Some of the oldest and best kept records in North America are held by the Hudson Bay Company. If you are researching any individual, place or business from the Hudson Bay west to the Pacific and from the arctic circle south to the 49th parallel, then you must consult the HBC Archives.
HBC started keeping records on fur traders and other workers in 1670. Very few records from the first 100 years survived, but from 1770 to the present patience is often rewarded. Records are divided into geographical departments: Norther, Southern, Montreal and Western. For American research involving today's Washington, Oregon, Utah and Hawaii, consult the Western department.
What information can you expect to find? Some book records indicate a 'servant's' name, age, type of work,pay, address and station. Employees were also required to sign.
HBC archives were originally kept in London but after much convincing, the collection was amalgamated in Winnipeg. A complete copy of the collection is still available in London at the Public Records Office.
Hudson Bay Company Archives are held at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, 200 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg, MB. R3C 1T5. Phone (204) 945-4233, fax (204) 948-2008 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There are more than 2000 reels of microfilm available through inter-library loan. Be prepared to know more than just the name you are researching such as the trade, geographical location and date of death.
This article appeared in the May 1997 issue of Hot Chocolate.