Friday, November 23, 2012

Follow Friday: Voyageurs Contracts Database

While doing background research for a post I’m preparing about my Métis ancestry, I came across a very interesting website. It’s the Voyageurs Contracts Database, which is part of the Centre du patrimoine [Heritage Centre] located in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, Canada.

If you have Métis or French-Canadian ancestors who were involved in the fur trade (for example, a voyageur*), you’ll find this database really useful. The main page of the Voyageurs Contracts Database explains that its database “includes data from approximately 35,900 fur trade contracts signed in front of Montreal notaries between 1714 and 1830. […] The information collected from the contracts includes: family names, parishes of origin, hiring company, length of contract, destination(s) […]” and more.

* A “voyageur” is a French term that means ‘traveler’. “Voyageurs were the canoe transportation workers in organized, licensed long distance transportation of furs and trade goods in the interior of the continent. [They] were highly valued employees of trading companies, such as the North West Company […] and the Hudson's Bay Company […]”. (Source: Wikipedia contributors, "Voyageurs," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed March 16, 2011).)

Shooting the Rapids by Frances Anne Hopkins
Shooting the Rapids (1879)
 (Image source: Frances Anne Hopkins, Library and Archives Canada, acc. no. 1989-401-2, c002774.)

I searched for my ancestor “Toussaint Laronde” using the Database’s Quick Search page. I put “toussaint” in the keywords field and “laronde” in the names field. There were two results; both were my Toussaint. I then clicked ‘Details’ for the results and found items like date, place and length of his contracts, his functions, his wages, and his destinations. (The contracts are dated 13 April 1803 and 28 July 1821.) Next, I clicked ‘Select’, and then ‘View Selections’, where I requested copies of Toussaint’s contracts. In my email, I also asked for the total cost and how I could pay. The archivist promptly answered my questions and said I could pay with PayPal, cheque or money order.

I’m now waiting anxiously for the mail to arrive with paper copies of the microfilmed version of Toussaint’s voyageur contracts!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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