Many people have old family treasures such as letters and albums in the attic. In my family, a collection of 200-year-old business records made their way from the attic to a Montreal museum, and now some them have been digitized and placed online for everyone to explore. Part of the Bagg Family Fonds housed at the McCord Museum, these newly digitized images include records from the store where the workmen who built the Lachine Canal in the early 1820s bought their bread and rum.
project to digitize these and other documents was financed by Library
and Archives Canada to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian
Confederation and Montreal's 375th anniversary. The McCord Museum in
Montreal is posting some 75 000 images from its collection of textual
archives to its website (http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/keys/collections/).
The website provides an introduction to the Bagg family and to the scope of the Bagg Family Fonds (P70): http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/explore.php?Lang=1&tableid=18&tablename=fond&elementid=31__true.
At the bottom of this page are links to four sets of digitized
documents: the Laprairie Brewery (1821-1832), the workmen’s store in
Lachine (1822-1823), a child’s scrapbook and a young woman’s autograph
book that probably dates from around the turn of the century.
three-times great-grandfather Stanley Bagg was one of the four main
contractors in charge of building the Lachine Canal in Montreal in the
1820s. He also ran the store that supplied the workers with bread, tea,
sugar, pork and occasionally fish, eggs and butter, although rum and
beer seem to have been the most popular items. Some pages list the names
of the customers, the items they purchased and the prices they were
Other images record cash payments related to the canal
construction, including planks, nails, wheelbarrows, hay (probably for
the horses), blasting powder and wages for day labourers.
set of records is related to the brewery owned by Stanley’s brother,
Abner Bagg. The LaPrairie Brewery account books list expenses such as
barley, charcoal, transportation costs and wages. Both the store and the
brewery records contain many names of suppliers and customers.
of these collections provide a window into life in Montreal some 200
years ago. For example, Quebec historian Donald Fyson used these records
as a basis for his thesis, “Eating in the city [electronic resource]:
diet and provisioning in early nineteenth-century Montreal” Montréal:
McGill University, 1989. http://www.collectionscanada.ca/obj/thesescanada/vol1/QMM/TC-QMM-55597.pdf
one really knows who had the foresight to save these records, or how
they ended up at the McCord. According to one of my cousins, these
account books were found in the basement of the Redpath Museum at McGill
University, but no one knows who put them there in the first place.
Clare Fellowes, daughter of Evelyn (Bagg) Davis, gave an additional gift
of textual documents to the museum in 2002 and 2003.
the Bagg Family Fonds that have not been digitized includes copies of
letters that Stanley and Abner wrote to each other and to business
colleagues, and a ledger belonging to butcher John Clark, Stanley Bagg’s
father-in-law. Documents related to another generation of the family
date from the final decades of the 19th century when the
Baggs were property owners and real estate developers. This includes a
ledger showing property sales, and letters between the Bagg siblings as
they discussed and sometimes disagreed about business decisions. There
are also personal documents such as a list of wedding presents, recipes
and several albums of family photos, taken in the early 1900s by my
grandmother, Gwendolyn Bagg. More recently, the late Joan Shackell, a
descendant of Abner Bagg, donated a number of items related to her line
of the family.
Members of the public can visit the archives at the
McCord Museum to consult the Bagg Family Fonds and other collections,
but they must make an appointment weeks in advance. It is encouraging to
see that some of these documents are now available online.
(This article is also posted on www.genealogyensemble.com)
Janice Hamilton, “Abner Bagg, Black Sheep of the Family?” Writing Up the Ancestors, April 9, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/04/abner-bagg-black-sheep-of-family.html
Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Bagg and the Lachine Canal, Part 2: Rocks and Water,” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 13, 2015, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2015/03/stanley-bagg-and-lachine-canal-part-2.html