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Translating French words for genealogy research can be tricky.

Translating French words for genealogy research can be tricky.

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In researching genealogy, translating French words for genealogy research can be tricky, and the same goes for other languages as well, and mistakes can easily be made.

 

Getting one term, phrase or word wrong can mean taking your research off in the wrong direction based on the interpretation of that word.

 

Obituary for Paul-Henri Boily, 1926-1998

While researching my French Canadian, Acadian and French Canadian ancestors, I frequently came across terms that needed translation. From past experience, I knew it was important to not make a snap judgment of the meaning of a term based on its similarity to another French word, an English word, or words in any other language.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is ‘journalier.’ Upon first impression, I thought this might mean ‘journalist’ but after checking into it further, I discovered it meant a ‘day laborer.’

Here is my list of the French terms for occupations that are encountered most frequently in vital documents and records.

à la retraite retired
agriculteur farmer, husbandman
aide de sous commis helper to asst clerk
apothicaire pharmacist
apprenti(e) apprentice
apprêteur(euse) tanner, dresser of skins
archer bowman
architecte architect
argentier silversmith
armurier gunsmith
arpenteur, arpentier land surveyor
arquebusier matchlock gunsmith
artisan handicraftsman
aubergiste innkeeper
aumonier army chaplain
avocat, avocate lawyer, barrister
bailli bailiff
banqier(ère) banker
becheur(euse) digger
bedeau church sexton
bédeau beadle
beurrier(ère) butter-maker
bibliothécaire librarian
blanchisseur(eusse) laundryman, woman
bonnetier(ère) hosier
boucher(ère) butcher
boulanger(ère) baker
bourgeois(e) privileged person
boutonnier button-maker
braconnier poacher
brasseur(euse) brewer
briqueteur bricklayer
briquetier brick-maker
bucheron woodcutter
cabaretier(ère) saloon keeper
caissier(ère) cashier
calfat caulker
camionneur truck driver
cannonier gunner (canon)
cantinier(ère) canteen-keeper
capitaine de milice captain of the militia
capitaine de navire ship captain
capitaine de port port captain
capitaine de vaisseau ship captain
capitaine des troupes troup captain
cardeur(euse) carder(textiles)
chamoisseur chamois-dresser
chancelier chancellor
chandelier chandle-maker
chanteur(euse) singer
chapelier(èr) hatter, hatmaker
charbonnier(ère) coal merchant
charcutier(ère) port-butcher
charpentier carpenter, framer
charpentier de navires shipwright
charretier carter
charron cartwright, wheelwright
chasseur hunter
chaudronnier coppersmith, tinsmith
chaufournier furnace tender
chef cook
chevalier horseman, calvary
chirurgien surgeon
cloutier nail-maker, dealer
cocher coachman, driver
colonel colonel
commandant commander
commis clerk
commissaire d’artillerie arms stewart
commissaire de la marine ship’s purser
compagnon journeyman
comptable accountant, bookkeeper
concierge janitor, caretaker
confiseur(euse) confectioner
conseilleur counsellor, advisor
contrebandier smuggler
contremaître overseer, foreman
controleur superintendant
cordier ropemaker
cordonnier cobbler, shoemaker
corroyeur curier, leatherdresser
coureur-des-bois trapper
courrier courier, messenger
courvreur en ardoise slate roofer
coutelier cutlery maker
couturier(ère) tailor, dressmaker
couvreur roofer
couvreur en bardeau roofer who roofs with shingles
cuisinier en chef chef
cuisinier(ère) cook
cultivateur(trice) farmer
curé pastor
débardeur stevedore
défricheur clearer (of forest)
dentiste dentist
docteur doctor
domestique indentured servant, farmhand
douairière dowager
douanier(ère) custom officer
drapier clothmaker, clothier
ébeniste cabinet maker
écclésiastique clergyman
échevin alderman
écolier(ère) student
écuyer esquire
électricien electrician
éleveur(euse) animal breeder
employé(e) employee
engagé ouest hired to trap furs out west
enseigne ensign
enseigne de vaisseau ship’s sub-lieutenant
ferblantier tinsmith
fermier agricultural worker
fonctionnaire civil servant
forgeron smith, blacksmith
huissier sheriff
ingénieur engineer
journalier(ère) day laborer
maçon mason, bricklayer
marchand merchant
médecin doctor
mendiant beggar
menuisier carpenter
meunier miller
maître d’école school master, headmaster, principal
maîtresse d’école school mistress, headmistress, principal
navigateur sailor
notaire lawyer, solicitor
ouvrier worker
pecheur fisherman
peintre painter
pilote ship’s pilot, harbor pilot
pompier fireman
potier potter
prêtre priest
rentier retiree
scieur sawyer
seigneur land owner, landlord
sellier saddler
tailleur tailor
tanneur tanner
tonnellier cooper (barrel-maker)
vicaire vicar

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