Strange Brew: Ancestry Exposes Quirky Details About Two Canadian Families

You may wonder sometimes what Ancestry has to offer you. Can you really find anything about your ancestors in that sea of records?

To prove that you can, we did some sleuthing on two famous Canadian brewers to see what we could dig up. You might be surprised at what we discovered.

You’ve probably heard of Labatt Blue—the best-selling Canadian beer in the world. But did you know that John S. Labatt, the third president of Labatt Breweries and the grandson of founder John Kinder Labatt, was once kidnapped and held for ransom?

At least one newspaper in our Historical Newspaper Collection covered the story. According to the Ironwood Daily Globe, Labatt was kidnapped from his car, where his assailants left a ransom note asking for $150,000 within twenty-four hours. The note was signed, “Three-fingered Abe.”

John’s brother, Hugh, allegedly withdrew the sum from a bank and pleaded with law enforcement officers to allow him to hand it over to the criminals. Whether he gave the money over or not was unclear, but John showed up at Hugh’s hotel sixty-five hours after his abduction. He arrived in a taxi cab he hailed after being dropped off, blindfolded, by the kidnappers.

You can read the three days’ coverage of the kidnapping at Ancestry:

Day 1—August 15, 1934
Day 2—August 16, 1934
Day 3—August 17, 1934

If that’s not sensational enough for you, check out this 1906 death certificate we found for the wife of John Labatt Jr., the son of founder John Kinder Labatt and second president of Labatt Breweries.

Her cause of death is listed as “poisoned by mistake.” What kind of poison was it? And who administered it?

Labatt and Molson aren’t only commercial competitors. John Molson—founder of Canada’s oldest brewery—has a family tree that rivals Labatt’s.

For instance, look at this page from the Indianapolis Star that lists Harry Markland Molson—John Molson’s great-grandson—as a first-class passenger who perished on the Titanic.

Or check out this WWI Attestation Paper for Percival Talbot Molson, another of John Molson’s great-grandsons. Percival ran track and played hockey and football at McGill University, where he was named best “all-around athlete” three years in a row. (He also never received a penalty for misconduct in any sport he played.)

Percival enlisted in the Canadian Army during WWI and was killed on the front lines in France. He left $75,000 in his will to help build a new stadium at McGill, which was named after him.

We found plenty more on John Labatt’s and John Molson’s families at Ancestry, including census records, border crossings records, and passenger lists. Think you can find something we missed? Better yet—what can you find out about your own family?


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