Genealogists tend to visit a lot of cemeteries, so if those are beautiful places, the experience can be a pleasure. Anyone with Montreal ancestors in either Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Catholic) Cemetery or in the non-denominational Mount Royal Cemetery can consider themselves lucky: both cemeteries are located on the slopes of Mount Royal, both are filled with trees and wildlife, and both have services to assist genealogists find their relatives.
These cemeteries were opened in the middle of the 19th century after the city’s population expanded, putting earlier burial grounds too close to residential areas. Hygienic concerns became particularly important when cholera epidemics swept the continent.
In fact, because of epidemics, poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, many of the city’s dead were children.
Since Mount Royal Cemetery opened in 1852, more than 300,000 people have been buried there. To check the location of a grave in Mount Royal Cemetery, go to https://mountroyalcem.com/index.php/en/our-services/genealogy-menu.html. The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) sells a book of 4600 monument inscriptions from Hawthorn-Dale, Montreal’s second-largest Protestant Cemetery and an affiliate of Mount Royal Cemetery. See http://www.qfhs.ca/forsale.php.
Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, the largest graveyard in Canada, has been in operation since 1874. To find a grave there go to http://www.notredamedesneigescemetery.ca/en/research/locate.htm and click on locate deceased.
When the older cemeteries were closed, people were told they could move the remains of their relatives, but that did not always happen. Every now and then, human remains turn up when repairs are done to Dorchester Square, a former cemetery that is now a park in the heart of downtown. And in addition to proper cemeteries, there are some unusual burial places in the city. Priests and nuns were buried in the crypts of Catholic churches and other religious buildings. Some 6000 Irish immigrants who died of ship fever in 1847 are buried in a mass grave, marked with a commemorative stone, near the Victoria Bridge.
Because so many of the city’s old cemeteries were closed and eventually built upon or used for other purposes, anyone who comes to the city looking to find the grave of an ancestor who died before the mid-1800s will probably be disappointed.
For a list of 110 Montreal cemeteries, current and closed, including crypts and military cemeteries, see http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/ListerCims.asp?MP=E3&TY=M&SS=52
To find out about Jewish burials, see the following article posted on the Jewish Genealogy Society of Montreal website: http://jgs-montreal.org/burials.html
The QFHS has a number of publications related to cemetery histories and monument inscriptions in its library. Go to http://www.qfhs.ca/libraryRecords.php and put cemetery in the keyword space.
Following is a list of old cemeteries primarily used by the city’s English-speaking community. Most of them no longer exist. The links will tell you their locations and other information.
Montreal General Old Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2148
Montreal Old Negro Cemetery – St-Jacques Street at St-Pierre Street in Old Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=826
Dufferin Square Cemetery – Dorchester Boulevard at St. Laurent Boulevard http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=828
Montreal Old Military Cemetery – Papineau Street at Lafontaine Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=831
St. Mary’s Anglican Burial Ground – Malo Street and Bordeaux Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=837
St-Hélène Island Old Military Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=846
St. Stephen’s Old Anglican Cemetery Lachine http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2081
Goose Village Ancient Irish Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2717
Field of Honor Military Cemetery Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=858
Lakeview Memorial Gardens Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=861
Research: Jacques Gagné
Additional writing: Janice Hamilton