·         The etymology of the family name NAU

·         The spellings and variations

·         The origins

·         Nobility and the family name

·         The spread of the name around the globe

·         The NAU in America

·         Several related celebrities

·         The family name in toponomy

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The exact etymology of the family name is unknown. The Dictionnaire étymologique des noms de famille et prénoms de FRANCE by Albert Dauzat (1951), the Dictionnaire des noms de familles et des prénoms by Philippe Lagneau and Jean Arbuleau (1980), Le Glossaire des Vieux Parlers Poitevins by Robert Mineau and Lucien Racinoux (1981) and the works by other authors are hesitant to state its origin. They propose the following meanings :

·         NAU: from the south of France NEF, boat : name of sailor. Note that "nef", in Greek "naus", means a boat.

·         NAUD: the result of dropping an initial syllable from Arnaud or Renaud, nouns used in the south of France

·         NAU: signifies "new " in the south of France. The usage is found in the names of localities (e.g. CASTELNAU which means CHATEAUNEUF in northern France.

·         NAU: signifies "new " in the south of France. The usage is found in the names of localities (e.g. CASTELNAU which means CHATEAUNEUF in northern France.

·         NAU: a large ship, an axe, a casket, a boat, (in southern France)..

·         NAU: a variation of Christmas (Nöel), (in northern France).

·         NAU: Noël (also No, Noue, Nouel, Na, Naou); " husk of NAU": "log for Noël"; little NAU :Noël; great NAU : the Epiphany.

·         Alteration of Noe (Noue), a variant of Noë, changed sometimes to Noë : topographical word (domain, hamlet, ancient fiefdom) used frequently especially in the west of France and the central area signifying "humid land" (n. Gallic : nauda).

However, it can be asked whether the family name does not trace its origin, like many other family names, to the name of one of the communes of FRANCE, whose name is derived in a Latin form (NEAUX), or even from several Roman individuals (NEAUX, ST-LOUP-DE-NAUD), unless he was born in FRANCE’S mountainous region, and was called the "new one" (NAU in the language of southern FRANCE), who came to take up residence there!!

The question remains unanswered and nothing has been authenticated to this day.

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It is not possible to be definitive about it, but the family most probably traces its origins back to the western regions of FRANCE. The archives of the Department of Maine-et-Loire have documents relating to the NAU that date back to 1466. The NAU have been traced back to the 17th century in the present Departments of Vendée and Maine-et-Loire. The birth certificate of a certain François NAU was registered on April 6, 1597, at Souzay. A very large concentration of the family name is found in Charente- Maritime, Maine-et-Loire and Vendée. There are also important family lines found in Germany and in eastern FRANCE. We have traced a Christian NAU to Bleichstetten (a suburb of Würtingen) in 1652 and we have discovered references to many NAU whose origins go back to 1718 in the Petite-Roselle (Moselle). Are these NAU branches from the source in western FRANCE, branches, which were displaced in the 17th or 18th centuries? The research continues.

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The family name in cited in several places in the Indicateur du Grand ARMORIAL GÉNÉRAL de FRANCE in the special edition of 1696 by Charles D'Hozier:

·         NAU: Caen, Guyane, Paris (6), Poitiers (12), La Rochelle, Tours (3)

·         NAUD: Bourbon (2)

·         NAUS: Provence, Picardie

·         NEAU: La Rochelle

·         NEAUT: Paris

and in the Dictionnaire de la NOBLESSE by Chenaye-Desbois and Badier (1868):

·         NAU in Anjou, a noble family dating back to 1560.

·         NAU des ARPENTIS (1668)

·         NAU de la BOISSELIÈRE, a family in Paris, ennobled in Fontainebleau in the month of May,1605. This branch results in the birth of Claude NAU de FOSSAMBAULT. Two of his granddaughters, Catherine and Michelle, would come to CANADA. The genealogical lines are : NAU de MAISON-ROUGE and NAU du PONT from which branched NAU de CHAMPLOUIS.

·         NAU de la VILLEYROUET, a Breton family declared nobility on March 21, 1671.

Closer to us, the work Essai de catalogue de l'aristocratie française titrée contemporaine (Réponse au libelle de Charondas) Tome XII, by D. Labarre de Raillcourt (1979) cites the following names:

·         Émile Marie NAU (also NAU de Beauregard),born in Lyon, September 3, 1823, to a family living in Paris and ennobled by his office as Counsellor to the Chatelet de Paris, August 2, 1720 (or 1780 ?). He was made " Comte Romain " in 1896.

·         Léon NAU de Maupassant,born at Saumur in 1810, named " Comte Romain " by decree on December 28th, 1859, and Pierre Barthélemy NAU de Maupassant, named " Comte Romain " by Pius XII in 1950.

The NAU of Turquant origin were never members of the nobility in FRANCE. The Coat of Arms of the l’ASSOCIATION DES FAMILLES NAU INC. thus makes no reference to nobility. At the request of the ASSOCIATION, the HERALDIC AUTHORITY of CANADA granted the Coat of Arms on January 15, l996. Hommage was rendered to the ASSOCIATION for its contribution to the preservation of the family patrimony and for its spreading of historical and genealogical information about the NAU families.


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Today, one finds the NAU in many countries of the world. The NAU name is inscribed in telephone directories in: Germany, Belgium, Argentina, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Australia and, of course, in FRANCE, the UNITED STATES and CANADA.

How many NAU are there in total? We don’t know. But the family name is undoubtedly carried by more than 50,000 individuals. The most significant number is found in the country of origin, followed by CANADA and the USA. In FRANCE alone, we estimate that the number surpasses 16,000 people. We have on file 1,959 telephone inscriptions in the USA and 3,056 in CANADA.

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Certain authors give the impression that all the NAU of AMERICA are the descendants of one or the other of the following two pioneers:

François NAU, originally from Turquant (Maine-et-Loire),FRANCE, arrived in CANADA in 1666.

Pierre NEAU also LABRIE, originally from Brie-sous-Matha, Bishop of Saintes (Charente-Maritime), FRANCE.

Then, many otherNAU came to America.

·         Many NAU did not leave any descendants, but this was not true for all of them. We often do not know the origins of those who settled here, the paths they followed in AMERICA and the importance of their ancestral lines. Correspondents, however, have helped us to track down some of them:

·         Henry NAU, born in 1881 Bettershausen, GERMANY, immigrated to India the to the United States. His son John NAU was married in New Orleans, LA, in 1949.

·         Ignaz NAU, originally from Casel, GERMANY, settled in Washington in 1866. One of his descendants moved to Toronto, CANADA in 1970.,

·         Nicholas NAU died in 1915 in South Easthope, Ontarion, CANADA, at the age of 76. Born in GERMANY, he came to settle in CANADA around 1835, while his brothers, at the same time, took up residence in Wisoncin, in the USA.

·         Étienne François NAU, born in March 1869 in Candes (Maine-et-Loire), FRANCE, married louise Ordway on Januraty fifht in Oakdale, USA.

Many other NAU came to America in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries. The Passenger and Immigration List Index, edited in Detroit, MI, by P. William FILBY and Mary K. MEYER mention a good number of them. The following list is taken from this imposing work. It classifies the NAU by chronological order of their year of arrival in America, indicates the place of immigration and cites within brackets, [], the year of the volume consulted:

·         1700 Pierre NAU, his wife and two children; VA [1994]

·         1709 Peter Hans NAU, his wife and three children, left Holland; New-York [1985]

·         1740 Anton NAU an his brother Jacob NAU; Pennsylvania [1990]

·         1752 Conrad NAU; NS, CANADA [1993]

·         1752 Anna Magdelena NAU; NS, CANADA [1993]

·         1752 Theodorus NAU; NS, CANADA [1993]

·         1752 Anna Barbara NAU; NS, CANADA [1993]

·         1752 Marga NAU; NS, CANADA [1993]

·         1757 Conrad NAU; Lunenberg, NS, CANADA [1982]

·         1757 Margreta NAU; Lunenberg, NS, CANADA [1982]

·         1757 Theodorus NAU; Lunenberg, NS, CANADA [1982]

·         1757 Barbara NAU; Lunenberg, NS, CANADA [1982]

·         1763 .?. NAU; Amérique [1997]

·         1791 Johan Adam NAU; unknown port [1997]

·         1798 René NAU; New-York [1983]

·         1822 J. NAU; 32 years, New-Orleans, LA [1996]

·         1832 John NAU; 29 years, Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1832 Christian NAU; 1 year, Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1832 Maria NAU; 30 years, Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1833 T. NAU; 24 years, Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1834 Aa. Ma. NAU; Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1834 A.M. NAU; Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1834 Andr. NAU; Baltimore, MD [1987]

·         1844 Casper NAU; Philadephia, PA [1982]

·         1848 Franz NAU; 48 years, Missouri [1985]

·         1848 Ludwig NAU; 25 years, New-York, NY [1992]

·         1853 Nicolaus NAU; 28 years, New-York, NY [1992]

·         1854 Johannes NAU; 30 years, New-York, NY. Passenger on ship GOETHE [1982]

·         1854 Christine NAU 21 years and Balthasar NAU, 2 years; Baltimore, MD. Passengers on ship GOETHE [1982]

·         1858 Heinrich NAU, 14 years and August NAU, 15 years; New-York, NY [1990]

·         1860 Heinr NAU; New-York, NY [1990]

·         1860 Jacob NAU; Allegany County, PA [1983]

·         1866 Johannes NAU; 22 years, New-York, NY [1993]

·         1866 Henry NAU; Amérique [1989]

·         1866 Henrich NAU; 22 years, New-York, NY [1993]

·         1866 Carl NAU; 26 years, New-York, NY [1993]

·         1866 Const. NAU; 21 years, New-York, NY [1993]

·         1868 Julius NAU; Philadelphia, PA [1982]

·         1868 John NAU; Philadelphie, PA [1982]

·         1868 Gottlied NAU; 24 years, New-York [1994]

·         1871 Gertrude NAU; New-York [1994]

·         1872 Bernhard NAU; Allegany County, PA [1985]

·         1876 Bernard NAU; Allegany County, PA [1985]

·         1880 Henry NAU; OH [1989]

·         1882 Johannes NAU; 25 years, KS [1996]

·         1884 Matthias NAU; Iroquois County, PA [1983]

·         1885 Joseph Martin NAU; America [1995]

·         1891 Jacob NAU; MN [1992]

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We all know of certain NAU who have became well known during the centuries. There have always been and are NAU in all spheres of activity: political, artistic, cultural, social, religious, professional, . . . etc. The NAU have embraced all the crafts and all the professions and present a remarkable display of competency in all areas.

One finds among the descendants of François NAU (1646-1709) , originally TURQUANT:

·         Seven NAULT, cousins related to Louis Riel, who were at his side when he brought an end to the topographical registry of Métis lands in Saint-Vital on October 11th, 1869. This was a turning point leading up the creation of the Province of Manitoba.

·         Damase NAUD (1848-1916), Mayor of Saint-Marc-des-Carrières (1905), a Conservative member of the National Assembly for the district of Portneuf in 1904.

·         Pierre-Calixte Neault (1860-1924), a pioneer and Mayor of the city, Grand-Mère (1910-1916. 1919), Liberal member of the National Assembly for the district of Champlain (1900-1912).

·         Blandine Neault (1910-1995), daughter of the preceding and founder of the French catholic Girl Guides movement in CANADA.

But did you know that:

·         Omer Héroux (1876-1963), journalist for Le Nationaliste, collaborator with Henri Bourassa and editor-in-chief for the daily Le Devoir, winner of the Olivar-Asselin Award in 1960, was the son of Adélaïde Nault (1856-1875), the sister of the preceding Pierre-Calixte Neault.

·         Fernand NAULT (1920-), Knight of the National Order of Quebec, member of the Order of Canada, dancer and choreographer with the Grands Ballets Canadiens, is the pseudonym of Fernand Noël Boisonneault.

·         Annette NAUD (1837-1923), daughter of Joseph NAUD, farmer (1772-1851) was the grandmother of the man of letters, member of the French Academy and French film director, Marcel PAGNOL. (1895-1974)

·         That the first Gongourt Award was won on December 21, 1903, by John-Antoine NAU, pseudonym of the writer Eugène Léon Édouard Torquet (1860-1918) for his novel Force Ennemie.

·         The most famous celebrity of Sables-d’Olonne was Jean-David NAU (1630-1671), also known as "Pol l’Olonnois". He was a celebrated rogue. He had a reputation for savagery and lived in Saint-Dominque. He was killed, torn apart, smoked and devoured like a real buccaneer.

·         A celebrated family of architects from NANTES, one of whom was Théodore-Jacques NAU (1805-1865), contributed largely to the construction and restoration of many civil and religious buildings there: Hôtel Barbier, the Choir of the Church of Sainte-Croix, the Church of Saint-Jacques, the Church of de la Madeleine, the Grand Seminary, Hôtel Melient and Maison Poidras.

·         The maternal great-grandmother of the Marshal of FRANCE, Jean-Marie de LATTRE DE TASSIGNY (1889-1952), was Jeanne-Marie-Joséphine NAU, whose ancestor Pierre NAU (1657-1713) had been a farmer in Bourneau, in the district of Vendée.

·         Haïti was the birthplace of at least two men of letters with the family name: Émile NAU (1812-1860), a journalist and historian, and Ignace NAU (1808?-1845), poet and story-teller.

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The family name has been used, on many occasions, to name places. In FRANCE and in CANADA especially, the family name has been used much more often than we might realize. The etymology of many of these words is still unknown but we are continuing to explore the circumstances to discover the reasons why the family name has been retained. This is the situation for several places listed in FRANCE:

·         Rue Robert NAU (Street) in Blois (41000 - Loir-et-Cher)

·         Rue Joseph NAUD (Street) in Nantes (44000 - Loire-Atlantique)

·         Rue Jean NEAU (Street) in Sables-d'Olonne (85100 - Vendée)

·         La Crique de la NAU (Bay) at Sète (34200 - Hérault)

·         There is at least one street and one commune in FRANCE, which take their name from the family name:

·         Rue NAU (Street) in the 5th and 6th districts of Marseille. It is named after a certain NAU (or NAUD) who lived in this area. Between 1780 and 1787, a Commissioner for the Charity, l’Oeuvre de la Petite Miséricorde, who distributed alms on the Plain of Saint-Michel, was named NAU.

·         La CHAPELLE AUX NAUX (37130 - Indre et Loire). A NAU family passed on its family name to this commune situated some 25-km below Tours, on the left bank of the Loire. Actually, in 1505, Guillaume NAU constructed the first chapel built in Saint-Jean de Laneais in 1627. It later became a parish after the Revolution (Saint-Clément-de-la-Chapelle-aux-Naux). Nearby, one finds the so named LE CLOS NAUX and LA PERRÉ AUX NAUX.

·         And one NAU Street in CORSICA honors John-Antoine NAU, who won the first prize of the Gongourt (1903). Other places in FRANCE have the family name, but without any known connection:

·         ST-LOUP-DE-NAUD (77650 - Seine-et-Marne), The place seems an amalgam of SAINT-LOUP or SAINT-LEU, Bishop of Sens in the VIIth century, and of a Roman landowner, NAUDO, who lived on the hill. In the Middle Ages, the place was called SAINT-LOUP DE NAUDO.

·         NEAU (53150 - Mayenne) near d’Évron. According to the Latin forms discovered in mediaeval texts [Nyell (989), Nael (1125), Neel (1203, 1229), Nigelle (1218, 1479), Nael alias Nigel (XVth century)] the toponomy comes from the name of a Roman person NIGELLUS, signifying "black".

·         NEAUX (42470 - Loire). The toponomy is derived from the Latin form NOVALS, which signifies "land recently cleared".

·         NOD-SUR-SEINE (21400 - Côte d'Or). NOU in 1158. An ante-Roman sound with an uncertain origin, perhaps close to NOUE "rich and humid earth", or from NOD, NODUNUM in Celt, "from on high", or from NODA in Latin "swampy place" (sometimes a pond).

In CANADA, the use of the family name is important. We have, in fact, enumerated: ten waterways [NAUD (5), NAULT (4), NEAULT (1)]; twelve lakes [NAUD (2), NAULT (4), NEAU (2), NEAULT (3), NEAUX (1)]; two capes [NAUD, NAULT]; a bay [NAULT]; a conservation area [NAULT]; one island [NAULT].

Many of these places are found in QUEBEC. The Toponomy Commission has listed some 33 official place names related to the family name in Quebec. Besides the uses cited above (lakes, waterways, a bay), the family name is found in the naming of avenues, streets, paths, an inlet, a bridge, a cape, a public park, and even an electoral riding. The etymology in certain cases is well known, but in others remains obscure. The use of the name is sometimes found to have been established but its origin unknown. In this case it is traced to municipal actions. However, the etymology of a certain number of them can be stated:

·         Avenue Albert-NAUD, Alma. From the name of Albert-G. NAUD, founder of NAUDVILLE (Alma), first mayor of Isle-Maligne.

·         Electoral district of Albert-NAUD, Alma. From the same Albert-G. NAUD.

·         Pont François-NAUD (bridge), Portneuf. In honor of François NAUD,a pioneer in 1829 from St-Alban.

·         Chemin NAUD (Road), La-Doré, local family.

·         Rue NAUD (Street), Portneuf, local family.

·         Pointe NAULT (Cape), Notre-Dame-de-Pontmain, the name of a pas resident of the cape during the summer.

·         Route NAULT, Lyster, recalls the NAULT families who lived on this road.

·         Ruisseau NAULT (Stream), Sainte-Cécile-de-Lévrard, named after its first owner.

·         Route Amédée-NEAULT, Sainte-Cécile-de-Lévrard in honor of a resident of the area, Amédée NEAULT (1885-1958), married to Angéline Paquin in 1908 at St-Pierre-Les-Becquets.

·         Rue NEAULT (Street) in La Tuque was named in honor of Pierre-Calixte NEAULT (1860-1924), pioneer and mayor ot the city of Grand-Mère (1910-1916, 1919), Liberal Member in the National Assembly for the district of Champlain (1900 - 1912).

·         Lac NEAULT (Lake) in Upper Saint-Maurice honors the same Pierre-Calixte NEAULT

As we can see, all these sites, identified by their etymology, render homage to some NAU descended from our ancestor, François NAU, originally from TURQUANT. We can’t, however, conclude that those places whose origin we cannot account for are also related to our ancestor. This is certainly not the case for those locations, which were so named to recall certain places in FRANCE:

·         Lac NEAU (Lake), Dozois Reservoir. The name is a plce name in FRANCE.

·         Lac NEAU (Lake), Lac-Ernest. The name comes from the commune NEAU (Mayenne) cited previously.

·         Lac NEAUX (Lake), Lac-Ashuapmushuan. The names comes from the commune NEAUX (Loire) cited previously.

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Last modification : July 29, 2012