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McCord Family Fonds (P001)

Extract from John Samuel McCord (1801-1865) weather logbook (detail), about 1830-1887. Gift of David Ross McCord, McCord Family Fonds P001, M8353 © McCord Museum

The logbooks of an amateur meteorologist

"Meteorological table for Montreal - from the 1 September 1835 to the 31 August 1836"

Though global climate change has thrust the study of atmospheric phenomena and weather history into the forefront, such an exercise is nothing new, as evidenced by the archives of John Samuel McCord (1801-1865). In 1835 and 1836, McCord recorded the following monthly statistics into this table of Montreal weather conditions: average atmospheric pressure, average temperature, wind direction, weather conditions and precipitation.

A lawyer, landowner and influential member of Montreal society, McCord was also a child of the 19th century revolution in science, which figured prominently in the education he received at Collège de Montreal. During this period, many members of the elite enjoyed studying environmental phenomena as a hobby. However, the work of amateur scientist John Samuel McCord is remarkable for its breadth: his archives include numerous logbooks of weather statistics and observations gathered over several decades, as well as notebooks of botanical data, notes about geology and measurement systems, and correspondence with renowned scientists like Charles Lyell, shedding new light on this singular man.

P001 McCord Family Fonds. - [1708-1954]. - 1019 cm of textual records and other material.

Biographical Sketch

This fonds documents the history of the McCord and other related families, including the Davidsons, Frasers and Rosses. The biographies of the most famous members of the McCord family are summarized below.
Originally from Ireland, JOHN McCORD (1711-1793) and his family moved to Quebec City in the 1760s. The couple had eleven children, including THOMAS McCORD (1750-1824), who married Elizabeth Ellison in 1778, and then Sarah Solomon in 1798. His second marriage produced six children, two of whom reached adulthood: John Samuel and William King (1803-1855). Thomas McCord was active in political, military, legal and commercial circles. Having moved to Montreal, he obtained a long-term lease from the nuns of Hôtel-Dieu in 1791 for the Nazareth fief, the area that became known as Griffintown.

JOHN SAMUEL McCORD (1801-1865) was probably the most versatile member of the family. A lawyer, judge, Freemason and officer in the militia, he was also an amateur scientist with an interest in botany, geology and, above all, meteorology. In 1832, he married ANNE ROSS (1807-1870). Anne was very involved in charity work, notably as secretary of the Montreal Protestant Orphan Asylum. The couple had six children: Eleanor Elizabeth, Jane Catherine, John Davidson, David Ross, Robert Arthur and Anne. In 1835, John Samuel built his family a home called "Temple Grove" on Côte-des-Neiges Road (close to the current site of the Montreal General Hospital).

A graduate of McGill University, DAVID ROSS McCORD (1844-1930) was a Montreal lawyer and alderman. However, he spent more and more time pursuing his passion for Canadian history and collecting works of art and objects. In 1878, he married LETITIA CHAMBERS (1841-1928), a nurse working at the Civic Smallpox Hospital. The couple had no children. In 1919, David Ross McCord donated his collection to McGill University and, in 1921, the McCord National Museum officially opened.

Scope and Content

Covering nearly 250 years of Montreal and Canadian history, this fonds chronicles the life and work of a family who had a major impact on Montreal's economy, judicial system, culture and society. The primary focus is on the personal lives of Thomas McCord, John Samuel McCord and David Ross McCord, the administration of their finances and property, as well as their professional and social activities. The archives extensively document the collecting activities of David Ross McCord and his efforts to found the McCord Museum. The fonds also covers the activities of other members of the McCord and related families, as well as those of close friends and associates.

The archives of Thomas McCord contain personal documents such as the certificate of his marriage with Sarah Solomon and the latter's will, as well as legal and financial records and correspondence documenting the administration of his properties (including the Nazareth fief). There are also documents produced as part of his political activities.

The archives of John Samuel McCord are primarily associated with his professional and recreational activities. Case files and court records chronicle his law practice, while various administrative documents trace his militia and Freemasonry activities. Notebooks and correspondence document his research as an amateur scientist. This collection also includes several personal documents such as a birth certificate, school transcripts and diaries, as well as cartographic, legal and financial records illustrating the administration of his properties by J. S. McCord.

The archives of David Ross McCord primarily reflect his collecting activities. There is correspondence about acquiring objects for his collection and developing and administering the McCord Museum. In addition, there are various personal documents, along with journals and writings chronicling his interest in history and McCord family genealogy. Legal and financial records document the administration of his finances and property, as well as his law practice, while certificates and attestations trace McCord's involvement in the Freemasonry movement and interest groups. Finally, medical records and letters exchanged with his wife touch on McCord's health during the last years of his life.

The fonds also contains numerous documents chronicling the personal and professional activities of William King McCord, Anne Ross McCord, John James Day, Robert Arthur McCord, Anne McCord and Letitia Chamber McCord.

Source of title proper: Title based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical description: The fonds contains cartographic records, architectural drawings, photographs and three objects (locks of hair).

Arrangement: The fonds was the subject of several classification exercises between 1986 and 2014. The reference numbers used in previous classification schemes are identified as alternate numbers.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

Associated material:

BAnQ (Quebec City and Old Montreal branches): Fonds Cour des plaidoyers communs du district de Québec (TL15 and TL24); Fonds Cour supérieure. District judiciaire de Montréal. Greffes de notaires (CN601); Fonds Cour des plaidoyers communs du district de Montréal (TL19); Fonds Ministère de la justice (E17)

LAC: Samuel Birnie Fonds (R3222-0-X-E); Fonds Francis-Joseph Audet (R8017-0-X-F); Sir Wilfrid Laurier Fonds (R10811-0-X-E); Sir Robert Borden Fonds (R6113-0-X-E)

Ville de Montréal Archives: Fonds Sir Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine (SHM002); Fonds Arthur Delisle (BM024); Fonds Juges de paix de Montréal (VM035)

McGill University Archives: McGill University Archives (RG)

Related groups of records: The McCord Museum collects the archives of families and individuals who were friends, correspondents or work associates of McCord family members: William Lighthall (II-103818.1), Margaret Wadsworth (M2013.47.1-2), John Stuart Thompson (C143), John Reade (P140), Peter Warren (P241), Sir John Richardson (P248) and members of the Molson (P046), Desrivières and Taschereau (P752) families.

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries and sub-subseries:

  • P001/A Thomas McCord

  • P001/B John Samuel McCord
    • P001/B1 Personal life
    • P001/B2 Finances and assets
    • P001/B3 Professional and recreational activities
  • P001/C David Ross McCord
    • P001/C1 Personal life
    • P001/C2 Finances and assets
    • P001/C3 Professional and recreational activitie
    • P001/C4 Origins of the McCord Museum
      • P001/C4.1 Search for an institution to host the collection. - 1896-1921. - 4 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: This sub-subseries documents David Ross McCord's efforts to find an institution willing to host his collection and create a national museum, as well as his search for support in the realms of politics, finance and culture. Composed primarily of correspondence, it also contains technical documents illustrating his vision of the future museum's layout.

        Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the sub-subseries.

        Language: The documents are primarily in English, but several texts are in French.

      • P001/C4.2 Organization of the Museum
      • P001/C4.3 Record of the objects acquired for the collection
    • P001/C5 Illness and death

  • P001/D Other McCord Family Members and Close Friends

  • P001/E Other Families Related to the McCords


Last update: August 30, 2017