Thehistory of the Drew family whose members were our ancestors begins in CountyWestmeath, Ireland. What we are calling "the beginning" is that portionof the family history that we are able to trace with certainty by meansof documents.
WHERE WE COME FROM
In the 1780's, there were at least six orseven Drew families residing in Milltown Parish of County Westmeath. At that time, Ireland was divided into Counties, Parishes, Baronies, andTownlands. (Townships) As of the year 2,000, a wonderful indexed(searchable) database calledIreAtlas is now on line at http://www.leitrim-roscommon.com/which lists these "divisions" and includes every single Townland in Irelandat the time of our ancestors. [Note that a "parish" has a differentmeaning than it does in the U.S.A... and it does NOT mean a certain church.] Finding the "right church" to seek our our ancestors was a completely separateproblem.
Fortunately for our search, my great greatgrandfather, John Drew, brought his prayer book to America. Insidethe cover of the book he had burnedthe words: "John Drew,Lakenstown." By further good fortune, one of his sons, John Jr., who died in 1909 includedthe name of his county of birth (Westmeath) on his gravestone. Itso happens that Lakenstown is a townland of only 268 acres; so we knowwithin 268 acres the exact place of his home in Ireland. Theexact and full designation of where the Drew family (actually several Drewfamilies) lived before their emigration to Ireland is as follows: Townlandof LAKENSTOWN(alsowritten "Lakingstown,") Kilmacnevan parish, Moygoish barony, County Westmeath,Province of Leinster.
During our 1970 and '71 visits to Lakenstown,we found distant Drew cousins still living on that Lakenstown farmland. Much to our amazement and enjoyment, our "cousins" showed us the "remains"of several stone foundations of homes that had been built and once livedin by our Drew ancestors.
For pictures and more information aboutLakenstown and the Drew family ruins, Clickhere!
As far as we know, the Drew's are an ancientIrish family with an ancient name. And, of course, the original spellingof the name would have been in Gaelic. Since no Gaelic scholarshiphas been sought in our history search as yet, we must trust to the "tradition"of the remaining Drews in Ireland... and the church records at Milltownto guide us as to the pronunciation of the name.
THE NAME DREW
The Drews living in Westmeath in 1971 alldeclare that the name used to be pronounced "Druch" ...having a very softgutteral sound at the end just as the names McCullogh, and others. This sound at the end probably represents a letter of the Gaelic alphabet. Further proof regarding the presence of a "strange sound" at the end ofthe name is found in the church records themselves. As the priestsattempted to translate all the Irish names into Latin (Roman alphabet)there is a gradual progression of spellings which seems to change witheach priest over the years. In the 1780's until well into the 1800'sthe name was spelled "Drought" by the priests. Then as time wentby, the priests would use spellings such as "Drouch" and "Druch" ...even though it is clear from the records that this is the same family.
By the time of the 1830's, all of the schoolshad been "Anglicized" by the ruling English Aristocracy and the priestswere entering all the baptisms, marriages, and deaths with the spelling"Drew." As far as we know, Drew is the only spelling that was everused by the family after arrival in the U.S.
THE EARLIEST RECORD OF OURANCESTORS
Theearliest record that we are certain belongs to one of our forebearers isthat of John Drew, born in1806. His parents were Bernard and Catherine Drew Andwe believe (but cannot prove) that Catherine's maiden name was Nally. Itis noted that many of the baptismal sponsors for this couple's other childrenwere Nally's.
A photo of the 1806 birth certificate ofJohnDrew can be seen by clicking HERE.It is also on display in the document called MilltownRecords... along with the marriage certificate of John's 1830 marriageto Rose Reillyandthe 1833 baptism of their second child, JamesDrew, who founded the Indiana branch of the Drew family.
TRACING BACK TO 1750
Having spoken at the beginning about theimportance of providing certainty by means of documents, we shallbegin with the one document about which we are not 100% certain: We tried our best to identify (find birth or marriage records for) John'sgrandparents, the parents of Bernard and Catherine Drew. In doingso, we found a 1784 baptism record of a child named Bernard Droughtwho was born to James and Judith Drought. This 1784 birthdaywould have made Bernard 22 when he married Catherine and begot John in1806... quite plausible. There is no record of this marriage... butthat is not a problem if Catherine were from another parish. Therecords did not record mothers' maiden names or fathers' middle names...so we cannot trace John's grandparents with certainty. We do know,however, that his parents were Bernard and Catherine... we just do notknow for certain that it was the 1784 Bernard. IF IT WAS HE, thenJohn's grandparents wereJames and Judith Drought. Anargument FOR this lineage is that John and Rose (Reilly) Drew named childrenJames and Judith... but the science of genealogy does not permit such anargument to be used as proof.... especially when the landscape was ALIVEwith Drought's named James and Judith and Catherine and Bernard. Regardless of our failure to identify John's grandparents with certainty,it is "safe to say" (even if unproven) that they were probably Jamesand Judith Drought... and they would have been born about 1750 Wecan be proud that we were able to trace our Drew ancestry back that far.
A BRIEF POLITICAL AND SOCIALBACKGROUND OF IRELAND
IN THE DAYS OF OUR ANCESTORS
A proper understanding of the political andsocial "situation" in the Ireland of our ancestors must begin by recallingthat King Henry VIII of England "broke" away from the Roman CatholicChurch and formed the Church of England in the early 1500's. The repercussions of this in Ireland were huge; as the Irish remainedfaithful to the Roman Church. A few generations later, duringthe time of Charles Cromwell, the Irish were "in rebellion" and acceptedKing Charles's invitation to fight against Cromwell. Cromwell notonly defeated the King's Irish and Scottish forces... but also had theKing beheaded.
Between 1649 and 1652, Cromwell then ledvisciousmilitary campaigns through Ireland and Scotland... with the Irish campaignbeing exceptionally cruel. It has been estimated that over half thepopulation of Ireland was slaughtered... including millions of defenselesswomen and children. Cromwell's own recorded description of this campaignwas a "scorched earth" policy... and it ended with the famous "Droghedaand Wexford Massacres" in 1652. Immediately thereafterthe English (by now well into the spirit of "colonization") made Irelandan English Colony and deeded all the land to English "Landlords." These "landlords" were known as the "gentry" (ruling class) and the Irishwere peasants.... a system not unlike "sharecropping" ...with huge taxesand quotas of every harvest required to be sent to England. Thissystem persisted right up till the mid 1800's; and it is said that evenin the years of the potato famine, the Irish wheat and grain harvest wentto England while the Irish starved.
We picked up the story of our ancestors(in 1750) just about four generations after Cromwell. At just aboutthis time, Benjamin Franklin made a tour through Ireland during one ofhis European trips. He is quoted as having said "Never have I seena people in a more impoverished condition nor so persecuted by their government." Also at about this same time, a question was asked on the floor of theBritish Parliament: "What about the rights of the Irish." The responsewas "There is no such thing as rights for an Irish Catholic."
The political and social structure in Irelandat that time was a system wherein all the land was owned by "Landlords"who were loyal to the English Crown. Irish families were parcelledout very small parcels of land for which they were required to pay rent. Less than 2% of the Irish population owned any land outright. Theremainder were poor and living hand to mouth by working the land and byemployment in the Peat bogs, quarries, construction projects, and otherenterprises owned and governed by the wealthy landed gentry.
The landlords of the entire area for milesaround Lakenstown were a family named Tuite and pronounced "tyoot." The Tuites were a Norman family who had held sway in large areas of Westmeathfor centuries. Their family residences were located at a place calledSonna... 3 or 4 miles northeast of Lakenstown; and they were hence knownas the "Tuites of Sonna." Credible historians say that, among anarray of skills and schemes, was the Tuite family's clever habit of maintainingallegiances and good will (and membership) with BOTH Catholic and Protestantheirarchy... a scheme which had enabled them to keep their land and remainin power through the centuries. Although the tradition passed downthrough the generations of our family held that the Landlords and generalsocial situation in Ireland was a horrible memory, more recent researchand discussion of this matter with our distant cousins in Ireland has revealedsome surprising information: The Tuites were, in fact, rememberedas "good landlords" ...especially when compared to many ruthless, selfish,and even anti-Irish landlords in some areas of Ireland.
Lakenstown was a very rural environment;and given to agriculture and the harvesting of peat. It is likelythat all our Drew ancestors had skills and experience in all these areas. It is also an undocumented tradition and a probable fact that the Drewclan and all the residents of the area were skilled stonemasons. The Royal Canal with many miles of channel and many bridges and locks withinwalking distance of Lakenstown, was built between 1750 and the 1820's. It is likely that many of our Drew clansmen were involved in the quarrying,horsemanship, and stonemasonry required to build the canal.
The first Drews to leaveLakenstown were THE FAMILYOF JOHN DREW AND ROSE REILLY. The family left Ireland andemigrated to America in 1847... the third year of the "great potatoe famine." As far as we can tell, the mother, Rose Reilly Drew may have diedin Ireland prior to the journey... but after 1846, when her last childwas born. Not a single document or trace of her has ever been turnedup during all research in this country. This means that John madethe journey with six children.
MEET OUR ANCESTORS THATEMIGRATED TO THE USA
To read more aboutthis family, and find out what happened to each of them, CLICKHERE, to go to this family's web page.
CLICK HERE to return to the DREW IndexPage