- The Alps - mountain guide, herbalist, horse trader (this last in French - maquignon - also means someone who is a bit of a shady dealer, though we are not sure if that meaning is associated with the region too.)
- Alsace - bell-maker, makers of huge barrels, brass worker
- Bourgogne - ironworker, vintner
- Lyon - armourer, silk weaver
- Touraine - basket maker, silk weaver, linen weaver
- Nord and Pas-de-Calais - lace maker, weaver
- Normandy - sailor, weaver, wool worker (carding, spinning, weaving, knitting)
- Provence - perfumer, maker of stringed instruments (Ah! Provence!)
Because of this association of skills to regions, the study of métiers is part of a French genealogist's interest, even passion for some. We have added to the list of books in the panel to the right a couple of books on the subject. A large part of one of them can be read online at www.genealogie.com
where an alphabetical list of métiers is given, with descriptions of the work, the tools, the traditions, etc.
Many, many books have been written about the métiers of a particular region. The simplest way to find some is to go to www.amazon.fr and in the search box type the name of the region and the word métiers.
Once you think you have the skill and the right location for your ancestor, if that skill was one of those requiring registration, it is worth searching the relevant Archives Départementales. Series 4M lists names of traveling musicians, organ players, dentists, street acrobats, and such like. Series 8M has names of moneychangers, traveling salesmen, and other business information. Series 9M will have the archives of local workshops and studios, apprentices' contracts, workers' employment books, the records of guilds and professional societies.
There are dozens of villages around the country which, along the lines of Williamsburg in the U.S., have people re-enacting the old skills, wearing traditional dress and explaining to tourists how the work is done. A very good website of one of these is Les Vieux Métiers.
To see some old tools, machines, videos of them being used, etc. in a more scholarly presentation, see the wonderful site of the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. It has a small amount of the site translated into English, but not much.
*Métier is translated as craft but, as that now contains an implication of hobby rather than livelihood, we had thought to use the term skills.
** The region of Limousin was also famous in the days of horse-drawn carts for the particularly large local version that they made, known around the country as a limousin. The word was later applied to long automobiles: limousines.
©2009 Anne Morddel