Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Digital Resource: Voyageur Database

The Descent of the Fraser River, 1808, from a color drawing by C. W. Jefferys
Those researching the economic history of early Canada may find useful the Voyageur Database, which includes data from approximately 35,900 fur trade contracts signed in front of Montreal notaries between 1714 and 1830. It is currently the single largest collection of data regarding the contracts signed by participants in the Montreal fur trade. The information collected from the contracts includes: family names, parishes of origin, hiring company, length of contract, destination(s), advances and wages, supplies, conditions of hire, the name of the notary, date of signing, and miscellaneous notes. As the website explains, "The database provides information on a group that was mostly illiterate and thus previously difficult to document and write about. The Voyageur Database documents the expansion of a continental system of trade that had a profound effect on peoples and communities, throughout the continent."
     The project director is Nicole St-Onge of the University of Ottawa; oRbert Englebert of the University of Saskatchewan is assistant director. Their efforts build on the initial labors of Alfred Fortier, executive director of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface (1990-2002), who created the database that became the starting point of the larger project.