The fur trade

Find resources for researching an ancestor who worked in the fur trade. Individuals came from a variety of backgrounds. Terms used to describe them include:

  • fur traders
  • voyageurs
  • engagés pour l'Ouest
  • coureurs des bois

Some signed contracts with different fur trade companies, known as “engagements” in French.

On this page

Before you start

Gather information such as:

  • name
  • approximate year and place of birth

Places to look

Archival sources

We hold a small number of records relating to individual fur traders:

  • Charles Napier Bell Fonds: Fur Trade Papers (MG19-A30, microfilm H-1016): This fonds includes 26 “engagements”. There is a list of the names and dates of the documents. On the pages that follow the list, you will see the actual documents.
  • Ermatinger Family Estate Fonds (MG19-A2): This fonds includes these records:
    • Contracts for "voyageurs" in western Canada, 1773-1780 (Series 1, volume 2)
    • Engagements pour le grand portage, 1778-1781 (Series 3, volume 109)
    • Engagés book, 1774-1775 (Series 3, volume 90)
  • Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East: Applications for Licences (RG4-B28): This series includes bonds and licences for the fur trade, 1763-1790 (volumes 110-115, microfilm H-1096 to H-1098).

Information about some Hudson’s Bay Company and North West Company employees are found in the records of the Hudson's Bay Company Archives (MG20). You can consult these microfilm copies at LAC or search the indexes at HBCA.

Published sources

Search the Aurora library catalogue for books, using keywords such as:

  • fur trade or fur traders
  • biography or biographies
  • a place (examples: Northwest, Manitoba, Fort York)
  • a person’s name
  • the name of a fur trade company

Here are some examples:

Access the records

For records that are not digitized, you'll need to see them in person. If you can't visit us in person, you can order copies or hire a researcher.

Related resources