Vadeboncoeur Ancestry

Origin of the Chabrier dit Vadeboncoeur Name

by Robert Vadeboncoeur, as submitted for “Recipes from the Heart” Vadeboncoeur Family Favorites Cookbook, compiled 1997.

It is with our third generation ancestor, Jean Chabrier, that the name Vadeboncoeur first appears. The French had the custom of giving alias names to people for a variety of reasons. The alias name was added to a person’s surname by adding the word “dit” (pronounced “dee”) plus the alias. The word “dit” in this context can best be translated as “alias” or “A.K.A.” (also known as). It seems that the custom of giving these dit names (nom de guerre) was especially common in the military life for all except the officers. This name was often dropped after two or three generations. 

Sister Evelyn Varboncoeur says that she discovered this story on how our third generation ancestor, Jean Chabrier, received the dit name of Vadeboncoeru. He and about 39 other young men were recruited to fight in the army of Montcalm in North America (Canada) in the early 1750’s. When they were about to sail away from their families and friends in France, they were sad to be leaving and someone shouted out to them from the shore: “Va de bon coeur” and whenever their spirits were low during the voyage, their fellow passengers would repeat the admonition: “Va de bon coeur” to them – that is: “Go with good heart” or “Go with courage.” We do not know if that is actually what happened, but it is known that these 40 young men adopted Va de bon coeur as a sign of unity and it became their “dit” name. Whatever the explanation, at least from the third generation to the sixth, the family name is Chabrier dit Vadeboncoeur. Our ancestors who came to the U.S. in the sixth generation dropped the original family surname and became just Vadeboncoeur.

A Variety of Spellings:

As we all know, there are many spellings of our family name: Vadeboncoeur, Vadeboncouer, Vadboncoeur, Vadbunker, vanbunker, varbounker, Varbonker, Verbonoeur, Verdeboncoeur, etc. I suspect that since our ancestors probably did not speak English and/or were probably not very well educated, people like census takers and others who had the need to write the name out would spell it the way it sounded when it was pronounced. Church records use a variety of spellings, but their most consistent seems to be Vadeboncoeur or Vade Bon Coeur. Since the priests who wrote the records were mostly educated men of French ancestry, they knew the correct spelling of the French words that make up the name. One pastor wrote in a record: “Vade Bon Coeur, alias Varboncoeru.”

Actually, there are four words in the surname Vade Bon Coeur:

  1. Va (translated: “Go”)
  2. de (translated: “of” or “with”)
  3. Bon (translated: “Good” or “Courage” or “Willingly”)
  4. Coeur (translated: “Heart”)

The following is an English translation of the name: “Go with Good Heart.” However, only the Vadeboncoeur or Vade Bon Coeur spelling has any meaning in French. However, a surname does not have to mean anything; the original family surname, Chabrier, has no translation. It is not known with the words of the name began to be separated and sometimes capitalized; however, it makes sense because we do not usually run words together without a space between them. But, however, it is spelled, it is almost certain that the Vade Bon Coeur’s who settled in Iroquois and Kankakee counties are all members of the same family! There are about 39 other families besides the Chabriers who had the dit Vade Bon Coeur name added to their family surnames. 

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