British Immigrants in Montreal

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.

Common People

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 through some of their activities and involvement in social groups.  They preserved memorabilia and photos related to current events and told stories about them. Neither rich nor famous, my immigrant grandparents nonetheless contributed positively to Montreal’s English-speaking community.

Your stories of British immigrants of any social or economic class are equally of interest and I would love to host them on British-immigrants-in-Montreal.

British Immigrants' Life Stories

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.

The Shill children who came to Canada married other British immigrants from their social groups. Here, left to right, standing, Norman Corry, Dorothy Corry (nee Lee), Jack Lee Jr, Anne Shill, Jack Lee Sr (b. Eng. abt 1886), Jack (John Henry) Hardy (b. Eng. 1895), Nell Waddell (nee Shill), Doug Whone. Seated, left to right: Ethel Lee (nee Sproston), Grace Hardy Jr, Grace Hardy (nee Shill) May Lee (nee Shill), Shirley Hardy, Joyce Waddell and Gwen Whone.

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.

Search this site:

For over 30 years, I have been doing genealogical research to expand and document the Waddell and Tompkins family histories, to help others with their family trees and for the last 10 years, to expand this website.

Share Your Immigrant from Britain Story

Do you have an ancestor or ancestors who immigrated to Montreal from Britain?

Your ancestor’s story is part of the fabric of Montreal’s history. Enter it below and I’ll publish it for you at

Your title should include the immigrant’s name and country of origin in Britain so it can be grouped appropriately.
For example: John Smith from Bristol, England or The Robertson-Murray family from Glasgow, Scotland.

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Reginald Ernest Norgate 15 years old arrived in Montreal 1929 
My Uncle Reginald Ernest Norgate was aged 15 when he participated in the British Immigration and Colonization Associations effort to get the British to …

Millicent Rothwell from Liverpool England 
Millicent was my grandmother. Her Father was Edward Henry Rothwell and her mother Eleanor Louise McKenzie. Eleanor gave birth to Millicent March 12 1897. …

Norah Malley from Isle of Man. Born 1891 Salford Lancashire 
Nora(h) Malley born 1891 Salford Lancashire. Is living on the Isle of Man in the 1911 census occupation governess. Arriving in Canada after 1911 possible …

Andrew Findlay from Scotland 
Andrew immigrated to Montreal in early 1900s and at some point was working for grand trunk railroad in their police department.

Henry Hamilton Toovey, born in Jersey Channel Islands UK in about April 1900. Moved to Canada in 1920 he was Catholic. 
Henry was my great uncle the youngest son of Ernest and Ellen H. Toovey nee (Le Seelleur) from St. Heliers Channel Island UK. He was the youngest of …

Christina Spence Killen(1881-?) Annabella Orr(Annie) Findleton nee Killen 1882-1966, Born in Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland 
I am trying to trace two sisters who travelled to Montreal in 1908. Christina has proved the most elusive, and for Annie, it is her marriage and details …

Winifred M Rodaska (nee Cowling) 
Winifred b.1924 Yorkshire England, married Mark M Rodaska in 1946 at Hove, Sussex, England. Mark Rodaska was a Soldier. Winifred immigrated to Canada …

Francis Saul - Hunmanby, East Yorkshire, England Not rated yet
Francis Saul was born c.1782 in East Yorkshire England. He married Isabelle (Belle) Nicholson 23 December 1806 at Willerby near Scarborough, East Yorkshire. …

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