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? Continue reading