Saturday, February 4, 2012

Surname Saturday - Pageot

One challenge in researching French Canadian ancestors is dealing with the often wide variations in the spelling of a name. In French, it is often possible to represent the same sound in many different ways. This is especially true at the ends of word, where final letters are "silent", that is they are not pronounced.

Take the name "Pageot", the surname of my 4th great grandmother in my matrilineal line, Marcelline Pageot (1822-1867). I have found this name spelled at least four different ways in records relating to my direct ancestors: Pageot, Pajeau, Pajot and Pajeot. In this case, there seems to be very little pattern to which spelling is used. The first spelling is the most common and is found throughout my family's time in Canada. The following time line shows the variations in spelling over time.
1675 - Pageot
1703 - Pajot
1731 - Pageot
1731 - Pajeot
1755 - Pajeot
1785 - Pajot
1794 - Pageot
1820 - Pajeau
1822 - Pajeau
1839 - Pageot
1841 - Pageot
1850 - Pageot
1861 - Pajot
1867 - Pageot
This kind of variation can make it very difficult to decide on what spelling to use. Deciding on a standard can be helpful for organizing your research, but it is not always clear what the best choice is. Not only does the spelling often vary from generation to generation, but can vary over the lifetime of a single individual. For example, this surname is spelled three different ways on records for Marcelline Pageot. "Pajeau" on her baptismal record, "Pajot" on the 1861 Census of Canada, and "Pageot" on both marriage and burial records. The choice of spelling you use in your own records is a somewhat arbitrary choice. In this case, I have used "Pageot" because it seems the most frequent and is closest to the form used by relatives who immigrated to the United States. These relatives added a "g" to the spelling Paggeot.

Another possibility is to use the standardized forms of the surnames established by the PRDH and developed to facilitate use of their databases. A useful tool on the PRDH website allows you to enter a variant and find the standardized form (here). This tool can also be used in other helpful ways. Look at the results for my search on PAGEOT. As you can see the standardized form is PAGEAU. Notice that over twenty different variants are listed. Now, look at rightmost column, it shows how frequent each variant is. The three most common variants are PAJEOT, PAJOT and PAGEOT. You can use this information to do smarter searchers. Start with the most common variants and work your way down.

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