Origins of the Cyr Name

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Variants of the Surname spelling
Ceir, Cere, Cire, CYR, Cyre, Cyrs, Cyrus, De Serre, De Sire, De Sirré, Le Sars, Le Siers, Le Sire, Le Sor(e), Le Sot, Le Sueur, Le Syr, Leisure, Lesiers, Leziers, Liesure, Lozier, Lussier, Saer, Saier, Sayer, Sayers, Sayre, Sayres, Sear, Seare, Sears, Seears, Seer, Seere, Seers, Seir, Sere, Serre, Sias, Sier, Siers, Sieur, SIRE, SIRRE, Soares, St. Cyr, Sueur, Suire, Suires, Sutor, Syar, Syars, Syas, Syer, Syers, Syr, Syre, Von Suire, Zaher, Zier

The origins of the CYR name

The following is reproduced (with thanks) from Claude L. Cyr’s “The Origins of the Cyr Name” published in “The Cyr Legacy” Book, on the occasion of the CYR FAMILY REUNION held in Madawaska, Maine in July 1981.

A Cyr, is a Sire, is a Cire, is a Cyre and, by any other spelling, is still a CYR!

Individual surnames originated for the purpose of more specific identification and are relatively recent in the annals of mankind. They became a necessity when a single village could count several Johns; thus John the Blacksmith, Silversmith or Tinsmith became John Smith… an association with his trade.

John who lived on the outskirts of the village in the valley, was identified as John Vale (La Valle), and John who lived on a side hill, became John LaMontagne (Hill).

Another John who lived in a timber stand may have ended up with the surname Epinette (Spruce), or from the stand of oaks, his English name would be John Oaks (John Deschenes, in French).

Click here for details on the CYR/SIRE Family Genealogy CD-ROM

The individual who owned a remarkable animal, might be called “LeBoeuf” (Bull) or “Colombe” (Dove).

If a John in the village was from England or spoke English, he may have ended up with the surname “Langlais” (English or England); if he was French in an English community, he became John French (La France). The list could go on and on, with French names being given an English spelling… such as Lang to Long, Cyr to Sear, Sirois to Searway.

Other cultures adopted a means by which a man and his descendants were called sons of… such as Anderson, Peterson, or the Irish custom which uses “Fitz”, as in Fitzpatrick, Fitzsimon; and the Scots with “Mac”, as in MacDonald and MacArthur. This practice was not common in French. The only link to this custom, would be that of adding “fils” to the father’s name.

The name “CYR” appears to have denoted a location…”one who comes from Saint Cyr”, along with an association with the Greek and French, meaning descendant of Cyr (teacher) and “one who appears Lordly”. [See DNA research below].

Variations in spelling the same original surname, seems common. Dictionaries of names indicate that “CYR” could have been spelled Cyril, Cyrillus, Cyrillo, Cyrille, Ciril, Ciro, Cyre, Syr, Syre, Cire and Sire… and, less we forget, “Crock or Croque” a well-known nickname amongst the Jean-Baptiste Cyr clan.

The family name “CYR”, is one of the oldest Norman French names and comes from the borders of Normandy and Brittany. It is recorded in history, back to the years 1000 and seems to be associated with the ancient family of William of Moncaux, the ancient Lords of Maers and Counts of Nevers. {See Alex Loya’s hypothesis below].

The Cyrs of St. Cyrs, were chief tenants of the Moncaux Counts and held land around the church of St. Cyrs De Nevers. It is there in Brittany, that the Cyr or Cyre “Coat of Arms” is registered.

The “CYR” family name arrived on the North American Continent of Acadia, via PIERRE SIRE/CYR (1668). [See added notes below].

Click here for details on the “Acadian-Cajun Family Genealogy” CD-ROMs

The “CYR” name has been established in history by numbers of illustrious persons which include Cyr of Alexandria (Cyril) (376 – 444 A.D.); Cyr Lucaris (Cyril) (1572 – 1638), Patriarch of Constantinople in 1621. He presented the “Alexandrian Codex” to Charles the First, and Valademirovich Cyr (Cyril – Kirill) (1866 – 1938), a Russian Grand Duke, during the Russian Revolution.

A study of Acadian and North American history, also reveals a number of “Cyrs” who have established worthwhile places as politicians, educators, religious leaders and authors. There are great numbers who would deserve a place as distinguished bearers of the “CYR” name, but since this presentation is not meant to be a “Who’s Who” amongst Cyrs, nor is it meant to be a complete study of family history, we let the readers complete their own lists from the Cyrs still living!

More Variations of the Name… and why?

The hardest part for most folks to get their head around is that virtually every version of the name, both in Canada and the USA, were totally made up…upon landing.

Most of the original Americans are actually Sayres……..

A few are Irish Seers……………..

There are a few La Rochelle Suires……..

a few Scottish Cyrus……

some London England Sears………(morphed from Le Syr)

the odd Lesiers….Leziers……or Leisure as they spell it now…..

So far in Canada there is Suire and LeSire……Lozier…….LeSueur………St. Cyr, (the “dit name” for the Deshaies in Quebec).

…and of course we are really not certain if Pierre was really a Sire!

Only much later in history did people from the south of France actually named St. Cyr (the “dit name” for the Deshaies in Quebec), migrate.

In every case though: it refers to a trade……cloth weavers; cloth merchants; salters; builders; shoe makers; sheep farmers

Never once have I found an example of a true Sire family where it meant anything even close to Lord or Noble: as a last name……..

The Title Sire or Sieur : has an Italian base…….it didn’t appear in France to any extent until well into the 1200’s………..and it nearly always referred to a Knight……..someone usually without land who was in service of a landed noble……..and perhaps later received land for service: but not at the highest levels. A junior Knight was an Esquire…….. Occasionally below the level of Knight we find Homme Noble……and the odd Sirewith that. This was usually a person with merchant status: or legal profession etc.

But there is no case where Sire was not followed by De: indicating the geography of what he was Sire of……….

In France back then: social class was so structured it was an offense to misstate your true position……….you had your role in life and you never moved up or down………..for hundreds of years: what your family was: is what you were.

No man would dare say he was a Sire if he was not………..

Of course St. Cyr (the “dit name” for the Deshaies in Quebec), was something entirely different: in this case Cyr was a first name: from the Greek Quiricus…. (Celts could not pronounce the letter Q… thus the soft C sound)

This is where Cyr (as in the Greek version of the Saint) and Sire… the noble title and Sueur or Sire is actually Sutor.

Starts to get confusing in France; And, consider the following……….

1. In the British Isles:
Sire and versions of it are from the old Persian meaning ‘magical’………a purely Celt term by then, either brought in by direct migration, or the Norse……

2. In Ireland:
it is actually Saier (for magical); Saer (for free).

3. Ireland and Britain did not share similar cultures, languages or religions. Only Ireland and Brittany did. So we could expect when we find Sirre in Brittany (as we do), that it refers to the Irish version.

4. Which brings us to North America; where we get all these versions melting into one big Sire pot, with spellings changing, even within families!

For thousands of years people with the last name that sounded like SEARS or SIRE or SAYER, all worked in the silk weaving/cloth trades: (i.e. weavers; merchants etc).

SERES SURNAME: The SERES were an ancient Asian people who first brought silk from the far-east, to the Greeks. This created the Greek word SERICOS…and the Latin word SERICA which was the root of the word SAGUM, or woolen cloak. The Latin word SERIUS, is the backbone of the word Sieur or Segneiur/Seigneur or Sire/Sir, as the English used it.

LE SUEUR SURNAME: Le Sueur on the other hand comes from the Latin word SUTOR….one who makes things from patterns. (i.e. cloth, shoes, iron etc). Le Sueur was not spelled Sieur however, occasionally one does see the spelling LeSieur.(Note LEISURE it is a DNA mutant variation).

So, it is easy to see how the two names sounded similar and were somewhat interchangeable, as time went by.

SERRE SURNAME: The Serre: on the other hand comes from SERITOR… the goddess of farming. It was also spelled CERES and is/was the backbone of words like cereal. However most older French versions of the name, come with the accent on the last “e” and should be pronounced SERAY.

All three of the above surnames, can be easily confused with one another.

One really needs to understand that in 1600’s in France, the cloth trade was as vital to the economy (as automobile production is presently, in Detroit, Michigan). More people worked in the cloth industry, than any other. Thus the reason the SERES surname is common in regions like Amiens, which was the hub of the cloth industries.

CYR SURNAME: The Cyr is a total fabrication of new world priests because, having been trained in monasteries and the Royal Courts, our surname sounded like that, to them. What they knew was that Saints and they, were worlds-away from exposure to trade workers. It is just pure fantasy to believe that the surname Cyr is anything but a North American aberration, as it nearly never existed as a surname in France until the very late 1700’s and, in fact, only appeared to persons who added it to their surname… such as a geographical location of the parish they lived in (i.e. La Rose de St. Cyr). There are no known persons identified in the 1600’s (or earlier) in France, who used Cyr as a last name.

The following is reproduced (with thanks) from the source notes provided me by my uncle Roch Cyr, who obtained them from his good friend Leo G. Cyr.

A final word needs to be said about the CYR family name, variously spelled Sire, Cire, Syre, Cyre and Cyr. Church and civil records in Acadia contained these and other random spellings, dictated more often by recorder’s degree of familiarity with the local scene, than anything else. Our name came from France as Sire. Its metamorphosis to Cyr was gradual and a rather long time in developing. Why did Cyr prevail? My own theory is put forth for what it’s worth. Cyr was probably more wisely known than Sire in the 18th century. There was an elite school for girls at Versailles, widely known as l’Academie St. Cyr. Subsequently, St. Cyr (the “dit name” for the Deshaies in Quebec), became widely known as the West Point of France. Sire and Cyr are pronounced exactly alike in French; cire. I suggest that missionaries newly arrived from France, on hearing the family name at the baptismal font in Beaubassin, thought of St. Cyr (the “dit name” for the Deshaies in Quebec) and began to favor that spelling. This process took place over a period of time when there was a dearth of education among the Acadians. The spelling of their name was, so to speak, taken out of their hands. A current fad for spelling names in various ways, may have contributed to the process. The actual experience of our particular branch of the family, was typical:

  • PIERRE (first generation) appeared in the 1671 census of Acadia, as Pierre SIRRE. We may assume that, as a gunsmith schooled in France, he was able to spell his name. [Added note from Yvon, December 2011… we cannot be certain that Pierre was from France and early DNA tests, suggest he may in fact have Flemish roots. Flemish is the territorial name for the Dutch language spoken in historic Flanders, a region mostly comprising the northern part of Belgium, but also including a southern part of the Netherlands and a small area of northern France].He gave it as he had spelled it in France. Sire was a name indigenous to northwestern France.

 

Photocopy of authentic signature of Pierre [Sire] Sirre, provided by Stephen A. White of the University of Moncton. Original document is contained in the Leneuf Papers stored at the Canadian National Archives in Ottawa, Ontario.

 

  • JEAN (second generation) signed Jean SIRE in 1715 as one of the commissioners reporting to the British the decision of the Beaubassin population, in regard to taking the oath of allegiance to George II.
  • JEAN-BAPTISTE (third generation) appeared as Jean SIRE in the Beaubassin church record of his marriage January 26, 1734; and as Jean SYR in a list dated August 12, 1763, of prisoners on the St. John River. An appeal that he and his sons addressed to the Governor of Canada in 1784, reveals that they were unable to sign. The illiteracy of their fugitive existence (since the burning of Beaubassin in 1750), was becoming apparent. In 1792, a St. Basil (New Brunswick) record referred to him as “feu Jean SIR”.
  • PAUL’S (fourth generation) baptismal record at Beaubassin, referred to him as Paul CYRE in 1741. The Studholme Report of 1783, listed him as Paul CIRE. The United States did not take a census of Madawaska in 1790, 1800 or 1810, thereby sparing the name considerable mutilation. He was buried as Paul CYR in 1812.
  • PAUL’S (fifth generation) baptismal record at St. Basil, referred to him as the son of Paul SYR. The U.S. census of 1820 was not a nominal census in Madawaska. His marriage record at St. Basil referred to him as Paul CYR in 1822. U.S. censuses called him Paul CERE in 1830; Paul CYR in 1840; Paul CROCK in 1850; Paul CYR in 1860. His burial record in 1865, called him Paul CYR.
  • ALEXIS (sixth generation) was described in the 1860 U.S. census as Alexander, the son of Paul CROCK, but subsequently during his lifetime, the name settled-down to CYR (I like to think that, after all these years, they finally ‘got it right’ 🙂 The French pronunciation (cire) remained constant in Madawaska, but with the increasing use of English in the area, it has been anglicized (like the English word “seer”), including all the frequent aberrations sich as “cur” and “cry”.

My theory is not intended to suggest that we had any connection with the St. Cyr (the “dit name” for the DeShaie/Deshaies in Quebec) family. There was none. The Cyrs of Madawaska are all descendants of JEAN-BAPTISTE SIRE, one of the grandsons of first-generation PIERRE SIRE of Acadia. They are _not_ descendants of first-generation Louis Sire of Acadia, to whom goes the honor of being the progenitor of Louis (Cyprien-Noé) Cyr (1863 -1912) of Napierville, Quebec, the “strongest man in the world”.

In his excellent book, the ‘History of the Cajuns‘, the author Alex Loya states…

“Cyr researchers Claude and Yvon Cyr have correctly concluded that Cyr denotes a location of origin in the area of Brittany and Normandy, being associated with the Greek word meaning ‘teacher’ and also ‘one who appears Lordly’. The fact that I found the villages of Sier and Sire etc. in the area of the Mont de La Loya near Savoy, on the other side of France from Brittany and Normandy, and its root Etruscan words Ceer, Cere, Sires, Sere, respectively meaning the Etruscan city of Caere, bewail, cherry and ‘I join’, does not in any way contradict Claude and Yvon Cyr’s research, rather, it compliments it and confirms the accuracy of their research when they conclude…

The family name Cyr is one of the oldest Norman French names and comes from the borders of Normandy and Brittany. It is recorded in history to the year 1000”.

What I found regarding the name Cyr conclusively confirms that it is one of the oldest Norman French names. Conversely, Claude Cyr’s finding confirms the Etruscan root of Cyr, since the Etruscans are one of the oldest foundational cultures of France. There is no contradiction in the meanings they found through their research to the Norman period and the meanings I found through my research to the Etruscan period 1,500 years earlier, words develop over the years to produce names. In the case of Cyr, it could have started with the Etruscans with, for example, the establishment of an Etruscan settlement by a field of cherries, thus the Etruscan meaning of Ceer, the Etruscan city. These cherries, thus the Etruscan meaning of “cherry”, may have been used in some sort of funeral tradition, thus the Etruscan meaning of “bewail”, which mourners joined in… thus the Etruscan association of “I join”. Over one thousand five hundred years later among Etruscan who spread through France and became part of the Norman population, these Cyr ancestors taught, perhaps some form of this old Etruscan funeral tradition to their descendants, teaching them to, in their mourning, behave honorably and with dignity, thus the seemingly unrelated meanings of “teacher” and “one who behaves Lordly” among the Norman Cyrs. There is no contradiction, rather there is development.

Furthermore, there is no contradiction in that Claude and Yvon Cyr conclude Cyr is Norman from the area of Brittany and Normandy and I conclude it is Etruscan from the area of Savoy because their research takes them to the Norman period circa, as they say, the years 1000 AD, while my research takes it to the Etruscan period of France, at least 1,500 years earlier.”

Closing Notes: The “ETRUSCANS were the people that dominated Italy before the Romans. Their empire was composed of a loose confederation of 12 major cities in the area of present-day Tuscany and central Italy, including cities of Felatri, Arretium, Curtun, Fufluna, Vetluna, Clevsin Perusia, Velch, Velzna, Tarchna, Caisra (or Ceer) and Veii, plus a few other minor cities as far north as the Po River in Italy and as far south as Campania. Rome itself was under Etruscan rule before the rise of the Romans. Corsica was under Etruscan rule, and there is evidence that neighboring Sardinia was, as well. It is believed that the Etruscans founded cities as far away as Tarragona in Spain.

The Etruscans rose to power circa 1,200 B.C., and reached their zenith circa 800 B.C. They remained one of the most powerful nations of antiquity until their city of Veii was sacked by the Romans, who had themselves been under Etruscan rule, circa 396 B.C. and they had been totally assimilated by the Romans by the year 100 B.C. Unfortunately, they did not leave written history; what is known about them is known largely by the writing of Greek and Latin historians and by archeological evidence. Their origin was a mystery and was already a subject of debate by the 5th century B.C. when Herodotus, a Greek historian known as the Father of History, theorized regarding the origin of the ancient Etruscans that they had come to Italian Peninsula from the area of Lydia in Asia Minor. He based his belief on certain legends that said that the Etruscans had been among the ancient Sea Peoples and had come from the area of Lydia, which is found in the Aegean Sea by Greece and Turkey, having arrived to the Italian Peninsula after a failed attempt to invade Egypt. Others believed that they came to the Italian Peninsula with the rest of the Indo-European that populated the rest of Europe. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who wrote a response to Herodotus’ theory circa the 1st century B.C., strongly believed that the Etruscans did not migrate from anywhere but, rather, that they were the oldest inhabitants native of the Italian Peninsula known as the Villanovan Culture, the cavemen of Italy. Dionysius based his view and his response to Herodotus on the fact that the Etruscans did not follow the same laws, did not worship the same gods, did not use the same institutions and did not speak the same language as the Lydians did. According to Dionysius, all the evidence pointed to their origin being within the Italian Peninsula from time immemorial. After doing extensive research, I (Alex Loya) agree with Dionysius, although it is evident that Lydian and other Indo-European elements contributed to the formation of the Etruscan nation, mostly by way of commerce.”

Click here to source copy of the ‘History of the Cajuns’ Book

Jean-Baptiste Cyr Memorial Monument in St. David, Maine

(Installed for the first Cyr Family Reunion held in Madawaska, Maine in 1981)

The following portraits, were photographers (by myself) on my Grand-Parents Wall.

My Grand-Father Fred O. Cyr [April 18, 1880 – June 18, 1945]

and

Grand-Mother Alice Poitras [June 04, 1882 – December 09, 1969]

My Great Grand-Father Onezime (Aka Lezime) CYR [September 22, 1856 – January 29, 1911]

and

Great Grand-Mother Christine (Christie) BOURGOIN [May 09, 1855 – October 17, 1894]

Click here to view details of the largest Cyr Family in the world!