University Archives are a great resource. They often have unique items in the holdings that you wouldn\’t even think to look for. I spent a fair amount of time poking in several Canadian University online collections over the past few months and they never fail to surprise me.
One such find is online at the McGill University Archives Collection website. If your ancestor was a business owner in Montreal from in late 1700s/early 1800s, they might have been a member of the Montreal Fire Club. Founded by prominent businessmen and merchants of the era, the club was founded to help protect assist its members from fire. They had their own firefighting equipment and would come to the assistance of any member if their homes or warehouses caught fire. McGill University has digitized one their minutes books and it is available free to view as a PDF.
The volume covers meeting minutes from April 1786 to November 1814. In a day when penmanship was important, look at this page outlining the purpose of the club
Here is a list of the first fourteen members of the club. Those businesses that were a partnership counted as one member.
There are names interspersed throughout the minutes. Coffee Houses appear to be their regular meeting place for quarterly meetings. Attending the meetings was important. A member by the name of Cruickshanks was fined for non attendance in 1792. Further reading of the minutes showed that he was fined for absence on a regular basis.
Fines were also given for not having the required items. In 1799, each member was required to provide a book, six buckets and four bags. Mr. Frobisher was fined because he only had 3 bags.
In March of 1800 there was fire and it came to light that many of the members did not have the required equipment. There was a discussion about it at the following April meeting at Teasdales\’ Coffee House
They even had Watch Words and Answers. This was from the Quarterly Meeting in January 1805.
If you use Adobe Acrobat, it allows you to zoom in and out. The PDF can be downloaded/and or printed. You cannot save individual pages, but you could use a screen shot or snipping tool if you just want an individual page or zoomed in portion. I used the Windows Snipping tool for this post.
This minute book is just one example of the many digitized rare books that McGill has. Some other examples of what they have are: