The Name of Trahan
The etymology of the name "the one who pulled the
silk" used to leave me perplexed, a name known in the Touraine region in the
16th and 17th century. Our research led us to find a
bourgeois in Tours and another in Joue-les-Tours.
Intriguing, because I had thought Touraine was not a
region known for silk production—and later found it was after all, from the
days that the king Louis XI (1423-1483) introduced the silk worm and the
mulberry tree to feed them around his city of Tours. Just as he brought the
silk worms, this king could also have brought the Trahans, the workers of
Where, then, did these people come from? They could
not have come from Lyon; although Lyon became a silk center, the silk
industry was introduced there only in 1536, much later than in Tours.
In studying the history of the Languedoc these last
years, I discovered the existence of the "Trahandiers" of the Cevennes
mountains (see Le Roy-Ladurie: Paysans du Languedoc).
It was in Anduze (Gard) that Raymond de Caussargues
pulled the first silk thread in 1296. He was the first bona fide "trahandier",
silk puller, reeler of cocoons.
In the XIV century, the corporation of the
trahandiers was flourishing in Anduze, and their wares were selling in
markets in Avignon and Beaucaire (Gard).
The name "trahandier" strangely was not Languedocian,
but French, and came from the vulgar Latin "trahandere". In Provencal,
we have the name "magnanier", the silk worm breeder, and "magnan", the silk
One of our young Canadians from Alberta by the name
of Magnan, who we invited to stay in Belle-Ile and Prades (Herault) in 1974,
was amused to see that in this village of Languedoc, some children raised
some "magnans" in shoe boxes that they called "magnaneries". Still
planted in the central square of the village is an abundance of mulberry
trees—"the golden tree of Cevennes".
The French-Canadian ancestor of this young Magnan
sailed from Marseille in the 17th century for Canada. The
name of Magnan is still common in all of southern France.
Trahan is supposed to have the same significance as
Magnan, both names attached to silk worm breeding.
But by what roundabout route would trahandier
or trahan cevenol have arrived at the Touraine area?
Perhaps we could find the answer by going to
Beaucaire at the time of Louis XI.
Beaucaire—situated on the Rhone river—had the
largest trade fair of all of France, and was well attended not only by
French merchants, but also Flemish, German, Catalan, and Spanish. Some also
came from Balearic Islands, Genoa, Naples, and the Piedmont.
Beaucaire was a royal city under Louis XI, whereas
neighbouring Avignon was a papal city. These cities both sold the products
of the trahandiers from nearby Cevennes. From those noble corporations, this
silk was henceforth woven in France. This silk must have pleased the king
Louis XI, for he introduced the practice of silk worm breeding in his city
Like a silk banner…
When we look at today’s patronyms in the provinces
of France, we see that some of them are still used in the village, or
surrounding area, of the same name. The residence of these families is
therefore the same as it was at the beginning of the civil registration.
Such is not the case for the Trahans, a traveller’s
name par excellence throughout the centuries.
The descendants of Guillaume Trahan continued to
move across the continents to shape, much like the Hebrews, the Acadian
people—a populace that neither ruin, wars, deportation, prison, dispersion,
nor transportations could annihilate.
Had Guillaume Trahan inherited from his ancestors
this spirit of adventure? Indeed he had—some were Angevins, some Tourangeaux,
and also from much further away, during the 13th and 14th
centuries, some Cevenols.
From this trahandier, who weaved in the secret of
his name the banner that would stream on the winds of history, to the
conquest of provinces and countries—much like a silk banner.
Anne-Marie Granger, 1984 (born in Locmaria, Belle-Ile-en-mer, 1921;
deceased in Prades, Herault, 1992)
Translated by Robert Granger MD
Edmonton Alberta Canada 2003.
Our grandmother came to see us in Western Canada,
and we spent some time in Belle-Ile and Prades. She passed away in 1992,
when my twin brother Robert and I were 12 years old. Grand-mère was an
extensive writer but before her death she burned all her papers. The only
reason this text survived is because it was misplaced. In the first part of
her essay, she wrote about Nicolas Trahan, his village of origin and the
geography of the area, as well as the researchers and writers of articles
that relate to this region and that of Acadia.
Today, the descendants of Guillaume Trahan live on
both sides of the Atlantic due to the Acadian deportation of 1755. We can
find them in Canada, USA, Belle-Ile-en-mer, and western France.
My grandfather Robert Granger (1917-1982) is
descended from Guillaume Trahan through Guillaume’s eldest daughter Jeanne,
married to Jacob Bourgeois (13 generations ago). My grandmother Anne-Marie
Granger (1921-1992) is also descended from Guillaume and his second wife
Madeleine Brun, through his eldest son, who was named Guillaume as well (12
My ancestor Joachim Trahan (from Anne-Marie Granger,
8 generations ago) left Belle-Ile-en-mer with almost all of his family on
the St. Remy to be transported from Nantes to Louisiana in 1785.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada