Montreal’s Plateau district

The Plateau district, to the east and south-east of the mountain, was the immigrant section for Montreal in the pre-WWII time period. Thousands of poor Jews (the immigrant wave at that time) lived in those blocks– you didn’t even need to know any English or French, as the language of the area was Yiddish! They lived in small apartments (if they were lucky), or tenements or as boarders (if they were less fortunate). They worked for employers who were willing to hire Jews– the many clothing factories (in the “shmatte [rag] trade”), small shops, or other operations. Their children went to the Protestant schools that would take them (the Board created the Baron Byng high school to segregate the Jews from the Protestant children), and to the handful of Jewish schools operating in duplexes or storefronts. They went to religious services in the dozen small synagogues– again, many of them were in apartments or storefronts, although a few grew to be their own building.

If you have ancestors who lived in this neighbourhood, you can find where they lived through census data (the 1911 and 1921 censuses are available online, free) or through Lovell’s, which was Montreal’s city directory. [Note that it’s household heads who were listed, sometimes with boarders, and it was optional; sometimes other significant wage earners were included].

But then you’ll run in a problem: Montreal’s street numbers changed in the 1920s! Not only north-south streets, but also east-west streets changed when Montreal switched to the grid-numbering system. So, where was your great-grandfather’s house?

I’ve mapped this area (click here for the link), overlaying data from Insurance Maps (and, sometimes, Lovell’s) onto Google Maps– use the lines I drew to find the appropriate original numbering, and then zoom in to get the modern block. If you click on the line, you’ll see information on what was on that block (where available) and the URL for the insurance map source. That way, if you want to identify the precise building (assuming it still exists), you can– I found several that way!

Copy this map 

Unfortunately, at this time, it’s not possible to import KML into the new Google Maps engine. However, you can import into the classic maps. The catch is that you can only import one layer of up to 100 lines— and my map has more than 500 in two layers! My suggestion is that you use my map to identify the block(s) in questions your family lived, and then create your own map with pointers to those blocks.

Should Google change their software so that you can save more links and/or to the new Map Engine, or you want to export partial data to your map, here’s how:

  • When you’re in a map, click on the file folder icon underneath the title and information.
  • Select “Export to KML”
  • Then select the layer you wish to export (don’t pick “all” because the separate layers won’t import into classic maps), and save the file to your hard drive
  • If you then open the file in a text editor, you can edit it. You have two options– merge the two layers into one so that you can import it if Google allows more than 100 data points (perhaps in the new Map Engine). Or, you can delete the lines that aren’t relevant for your relatives so that it’s reduced to 100 data points so that it can be uploaded into the existing classic Maps– note that I’ve colour coded them by map source, so use that to help you. You’ll want to rename the file if you make changes!
  • Go to Google Maps, and create a new map using the Classic engine. Click on the “import” link, and select the file you want to import.
  • Enjoy your new map! While there are constraints on the number of lines you can import, you can add more if you wish. And if you want layers, you can then import this classic map into the new Map Engine, and then add a layer for your family’s homes and businesses

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