It is important to have some familiarity with naming practices, because Métis naming practices are an amalgam of Euro-Canadien and First Nations approaches to naming. It is important to elucidate clearly the steps involved in accurately determining the identity of various Desjarlais in the historical record who share identical given names and surnames. This process is necessary, because the generalizations and conclusions arrived at in the course of this study are based, in part, on inferences made about the activities of various individuals. This discussion begins by detailing the characteristics of French Canadian given names and surnames, particularly the usage of 'dit' to differentiate between descendant branches of families. This is followed by a summary of aboriginal naming practices, focusing, in particular, on the practices of the Cree and Ojibwa, and their cultural and spiritual significance. The overview of naming practices is followed by a discussion of names as they appear in primary and secondary sources, and of approaches I have used to distinguish between particular individuals sharing identical given names and surnames in the same period.
Name Variation: Spelling and the Problem with "dit"
One common difficulty researchers encounter is variations in given names and surnames. Many of these difficulties arise from the use of multiple and hyphenated first names, and the use of surname aliases - what are sometimes referred to as "dit" names.
The choice of first names, or 'given names' in New France and Lower Canada was dictated by Roman Catholic decree.
Among Catholics, choice of first name wasn't left to chance or parents' imagination. On the contrary, the church liked to control the attribution of first names to ensure that on the day they were baptised, children received the name of a saint who would guide them throughout their life. In the Rituel du Diocèse de Québec, which laid out the rules to follow for writing baptismal, marriage, and burial certificates in Quebec, Monsignor de Saint-Vallier stipulated, "The Church forbids Priests from allowing profane or ridiculous names to be given to the child, such as Apollon, Diane, etc. But it commands that the child be given the name of a male or female Saint, depending on its sex, so that it can imitate the virtues and feel the effects of God's protection." A list of accepted names - 1,251 for boys and 373 for girls - was published in an appendix to the Rituel. As well as a strong religious flavour, these rules resulted in a high concentration of relatively few first names in New France.
As well as the custom of naming children after saints, parents in New France and Lower Canada also liked to use hyphenated double-first names (e.g. Jean-Baptiste; Marie-Madeleine) and might also choose to name all the boys (or girls) in the family with identical first names, using the second given names in the hyphenated double first name as a means of differentiation (e.g. Jean-Baptiste, Jean-Paul, Jean-François; Marie-Marguerite, Marie-Charlotte, Marie-Madeleine). Confusion results when documents use only one-half of a hyphenated double-first name in a document (e.g. either Jean or Baptiste rather than Jean-Baptiste); or when a given name and a middle name are mistaken for a hyphenated double-first name.  Difficulties are compounded when parents reuse a given name for a newborn child after an older sibling with the same name dies. Moreover, families in Quebec and Lower Canada were partial to using the same given names over and over, christening children after their grandparents or godparents (who were often aunts or uncles). As a result it is not uncommon to find several individuals of similar age, living in the same community or parish, bearing identical given names and surnames.
The term "dit" was used by the French as a means of differentiating between non-related families sharing identical surnames, or to differentiate between descendent branches of the same family. A family would have their primary surname, and then a secondary surname would be attached by the word "dit" to differentiate the specific branch of the family from other branches. This was a necessary strategy, given that there might be several branches of a family living in one area, and that many of the adults and children from different branches could have identical given names.
In medieval and early modern times, the use of the family surname was restricted to the eldest son and unmarried daughters of landowning families. Younger sons were required to use surname aliases - the names of their communities or the names of their estates, (assuming they were fortunate enough to inherit land of their own). "Dit" names were also derived from words describing a person's physical features, his temperament, or his line of work. Similar naming practices were also adopted by the peasantry. 
Like most social customs, the practice of using "dit" crossed the Atlantic with the early French colonists. Initially the sparse population and the lack of kinship ties between migrants made differentiation between families a simple task. However, the extensive intermarriage of families in New France, combined with the lack of new migrants, ensured the development of large, extended families - most employing "dit" names to differentiate between their various descendant branches.
The problem for researchers arises when surnames and the "dit" aliases are used interchangeably in censuses, contracts and other primary source documents. For example, the surname "Trottier" has the following "dit" aliases associated with it: Desruisseaux; Desaulniers; LaBissionnière; Bellecourt; Belcour; Pombert; Valcourt; Duvernay; Desrivières.  It should also be noted that the use of certain aliases is not confined to a single family; other families may also employ the same "dit" names. For example, the "dit" surname Desruisseaux is also used as an alias for the surnames Houde, Lusseau, and Mailloux, as well as Trottier.  Fortunately the patterns of usage for "dit" names have been well documented by Francophone genealogists.  However, in order to match "dit" names correctly with the proper surname, it is important to be able to trace families and individuals geographically and identify kinship networks to cross-reference the use of these names.
It is possible to sort through the confusion of names with some leading clues, an understanding of naming practices, and access to a comprehensive database. Ascertaining the ancestry of the Canadien freeman Joseph Cardinal is a case in point.
The surname Cardinal is of particular interest to researchers tracing the roots of Northern Alberta communities, because of the thousands of aboriginal people who bear this name. Joseph Cardinal (and several relatives of the same patronym) were members of a Montreal-based family of outfitters whose commercial activities in the fur trade date back to the 1680s. While some branches of the Cardinal family chose to establish themselves in Detroit and in the French settlements of 18th century Louisiana, Joseph and his relatives Jacques, Jeremie and Joachim were among the earliest Canadien engagés identified in the Athabasca fur trade of the 1780s. Their activities took them from the lakes of Northern Manitoba to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. There they intermarried with Indian women or métis women raised in an aboriginal social environment. 
Joseph Cardinal's daughter Josephte had fourteen children - four by her first husband, the Canadien engagé Joseph Ladouceur, and ten by her second country husband, Joseph Desjarlais Jr. These children, in turn, intermarried with other Indians and Métis resident in the region around Lac La Biche, beginning a tradition of endogamy so pronounced that by 1880 most of the three hundred Métis making up the population of Lac La Biche could trace their ancestry back to Joseph Cardinal and Joseph Desjarlais. 
Father Jean-Louis Quemeneur, O.M.I., who served in the Grouard-McLennan Roman Catholic diocese from 1924 to 1965, was perhaps the first person to compile genealogical records on the Cardinal families in Northern Alberta. Father Quemeneur's notes identified Joseph Cardinal's birthplace as being the parish of St.-Laurent, at Montreal, and stated that he was born ca. 1756 (based on his estimated birthdate of 98 years in November of 1854). His parents were identified as Joseph Cardinal and Amable Thibault, and his maternal grandparents as Guillaume Thibault and Marguerite Gastinon.
Because the Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique (PRDH) electronic database at the University of Montreal contains all of the vital statistics records for Quebec from the 1600s to 1799, it is now possible to validate these genealogical notes. First of all, a preliminary search was made for all of the references to people named Joseph Cardinal appearing in the vital records between 1740 and 1799. Out of 111 references, 7 of these references referred to a Joseph Cardinal born between 1740 and 1766. There were no references from the 1750s. Of the seven references, only one Joseph Cardinal was born in the parish of St. Laurent. This was the record that was checked first.
The birth record in question was for one Joseph Amable Cardinal, born in the parish of St. Laurent on the 23 of April, 1766. His parents were listed as being Joseph Cardinal and Amable Imbaut Matha. The father's name (Joseph Cardinal) conformed to the information provided by Father Quemeneur, but Amable Imbaut Matha made no sense whatsoever. There were a couple of other baptisms of Cardinals listed for St. Laurent in the same time period. A baptismal entry was found for a Marie Amable Cardinal (born 5 March 1763) whose parents were Joseph Cardinal and Marie Josephe Imbaux. The godparents were Pierre Cardinal and Genevieve Gatignon. There was reference to another baptism, of Marie Josephe Cardinal (born 16 December 1764), whose parents were listed as Joseph Cardinal and Amable Matha. Other baptisms of children, born to the same couple, were located; Jacques Cardinal (born 6 April 1769 at St. Laurent); Antoine Cardinal (born 12 August 1771); and Pierre Cardinal (born 23 May 1778).
The next step was to locate a marriage for Joseph Cardinal and Amable Thibault. There were no marriage records for a Joseph Cardinal married to a person named Amable Thibault, but there was a marriage record for a couple named Joseph Cardinal and a Marie Amable Imbots which took place on 20 May, 1762, in the parish of St. Laurent. The parents of the groom were listed as François Cardinal and Marie Josephe Meloche, and the parents of the bride were listed as Guillaume Imbots and Marie Catherine Gatignon.
An additional search was conducted in the same database, this time using a search feature called "Couple" which extracts data on an identified couple and their entire family. This step was attempted in order to get additional information on the couple most likely to be Joseph Cardinal the freeman's parents, Joseph Cardinal and Marie Amable Imbaut. The data stated that Joseph Cardinal and Marie Amable Imbeault were married on 10 May, 1762. The parents of Joseph Cardinal Sr. were listed as François Marie Cardinal and Marie Josephe Meloche. The parents of Marie Amable Imbeault were listed as Guillaume Imbeault Masta and Marie Marguerite Gatignon Duchesne.
Father Quemeneur had listed Joseph Cardinal's parents as Joseph Cardinal and Amable Thibault. The baptismal records compiled in the PRDH database listed the parents of Joseph Cardinal as Joseph Cardinal and Amable Imbaut Matha. Because the surname variations Imbot, Imbeau, Imbeault, Imbaut, Matha, and Masta had been listed as surnames for Joseph Cardinal's mother, a search for the names was carried out using René Jetté's Dictionnaire Généalogique des Familles du Québec.
According to Jetté, a family known by the surname IMBAUT dit MATHA, was based at Montreal prior to 1730. There was also a family known as GATIGNON dit DUCHESNE based in Montreal.  Father Quemeneur had listed Joseph Cardinal the freeman's maternal grandparents as being Guillaume Thibault and Marguerite Gastinon. Based on the documentation in the Quebec records, the "Guillaume Thibault" identified by Father Quemeneur was probably Guillaume IMBAUT, and the Marguerite Gastinon identified as Joseph Cardinal's maternal grandmother was actually Marie Marguerite GATIGNON.
The ability to validate genealogical data based on oral information gathered from relatives is now possible, if the example of Joseph Cardinal's ancestry is any indication. Joseph Cardinal the freeman was born on 23 April, 1766, in the parish of St. Laurent in Montreal. His parents were Joseph Cardinal and Marie-Amable Imbaut dit Matha. His paternal grandparents were François Marie Cardinal and Marie Josephe Meloche. His maternal grandparents were Guillaume Imbault dit Matha and Marie Marguerite Gatignon dit Duchesne. Despite the ten-year discrepancy between Joseph Cardinal's birthdate (as reported by Cardinal relatives in Northern Alberta at his death in 1854) and the 1766 birthdate recorded for Joseph Cardinal in St. Laurent, it is probable that these two men are one and the same. There is no record of a Joseph Cardinal being born in the 1750s in any Quebec parish. Any birthdate for a Joseph Cardinal later than 1766 is probably too late to be seriously considered, given that Joseph Cardinal fathered children in Rupert's Land as early as 1785.  In any case, the parental profiles above are the only ones which even remotely approximate the information gathered by Father Quemeneur, which has been proven to be at least partially accurate. Joseph Cardinal was born at St. Laurent; his father was Joseph Cardinal; his mother was named Amable, and his maternal grandparents were Guillaume, and Marguerite Gatignon (mistaken for Gastinon). The resemblance between the surname Imbaut, and the more common Quebec surname Thibault could also account for the misidentification of ancestry by relatives. The investigation of Joseph Cardinal's ancestry not only illustrates the great potential for reconstructing the Quebec origins of Métis families, but also reinforces the importance of understanding French-Canadian naming practices when validating genealogical records.
Aboriginal Naming Practices
When engagés travelled into the interior of North America, they brought their naming customs with them. When they formed marital unions with Native women, the children's names that resulted were an amalgam of European and aboriginal practice.
In Northern Algonquian cultures, the naming of children had spiritual significance. In Ojibwa and Cree communities, the parents would host a feast approximately one year after the birth of a child for the purpose of naming the infant. Grandfathers, or a person of the grandfathers' generation, were considered to have great spiritual power would be invited, and they would be formally requested to name the child after receiving ceremonial offerings of cloth and tobacco. The grandfather would smoke a pipeful of tobacco and pray to the Creator and his personal 'spirit helpers' for guidance, after which he would sing one of his 'power songs'. The grandfather would take the child in his arms, and name the child after a character from one of his visions, a vision provided by his 'spirit helper'. After asking his 'spirit helper' to protect the child, the baby would be passed from one guest to another, who would say the child's name and extend wishes for its future life. Then the feast would be conducted, and the ceremony would be concluded. The naming ceremony embodied the transfer of spiritual power to the infant from the grandfather, who in turn had received these powers from "other-than-human persons". For this reason, personal names received in formal ceremonies were rarely used in everyday life. Instead, nicknames which described a person's appearance, gender or personality were used.  Euro-Canadians having regular dealings with Native peoples also acquired aboriginal nicknames as a matter of course.
The multiplicity of names for a single person can cause difficulty for researchers trying to identify an individual in a historical document, and/or track the migrations and other activities of that person. This is particularly true when studying people of mixed ancestry who may be identified by their European name, their European 'dit' name, their aboriginal nickname, their aboriginal nickname as expressed in English or French, or diminutive (shortened) versions of any of these names.
A search for these surnames and their aliases was conducted in the electronic data base of Métis Scrip records compiled from the RG 15 (Department of the Interior) documents housed in the National Archives of Canada. Several different surnames were encountered which had aboriginal, French, and English aliases. Of equal interest was the discovery of hitherto-unknown kin connections among aboriginal families in Northern Alberta, both Indian and Métis, spanning several generations.
These kinship connections date back to the arrival of the earliest Europeans in Athabasca, when the initial contacts were being made between local Cree, Assiniboine, Ojibwa, Iroquois, and Beaver Indians with Canadien and other Montreal-based freemen and clerks in the Rocky Mountain foothills. It is impossible to know precisely when the earliest union à la façon du pays took place in the Athabasca region. Some métis surnames, like Finlay, can be traced directly to one man, the Montreal 'pedlar' James Finlay, the first English trader from Canada known to have reached the Saskatchewan River in 1768.  However, many country unions are known to have taken place where European surnames have not survived. 
For example, Duncan McGillivray noted the October 1794 arrival of two Cree chiefs to Fort George on the Saskatchewan River with the following comment:
The Grand Soteau and French Bastard with about 20 men arrived - these being Cheifs [sic] of considerable influence were presented after the usual ceremonies were over with 2 large kegs of rum and the night therefore was devoted to intoxication and tumult.. 
The name "French Bastard" makes an inference about the ancestry of the trading chief bearing this name. First of all, it suggests that he was of mixed French and Native parentage, but probably born as the result of a temporary meeting rather than as part of a more permanent relationship à la façon du pays, and that the French father of this person did not remain with the mother - certainly not long enough to complete the bride service and other kin obligations characteristics of country unions among both the Plains Cree and Ojibwa - hence the appellation "bastard".
The term 'bastard' also suggests that the individual thus named may not possess the necessary kinship connections to be considered a legitimate member of the residential hunting band. Marriage partners were generally chosen from within the band itself rather than from the ranks of outsiders; the product of a union with an outsider might not have the same membership status as one born under more conventional circumstances.
One of the most important Ojibwa cultural markers is its kinship system, which is based on membership in patrilineal clans, or doodimag. Although a union between a European man and an Ojibwa woman would not violate any kinship taboos, her children would be denied membership in an Ojibwa clan because their European father was not part of the Ojibwa clan structure, except perhaps in a fictive sense.  The only way the child of such a union could acquire clan membership for his descendants would be for his daughter to marry an Ojibwa man, and for a son to marry an Ojibwa woman and ensure that their children, in turn, married people possessing clan dodems. 
Despite their quasi-outsider status, the métis children of these early unions did not seem to have encountered difficulty assuming the status of trading chief or headman later in life. No doubt their dual ancestry could be used to the band's benefit in terms of initiating and maintaining ongoing relationships with Europeans.
The preponderance of métis ancestry among Cree bands who make up the House People is a case in point. The House People, wasahikanwiyiniwak, acquired their name from their long association with the Hudson's Bay Company trading forts.  The Plains Cree chief Mistawasis, whose band was one of those comprising the House People, was of métis extraction, being the offspring of a Canadien or métis with the surname Belanger and a Cree woman. 
The métis daughter of Mistawasis, Jane Belanger, married the Plains Cree Chief Ermineskin, whose name may reflect his métis parentage.  Ermineskin (whose Cree name was Sehkosowayanew) was also known by the French-métis name of Baptiste Piche.  To further complicate matters, the Plains Cree chief Poundmaker was the brother-in-law of Ermineskin,  suggesting that Jane Belanger dit Mistawasis was Poundmaker's sister or half-sister.  Ermineskin's brother, the Plains Cree chief Bob Tail, was known by the Cree name Keskayiwew, in addition to his French/métis name Alexis Piche.  Bob Tail's métis wife was Catherine Cardinal dit Mustatip, a.k.a. Catherine Pierre. 
Several members of the Piche family intermarried with members of the Cardinal family, as numerous scrip affidavits attest. Louise Piche, "Piyeskaketoot" was married to Suzanne Cardinal, the daughter of Laurent Cardinal and Marie Mondion.  Eugene Piche, or Waweyenam, was married to Elise Cardinal, daughter of Antoine Cardinal and Cecile Boucher.  Frederick Ballendine, the son of Ermineskin and Jane Belanger dit Mistawasis, was married to Sophie Cardinal, the daughter of Gabriel Cardinal and Marie Bruneau dit Piwapiskapow of Whitefish Lake, and the sister of Joseph Cardinal. Rosalie Ermineskin, the daughter of Ermineskin and Jane Belanger dit Mistawasis, married Métis trader Adam Howse in 1884. 
What might prompt such extensive intermarriage between the Cardinal and Piche families? A clue lies in the roster of Fort Vermilion on the Saskatchewan River in 1809, in which Alexander Henry the Younger conveniently lists the occupants of the various houses and tents of the post. House No. 2 is occupied by the families of Cardinal, Ladouceur, and Ottawa, as well as a single man, Pichette (Piche). Joseph Cardinal (later a freeman) was employed as an interpreter at Fort des Prairies in 1804, Joseph Ladouceur, was a voyageur at Fort Des Prairies at the same time. An engagé named Piche was with Henry at Rocky Mountain House in 1810, where he packed provisions to David Thompson. Joseph Ladouceur married Joseph Cardinal's daughter Josephte. Her second country union was with Joseph Desjarlais Jr., son of the Canadien freeman Joseph Desjarlais. All of these men hunted and trapped together. It was not uncommon for engagés to marry the widows and daughters of their companions, or become the husbands of country wives who separated from their former partners. It is possible that the 'Pichette' listed in the roster is the ancestor of the métis Piches who intermarried with the Cardinals . It is also probable that the Cree Chiefs Bob-Tail and Ermineskin are descended from this person. 
The names of three other aboriginal hunters who appear very early in fur trade texts also have descendants who eventually led aboriginal bands under Treaty. The two hunters, Grand Batârd and Little Knife, also appear in Alexander Henry the Younger's Journal listed among the hunters.  In the Métis scrip affidavits, the surname Little Knife appears in the records associated with the following aliases: Piyessiwop, Paspaschase, Ayotchow, Pieh-si-moop, Ke-ke-ko-sis-on, and Jackknife.  In parish records, Grand Bâtard appears in association with these names: Otaikijik; Nittawikijik.
The French surname Dion/Dionne is a diminutive version of the term 'blondion' which, in turn, is an aberration of the French word 'blondinet'(masculine) or 'blondinette'(feminine) means 'fair-haired child'. The root word of 'blondinette' is 'blond' (masculine) or 'blonde' (feminine) which means 'fair-haired' in French.  When this surname is found in parish records, fur trade documents, and Métis scrip affidavits, other variations of this name, such as Blondion, Blayonne, Mondion, Moignon appear. The surnames Dion or Blondion are sometimes used simultaneously with the Cree name Wabasca, which also means 'white' or 'fair'. One of the earliest references to this name is in relation to the Ojibwa chief Black Powder (a.k.a. Mukatai, or Powder), who was the leader of a small band of mixed Cree and Ojibwa, who wintered on the shores of Jackfish Lake in west-central Saskatchewan, and hunted bison on the plains in the spring and fall. Black Powder was the friend and sub-chief of Kee-a-kee-ka-sa-coo-way - "The Man Who gives the War Whoop", the most important Plains Cree Chief of the mid-nineteenth century. The son of Black Powder, Antoine Blondion, married a daughter of Joseph Desjarlais and Josephte Cardinal. He is also noteworthy because he is the brother of Mistahimusqua, better known as Big Bear.
As Edward S. Rogers and Mary Black-Rogers discovered in their research into surname adoption among the Weagamow Ojibwa, it is impossible to rely upon a single source. Because of the proliferation of given names, surnames, and their aboriginal, English and French aliases, it is prudent to utilize as many sources as possible in order to cross-reference names.  Also, in spite of all of the precautions one may take, it is always possible to make an error, despite the most careful research. For this reason primary sources should be employed wherever possible, or secondary sources that have been proven.