Elizabeth Blair, my great-great grandmother…

Dear Rosa,

I’ve learned quite a few things this past week. All good. Some startling, most just down right amazing. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Lou, my 3rd cousin re-discovered, a man as generous with his time as his knowledge of French Canadian genealogy.

So, here I am, sitting and typing and trying to process all this new information about you, Rosa, and your wonderful, hard-working emigrant family. I’ve months of stories in the making, some already beginning to percolate. For now though, I thought I’d just share a little about your mum.

Elizabeth Blair Drinkwine. My great-great grandmother.


It all started with her. She was the one that stumped me, mystified and eluded. I couldn’t find her, no matter how I searched.

Until this fall, when I finally found her death certificate and realized, she’d been there all along. That her father was Newell’s, that his parents were Louis and Mary Blair.

Just a few facts for you now – I don’t wish to overwhelm or bore. Just a few simple numbers that reflect a woman’s life a hundred and fifty years ago.


Elizabeth Blair was born in Lacolle, Canada in 1849.

By 1860, she was living in Jericho, Vermont with the Borrowdales as a domestic servant.

She was just 11 years old.

There are laws against this now.

By 1865, Elizabeth is married to a man more than thirty years her senior. John Boivan, a widower, has already sired 11 children. She becomes mother to them, most are her age, some might be even older.

There are laws against this now, too.

By the time John dies of old age, Elizabeth has had 9 children with him. All told, the man has 20 children.

This isn’t a picture of John. None exist that I know of. No, this is Peter Drinkwine. John’s brother? One of his sons? That I don’t know yet either.

I have to hope she found some happiness with this man. God knows she deserved it.

So, there it is and I am tired, but satisfied. You know, like a sleepy cat, resting up? The journey, you see, is only just beginning…


8 thoughts on “Elizabeth Blair, my great-great grandmother…

  1. Wow..that is so interesting.. Women today whine and complain about the most trivial of things and yet just 100 years ago we were almost lower than a dog 9as in our social status).. 11 years old and a maid? that saddens me and yes, I hope she had some bright moments of joy throughout her life.

  2. I’m really happy for you, I know first hand all the work, the sifting, the deciphering involved … it’s a lot of work, but isn’t the pay off incredible? Thank you Well, that is quite an amazing story … I can already hear your fingers typing out this story into a novel šŸ˜‰ Can’t wait to read it, and learn more. Good work

    1. They were French Canadians – all of them Kim! Damn the Blairs – they were Blains! This wonderful man, Lou, is helping to track them back to France and I am blown away. So nice to see you – hope you’re writing up a storm, girl!

      1. I just sent in my script for a second edit, and have taken break from writing and spending time with my kids, but I’m always available to help a friend, so if you have any translations feel free.
        Who is this Lou and can I hire him for my Irish lineage … I’m stuck! šŸ˜‰ Anyway that is really great … do you know where from France? On my grandmother on my mother’s side we’re all from Poitou, Joan of Arc Poitou which is very cool … I can’t remember my grandfather … anyway let me know when you find out. Alright gotta got a babybum to wipe šŸ˜‰

      2. glad you’re finding time for both you and your family. I know how hard that is to do. Good luck on that script! As to the Ireland ancestry – I also know how hard that is… I’ll be happy to ask, although (ironically) I think Lou’s area of expertise is French Canada! So nice to see you again, Kim.

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