Welcome to the website of the VVA

The “Vereniging van Vrienden van Auvergne” (literally translated as the “Association of Friends of the Auvergne”). The VVA is a Dutch social club, founded in 1984. Its members are mostly Dutch descendants of migrants who left the region of central France known as the Auvergne, some 150 to 200 years ago! Documents indeed prove that, towards the end of the 18th century, groups of Auvergnat migrants traveling north crossed national borders, aiming for the regions now known as Belgium and the Netherlands. Most of these travelers were itinerant tradesmen: coppersmiths and tinkers, or umbrella manufacturers and salesmen. Some of these carried out “campaigns” and returned to their homes after lengthy absences (18 months up to three years). Others however decided to stay and settle, starting new lives in the northern low lands. Today there are some 42 Dutch families with proven Auvergnat roots.The VVA was founded as a seemingly natural and logical consequence of work initiated and carried out by two French researchers Odette Meynial et Geneviève Coupas. Indeed, some 25 years ago, while working on a research project of their own in the archives of France’s “département du Cantal”, these two ladies came across recordings of passes issued between 1776 and 1806 to local inhabitants wishing to travel to “la Hollande.” This triggered their curiosity and they undertook to study this relatively unknown, past Auvergnat emigration. In 1984 the outcome of their research was published under the title Les Auvergnats en Hollande et en Belgique in a special issue of the Bulletin du Groupe de recherches historiques et archéologiques de la Vallée de la Sumène (nr. 29-30). As a next step, Dutch genealogists Nico Balkenende, Pieter Lestrade and Tiny Lestrade-Aarts undertook to check Dutch archive records and phone books to see whether the Auvergnat family names were still to be found in the Netherlands. This was the case and subsequently a number of Dutch families were contacted. Many of these were aware of their French origins but admitted to being totally ignorant as to which part of France their ancestors had come from. The discovery of the Auvergnat origins triggered a keen interest and lead to the establishment of the VVA (1984). This is turn stimulated further research: the first edition (in 1992) of Pieter and Tiny Lestrade’s book Ketellappers, Koperslagers en Parapluverkopers uit Auvergne in Nederland* was followed by several updates … in fact, it is a work in progress, new data regularly being added as the VVA’s working group on genealogy pursues its research activities. The book not only offers an introduction to the topic based on information borrowed from the above-mentioned Bulletin; it also presents the genealogies of Dutch families now known to have Auvergnat roots. A French abridged version of the original edition appeared in 1996, titled >Chaudronniers et marchands de parapluie auvergnats aux Pays-Bas*.The VVA’s main objectives are to bring together current descendants of 18th and 19th-century immigrants from the Auvergne, who wish to meet and discover their common origins, to explore the land of their ancestors and become acquainted with its historical and cultural treasures. Some VVA members have meanwhile set out to reconstitute their family history in France as well as in the Netherlands. Other members join the social gatherings and events, and occasional trips planned to visit the land of the forefathers, as well as other regions of France. * Tinkers, copper smiths and umbrella tradesmen of Auvergnat origin, in the Netherlands.