Translation of Jean Lafito French Deed

dated 1825, as described in letter from Wilfred Guerin.


Russell—There are many interesting linguistic details in this document, and before I try to provide a partial translation, here are items that either are interesting or open to interpretation.

  • There is some English mixed in. East and West, for sure.
  • There may be some problems that are just “bad” French, or older French, and capitalization and punctuation are not consistent.
  • On occasion it appears that an infinitive is used when I would expect a finite verb form.
    Sometimes there is no agreement in number between noun and adjective.
    Some of that may be handwriting or photocopying of old text.
  • In line 8, “maintenants” looks like a noun made from the adverb “maintenant” or “now.”
  • One interesting word in line two is apparently “espouse,” almost surely an older spelling for “epouse,” meaning spouse. The “s” disappeared in favor of the accented “e.”
  • I had trouble with “volante” in line five, which looks like Italian or Spanish (I checked for similar word in Spanish dictionary), but may be a misspelling for modern French “volonte,” meaning “will” or “desire.” But it could also be an earlier spelling.
  • In line six, “avous” does not register with me, but could be “avais” for “have.”
  • One illegible phrase appears three times—lines 11, 17, and 19, the first two after Lafito’s name, the third apparently with the same intent. We thought it could be “his heirs,” but could not make that stick.
  • In lines 12 and 18 the word “cause” appears, but I could not connect it as a legal term to the context, and in both cases there is an illegible word before it.
  • “The” appears in front of Mississippi one time, but not in the other (“du”=of the).

So here is an attempt at translation, keeping the lineation consistent with the lineation of the document, and liberally using brackets where I could not make out something at all and question marks when I was more than usually uncertain.

  1. [Here?] all persons should know by these presents that we Jean
  2. Baptiste Nicaise and Genevieve Nicasise my spouse of the County
  3. of Hancocke State of the Mississippi for and in consideration
  4. of the sum of [?hundred?] piastres that [?has been paid to us?] {word hyphenated and illegible)
  5. (rest of word) in current money at our will/discretion by the lord Jean
  6. Lafito [?have?] sold, ceded, quit, transported and abandoned, and
  7. by these presents [?] sell, cede, quit, transport, and
  8. abandon from the [nows] and for ever with promise [possibly old spelling]
  9. of guaranteeing from [?all?] trouble debts hypothetical, evictions,
  10. substitution, alienations and from all other trouble gene-
  11. rally whatever to the [?above said?] Jean Lafito [illegible] and
  12. [illegible] Cause a [?half?] acre of land beside [?on?] [?forty?]
  13. acres of depth situated at Shieldsbourg in the County of
  14. Hancocke State of Mississippi [?bordered?] in the North and the West
  15. by the land of Monsieur Hopkins in the south by my property and
  16. in the East by the Baie St. Louis. [?To have?] and [?to hold?] the
  17. property above mentioned by the lord Jean Lafito [illegible] [illegible]. [illegible]
  18. [illegible] and [illegible] Cause in all property [?promising?] the
  19. guarantee [garantir=an infinitive as a noun?] to him and [illegible] by me and [illegible; maybe ‘mine’] in the peaceful
  20. enjoyment of the property above designated [“at” maybe a mistake for “et” or “and”] sold under [?pain?] of
  21. all [illegible] damage and interest.
  22. done and passed at River Jordan in presence of Messieurs
  23. Charles Nicaise and Noel Jourdan that have signed [with? If “avec,” not “avoc’] us this
  24. six December 1825
  25. signed in presence of Charles Favre

Observations by Russell Guerin:

It is interesting that three of the signers had to use “their mark.”

Most interesting is line 5, wherein he is referred to as “lord,” whereas others, prominent people like Nicaise, Jourdan, and Favre were “messieurs.”