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Genealogy

Changing activities in the course of a lifetime

The title of “Companion” was acquired early on in life, between the ages of 18 and 30. A man’s life may be long, however, and many are the pitfalls awaiting researchers wishing to learn if their forefathers were indeed “Companions”. All sorts of cases may crop up. Here is an example: a young carpenter became a “Companion” at the age of 20. He did his Tour de France for five years and then left his society, severing all ties with it when he went back to live in his village in Auvergne. If you had no evidence of his life in the guild, you would have no reason to believe that he had ever been a guild member. Another example: you discover that your ancestor ran an inn or a hotel, or that he was involved in some business or other. Since such activities have nothing to do with the world of trade or guild life, you wonder yourself why relatives talked about grandfather having done his Tour de France. Even so, such a family tradition may well be founded on fact.

House carpenter and shirtmaker’s advertisement

Many guild members maintained strong ties with their societies, even presiding over them, while involved in an activity which had no connection to their original trade. This “Companion” weaver in Tours was a clothing and fabric merchant in the Rue Nationale around 1880. That “Companion” baker kept a restaurant in the Rue de la Serpe at the same time. Still another “Companion” carpenter was a wood merchant. A “Companion” tanner was a leather and skins representative, while a “Companion” locksmith made bicycles. A “Companion” tinsmith kept a bazaar and a hardware shop while a “Companion” blacksmith worked in a garage, a “Companion” smith, victim of a work accident, became involved in the production of olive oil, and a number of coopers became wine merchants, innkeepers or winegrowers. In the 1950s, a Companion Baker in Touraine had to give up his job because he was allergic to flour; he then became a roofer and became so attached to his comrades in the Fédération Compagnonnique des Métiers du Bâtiment (“Construction Workers’ Guild Federation”) that he posed with them in the traditional group photograph taken on Ascension Day. If one is unaware of his story, could one understand what this man wearing a baker’s colours was doing in the midst of “Companion” roofers? There is also the case of a “Companion” shoemaker by the name of Vuillod who took holy orders and became a priest. Yet another example is that of the “Companion” milliner Bouchard, who embarked on a military career after his Tour de France.

These examples – and the list is endless – lead to the conclusion that the title of “Companion” could be acquired simply by having once worked at a particular trade, and that the title could be retained even if its holder changed activity later in life.

Flowing staircase
(1825)

Musée du Compagnonnage

8 rue Nationale
37000 Tours
Tel: 02 47 21 62 20

Escalier à dessous coulissant (1825) Map
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