Every year, the city of Montreal hosts a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade that brings people by the thousands to the downtown streets to celebrate their real or imagined Irish heritage. In fact, many Montrealers do have Irish roots that go back centuries.
In 1700, around 130 of the 2,500 families in New France, or roughly 5%, were Irish, and there was massive immigration from Ireland to North America between 1816 and 1860. By 1871, the Irish were the second largest ethnic group in Canada after the French.
The year 1847 was a tragic one as the Irish fled poverty and starvation in their homeland and died of disease before they arrived in Canada. Almost 3900 are buried at Grosse Île, an island in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Quebec City; another 5,000 are buried at the so-called fever sheds near the Montreal waterfront. Many children who became orphans at this time were adopted by French families, but kept their Irish names.
The early Irish of Montreal resided in the central part of the city. Over time, they moved westward, eastward and northward into Saint Ann’s, Saint Mary’s, Saint Antoine’s, Saint James’, Saint Lawrence’s and Saint Louis Wards. They were the primary residents in districts such as Griffintown, Point-St-Charles, St. Henry, Verdun and Ville Émard. Other Irish families eventually moved east into the Rosemount and Hochelaga districts.
Prior to the establishment of St-Patrick’s church in 1847 and St-Ann in 1854, the main churches of the Irish in Montreal were Notre Dame de Bon Secours, the Church of the Récollet Fathers and Notre Dame Basilica.
When I identify a church as being Irish Catholic in this research guide, I do not mean to imply that parishioners were mostly of Irish descent. It does suggest that, at one point in time, a minimum of 10% of the acts of baptism, marriage and death records addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.
Especially during the early years, acts of baptism, marriage and death that took place at most of the smaller parishes in the Montreal region were registered in the records of Notre-Dame Church. For example, a baptism or marriage might have been held in Griffintown, but the act would have been included in the Notre-Dame-de-Montréal records.
The attached research guide lists the churches in which the Irish presence was appreciable, or parishes that were inaugurated by members of the Irish community. The years in brackets reflect the year I was able to ascertain as being the beginning of the Irish-Scottish-British presence in these Catholic churches. I reached my conclusions following several years of research on more than 3,000 books addressing marriages and baptisms at the Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Old Montreal.
This research guide includes descriptions of the parishes where Irish Catholics attended church in the Montreal region, as well as a list of the cemeteries where many of them were buried. It also includes a list of recommended books and articles, and a list of repositories including archives and museums, online resources and other local sources of information. It is part of a series of research guides to Irish family history resources across the province of Quebec.
To access the PDF research guide to Irish Catholic Churches of Montreal, click on the link: