Genealogy meets biography
Published in 1900,
Biographical Review is still a useful tool for genealogists 100 years later

When Uncle Art came to visit, Mum always asked us to try to use good table manners. I think she also wanted us to be seen and not heard.

Uncle Art was a professor in Manitoba and talked of many things, but sometimes he confused me. He told Dad about the latest book he was reading ­ on the biography of Winston Churchill. As I sat at the table, I tried to figure out this word biography. We studied geography in school and it was all about other countries, so this book must be about all the countries that Winston Churchill had visited.

It was not until I grew older that I became aware that I had been exposed to biographies all my life by listening to the stories that were told of friends and relatives.

A 600-page "Biographical Review" was published in June of the year 1900. It might be said, it was a way of celebrating the turn of the century, much as we are now making plans 100 years later to celebrate the year 2000. Photographs are included with some of the biographies.

The preface states: "It is not every man who is born to be hero or a leader; but each human unit, under favourable circumstances, contributes something to the welfare and the history of society. Few will deny that biography is a most interesting form of history . . . It is safe to say that people have found life worth living in proportion as they made themselves useful in their day and generation . . . A distinguishing feature of this book is the attention given to genealogy, formerly the fad of the few, now a recognized branch of the humanities and a firm substratum for biography."

The editor of the "Biographical Review" was I. Allen Jack, son of William  and Emma (Carleton) Jack. (Saint John, New Brunswick).

You might be interested in reading about John Dean Purdy, who was for many years one of the leading shipowners and merchants of Saint John. He was born in this city on Oct. 29, 1817, to Obadiah and Sarah (Dean) Purdy. His paternal grandparents, Gilbert and Elizabeth (Ogden) Purdy, were natives of Westchester County. He married Hannah Amelia Stickney and they had eight children. The names of John Dean Purdy¹s siblings and children are given as well as detailed information.

Another interesting gentleman is Andrew Dodge, a carpenter and builder, who was born in Upham, Kings County, in 1860. He was the son of Isaac A. and Charlotte Barnard (Upham) Dodge and there were eight other children ­ names and current status are given.

Those with a sweet tooth will want to read about Thomas White, the veteran confectioner of Saint John, who was born near Glasgow, Scotland, on May 22, 1832. He married Charlotte E. Armstrong and they had nine sons. When Mr. White retired from the candy business in 1899, his sons, Frank and Leslie White, took over.

Another Loyalist descendant is Alfred A. Mabee, who died April 22, 1899. He was born in the parish of Kars, Kings County, on April 14, 1846, to Abraham D. and Rhoda A. (Humphrey) Mabee. His great-grandparents were Jeremiah and Judith (Chadyne) Mabee. Mr. Mabee began to go to sea when only 14 years old.

When you visit the Saint John Free Public Library, Market Square, or the library and archives of the New Brunswick Museum, Douglas Avenue, to view the "Biographical Review," plan to have lots of time on your hands.

This 100-year-old publication holds genealogical information that could well have been lost were it not for the foresight of Mr. Jack.

Ruby Cusack is a genealogy buff living in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to Ruby at When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.

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