A Family of British Immigrants
British Immigrants in Montreal have long contributed to the development and vitality of this city. In the early 1900s, British immigrants, my family among them, arrived to a thriving English-speaking community.
The lives of common people have always interested me more than the rise and fall of governments and dates of wars and battles. However, lives cannot help but be influenced by great events such as World War 1, the Great Depression and World War 2 which my grandparents experienced.
The starting point for this website is the story of the Waddell-Shill family of Montreal. My goal is to tell the stories of individual immigrants whose names won’t necessarily be found in Canada’s “Who’s Who”.
Neither rich nor famous, my immigrant grandparents nonetheless contributed positively to Montreal’s English-speaking community. You can help me to expand the focus to include your immigrant families of British origin and their experiences of living in the Montreal area.
Digging into an Immigrant Family’s Past
Following are some of the questions that motivate me to delve into the life stories of my grandparents who arrived as British Immigrants in Montreal in 1908 and 1921:
What and whom did they leave behind in Britain?
What were they hoping for in Canada?
Why did they choose Montreal?
What experiences, skills and values did they bring with them?
Where did they work? Live?
How did World War 1, the Great Depression and World War 2 affect them?
Whom did they associate with?
What did they do for fun?
The Shill Family Arrives in Montreal
In the middle of a period of immense population growth in Canada, John Shill, the father, arrived in Montreal in February of 1907. John (Jack) Shill, the eldest son, followed a few months later. April 1908, the rest of the Shill family arrives, leaving the eldest daughter, Cara, in England.
Ellen (Nell) Maud Agnes Shill's Oral History
Nell Shill, (my grandmother), the youngest Shill daughter who immigrated to Montreal in 1908, left us an Oral History with stories about living in Montreal through the important events of the early 1900s and talks about the family's homes, jobs, education, church and community involvement, Montreal transportation, entertainment and social life and marriage. Quotes from her audio and video recordings will be indicated in maroon text.
James (Jim) Verner Waddell
Jim Waddell, my grandfather and the future husband of Nell Shill, arrived as a 22 year old, in the spring of 1921. His upbringing in Glasgow, Scotland, and experiences as an Imperial soldier in World War 1 formed a foundation for his future in Canada. Memorabilia he held onto indicates the relative importance he placed on events they represent.
Using Nell's oral history, family and public documents, and various books and papers on the history of Montreal, join me in discovering more about these immigrants' experiences. It's a fascinating story which provides insight into the values and skills these Britons brought with them from their homelands, particularly England and Scotland.
Searching for an ancestor?
Here you will also find searchable lists of names of people who arrived by ship, went to war, worked and played with these British Montrealers. Whenever possible, people listed who can be reliably identified as British-born will be indicated in bold font.
I hope you’ll want to share YOUR family’s stories of being British immigrants in Montreal through the 1900s with other visitors to this website.