Genealogy, Immigration, Ireland, Montreal, Quebec

Irish Catholic Churches in Montreal

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:

Irish Catholic Churches in Montreal from 1815

Genealogy, Montreal, Quebec

The Decaries and the Prud’hommes

I have driven along Cote St Antoine thousands of times, through Westmount and NDG, without realizing my ancestors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries also used the same route.

When researching one’s ancestors it is nice to find out where they lived, which city, town or area. In my case, the Decaries and the Prud’hommes can be located by the streets that bear their names. They farmed land in what is now the Notre Dames de Grace (NDG) section of Montreal. The Decaries have a boulevard and an expressway named after them. Prudhomme Ave is only four blocks long just west of Decarie and the street jigs and jags.

Jean Decarie dit Le Houx and Louis Prud’homme, two of my seven times great grandfathers, were some of the early settlers in Nouvelle France. They first obtained land in Ville-Marie as their names are on plots of a 1663 map.

Jean Decarie arrived from France before 1650. He was a stone mason and started quarries. He married Michelle Artus in 1654, after meeting her in Quebec City while there buying supplies. She had just arrived from France. By 1729 they are said to have had 82 descendants.

Louis Prud’homme was a brewer and a captain in the Montreal militia. He was another early inhabitant of Montreal as he married Roberte Gadois there in 1650. He was elected as one of the first wardens by the Sulpicians for the parish of Notre Dame.

The Decaries and Prud’hommes were two of 13 families granted land by the Sulpicians along Cote Saint-Antoine. Jean Decarie bought the first strip of land, concession 615 in 1675. These early roads allowed settlers to move away from the original walled city. The land grants were from the St Pierre River north to the mountain. The men began working the land while still living in Ville-Marie. They all had trades which allowed them to survive while they cleared the land, built houses and began farming. They were neighbours, friends and many intermarriages made them families.

For a time, the area was known as the “Haute Folie,” as those who lived there were fools to have left the safety of the walled city but these families continued to live in the same area for more than two centuries.

The land was on the south side on Mount Royal’s western summit (Westmount Mountain). It was good land for farming with many streams and wonderful views down to the St Lawrence River. They built their houses close to the roads and out of the wind,  not for the views.

The Decaries and the Prud’hommes became successful farmers whose land was passed from father to son and sometimes even to a daughter. In the 1731 survey, their farms were well developed and affluent with a house, barn and stable on all their properties. The Decaries were known for their melons. Musk or Mush melons, also known as Montreal melons, thrived in the perfect conditions of the area. There were also orchards covering much of the properties. Apple trees were common but also cherry, peach, plum and other tender fruit trees survived in the microclimate of the south facing ravines.

Intermarriages continued. My two-time great grandmother Sophie Marie Prud’homme (1812-1892) who married Barnabé Bruneau was the daughter of Jeramie Prud’homme (1766-1846) and Marie Louise Decarie (1769 -1855)

As the city grew, many of the farms were sub-divided and single family homes were built. Not all the owners were happy to sell their land. Although the Prud’hommes had earlier sold land to the church to build Église de Notre Dame de Toutes Grâces. Leon Prud’homme tried to fight expropriation of some of his lands by the Atlantic Railway. It was said to be “the most beautiful orchards in the country,” but the rail line was built. The first Decarie house was sold and demolished in 1912 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to build a roundhouse.

After more than 200 years the farms were gone.

My great uncle, Sydney Bruneau, used to walk with his children around eastern NDG and tell them that they were walking on their ancestors land, and they were!

 

For a story about Sophie Marie Prud’homme and her husband Barnabe Bruneau https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/1040

 

References:

The Settlement and Rural Domestic Architecture of Cote Saint-Antoine, 1675-1874. Masters thesis by Janet S. MacKinnon 2004. Faculty of Urban Planning, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/80345357.pdf/

https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/genealogie.aspx?lng=fr accessed Nov 9 2018.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography accessed Nov 9, 2018. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/prud_homme_louis_1E.html

La Patrie, 6 October 1888, page 6.

Notes:

The 13 original settlers were Jean Decarie, Louis Prudhomme, Marin Hurtubise, Jean Leduc, Rene Bouchard dit Lavallee, Joseph Chevaudier dit Lepine, Jean Cousineau, Honore Dasny, Jean Deroches, Simon Guillory, Louis Langevin dit Lacroix, Pierre Verrier dit LaSolaye and Antoine Boudria.

Two Decarie houses remain today, one at 39 Cote St Antoine and the other the “Pink” house at 5138 Cote Sainte-Antoine. The Prud’homme’s house at 967 Girouard near Rue St Jacques is also still standing. It was the first farm along Upper Lachine Road. The other house we can see today is the Hurtubise house at 563 Cote St Antoine. Marie Hurtubise married Paul Decarie in 1686.

Another Prud’homme house stood until around 1900 though then it was known as the Saint-Germain house, originally ceded to Francois Prud’homme in 1708. In 1892 the property was subdivided into 68 lots on each side of Lansdowne Ave above Cote Saint-Antoine. There was another Decarie property that stood until 1912. It was on the property first purchased by Jean Decarie dit Lehoux in 1675 but likely built by his grandson Joseph.

My grandfather, William H Sutherland was looking for a solid stone house before he bought 28 Arlington Avenue in 1922. According to his daughter, “his first choice at that time was a detached stone house on Cote St. Antoine Road but it wasn’t available; it has since become a historical monument.” Was that the Hurtubise house?

I wondered what Janet MacKinnon was doing now after this very detailed thesis and found she had unfortunately died Feb 4, 2011, in Montreal, at 54 years of age. Thank you Janet for your informative thesis.

Genealogy, Immigration, Montreal, Quebec, Scotland

Polio in the Family

My Auntie Elsie McHugh was quite a chatterbox and so were her budgies. When we used to visit her, the budgies filled the room with the sound of their chatter, competing to be heard. Unless it was time to go to bed, or someone was coming in the door, the budgies were free to fly around the apartment. It was quite an adventure to go there.

My Uncle Jimmy Scott was usually sitting in his favourite chair, not saying a word.

Certainly when I remember Elsie, I think about her continual stream of conversation and story-telling. But I also remember that she had a distinct limp.  This didn’t stop her from being a snazzy dresser or wearing fancy shoes.

Scott, Jimmy and Elsie McHugh

Jimmy Scott and Elsie McHugh

As an adult, I learned that Auntie Elsie limped because she was stricken with paralytic polio when she was an infant living in Dundee, Scotland at the beginning of the 1900s.1 While today, polio is almost eradicated, at that time it would have been a frightening disease.

Only Elsie, out of the family of seven children, contracted poliomyelitis, the medical term for polio. Dr. Ivar Wickman of Sweden proved that polio was contagious in 1905. This was probably after Elsie was sick. And it was not until the 1930s that it was discovered that it was an intestinal infection and spread by the oral-fecal route, and not an airborne virus, as previously thought.2

During Elsie’s childhood, the family lived in a tenement in industrial Dundee, near the jute factories. There was overcrowding and poor sanitation.

In children, paralysis from polio occurs one in a thousand cases. Most children are simply sick and consequently develop an immunity to it.3 It is probable that Elsie’s siblings were also exposed to polio, but they suffered from no permanent consequences.

Because young Elsie limped and probably could not run or jump very well, she was considered disabled or “crippled.” As a result, she attended a special school to learn cooking, needlework and housekeeping. The other girls in the family resented the special education that Elsie received.

In Scotland, children had to attend school between the ages of five and thirteen. In addition, the morals and tenets of the Church of Scotland were influential. The church believed that children should be taught to be self-sufficient.4 Therefore, there was considerable pressure on educational institutions to provide for all children, including the blind, deaf and physically disabled.

Throughout the 1800s, institutions for the blind and deaf were opened in the major cities in Scotland.5 It is likely that Elsie attended one of these institutions as some of them expanded to include “cripples.”

The family immigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1912. Elsie was fourteen and would have finished her schooling by then. As far as I know she always worked in a department store as a saleslady, but like many women at the time, she quit her job when she married Jimmy Scott in 1926.6 Her daughter, Norine Scott, was born the next year. 7

Many people who have had polio in childhood experience symptoms of fatigue, weakness in the muscles, pain and breathing problems later on in their lives.8 I remember Auntie Elsie used to have difficulty breathing but she always said that it was old age.  Elsie never let anything get in the way of her enjoying life and she lived to the respectable age of 91.9

She did put her skills to good use at home, cooking for the family and sewing. I have inherited her Singer sewing machine, although I don’t sew at all. The machine works by pushing on a lever with your knee. It is a lovely piece of furniture in my home and, more importantly, a beautiful keepsake of my Auntie Elsie.

sewing machine

 

  1. Birth register of Elsie McHugh, November 10, 1898, District of St. Mary, Burgh of Dundee, National Records of Scotland, Scotland’s People web site, accessed December 1, 2017.
  2. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed January 28, 2019.
  3. Wikipedia, History of Poliomyelitis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_poliomyelitis, accessed January 28, 2019.
  4. The Semantic Scholar, Voices from the Past, Early Institutional Experience of Children with disabilities – The case of Scotland, Iain Hutchison, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f5d8/80cd842c518f3bc8a2dd3f5fb4e359eecf7e.pdf, accessed January 28, 2019.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Personal notes of author.
  7. Personal notes of author.
  8. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed February 6, 2019.
  9. Personal notes of author.