What’s In A Name?


Where Did The Surname “Doyon” Come From?

A Bit of Backstory

Up until the 11th century, most people didn’t have a surname. They were largely illiterate, lived in small villages or rural areas, and had little use for any name beyond their given name. When people started traveling and interacting with neighbors from nearby villages they needed a way to keep everyone straight and the practice of adding another name became necessary. Surnames were largely adopted between the 11th and 16th centuries in England and mainland Europe, between the 16th and 19th centuries in Wales and between the 11th and 19th centuries in Scotland. The use of patronymic surnames (forming a surname from the father’s given name – such as Johnson indicating the “son of John”) became popular. In rare cases, the naming practice was metronymic (the surname was derived from the mother’s given name). Some surnames came from places, such as “England”.  Occasionally geography played a part in keeping all the Johns and Marys organized – so we have Woods, Fords and Hills.  Many names came into being because they were used to identify people by their trade – Millers, Bakers, Shoemakers, Coopers, Saddlers, Sawyers … you get the picture.  

So what about the name “Doyon”?

There are entire studies devoted to the origin of names and one could spend a great deal of time researching and piecing together all the possibilities. You end up with a few facts, a lot of speculation and very little consensus. I have found a number of different theories for my last name but there is no way to know for sure how it really came into being.

There are many variations of Doyon including Doiun, Doyenne, Doyot and Doyette. In French, the meaning of the word doyenne is “a woman who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular profession, subject, etc.”. [1]  The masculine form of the word is Doyen – which denotes a man who is the senior member of a group, profession, or society. One of the explanations of the origins of “Doyon” is that it denotes one who as at the head of a community. It probably derives from the Latin “decanus” which is “chief of ten” in old Latin from whence we get the word deacon.   

Evidence of the use of this name is first recorded in Dauphiny, a former province in southeast France where a family by this name established themselves in very early times. The name DOYON [2] shows up on a census called “Probus” done in France in 1260-1270 [3] during the reign of Louis IX of France after a very violent flood in Isére.  Pére Dominique Doyon and his sister, Madeleine, through their research [4], discovered a DOYON who was the prefecture in the ancient city of Condroz in the Namur Province of France.

Places named Doyon

Chateau Doyon
Chateau Doyon Photo from Wikipedia

There is, today, a hamlet in Belgium named Doyon, located in the Walloon region of the Namur Province [5]. This hamlet is made up of about 50 families, and is home to a castle called ‘Chateau Doyon’. The castle is surrounded by a small wood and possesses an old chapel sheltered by a gigantic and very old linden tree. I have not been able to find very much information about this castle, other than it was built in the 13th century and is renowned for it giant Sequoia trees.  At the end of the hamlet is an old Roman chapel called Chapelle St-Nicolas, built in the 11th century. The entrance path to this chapel is currently indicated by a sign that reads:  Doyon, Private Road. Yes, there is a castle and small town in Europe bearing my last name.


doyon welcome 2
Welcome to Doyon, ND Flickr.com photo
Doyon road sign
Doyon is “that way” Flickr.com photo

There is a town in North Dakota called Doyon that was established in 1900 by Charles H. Doyon.   The town has its very own Facebook and Wikipedia pages. In 2012 it had a population of 447 people [6].  I wonder how many of them have the surname “Doyon”? 

There is an entire association devoted to “Doyons in America” that has a website [7], family crest, bulletins and regular gatherings. Further research uncovered a large company in Fairbanks, Alaska called Doyon Limited [8] with 19,000 shareholders and a very comprehensive website.

Doyon Shield
Banner from Doyon Association Website “What has to be done – we do”

Some “Doyon” Data

  • There are 10,367 people, worldwide, with the name Doyon – 2,445 of them in the U.S [9].
  • The name appears most often, with the most density, in Canada
  • The 1996 Census Bureau reported [10]:
    • In 1990, the name “Doyon” was #7,285 (out of 88,799 names)
    • In 2000 the name “Doyon” was #13,260 (out of 151,671 names)
  • The largest concentration of people with the name Doyon in the U.S. is in Maine and Massachusetts
  • Five men named Doyon fought in the Civil War [11]
    Screenshot 2016-06-05 at 12.15.59 PM

Having spent most of my life estranged from this side of my family, the research I have done into my ancestors and their history has been a journey of discovery. This is a family proud of their heritage, steeped in traditions and strong in their loyalty to each other, their culture and their homeland. The roots of the Doyon family tree are deep and far reaching.

We begin our story where we find the greatest concentration of my Doyon ancestors, and the first verifiable records of their existence, in the southeast part of France in a place called Saint Marcellin, Isére.



1- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
2 – Spelled “Douin” in this particular census
3 – Un Bel Héritage: Jean Doyon, Diane Lessard-Doyon and Pére Dominique Doyon, o.p., Imprimerie du Parc, Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, Bibliotèques Nationales de Québec et d’Ottawa, July 1992, pg 14.
4 – 
Histoire et Généalogie de la Famille Doyon, F. Dominique Doyon, o.p, Beauceville, 1978, pgs. 7-9.
5 – 
Doyon is a hamlet in the old Belgian town of Flostoy, located in the town of Havelange and the province of Namur.
6 – CLR Research study (http://www.clrsearch.com/Doyon-Demographics/ND/58327/Population-Growth-and-Population-Statistics).
7 – 
Association of Doyons in the Americas website
8 – https://www.doyon.com/frequently-asked-questions-doyon-annual-meeting-election/
9 – http://forebears.io/surnames/doyon
10 – T
o appear on this list, a name must occur 100 times or more. 97% of all surnames don’t make this list.
11 – Ancestry.com

Further Reading:

Le patrimoine monumental de belgique: Wallonie, Volume 22, Pierre Mardaga, Editor, published by the Ministry of the Wallone Region, 1996, pgs. 723-725

Association of Doyons in America
Genealogy of French-America
“I Love Doyon” on Pinterest


One thought on “What’s In A Name?

  1. Thank you for this research of the surname “Doyon ” I found it interesting and useful. I am Doyon from Canada and have been searching for my Doyon family as well as my sister and niece.


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