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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors  by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Westmount, Notre Dame de Grâce, Town of Mount Royal and Hampstead

These were once “English” enclaves,

…residential havens for upper-middle-class families. Not coincidentally, the principal examples have retained their independence from Montréal: Westmount, Outremont, Montréal West, Hampstead, and the Town of Mount Royal. …in Westmount, for example, the most elegant area lay north of the Boulevard, on the steepest part of the slope [of the mountain]…
Notre Dame de Grâce (NDG), which was sub-divided largely between 1905 and 1912, housed economically stable craftsmen and white-collar workers, most of whom commuted. Located just west of Westmount, the bulk of NDG shared Westmount’s ideal location for homes on the western slope of the mountain, separated from the smoky industrial areas along the Lachine Canal by a cliff running for several kilometres along the suburb’s southern edge…
With language groups concentrated in different suburbs, linguistic polarization on the Island (with St. Lawrence Boulevard acting as the popularly recognized boundary) encouraged stronger local loyalties.
…Not all anglophones were Protestants, of course, but almost all Protestants were anglophone…more and more anglophones moved to neighbourhoods north and west of the city, …in 1911 for example, 78 percent of Westmounters were Protestant.

The TMR (Town of Mount Royal, established 1912) was created directly out of farmland by a subsidiary of the Canadian Northern Railway Co., which was blasting a tunnel through the mountain to gain access to the harbour. It hoped to recoup part of the huge cost by developing a prestigious planned suburb linked to downtown by commuter trains through the tunnel. Hampstead, created 1914, to the west was also a “corporate suburb” laid out by town planners.

“Gigantism in Downtown Montréal”, by Isabelle Gournay, pages 153-182, includes discussion and plans, of several of the prestigious early apartment buildings:

Beginning in 1905, the Square Mile and the streets immediately east of the McGill University campus saw the construction of a growing number of apartment buildings designed for the Anglo-Protestant upper class, as an alternative to the private home whose maintenance had become quite costly.[1]

There was another building boom of luxury apartments in the Square Mile in the 1960s, and many brick mansions and grey stone town houses were destroyed. All but a handful of the mansions along Dorchester Street have vanished, but between Dorchester and Sherbrooke Streets, the rows of grey stone town houses survive; many have become boutiques, restaurants, and there are still many residential units on upper floors. Photographs and other records of most mansions and many town houses exist in the Notman Collection and Archives of the McCord Museum. Check their website.

Moving Day in Montréal

“Compared to almost every other Canadian city, Montréal has a small proportion of single-family detached homes.”[2]

Montréal is a city of tenants. In 1994, 53% of households rented, the average rent being $542 per month, and families may have moved every year, though most did not. Nevertheless, in June 1995 some 175,000 households notified the telephone company of an impending move.

Until 1973, moving day was 1 May, traditionally the day most residential leases started. In 1973, worried by the disruption this date caused in childrens’ education, the Québec Government declared that these leases would now end on 30 June. This meant that until 1973, when planning a census hunt for a Montréal family, you must know the date (day and month) the census was taken, since in Canada censuses tended to be taken in late spring, for example, you may have to check two addresses: where the family was in the 1881 Directory (usually compiled late in 1880), and the one in 1882 (made up late in 1881).

Now that 1 July (Canada Day) is Montréal moving day, there are fewer problems for family historians, but just as much chaos as some 200,000 apartments change tenants, as Mark Abley’s article amusingly describes.

Street-Car Routes

“Guy—la rue Guy—Guy” used to be the call of the streetcar driver at Sherbrooke Street, where Côte-des-Neiges turned into Guy Street. In Montréal, Public Transportation will often determine where a family lived. As Stephen Leacock explained it:

Fast urban transport spreads a city out; telephones put the suburbs within talking distance; lighted streets and comfortable streetcars invite movement abroad; and on the heels of all that the motorcar puts anybody anywhere.[3]

The telephone came to Montréal in 1880 with four hundred subscribers. The Montréal Passenger Railway Company had put their horsecar on Notre Dame Street in 1861, and when Montréal shops moved up the steep hill to St. Catherine Street they instituted the first electric car. The Rocket began experimental runs along St. Catherine Street on 1 September 1892. It met with such success that:

… on Christmas Day, sixteen of the modern vehicles permanently replaced horses on the line. The next year, the Montréal Street Railway Company … felt sufficiently satisfied with its use of electricity, to keep the service running all winter. There were to be no more sleighs and soon, no more horses. By 1894 the changeover on all lines was complete.[4]

By the 1920s city maps show a complex network of streetcar lines leading off to Cartierville and other island suburbs. Instead of living within walking distance of the factory or shop where they worked, a family could move to a pleasanter part of town and take jobs at places along different streetcar routes. Maps for visitors often give this information, for exampleMap of the City of Montréal with Index of Streets and Numbered Charts of the Tramway Routes (Revised to March, 1925), published by A.T. Chapman of Montréal. Lovell’s Montréal Street Guide a booklet published annually, also contained lists of Bus and Tramway Routes. John Lovell and Sons, Ltd., a firm that started publishing in 1835, still publishes Directories, maps and Street Guides for Montréal and its suburbs.

The Railways

Two major employers were the CPR (18,000 employees in 1955), whose Angus Shops were in the east end of Montréal, a block north of Sherbrooke Street, and the CNR (15,000) whose Pointe St Charles Shops and Yards were near the river, where the rails crossed the Victoria Bridge. Workers would have had passes to use their company’s trains, so look for their homes in streets along the railway tracks.

CNR records are at the NA in Ottawa in RG 30, and hold very few, scattered, employee records.[5] I am assured the CPR records have survived, but if you check the CPR Archives website you find a discouraging note:

Unfortunately, employee records are not held by CPR Archives and are not available for research purposes.

Bill 101 removed the ’s from many big stores (and big employers), like Eaton’s (4,000) whose archives are at the Archives of Ontario, Simpson’s (1,631) (absorbed by Sear’s), Henry Morgan’s (2,750) (bought by The Bay). The Sun Life Insurance Co. (2,000)[6] left town years ago as did many smaller firms, so employment records are scattered and difficult to find, if they survive at all.

Early Montréal Churches and Synagogues and Date of First Records

Church Name
Year Records Start/End




Christ Church

Côte de Neiges

Crescent Street

Crescent Street

Dominion Square


Ste. Catherine St.
Dominion Douglas
United Church
Dorchester Street
East End
de la Gauchetière St.



First French



Mountain Street

New Connexion

New Jerusalem


St. Andrew

St. Andrew and St. Paul
Dorchester Street
(The A and P was rebuilt on Sherbrooke Street in 1920)
St. James

St-Jean French Presbyterian 1841-
St. Gabriel St. Presbyterian 1779-
St. Martin’s Anglican 1874-
St. Mathias Anglican 1874- Westmount
St. Mark Presbyterian 1869-
St. Matthew Presbyterian 1860-
St. Paul Methodist 1866-
St. Paul Presbyterian 1830- see St. Andrew A and P
Sherbrooke St. Methodist 1865-
Stanley St. Presbyterian 1875-
West End Methodist 1868-
Zion Congregational 1834-
St. Patricks Catholic (Irish) 1859-
(for 1867-1872 see Notre Dame de Montréal)
Spanish Portuguese Synagogue 1841-
German Polish Synagogue 1858-
Avatah Shalom Hebrew

Some Montréal Dates

For a fuller chronology and other useful facts about Montréal, see C.P. de Volpi, Montréal: … A Pictorial Record, Vol. 1, pages 1-9.

8 September, British take possession of Montréal.
Post office established at Montréal, Québec City and Three Rivers.
18 May, one-fourth of the city is destroyed by fire.
11 April, fire destroys 100 houses, two churches and a school.
12 November, Americans under General Montgomery occupy Montréal.
Benjamin Franklin and a delegation of Americans arrive at Montréal in an attempt to persuade Canadians to join the American cause. They bring with them Fleury Mesplet, a French printer, and his press, to print propaganda. He becomes Montréal’s first printer. Americans retreat 16 June.
First Synagogue built at the corner of St. James and Notre Dame Streets.
“Gazette de Commerce et Litteraire” published by Fleury Mesplet.
First brewery established by John Molson.
3 August first issue of Montréal Gazette.
Act passed for removal of walls around city.
Another fire destroys 3 churches, one college and 25 homes.
19 October, Montréal Herald starts publication.
26 October, Americans defeated at Chateauguay.
31 March, McGill College established by Royal Charter.
17 July, Construction of Lachine Canal commenced.
1 May, Montréal General Hospital is completed.
15 July, New Notre Dame Church opened.
McGill College opened.
High School of Montréal founded.
Telegraph system between Montréal-Toronto and Buffalo commences
1852 8 July, Great fire of Montréal destroys 11,000 houses.
1853 18 June, Grand Trunk railway service between Montréal and Portland.
1856 27 October, Grand Trunk railway service between Montréal and Toronto.
1860 27 November New Christ Church Cathedral opens.
1869 24 October St. Andrew’s church (Presbyterian) on Beaver Hall Hill destroyed by fire, which crosses street and also partially destroys the Church of the Messiah (Unitarian).
1869 Montréal Evening Star founded, and Canadian Illustrated News begins publication.
1884 La Presse founded by T. Berthiaume.


  1. An examination of life in the "Square Mile", and Westmount, is given by Margaret W. Westley, Remembrance of Grandeur: The Anglo-Protestant Elite of Montreal 1900-1950 (Montreal: Libre Expression, 1990).
  2. Quotations from Mark Abley, "Montreal on the Move", Canadian Geographic, Vol. 116 No. 4 (July-August 1996) pages 48-51.
  3. Leacock, Stephen, Montréal, Seaport and City (New York: Doubleday, Doran and Co., Inc. 1942) page 216.
  4. Jenkins, Kathleen, Montréal Island City of the St. Lawrence (New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc. 1960) page 423. See also Angus, Fred, "The Saga of the Cote des Neiges Street Car Line", Canadian Rail, No. 480 (Jan.-Feb. 2001), pages 7-25.
  5. Those that exist are listed in Douglas, Althea and J. Creighton, Canadian Railway Records: A Guide for Genealogists (Toronto: OGS, 1996).
  6. Employee figures for 1955 are given in Section Twenty-Two "Industrial and Business Concerns" in The Arts in Montréal: Report of a Survey of Montréal's Artistic Resources (Montréal, 1956). This book lists just about every group, church, club, institution and company, their facilities and programmes in every type of art, as well as all publications they produced.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

Category:Canada Category:Quebec