I think that by now you will have noticed that I have touched on the North West Company's explorer, David Thompson, a number of times in the last few weeks.
David Thompson is my lead into my next section, when I will speak of our search for our ancestor, who was said to be a voyageur in the North West Company.
This is a different kind of genealogy than you will have done in the past, and I hope that a few of you can discover more about your family after reading these next sections of my blog.
I guess that I am going to dip into genealogy for a while, in spite of stubbornly calling myself a "family historian."
David Thompson first joined the Hudson's Bay Company but, in 1797 quit the company and walked 75 miles to a North West Company post to join them.
In 1804 he was promoted to partner and given the task of establishing new trading posts in the territory occupied by the Kootenais [I am using David Thompson's spelling].
Two voyageurs, La Blanc & La Gasse, had already spent the winter of 1800-1801 amongst the Kootenais people on the west side of the mountains, and returned in the spring with stories of the wealth of furs.
David Thompson failed in his first attempt to cross the mountains that summer, and the project was dropped.
In 1806, opening up the fur trade on the west side of the mountains again became important to the North West Company.
Thompson was appointed to lead an expedition across the mountains, and in preparation for making the journey the following summer, arrived at Rocky Mountain House (near modern-day Rocky Mountain House, Alberta) in October 1806.
In 1807 he made his first crossing of the mountains, and set up his first post on a river he would later come to understand was the northern flowing part of the Columbia River.
The NWC men who accompanied him on this historic journey were: Clerk Finan McDonald, and voyageurs: Beaulieu, Bercier [guide], Boisverd, Boulard and family, Buche, Clement, Le Camble, and Lussier and family.
Note the women -- David Thompson also brought his wife and children across the mountains on his first journey.
Thompson and his men built their first house -- Kootanae House -- on the Columbia River where it flows northward toward Big Bend, or Boat Encampment.
The party spent its first winter at Kootenae House.
More men joined his party in the spring of 1808, and Mousseau was one of the men who explored the new territory with Thompson.
They reached the area around Bonner's Ferry, in modern day Idaho, and Thompson left Beaulieu, "One of my faithful men," behind with trade goods while he took the furs they had collected out over the mountains.
Jaco Finlay, sometimes a member of the party, spent the winter working on the east side of the mountains, in the Bow River Country.
Thompson returned to spend the winter of 1808-1809 at Kootenae House, and brought with him clerk James McMillan and three new voyageurs: Methode, Crepeau, and [Charles?] La Gasse.
In spring 1809 he took out the furs, and then returned to the territory to explore to the south.
He and his men established the post Kullyspel House on Pend-Oreille Lake in late summer, and in October 1809, were in the area where they planned to establish their third trading house.
James McMillan was there, as was Beaulieu, Boulard, Jaco Finlay, and a few other men, including Boisverd and La Gasse.
Their new house was called Saleesh House, built in November 1809, in the vicinity of modern day Thompson Falls, Montana.
In March 1810, Thompson returned to Kullyspell House, and later crossed the mountains to take out the furs.
He returned to the territory by Athabasca Pass in winter of 1810-1811, as mentioned in the last post.
By this time the men who had been left behind in the territory had built Spokane House, on the banks of the Spokane River a few miles from the now southern-flowing Columbia River.
In May 1811, Thompson arrived at Saleesh House and found it empty, but learned from passing Natives and freemen that Finlay had built the new house.
The NWC had determined that it was now time for Thompson to descend the Columbia River to its mouth.
By June 1811 he was at Ilth koy ape or Kettle Falls, on the Columbia.
In July he started his journey downriver.
On July 15 he arrived at the mouth of the Columbia, where John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company had established their headquarters.
In mid-September he had travelled all the way up the Columbia River to what we now call Boat Encampment.
David Thompson crossed Athabasca Pass and left the territory forever.
But he left behind him quite a few of his men, who were now probably "free-traders" -- men who worked for themselves but traded to the company.
As you can see, while I am interested in David Thompson, I am far more interested in the men who accompanied him.
To find out who David Thompson's men are is not a difficult task -- you just have to know where to look.
There are not many North West Company records remaining in the Hudson's Bay Archives, but there are some.
The "Northwest Company Ledgers, 1811-1821," are found on Reels 5M7 and 5M8 in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
From this ledger we can determine a few of the records of Thompson's men.
Here we go!
1812 -- Very hard to read but it says "Colum. Bk" and "by Columbia outfit ... for ... Thompson."
1811, 1812, 1813, and reads like "Colum. Outfit" -- this is all very hard to read.
Joseph Cotte -- with Thompson in 1881
1812 -- To sundries per Columbia, 1811
Baptiste D'Eau -- with Thompson in 1811, a deserter.
1811 -- appears in the Fort des Prairie records all the way through to 1821; he obviously continued to work in the fur trade.
(Jaco) Jacques Raphael Finlay
1811 -- To balance due since 1809, posted By salary for 1811, 1200
1812 -- To balance By salary this year, 1200; by two canoes for Mr. Thompson, note 200; By F. Macdonald 100 R. Bruguire 60160.
Baptiste Le Tendre (with Thompson in 1811, a deserter.
Jean Bte LeTender, fils -- 1811-1821 appears in the Fort des Prairies book; he too continued to work in the fur trade at Fort des Prairies.
"Lussier" (with Thompson in 1807)
Francois Lussier, 1811-1820 in the Fort des Prairies book, and in a different spot, Lucier.
Francois Lucier, 1818-1821 at Fort des Prairies.
Finan McDonald (Thompson's clerk)
(illegible) Kenneth Mackenzies draft in favour of his father, 1811
1812 To sundries at Columbia (illegible), 1810-1811
1814 To sundried at [Potlid?]
to Columbia outfit, 1813
James McMillan (with Thompson in 1810)
1812, to sundries at Columbia; and 1812 Columbia outfit.
1812 To sundries per Petled [is this Potlid, and what does this word refer to?]
1812 To Sundries per F. Wm. Bk
1814 To Sundries per PotLid
1813 To Sundries Ak Bk [Athabasca Book?] Dld his boy
1812 for Columbia Book, 1810-1812
Columbia outfit 1813-1817
1812, Columbia outfit, in 1817 F. des Prairies outfit
1812-1818, Fort des Prairies outfit.
These are old notes -- as you can see I found quite a few of David Thompson's men in these records, and some that might not have been Thompson's men.
Beaulieu is a bit of a challenge, as there are two in this list, one with an appropriate date and one without.
In folio 95 I found a full page listing of "Bad and Doubtful debts," with a Beaulieu listed amongst the men:
1811, Joseph Beaulieu, 1252.5 (Doubtful)
This sounds as if Beaulieu did not sign another contract and the bookkeepers for the NWC did not know where he was.
For reasons I will explain below, this is the more likely David Thompson man.
The other Beaulieu is below:
1818, to sundries Montreal Book
1819, to sundries F des P eqt book
1820, to sundries Ft... Book
To sundries R.R. Book
David Thompson's Beaulieu was a free trader by about 1811 -- this second man might be David Thompson's man who rejoined the company but it is more likely someone who joined at Montreal, as you can see by the records.
I have only looked up David Thompson's men in these records, but those of you who have ancestors who worked for the North West Company in 1811 and afterward can request these two reels (you need both of them) to find out a little bit about your ancestors.
You will have to read every page, these records are not necessarly in order and some pages list dozens of men who the company can no longer locate.
You do not request these reels from the Hudson's Bay Company -- you either go to your University (if you are a student) or to the main branch of your local library, and request the reel through them.
Possibly your local archives will handle Hudson's Bay company reels.
Our British Columbia archives no longer does this service; and with the Greater Victoria Public Library you can request the reels online.
However, you have to go to the Hudson's Bay Company website and find the number of the reel to order.
To find North West Company reels, go to:
"Hudson's Bay Company Archives," not Manitoba Archives [although you can get to HBCA from Manitoba Archives website];
"Search" on left side of page;
"HBCA Online finding Aid" in middle of page;
Search "Section F -- Records of Related or Subsidiary Companies" in middle of page;
"North West Company (F.1-7) in middle of page;
You should now have the entire listing of what the HBCA owns, and you will want to look first at the Account Books and, maybe, the Servants' Contracts.
The most valuable lists of men is in the reels I already mentioned, 5M7 and 5M8, but you might also find records on the other reels.
You need to know that not everyone is listed in these records -- for example, I did not find my great-great grandfather James Birnie; yet I know he worked in the Company possibly as early as 1816, and he was west of the mountains in 1818.
Good luck in your search.