By Brian W. Hutchison
No group is more responsible for foraging trails and expanding the West than the early immigrants that became fur-traders and voyageurs. Many were of French (France & Quebec) ancestry but not all as the fur trading companies had, later, an active part in hiring men from overseas to work in the New World, primarily from Scotland (the Orkney’s), England, and Ireland.
In pursuit of furs, Europeans penetrated the rivers, the plains and the mountains of North America. Between 1530 and 1860 moving ever westward along some of the world’s most spectacular waterways, they changed a continent, its people, and its wildlife forever.
Europeans proved woefully unprepared for survival in North America. The first 250 years of their contact with the North American native were fraught with disorientation, disaster and deprivation. Native North Americans provided guiding services, information, interpretation, clothing, medicine, and food, as well as wives and extended families. All of this was in addition to the prized furs that were the primary objects of early French and later British interests, after the cod fisheries.
Many of the earliest settlers into Quebec, Ontario, the Northwest Territories, the Pacific Coast and the Mississippi Valley, as well as elsewhere, were individuals connected in some way with the fur trade, and Migration Routes of the Fur-Traders & Voyageurs many were of French or French-Canadian origin. Because they usually came as young unattached males, tracing their ancestry can be particularly challenging.
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