Railway Ancestors: Railways Employees (Employees Provident Fund) at the LAC

Railways are an important part of the Canadian Heritage. They were what connected our country. It was the promise of a railroad that convinced British Columbia to join Confederation. The Canadian National Railway was the first Crown Corporation in Canada. There are few family trees that do not have a railway connection somewhere. Your ancestor could have worked on the railroad, or it was the railroad that brought your immigrant ancestor to their new home from their port of arrival. Some towns prospered and grew because of being on one of the rail routes. I have a friend from Lindsay Ontario whose grandfather, father and uncles all worked for the railroad, and that\’s how they came to settle in Lindsay from another part of Ontario. There have been many different companies over the years. Some disappeared, while others combined or were bought out by larger companies.

The Intercolonial Railway of Canada (IRC) began in 1858. It was combined with the Prince Edward Island Railway (PEIR) in 1873 (when PEI joined Confederation). They became known as the Canadian Government Railways (CGR), then the Canadian Northern Railway took over management. Canadian Northern Railway eventually became the Canadian National Railway.

If your ancestor worked for the IRC or the PEIR, then you will want to check out the Railways Employees (Employees Provident Fund) on Library and Archives Canada\’s website. Started by an Act of the Canadian Government in 1907, the fund was created to help supply a pension for employees who retired after long service. It also provided for those who suffered a disability due to injury on the job. Now remember, this is a time before the Canada had the Old Age Security Act (1927) and the Canada Pension Plan (1965). There were some employer pension plans at this time, but it was not the norm.

This database is fully digitized. It consists of 31 boxes of index cards, as the original files from the Fund were destroyed. In all, there are over 27,000 index cards. On each card you will find information such as, but not necessarily all of the following:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Place of Birth
  • Occupation
  • Rate of Pay
  • Department
  • Location
  • Changes in Occupation and Pay
  • Dates of Service
  • Religious Denomination
  • Name of person who recommended them for employment
  • Date and Cause of Death
  • Beneficiary upon Death
  • Details of Disciplinary Actions
  • Details of Merits and Rewards 
  • Absences
The cards are not filed alphabetically, but rather numerically by Provident Fund File Number. You can search by Surname and/or Given Name. They do state however, that a lot of the cards give only an initial for Given Name. I decided to go the easy route and use the surname of my friend, FERGUSON. I typed in FERG* so that I could get all possible variations. Of the 38 results I clicked on Daniel Hugh Fergusson. There are 5 digitized cards for Daniel.
Not all people will have this many cards attached to them. According to the LAC, the average is 2. Here\’s what I gleaned about Daniel:
  • Born 6 March 1894 in Front Lake N.S.
  • Seems to have recommended by a Family Member
  • Started work on 15 November 1916 in Sydney N.S.
  • He worked as a Locomotive Wiper, and was also a Locomotive Fireman
  • He started out making .20 cents per hour
  • He missed a lot of work due to injury, illness and being laid off
  • He was reprimanded on several occasions for making the trains late, and \”not presenting his watch for comparison\”
  • He also received praise for good service
  • He worked until at least 1945
  • He died 7 July 1953
Here\’s another one for a Robert Art Douglas:
Robert only has one index card, but you can still get a lot of information from his:
  • Born 14 August 1844 in St. John\’s N.B.
  • He began working for the railroad in March 1873
  • He was a machinist working in Halifax
  • He made $1.80 per day
  • He retired 1 March 1909
  • His allowance from the Fund was $41.91
  • He died 8 November 1909
  • He was Episcopalian
Here\’s a third employee, Frederick Bowles Tripp:
Frederick only has one card as well, but look at the information for him:
  • Born 18 February 1865 in Ottawa Ontario
  • Started with the railroad 15 April 1919
  • He worked as a Harbour Engineer in Moncton N.B.
  • His pay was $250 per month
  • He also worked for the Department of Railways and Canals before he became a Harbour Engineer
  • He retired 1 June 1932 with a pension allowance of $1471.17 per annum
  • He died 14 April 1941
  • He was 5\’ 8\” in height, and weighed 129? lbs
  • He had a light complexion, light coloured hair and blue eyes
As you can see, the information on these cards can vary widely from person to person. You never know what you might find. 
If you would like a more complete history of rail in Canada, check out these links:

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