Friday, August 22, 2008

French Genealogy Common Word Translations

Two of the problems in researching French family genealogical records that I had, and still have, are understanding the meaning of words and abbreviations found in the records, and making sure no mistakes of spelling, or worse misunderstanding, occur when I write or type the data in my files.

I can't even get the spelling of the word "genealogy" right, no matter how many thousand times I have seen that word. For some insane reason, not related to my French education since apparently that word is spelled the same in French and English in the area of the word I am always in error, I always, always, always, spell that word as "geneology" instead of "genealogy"! The spelling "genealogy" just doesn't look right to me!

Ditto for the word "descendant". My brain refuses to repeat that correct spelling, and will only write "descendent". Perhaps it is because the French noun comes from the French verb "descendre", whose tenses include "descendent" as the third person plural present. Who knows!

It's kind of like this blog website. No matter how many times I put two spaces after the period at the end of the sentence, it takes one of those spaces out. It also eliminates any spaces greater than 2 so that I cannot create a table. The website just won't follow the proper grammar rules - like my brain won't follow the correct spelling rules - because for some crazy reason, its programming just won't accept the truth.

The French language also has a complexity it inherited from the Latin, namely the attribution of male and female gender attributes to nouns and their adjectives, articles, pronouns and verbs. Fortunately the French dropped the neutral nouns. Nevertheless, all nouns in the French language have a genealogy that is from the Latin and is either female or male.

Fortunately, in genealogy, the need to know the gender of a noun is not necessary. But, it does help to know that an adjective or verb can be spelled differently, yet still have the same meaning, and that the reason for the difference is simply one of gender. The English language does this with verbs, for example, to differentiate the singular from the plural. The French, and Latin as well, do so also to separate nouns into male and female as well as the plural. Think of the French words like a genealogical record of husband and wife with some nouns masculine or male, and others female. In genealogy, gender is everywhere and it matters in tracing your family tree.

Most French children grasp this concept early in life when sitting at the dinner table. The "knife" or "couteau" is masculine, and thus the father of the place setting. The fork or "fourchette" is feminine, the mother of the spoon or "cuillere", also feminine, which plays the part of their little girl.

In this listing, the French word is equate with an "=" sign to the English. The feminine version of the word is placed in the "[ ]" brackets unless it is important to differentiate them.

The plural of French nouns and adjectives is usually dealt with the same way in English as in French, with the addition of an "s". There are exceptions to this grammar rule and are listed here where needed.

I am going to start off with the French-English translations of two most used words in "geneology" and "descendent". It makes it much more difficult to do a web search on family ancestry if you have these words incorrectly spelled as I usually do.

French = English

genéalogie = genealogy
descendant [descendante] = descendant
famille = family
arbre = tree
branche = branch
racine = root

histoire = history
passé = past
présent = present
futur = future


né = born (male)
née = born (female)
naissance = birth
naître = to be born
naquis = to be born

baptisé = baptised (male)
baptisée = baptised (female)
baptême = baptism, christening
baptiser = to baptise

marié = married (male)
mariée = married (female)
mariage = marriage
marier = to marry, wed

décès = deceased (noun)
décédé [décédée] = deceased (adj)
décéder = decease (verb)
feu = deceased (adj) (commonly seen word, usually written as "(feu)" to mean "(late)", in records to indicate a parent was dead at the time of the event, such as a mother or father of a bride or bridegroom; confusing since the usual meaning of "feu" is "fire")
mort = dead
mort = death
mourir = to die
tuer = to kill (often seen in the records as a cause of death of people killed by native Indians)
noyé = drowned ( sometimes seen in the records as another cause of death)

enterre = buried (male)
enterrée = burried (female)
enterrer = to bury

confirmé = confirmed (male)
confirmée = confirmed (female)
confirmation = confirmation

People Relationships:

mâle = male
femelle = female

mari = husband
homme = man
femme = wife or woman
époux = husband
épouse = wife
épousé = bridgegroom
épousée = bride
épouse = spouse, wife

veuf = widowed (male), widower
veuve = widowed (female), widow

non marié = unmarried
célibataire = unmarried

parenté = parentage, group of relatives (slang term used in Canada, not identified as such in the French dictionary)
naissance = parentage

parent = parent
enfant = child
fille = girl
garçon = boy
soeur = sister
frêre = brother
jumeau = twin
jeune = youngster, adolescent
adolescent = adolescent
mère = mother
père = father
grandmère = grandmother
grandpère = grandfather
grand-grandmère = great grandmother
grand grandpère = great grandfather
oncle = uncle
tante = aunt
cousin = cousin (male)
cousine = cousin (female)
neveu = nephew
neveux (plural form) = nephew or descendents
nièce = niece
marraine = godmother
parrain = godfather

parental = paternal and maternal
paternel = paternal
maternel = maternal

paternité = paternity
maternité = maternity

Age Relationships:

age = age
ans = years (old)
ainé [ainée] = oldest
jeune = young
plus jeune = younger
majeur [majeure] = major (over 18 years old; often seen in marriage records abbreviated as Maj.)
mineur [ mineure] = minor (under 18 years old; often seen in marriage records abbreviated as Min.)
majorité = majority
agé = old

Words Used Within Names:

dit = said (extremely common, used to separate the typical French two surnames, written in records as an "-" between them)

de = from, of, by (when found; always before a noun or adjective as the first syllable of a surname)
le = the (masculine; when found, always before a noun or adjective as the first or second syllable of a surname)
la = the (feminine; when found, always before a noun or adj. as the first or second syllable of a surname)


contrat = contract (often seen as an abbreviation of ct. with a number following a lawyer's name and associated with a marriage)

recensement = census (the more common word used in genealogical records, often abbreviated as r.)
cens = census

livre = book
archives = archives


église = church
Saint = Saint (male, usually abbreviated as St. or more commonly St-)
Sainte = Saint (feminine, usually abbreviated as Ste. or more commonly Ste-)

prêtre = priest (common since the priest was at the centre of most events and also because many French men became priests and thus had no genealogical descendants)
frère = priest, brother

soeur = nun, sister (common because many French women became nuns and thus had no genealogical descendants)

cimetière = cemetary
cerceuil = coffin


année = year
mois = month
jour = day
heure = hour
siècle = century


un = one (masculine)
une = one (feminine)
deux = two
trois = three
quatre = four
cinq = five
six = six
sept = seven
huit = eight
neuf = nine
dix = ten
onze = eleven
douze = twelve
treize = thirteen
quatorze = fourteen
quinze = fifteen
seize = sixteen
dix-sept = seventeen
dix-huit = eighteen
dix-neuf = nineteen
vingt = twenty
trente = thirty
quarante = forty
cinquante = fifty
soixante = sixty
soixante-dix = seventy
quatre-vingt = eighty
quatre-vingt-dix = ninety
cent = hundred
mille = thousand


janvier = January
février = February
mars = March
avril = April
mai = May
juin = June
juillet = July
aôut = August
septembre = September
octobre = October
novembre = November
décembre = December

Frequent Countries of Origin to or from French Canada:

pays = country
France = France
Grande Bretagne = Great Britain
Angleterre = Great Britain
Allemagne = Germany
Espagne = Spain
Etats-Unis = United States
Amérique = America
Amérique du Nord = North America

Languages and People:

langue = language
language = language
peuple = people

français = French
anglais = English
espagnol = Spanish
allemand = German


nationalité = nationality
français [française] = French
anglais [anglaise] = English
américain [américaine] = American
juif [juive] = Jewish
indien [indienne] = Indian

Religious Affiliation:

religion = religion
Catholique = Catholic
Protestant = Protestant
Juif [Juive] = Jewish

Place Positioners:

à = at
dans = in
de = from


le = the (masculine)
la = the (feminine)
les = the (plural)

un = a or one (masculine)
une = a or one (feminine)
des = a (plural)

cet = this (masculine)
cette = this (feminine)
ces = this (plural)


est = is (he is, she is)
été = was (he was, she was) or summer
a = has (he has, she has)