Sunday, 9 October 2016

Hudson's Bay Company Family History

This post was created after reading a Twitter re-tweet of a post by @HBCHeritage  - HBC Letter Books (Copy book of letters outward 29 May 1680 - 5 July 1687 - this link leads to a post about the collection of the Letter Books held by the HBC Archives).

I have a personal interest in the HBCo., as one branch of my family tree were Red River Settlers and were indirectly affected by the work of the Hudson's Bay, in their journey from the Highlands of Scotland to Manitoba in the early 1800s.

At one time, the Hudson's Bay Company held most of their business records in London, UK, but these were transferred to Winnipeg in 1974. History of the records.

Hudson's Bay Store, Winnipeg, MB
© Penny Allen
The Hudson's Bay Archives website has much information, including an index of employees, which is freely available:   https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/biographical/index.html?print
      However, please note this is an ongoing project and not every employee may be listed. The explanation document also gives descriptions of occupations: https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/biographical/biographical_sheet_revealed.pdf

On this page of the Archives of Manitoba there is information about employees at both Norway House and York Factory Officers & Servants Ledgers

A Twitter follower asked about HBCo. land records as her ggrandparents bought HBCo. land - these are on microfilm (may be borrowed through the traditional inter-institutional loan program ).

From a publication I found at the Society of Genealogists (London) titled 'Beaver House', I was able to determine a location for the building where the fur pelts were auctioned after arriving from the colonies. (circa 1920s) The cost to build Beaver House was £660,000; the warehouse (cold storage for keeping the approximately 2 million pelts of fur in a premium condition) was nearly 600,000 cubic feet. It was built on a site of the original Church of the Holy Trinity, which was in this location in 1666, the year of the Great Fire. The address is Great Trinity Lane London EC 4. 

Great Trinity Lane,
London
© Penny Allen
A variety of resources resulted from some internet research and by chatting with the volunteers at the Society of Genealogists.
  1. A WDYTYA episode had Sarah Millican looking for her ancestor who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company. 
  2. The first ship of the HBCo. - was the Nonsuch, a ketch, Capt. Zachariah Gillam, 1668. Other company's ships were : Prince Rupert, King George, Sea Horse and HMS Shark. (source: The Return of the Nonsuch: the ship that launched an Empire, by Laird Rankin, Heartland Associates Inc., 2004.)
  3. A couple of sites for more pictures of the Hudson's Bay buildings in London: http://gregwtravels.travellerspoint.com/347/ ;
    http://www.hbcheritage.ca/hbcheritage/history/places/buildings/hbc-in-london
  4. Great Trinity Lane
    London
    © Penny Allen
  5. The Lyons family website provides information about their ancestor who worked for the HBCo. http://www.lyons-family.co.uk/Lyons/1880-lyons-william-john/hudson-bay/hudson-bay.html
Great Trinity Lane,
London

© Penny Allen
There is a very good article on doing research at the Hudson's Bay Archives, and although a little dated, a lot of the material is helpful to gain an understanding of the organization of the records.
http://afhs.ab.ca/aids/talks/notes_mar98.html

Hudson's Bay Record Society has 24 titles in a series published under: The Champlain Society for the Hudson's Bay Record Society. These titles can be searched in your local library system.


There are a fair few publications about the Hudson's Bay Company, the Fur Trade and it's effect on the economy of the New World and the United Kingdom. These are some rather interesting ones.

The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined Region edited by Sarah Carter, Alvin Finkel and Peter Fortna. Based on a conference held at the University of Alberta in 2008.
     The chapter: 'Visualizing Space, Race and History in the North: Photographic Records in the Athabasca-Mackenzie Basin' by Matt Dyce and James Opp outlines the career of photographer Charles W. Mather and also touches on the 'Hudson's Bay Company Album' which includes pictures of indigenous people packing supplies.

The Remarkable History of the Hudson's Bay Company: Including that of the French Traders of North-western Canada and of the North-west, XY, and Astor Fur Companies by George Bryce, published in 1900. This link provides a snippet view but gives pertinent resources.

Empire of the Bay: The Company of Adventurers that Seized a Continent 
by Peter Newman. Google Books provides a snippet view which describes the company's history and gives great information about the settlements, the posts and the people.

Mural above elevators
Hudson's Bay Store, Winnipeg, MB
© Penny Allen
If you have ancestors linked with the Hudson's Bay Company, these records are easily accessible, and from personal experience, when I visited the Archives in Winnipeg a number of years ago, the staff are pleasant and very helpful. Happy searching!

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