Sunday, 7 August 2016

Census Sunday: early 20th century Montreal roots

As I've written here, my grandparents, John James Dougherty and (Elizabeth) Alice Nelson married in Montreal in 1909. Following their marriage, they first lived at 69 o. av Laurier, which would have been just west of boul St-Laurent, that street being the east/west dividing line in Montreal. This is in what is now called the Mile End area of Montreal. Back at the turn of the century and beyond, the area was quite Irish.

By 1911, when the regular Canada census was taken, my grandparents were
1911 Canada Census, Montreal
living at 2127 Esplanade (or more properly ave de l'Esplanade), still in Mile End. This is my grandfather's first appearance on the census in Montreal. In 1901, he was still living in Sherbrooke, I believe, before attending McGill University. Living with them, as seen in the snip above, were my great grandmother Rose, my uncle John Marcus who was just a baby.

Oh, and someone named William Dougherty, 26 years old, born 26 Jun 1884 in Quebec, who is listed as my grandfather's unemployed brother. Now, this relationship is an error, as William never appeared before or afterwards in any family records, but I'm very sure that he is nonetheless a relation of some kind. A cousin perhaps. I'm still researching for how he's related to my line and what happened to him. Call it a work in progress, as so much of genealogy becomes, or, yes, another puzzle.

But my grandfather really was an only child, unlike his father, who we were told was an only child, but was actually one of seven siblings.

Many of the Mile End residences recorded in the 1911 census are still there today. Most are triplex semis, many converted to condos, but with flats on the second and top floors accessed by exterior circular metal stairs (and in the case of the top floor, another set of interior stairs. Those exterior circular metal stairs are notorious in Montreal. Charmingly romantically pretty they may be, but imagine if you will how very treacherous they are in the winter. No charm there.
5317 av de l'Esplanade, Montreal

While visiting family in Montreal in January, we drove down Esplanade, but didn't find number 2127. I contacted the City of Montreal, where very helpful staff researched the property and ascertained that it is still there today, but re-numbered 5317 Esplanade. I sent a brother off to take a photo -- see left. here is my grandparents' 1911 home as it looks today. It's been updated.

Here is where 5317 Esplanade is located in Montreal.

According to Montreal city directories of the time, my grandparents lived here until at least 1916, by which point they had four sons under five years of age (!) as well as my great grandmother Rose, until she passed away in March 1915.

People, myself included, speak with great admiration of the spaciousness of these triplex semis today. But let's stop and consider this: my grandmother had to corral four babies and toddlers up and down those stairs and my great grandmother had to hike up and down those stairs. Did I mention they lived on the top floor?

By the time the 1921 census was held, my grandparents' family was complete. They were living in what would be their lifelong home on West Hill Avenue in the Notre Dame de Grace (NDG) area of Montreal. Their address at that time was 386 West Hill Avenue. The addresses on the street were subsequently renumbered, and 386 became 4186 West Hill Avenue. My father was the second eldest of six siblings -- five sons and one daughter.

1921 census West Hill Ave, Montreal
The never ending story continues...

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