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Saturday, January 29, 2011

French, Dutch or Something Else!!

Josie asked an interesting question about a surname origin.

Hi Josie - Often when we're stumped on finding an ancestor outside of N. America, we want to find out the surname origin, thinking we can find the elusive ancestor that way. But that honestly isn't much help.
looking for help with the translation of the above name. I have an ancestor who was born in the Netherlands supposedly in Vorden, (Gelderland) in 1827. I think his father was Hubert. His name in Australia was Samuel De La Cour but I can’t get any response on Genlias for that spelling. Do you happen to know if the name needs to be translated and to what. It looks French to me.

Let's say that your Samuel's surname is French. How does that help you? You have no idea if his father was the first ancestor born in France, or his grandfather, or great-grandfather, or...

In other words, Samuel's surname might very well have its roots in France but you have no idea how many years back!

I agree that "de la.." makes us assume it is French but not necessarily. "cour" could be a variation of the French word for run, or it could me a phonetic misrepresentation of "coeur" which is French for "heart" But again, it could have an entirely different ethnic origin!

It is always best to simply go one step at a time. Start with Samuel and work backwards, one ancestor at a time. Find out where they were born, when they lived there, and so on. Just keep plugging away with census, church records, vital registrations - the usual.

Don't get too hung up on spelling. Names were often recorded phonetically if a clerk mis-heard the name. So your surname might be Delacour, De La Cour, De La Coeur or any other variant.

If your Samuel is the Samuel De La Cour who married in Victoria Australia in 1856 to Margaret Gordon Steel, why not send for his marriage record? Surely it will have his parents' names, and possibly more details that will help you.

If this is your Samuel, his death is recorded in 1870 in Bendigo Australia and again, you can send for his death record for more information. His widow Margaret died in Bendigo in 1874, perhaps there are even obituaries to be found.

I spent about 15 minutes looking for Samuel on and Trove Newspapers. You should also check CoraWeb for ships' passenger lists.

Also you mentioned there was no record of your Samuel's surname (De La Cour) on Genlias. There is. But you must follow their instructions for searching, and use ONLY the last bit "Cour"! You will find many De La Cour and La Cour individuals using this method.

1 comment:

  1. De la Court is a name of French origin, and does occur in the Netherlands.
    Many French Huegenots fled to the Netherlands, in particular to Leiden.
    In Leiden there's even a University building named after Pieter de La Court.

    De la Cour is a spelling variation that still exists - and can be found in Genlias.
    You can find De la Cour in Genlias. You do not need to omit the "de la" prefix, there's a special field for prefixes.

    De la Court is a relatively rare surname. There are fifteen matches for De la Court, and seven matches for De la Cour in the Dutch phone book. None in Vorden.

    Vorden is a place in the region known as De Achterhoek.
    The Dutch surname database shows the De La Court spelling occurring in that region.