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Understanding Human Resources ledger pages

There is an abundance of information contained within the pages of the bank’s Human Resources ledgers. (Note: In keeping with accepted privacy standards, the records we are making public and the information they contain are more than 100 years old.) The information collected was crucial for driving a winning culture, helping align priorities across the bank, and recognize employees’ achievements. Each column, row, abbreviation, and stamp likewise provide valuable insight into bank employees’ work and personal life.

On the main page:

• Stamps (top left or right corner): The stamps showed employees’ life insurance policies and other affiliations, including membership in bankers’ associations and former employment at banks acquired by the Bank of Montreal.

• “Birthplace”: Places of birth were recorded with varying degrees of specificity. While pages for some employees would list only countries of birth, ranging from England to Iceland, others would list place of birth right down to the street name.

• “Father’s name” and “Guardian’s name”: The name of the employee’s father, often paired with his occupation, or the name of a guardian, who would assume responsibility for the individual when he had no living relatives. In cases of older employees, a father or guardian’s name would often be replaced with the name of their next-of-kin, such as a wife or a sibling.

• “Formerly employed”: Many employees had previous experience in other, often local, banks, as previous banking experience was considered an asset. However, the HR ledger pages reveal that employees were also formerly employed in various places of business, including merchants’ offices and publishing houses.

• “By whom introduced”: It was customary at the time for job seekers to present letters of introduction from personal contacts, usually bank managers or prominent members of the community. This system was yesteryear’s form of networking. In cases where the employee was not introduced, the entry reads “Personal application” instead.

• “References”: These statements testify to the employee’s character and ability and were usually written by former employers or respected community members, including schoolmasters and clergymen.

• “Security Bond”: Employees would be required to deposit a sum of their own money, or that of a parent or guardian, as security to deter against theft or misappropriation.

• “Record of, and reason for absences”: When absences exceeded one month, the date of absence was noted with a short explanation. It was usually related to illnesses, honeymoons, or enlisting to serve in the military. Many of the men documented in the HR ledgers served in WWI.

• “Left the service” and “Cause of leaving”: The date of departure was noted along with a short – and sometimes unexpected – explanation.

Image: Example of the main page for employees’ respective HR pages with standard row headings. The page also contains “Northern Assurance Life Policy” (right) “Formerly on the Staff of the Bank of British North America” (left) stamps, Edward Francis Fanjoy, 1917- 1921.

On subsequent pages:

• “M” (top left or right): This letter indicates that the employee was married, a notation frequently paired with the number of children. The marriage date was sometimes included, particularly if it occurred during the employee’s time at the bank. In case of spousal death, the letter would be replaced with a “W” to denote the employee being a widower.

• “P.F” (top left): These letters indicated whether the employee was part of the Bank of Montreal Pension Fund, which was established in 1884 and was among the earliest of its kind in Canada. Bank employees were eligible for a pension after ten years of service.

• “Date”: The date listed was the year the bank employee began serving at a new branch or assumed a different position.

• “Office”: This indicates the employee’s affiliated branch.

• “Duties”: In addition to listing job title, this column provides various details about employment status, including position type (“permanent”, “temporary”, or “unattached”), length/type of leave, and
date enlisted or entered service during WW1.

• “Salaries” and “Allowance”: In addition to an employee’s salary any allowance for expenses that might arise during the performance of duties were documented in this column.

• “Extracts from Half-Yearly Reports”: On a bi-annual basis, bank employees would be evaluated on their ability (aptitude in relation to their duties), habits (including patterns of behaviour), health (as it pertained to their ability to perform their duties), and handwriting (a clear hand for ledger keeping was especially important for banking in the pre-digital age). The results from these evaluative reports would be recorded in the HR ledger pages, ranging from “good” to “poor.”

• “Remarks”: Often, the evaluations would include lengthier (and sometimes colourful) elaborations on the half-yearly reports.

Image: Example of subsequent HR ledger pages with standard column headings, as well as acronyms indicating that the employee is married (M) and not on the bank’s pension fund (P.F.) (top left), Arthur George Whiting, 1916-1921.