve” uniformly.

By contrast, Norbert Albert’s aunts and uncles, just one generation earlier, consistently included the “dit” name although with the expected spelling variations.  For example, his sister Adeline’s baptism record notes her father’s name as Joseph Amiot dit Villeneuve[11] (like Joseph’s) but Joseph’s brother Amable’s surname was given as Amiot dit Vilneuve and sister Marie Domitilde’s was noted as Amiot dit Vilnoeuve[12]


RECORDS UTILIZED

Norbert Villeneuve married Adele Paquette on 7 November 1865 in St. Justin de Maskinonge, Quebec[13], Albert Villeneuve died on 13 May 1914, listing his father as Joseph Villeneuve and mother as Sophie Carpentiere[14] and the informant being Joseph Villeneuve, his son[15].  While an obituary in Marquette County has not yet been found, a notice appeared in The Calumet News, noting “Mrs. Ed. Elliott[16] of Laurium yesterday received word of the death of her father, Albert Villeneuve …”.

The census information for the 1880[17] and 1881[18] censuses have both men with a wife Adele/Adel, and children Florence/Flore, Louise/Louisa and Noah/Noe and many of the ages aren’t consistent.  These two censuses are during the time that the family is known to be moving back and forth between Michigan and Canada (according to family stories), but the 1910 U.S. census indicates that Albert reported immigrating in 1878.  From family stories, the family coped with the moving and a large family (there were a total of 11 children in all) by splitting up for times with the mother with some of the children and father with others.

The obituary in Marquette County for Albert Villeneuve[19] names children Joseph, Florence (Mrs. Adelord Morin), Louise (Mrs. Ed Elliot), Clara (Mrs. Alphonse Lesage), Rose (a widow of Mr. Clement), Alphosine and Adel (Mrs. Will Kaiser), confirming those listed with him in census records.  Will/Probate records[20] name children Eva, Alphonsine, Flora, Clara, Louise, Rosana, Joseph, Noe (with the daughters named with both their maiden and married names), again confirming census records.

Records still to be found:

Naturalization records – Immigration is noted in the 1910 census as happening in 1878

Potential additional city directories for more years

Land or tax records if they name children

Military service or employment records

CONCLUSION

As the names of the children consistently match in census records, newspaper articles, as well as the will and probate records, the variations can be explained as the likely variations that are due to the multiple names (baptismal, given names, middle names) that are common in French-Canadian families. 

The only time that the name “Norbert” has been used is in the baptismal record and the 1881 Canadian census; it is likely that Norbert may have been a first name with Albert as a middle name and it could have been dropped in favor of Albert especially after moving to the United States.  Similarly, the change from Amiot dit Villeneuve to simply “Villeneuve” may reflect a desire for a shorter, simpler name and reflect the move also to the United States.  This family still lived within a primarily French-Canadian community for some time, but the ease of pronunciation may have created the adoption of the shorter name. Thus, in the end, the use of Albert Villeneuve for the bulk of this ancestor’s life does not negate the fact that his name was likely Norbert Albert Amiot dit Villeneuve when he was born.


[1] Robert Siegel and Art Silverman, “During World War I, U.S. Government Propaganda Erased German Culture”, All Things Considered, April 7, 2017, 6 p.m.; typed transcript from recording, NPR (National Public Radio), Washington, D.C., All Things Considered  (https://www.npr.org/2017/04/07/523044253/during-world-war-i-u-s-government-propaganda-erased-german-culture; accessed on July 25, 2018).

[2] The most direct explanation of this comes from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dit_name: viewed July 19, 2018) although the author’s own French language and research knowledge is extensive in this area.

[3] The immigrant ancestor from Soissons, Departement de l’Aisne, Picardie, France was born in 1628 and first appears in “New France” in 1636 (the descendants of Matthew Amyot are documented from his Ancestry tree down to the subject of this work at https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/48774945/person/28213115197 ).

[4] Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica, “New France: French Colonies North America”, Encyclopedia Britannica, HTML edition (https://www.britannica.com/place/New-France; accessed July 24, 2018). New France was used initially in the 16th century when France was establishing colonies and trade relationships in North America.

[5] Women in French Canada retain the use of their maiden or nee names throughout their life and are documented with these names in French Catholic church records, marriage contracts and land records.

[6] For this narrative, the French words that use accent marks when written in French will be omitted as they add nothing to the narrative other than in any official titles (see next note) for records.

[7] St. Joseph de Maskinonge (Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada), chronological records in Actes d’état civil et registres d’église du Québec 1621 à 1967 (Collection Drouin, Institut Généalogique Drouin, Montreal, Quebec, Canada); Baptismal record, Norbert Amiot dit Villeneuve, 4 March 1840; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1091/d1p_25590543/12014791?backurl=; accessed on January 20, 2013, reviewed July 21, 2018).

[8] St. Joseph de Maskinonge, Marriage Record, Joseph Amiot dit Villeneuve and Julie Gregoire, 3 August 1830; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1091/d1p_25590043/11594503?backurl=; accessed on July 21, 2018).

[9] Sacramental records (baptism, marriage, burial) for St. Joseph de Maskinonge, Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada were researched for seven siblings; with death records also in Kansas for Oliver (Villeneuve) Vinlove, and Norbert and Pierre Villeneuve in Michigan.  Citations for all of these records can be provided.

[10] 1851 Canadian Census, St Joseph de Maskinongé, St. Maurice County, Canada East (Quebec); Schedule: A; Roll: C_1141; Page: 121; Line: 15; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1061/e093-e002316886/1894563?backurl=; accessed November 12, 2017)

[11] Baptism for Adeline; St. Joseph de Maskinonge, Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada. Actes d’état civil et registres d’église du Québec (Collection Drouin), 1621 à 1967. Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin, digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1091/d1p_25590436/10354364?backurl=; accessed on July 7, 2018).

[12] Baptism records for siblings Amable and Marie Domitilde are found at: St. Joseph de Maskinonge, Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada.  Actes d’état civil et registres d’église du Québec (Collection Drouin), 1621 à 1967. Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.  Amable: (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/Membership/LAFRANCE/img/acte/2943308; accessed on July 23, 2018); and Marie Domitilde: Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1091/d1p_25580900/1487119?backurl= ; accessed on July 7, 2018).

[13] St. Justin de Maskinonge, (Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada); chronological records in Actes d’état civil et registres d’église du Québec 1621 à 1967, (Collection Drouin), May 13,1865, Norbert Villeneuve and Adele Paquette.

[14] Sophie Carpentiere is actually his mother-in-law, mother of his wife Adele Paquette.

[15] Michigan Department of State, Division of Vital Statistics, death certificate, registered no. 50, stamped “Jun 5 1914”, Albert Villeneuve; Seeking Michigan (http://cdm16317.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p129401coll7/id/77250; accessed May 12, 2018).

[16] “Father Dies in Marquette”, The Calumet News (Calumet, Michigan), page 5, 15 May 1914; Mrs. Ed. Elliott is Louise Villeneuve, daughter of Albert, noted in census records cited.

[17] 1880 U.S. census, Marquette, Michigan, population schedule, Ishpeming, p. 349D, dwelling 230, family 283, Albert Villeneuve; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 July 2018), citing Family History Film 1254954.

[18] 1881 Census of Canada, Maskinonge, Quebec, for District Maskinonge, Subdistrict St. Justin, p. 13, family 64, Norbert Villeneuve; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 23 July 2018), citing Library and Archives Canada, Record Group 31 C-1, microfilm C-13162 to C-13286.

[19] “Death of Albert Villeneuve: Pioneer French Resident Passed Away Yesterday Afternoon”, Daily Mining Journal (Marquette, Michigan), page 6, column 3, 14 May 1914; Marquette County Historical Society, J. M. Longyear Research Library, Marquette, Michigan.

[20] County of Marquette, Michigan, Last Will & Testament, Albert Villeneuve, will dated 13 May 1911; probate case files beginning 20 May 1914; Probate Court Clerk’s Office, Marquette County, Michigan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: