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Introduction to Home Base


Take a closer look at a single census division, which would have covered between 50 and 300 households in 1901. Make it your neighbourhood and explore it block by block, street by street, or even dwelling by dwelling. Out of the city’s 505 census divisions, full information on every resident is available for 33 of them. Compare different neighbourhoods or see how the same one changed between 1881 and 1901.

The detailed information on the 33 selected census divisions was gathered in the 1990s by a team of scholars led by Danielle Gauveau and Peter Gossage. These neighbourhoods were not randomly chosen. In fact, they tend to be rather specialized or unusual, including concentrations of wealthy French Canadians, working-class Protestants, Irish-born families (were they primarily Catholic or Protestant?), or Jewish immigrants who arrived from Europe in the 1890s. Using the census division boundaries from 1901 (based on recorded addresses), the maps provide household-level information from 1881 and 1901 drawn from the same sources: Goad’s Atlas, the census, tax rolls, and city directories.

We have chosen to focus on three themes: Belonging (ethnicity), Density and Domestic Service.

  • Belonging

    Cultural diversity is one of the key features that make Montréal such an interesting and fast-changing city. Since so many controversies and conflicts arose from differences in religion and language, we have defined cultural communities by cross-tabulating religion and language. We could also have done it using other variables, such as birthplace. In nineteenth-century Montréal, segregation was fine-grained, that is, the level of concentration varied from block to block. Were there costs attached to such separation? The disastrous results of racial segregation can be seen in some American cities, where stark divisions leave large segments of the population isolated from good jobs and good schools. The data on Belonging therefore provide a window on how social status interacts with language and religion.
  • Density

    The average Montréal household had five members. But in some cases, there were up to a dozen people living in the same household and as many as a thousand living in the same institution! Bear in mind that we could not find addresses for about 12% of households in 1881.
  • Domestic service

    Mapping the number of servants per households reveals a high degree of segregation between neighbourhoods where most households depended on servant labour and other neighbourhoods where virtually no servants were employed. Census takers only recorded live-in help as servants, but many women also reported employment as day workers. A family might hire a charwoman by the day or a laundress to wash its laundry in her home once a week.
  • Street-crawl through the maps of the 33 selected census divisions



For additional information or to make suggestions,
contact info@cieq.ca
Sherry Olson
  Dept. of Geography
McGill University
805 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montréal, QC, H3A 0B9
Robert C.H. Sweeny
  Dept. of History
Memorial University
of Newfoundland
St John's TN A1C 5S7
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