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Genealogy

Companions without the Tour de France

It should further be remembered that, even though the Tour de France is so closely associated with the guilds, quite a number of “Companions” were admitted into them without ever having done it. This became more noticeable in the mid 19th century, when there was a dwindling in the number of members of certain trades. To ensure the continuation of their institution, guild members made their rules more flexible, accepting sedentary workers and even married men (my own grandfather was received as a “Companion Tanner of Duty” by the Saddlers’ Guild of Tours in 1930 although he was a 46-year-old widower!)

The movement expanded from the 1890s onwards, with the creation of the Guild Union, which not only admitted sedentary and married workers but also significantly extended the number of activities considered to be worthy of guild membership. Approximately one hundred trades were admitted, including gunsmiths, cooks, shoe-leather cutters, photographers, mechanics, brick-makers, potters, printers, and stringed-instrument makers. They were never very numerous and were never organised into trade groups, as was the case with traditional guilds. This shows the degree to which exceptions and special cases existed within guild societies ; such considerations need to be taken into account while carrying out genealogical research.

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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