As we Canadians know, many of our historic sites are run by Parks Canada — for example, Jasper Park, York Factory, Fort St. James, and Fort Langley.
Before Parks Canada was cut back by the federal government under Steven Harper, its personnel did a great deal of work in researching and telling the stories of the various posts and parks they managed. But when they were downsized, all that information was lost.
Or was it? Much of it was stored in archives around Canada. The British Columbia Archives has retained the information that deals with British Columbia; however they have removed Parks Canada manuscripts that deal with places like York Factory, or Upper Athabasca Valley, because these places are not in British Columbia. Some manuscripts have also been available online for a while — for example Jamie Morton’s “Fort St. James, 1806-1914: A century of Fur Trade on Stuart Lake,” is at http://parkscanadahistory.com/series/mf/367.pdf
This Microfiche Report is a pretty amazing piece of research, with information on the fur trade in north-central British Columbia that will be relevant to anyone whose ancestors worked there, or to those, like myself, looking at the transportation history of the territory of New Caledonia. The last time I looked at this site, however, there were lots of interesting documents listed, but few available online.
All that has changed. I recently googled, “York Factory Bricks,” which I actually do want to know something about and didn’t find online. Instead I discovered I was on the Parks Canada History site, looking at a manuscript report titled: “York Factory: A Structural History,” by George Ingram (1979). Just in case you are interested, this manuscript report also includes “Prince of Wales Fort: A Structural History,” by also by George Ingram, and “The North West Bastion Bakehouse, Lower Fort Garry: A Structural and Furnishing Study,” by Gregory Thomas. Here is the manuscript report! http://parkscanadahistory.com/series/mrs/297.pdf
So, I printed it out. I haven’t read it yet, nor have I yet read the other articles I printed out… yet. But I want you to look through a few of the other manuscript and microfiche reports, and see if there is anything of interest to you. One of the manuscripts I wanted, that had been disposed of by the B.C. Archives, I found here: it is the 300-page Microfiche Report #225, “A History of the Upper Athabasca Valley in the Nineteenth Century,” written by Gerhard Ens and Barry Potyondi in 1986 — found here: http://parkscanadahistory.com/series/mf/225.pdf Between this and the York Factory manuscript I used the entire ream of paper that I purchased yesterday!
This website was created for people who are “passionate about the National Parks, National Historic Sites, and National Marine Conservation Areas of Canada,” and there’s a lot of information here. It is also interesting that the persons who are making this information available to the Canadians who paid for it are American historians — without them it might have been lost, or certainly far less available to researchers than it is in present day.
I don’t know if everything that was available through Parks Canada has been loaded on this site yet — there might be more to come. But you will find more about this site, here: http://parkscanadahistory.com/about_us.htm
At the bottom of this page it says, “Please note: documents produced by the Government of Canada are Crown copyrighted, permission to create digital editions of these materials has been obtained by Parks Canada…” That also means that you can’t just use them willy-nilly: they are copyrighted.
If you want to do a search for other reports of interest to you, go to “Home,” which will lead you to their Index. At the bottom of the page you will see a little Search Box. Go there. I know there’s some Fort Langley stuff here, and there may be other items I have not yet discovered. But, also browse through the various pages and lists, there is also articles on clay tobacco pipes, glass beads, the Chilcoot Pass, and other things that might be of interest to you. And its also important to say, many of the Parks Canada sites were not fur trade sites, but other historic sites such as military posts, etc. There’s a lot of Canadian history here!
Have fun with this: it should lead you to many hours of enjoyment and useful research. Oh, and say thank you to the site, to Parks Canada, and to the other agencies which have made these reports available to you!
Oh, and remember to tell me about “York Factory Bricks,” if you happen to know anything about them, please! They were apparently used as ballast in the London Ships, but some have turned up in Victoria, B.C. How did that happen???? I say the London Ships also came here, but that does not seem to be the correct answer.
Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2020. All rights reserved.
- Spring Thaw
- John Greig