Alexander Birston (1) was born in Ronaldshay, Orkney, about 1774. He entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1793 and served as a labourer or on the boats in the York Factory Inland District for almost 20 years. From 1811-14 he was in West Winnipeg District, and 1814-1816 he was at Cumberland House, employed as steersman and pilot. From 1816-1818, he was at Jack River and 1818-21 he finished out his HBC years at Norway House. (2) He then settled in the Red River Colony, taking up land at the Lower Rapids.
During his years with the HBC, he had a “country wife”, whose name is unknown. Alexander and his wife had 4 children: Alexander, Nancy, William, and Magnus. The children were baptised at Norway House by the Reverend John West in 1821. It is thought that Alexander, the eldest, was probably born about 1805. At the time the children were baptised, Alexander’s wife was deceased. She is referred to in the baptismal registers as “an Indian woman”. There is no record of his having remarried after he and his children moved to Red River. He died at the settlement in 1829 and was buried in St. John’s churchyard. His four children married and remained at Red River.