This post will be a little dry, but some of you can use this to find information that might be stored in an archives or library on the other side of the country.
In Canada, archives are hooked together through Library and Archives Canada, and by searching in their search engine you can find papers in any archives or library in Canada.
The library and archives website is http://collectionscanada.gc.ca (and take note that there is a large genealogical section of that archives you may want to access).
The search engine that accesses all the Canadian archives and libraries is called Amicus, or the Canadian National Catalogue.
Its free, and they say "easy to use." (I always have trouble with these big databases, however).
There are 30 million records from 1,300 Canadian libraries including LAC (Library and Archives Canada).
You will have to sign up -- I used Amicus a few years ago and have both a username and a Password.
The same, too, exists in the United States.
You can search most, if not all, archives through the Library of Congress, by using the National Union Catalogue of Manuscript Collections.
It's amazing what you can find in there -- for example I located Anderson's "Historical Notes on the commerce of the Columbia River, 1824 to 1848."
By the time I located it, I already had a copy of the manuscript -- I had found it listed in the back of a book about American ships trading on the northwest coast.
But I found other manuscripts of interest in here, and ordered them.
It is unlikely that I would have found these documents if I had just visited various archives -- I would never have thought of looking where I found these documents.
So I am very happy I did my search through the NUCMC/RLG catalogue (which was what it was called in the days I was looking).
I don't think those phrases work anymore -- try National Union Catalogue of Manuscript Collections or go directly to Library of Congress.
I suggest that you search these two massive catalogues by using your ancestors' name, but also try things like "North West Company" or "voyageurs contracts."
You will learn all the other phrases to use -- I used to know a lot of them but now don't remember.
Sometimes you find document by chance, by googling.
I was doing a search for an Aussie connection who had found that one of his family members had joined the fur trade in late 1700's and was at Mackinac.
I found his ancestor, but while I was looking I fell upon another internet list of voyageurs, called "Michigan Voyageurs, From the Notary Book of Samuel Abbott, Mackinac Island, 1807-1817."
This 11 page list of voyageurs at Mackinac Island is found at http://members.shaw.ca/hjarmstrong/abbottlist.htm.
Notary books are a valuable resource, as all Voyageur contracts were signed by a notary.
(So maybe "Notary Books" is a good thing to search for in the above named collections, or try googling "Notary books" and see what turns up.)
There are some Beaulieus on this list of voyageurs, by the way:
This list starts off with the date, the name of the voyageur, who he worked for, and where he wintered.
Here's an example of the first few:
7; Baptiste Dudoiu; Etienne Lamarandiere; P. Callinasea
10; Benjamin Cadotte; Francois Fenier; Mississippi
So, lets look for the Beaulieu brothers here, now that I have this document in hand:
In June 1807, Pierre Bolieu worked for Lacroise & Lemoine, and wintered in Illinois; by that time "our Beaulieu" was making his way across the Rocky Mountains with David Thompson.
July 4, Louis Rondeau worked for Robert Dickson & Co. and wintered at Fond du Lac. This might be Joseph Rondeaus father and a member of our extended family.
Pierre Rondeau worked for the Mackinac Company and expected to winter in the North.
In June 1809 Pierre Rondeau signed on with Cadotte & Co. to winter in Lac Courte Oreille.
Paul Beaulieu signed up with Mackinac Co. and wintered at Lac Courte Oreille. I suspect this was one of the Hudon dit Beaulieus.
In 1810, Bazile Beaulieu signed up with Mackinac Co. and worked at Lac Flambeaux -- this is definitely a Hudon dit Beaulieu.
Paul Beaulieu signed up in 1810 with Mackinac Co. and wintered at le Folie Avoine.
In 1816, Jean B. Belliuh? worked for w.H. Putuff at Michilimackinac. He will be a Beaulieu -- not ours, of course.
At last I found the name of the man I was searching for, for my long distance relative.
In June 1807, Dr. David Mitchell signed up voyageur Michel Francocier for the Mississippi.
Dr. David Mitchell, fur trader, is in our very extended family.
He is a descendent of the Andersons but not the Anderson-Setons, and his uncle was Dr. James Anderson of Madras, who is in our family tree and a close relative of Dr. James Anderson, LLD -- my great grandfather's grandfather.
There are also Ermatingers on this list; Charles Ermatinger who hired voyageurs for the trade on Lake Superior in 1808; in 1810 David Mitchell hires Thomas Gutherie for Michilimackinac; in 1817 Ramsey Crooks is the only person hiring any voyageurs at all.
In case you don't know, if you have read any of Governor George Simpson's correspondence, Ramsay Crooks becomes a very familiar name, and I learned from Eric Jay Dolin's Fur, fortune and Empire: the epic History of the Fur Trade in America, that Ramsay Crook was a very big name in the early fur trade.
You can always find something new to look up, though I am not sure I learned anything from this list. I hope it helps you in your search, and I hope you discover something of interest in the archives search engines. Good luck.