Monday, 10 August 2015

Research stage one: The Orkney Islands and Lambeth Palace

Dateline: Friday, July 3, 2015
Place: Library of Lambeth Palace
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Temperature: 25° C
Song of the day:  For the light by Digging Roots

Originally, my research problem was to examine collections at the following institutions to determine what documents or artefacts can tell us about Hudson Bay Company (HBC) families and their return to the United Kingdom. And certainly my voyage through the Ottawa International Airport on the way to the "over the pond" plane seemed to confirm that I was on a good path ...

Le canot d'écorce or the bark canoe hangs near 
the departure gates at the Ottawa International Airport.

King Charles II granted a royal charter to the
Hudson's Bay Company in 1670. This shop is 

also in the departures area of the airport.
Search process
Although my problem has now shifted to focus on the information seeking process itself, I have still done some useful work with primary sources based on this initial research problem.

Following up on suggestions from faculty and graduate students at Carleton, I reviewed looked at the primary sources for two core texts considered for the topic of fur trading families:

1. Sylvia van Kirk's Many tender ties : women in fur-trade society, 1670-1870 
2 Jennifer S. Brown's Strangers in blood : fur trade company families in Indian country

I also contacted three scholars who have specifically done work on fur trading families where the Aboriginal wife and/or Metis children are known to have returned to the United Kingdom, and in particular Scotland:

1. Allison Brown (University of Aberdeen)
2. Patricia A. McCormack (Professor Emertia, University of Alberta)
3. Cheryl Purdey (Alumna [MA], University of Alberta)

Based on my preliminary scan of the sources used by van Kirk and Brown as well as my telephone and email conversations with Patricia McCormack and Alison Brown respectively as well as advice from Prof. Pamela Walker, an expert on 19th century British missionaries, I took the following preliminary steps in my research:

1. I contacted contact the Orkney Library and Archives in Kirkwall, Scotland. Kirkwall is one of the main cities in the Orkney Islands and according to the literature, many of the HBC fur traders came from either the Orkneys or the Scottish Highlands. 

Assistant Archivist Lucy Gibbon forwarded to me some research on two sisters, Sylvia and Elizabeth Miller, who were listed in the 1911 census as coming from Ungave. I have had several other email exchanges with Lucy and, having decided not to travel to Kirkwall to examine materials, she will be sending me scanned versions of relevant documents.

2. I made an online request to consult records at Church of England Record Centre, located at the Lambeth Palace Library. Prof. Walker had suggested that some of the holdings in this library might be potential resources, given that missionaries from a variety of denominations were active in Canada (or Rupert's Land as the Hudson Bay region was known from the 17th to 19th centuries).

The Most Revd and Rt Hon
the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Tait
I limited the scope of my searching to the 19th and early 20th centuries and did several keyword searches using terms/strings such as:

(Indian* or native* or Aboriginal*) and "Hudson's Bay Company"
"fur trader* famil*" and Canad*
(Indian* or native* or Aboriginal*) and women and Canad*
"Rupert's Land" and famil*

The searches for materials related to the Hudson's Bay Company were the most successful and I identified the following materials to consult initially:

Hudson’s Bay Company
Tait 226 ff. 251-9 passim
Correspondence on grants to the diocese of Rupert’s Land

Archibald Tait was the Archbishop of Canterbury (1868 - 1882) and all his papers are held at the Lambeth Palace Library. I sent an email request to view these documents and Library Assistant Jessica Hudson emailed me back with permission to view them on July 3, 2015.

Page 1 of a letter dated 1875 that appears to be from Robert Machray, Bishop of Rupert's Land (1865 - 1904). 
Last page of this same letter from Robert Machray, presumably to  Archbishop Tait.
  1. The documents I viewed could provide some contextual information for students. For example, there are several documents from the Bishop of Rupert's Land regarding Moose Factory, located on the south-western tip of Hudson's Bay. This might be of interest to Aboriginal student researchers for whom Moose Factory is their home community or who know folks from whom it is (such as one of our elders at Carleton).
  2. While this preliminary search does not find any material directly related to fur trading marriages or families, it does help me refine my search terms. For this period, Esquimaux is an appropriate search term (rather than the contemporary Inuit) and Indian* will work, if coupled with other terms such as Rupert's Land (so as not to identify material related to India).
Aside from these process observations, the Lambeth Palace library is delightful to use. The reading room is small but well lit, there are two long tables for readers to work at and the staff is very helpful. 
Lambeth Palace is located very close to the Stamford St. Apartments,
near the Lambeth Bridge on the south side of the Thames.

After I looked at the initial materials I had ordered, I requested others and these were brought to me within 15 minutes. The rare books librarian was a bit nervous about one item, as the binding on the spine is deteriorating and he placed it on the viewing cushion as if it was a newborn. 

A rare book containing photographs from the dioceses in Canada and America.

I have used brittle newspapers before but not a book so this was a useful exercise for me. In retrospect, this experience certainly put Joseph Wisdom's lesson on taking rare books off the shelf into perspective (more to come on this subject)!

Achibald Tait. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

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