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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 Trahan’s, the workers of silk.

Where, then, did these people come from? They could not have come from Lyons; although Lyon became a silk centre, 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 worm itself.

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 by 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 of Tours.

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 from French


Our grandmother came to see us in Western Canada, and we spent some time in Belle-Ile and Prades. She passed away in 1992. 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 which 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 generations ago).

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.

David Granger
Alberta Canada

I am grateful to my good friend, Michel Granger, for having provided me this information and his approval to post same on my web site.