Jodie turned to her paternal line. She wanted to find out more about the Canadian side of her family and the ancestry of her esteemed great-grandfather Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook.
Jodie was close to her paternal grandmother Janet, daughter of Lord Beaverbrook, so had grown up knowing quite a lot about him. But she knew nothing at all about his ancestry. As Janet had died in the late 1980s, we went to see her old friend, Rachel Carpenter, hoping that she could help us in our search.
If older relatives have passed away, it can be very useful to meet up with their old friends or colleagues. Stories about family backgrounds and characters are frequently shared among friends and colleagues and helpful details can emerge from recollections of such stories.
Rachel told Jodie that Lord Beaverbrook's family was originally Scottish, not Canadian. His father was a Presbyterian minister who had been born in Scotland but had subsequently emigrated to Canada. We then turned our attention to Beaverbrook's wife Gladys Drury, Janet's mother and Jodie's great-grandmother.
Rachel told Jodie that Gladys was a true Canadian, and had been born into an eminent Canadian family. Apparently the Drurys had lived in Canada for generations, and had been regarded as the equivalent of the royal family there. We set out across the Atlantic to discover whether the Drurys really were one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Canada.
Our Canadian investigation started in Saint John in eastern Canada, the alleged home of the Drurys. Saint John was founded by Europeans in 1604, and is the oldest incorporated city in Canada. Local historian Kathy Wilson assisted us in our search for evidence of Gladys' family.
Local historians or genealogists can be particularly useful in foreign locations. It is usually possible to find someone in advance, either through genealogical websites or by contacting local archives before travelling to ask for their advice (see Related Links). In America and Canada most local records are kept at the town hall, so staff may also be able to suggest local experts.
Kathy met us at the Saint John cemetery. Family gravestones can provide insights into the lives of ancestors as well as clues regarding their activities and relationships. In the Saint John cemetery we found Gladys' mother's grave. This was Jodie's great-great-grandmother. Her name was Mary Louise Henderson, and she was the wife of a Major General Drury, CB.
On another gravestone a few feet away, Jodie found the grave of Major General Drury's father, Ward Chipman Drury. Ward was Jodie's great-great-great-grandfather.
Kathy also pointed out the burial plot of Ward's brothers. Jodie was surprised and intrigued to see that John and Edward Drury died on exactly the same day, 29 May 1880. We suspected that something dramatic must have happened. But on the memorial stone there was no indication of what it might be: the inscription merely stated their dates of birth and death.
Whether at home or abroad, local newspapers can be crucial in unlocking family secrets and mysteries, particularly when precise details are already known. In the Drury family search, the date of 29 May 1880 was clearly a major clue.
Jodie searched through the Saint John Globe, and was shocked to discover headlines relating to 'the Drury tragedy'. The article revealed that the three brothers: Ward, John and Edward, were living together at the family homestead, Newlands Cottage.
Ward Chipman Drury, Jodie's great-great-great-grandfather, had inherited the farm, but his elder brother John deeply resented the fact that it hadn't been left to him. One night John's festering resentment turned to rage and he sought revenge by trying (unsuccessfully) to shoot Ward.
John then went upstairs to his room, set fire to it and began to fight Edward who had entered the room to extinguish the flames. The scuffle ended tragically with John shooting and killing Edward before killing himself. The house was totally destroyed by fire. The deaths had clearly left their mark on the local community.
Despite the traumatic attack, Ward Chipman Drury survived, and five years later came the birth of his granddaughter Gladys, who subsequently married Lord Beaverbrook.
The article also revealed new information about the origins of the Drury family. We read that the Drury brothers' father was Colonel Charles Drury. Charles had been an Irishman 'of good family' who came to Saint John in 1805, and had then married the daughter of the 'honourable William Hazen'.
So we had discovered that the Drury family arrived in Canada from Ireland in the early 1800s. But Jodie was keen to discover whether her family's roots in Canada could be traced back further, through William Hazen's line.
At the Saint John archives, local historian Kathy Wilson found a file of papers relating to the company that William Hazen had run there. Local archives often hold business papers that can be very useful in plotting the course of an ancestor's career, migration routes and origins.
Within the Hazen file, we discovered that William Hazen was the son of Moses and Abigail Hazen and that he was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Kathy pointed out William Hazen's trade route, which ran from Massachusetts through Saint John and beyond. Jodie's ancestors were no longer Canadian, they were American!
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