One woman’s passion for genealogy

Chantelle MacIsaac
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Claudia Lawrence has put an amazing amount of time and energy into researching her family history.

Claudia sits at her table in her home on Lawrence Lane in Port aux Basques looking through the book she created for her family history.

For more than five years she has been gathering bits and pieces of information and compiling everything into a large binder that has a transcribed logo “Family is God’s greatest masterpiece” on the front cover.

It all started when she met Mrs. Louise Beauchamp.

During casual conversation and figuring out each other’s families, it turned out Mrs. Beauchamp once helped a doctor in Burgeo remove Claudia’s grandfather’s arm.

It is the stories such as these that caught Claudia’s attention and interest.

She has gone back as far as she could find, to William Stone, her great-great grandfather, who came from Liverpool, England as a stowaway at the age of 12 or 15 years.

He is the first generation in her family tree.

William Stone’s first marriage was to Esther Cutler of West Point, and once she passed away he married his second wife, Sarah Strickland of West Point and they had a son who was also named William.

William Stone Sr. lived to be 96 years old.

It is believed that ancestors fought along side of Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar, which happened in October 1805.

A Bible that stated so was handed down the years and was in West Point until a visiting clergy that was going to have it rebound took it away.

Claudia’s great grandfather, William Stone Jr. was born in 1859 and lived in West Point. William Jr. marked the second generation and was married to Charlotte Smith and they had nine children, and a daughter named Selena.

The third generation saw Selena Stone marry William Northcott who was born in 1875 and raised in Burgeo where he was known as ‘Billy Norkett’.

They had nine children, all girls except one boy, Louis, and lived in a two-storey house in Burgeo.

Billy, always a hard-working man had gone hunting with another man one winter. Hunting in those days meant taking a sleigh and provisions and travelling more than 20 miles to the country.

On the second day of hunting, Billy slipped on the ice and his gun went off, through his right arm below the elbow and into his left leg.

After being dragged home on the sleigh, Billy seen the doctor in Burgeo, who had to cut off part of his arm at the kitchen table (assisted by Mrs. Beauchamp) and treated his leg.

A short time later Billy had to be transported to St. John’s and at that time the only way to get there was by coastal boat, to have his arm removed at the elbow.

Throughout the years, it was recalled the work that Billy kept up with even though he had a disability.

Wood had to be cut, hauled and chopped. Gardens stayed full and he was even able to row a boat and push wheelbarrows with the help of a sling that was made for his stump.

Billy and Selena moved to Halifax in the late 1950’s to where five of their daughters lived.

One daughter, Alva, moved to Port aux Basques in search for work and was there she met her husband, Harold Keeping.

Claudia’s father, Harold and her mother Alva marked the fourth generation for her family tree.

Harold worked as a conductor on the Newfoundland Railway and later for Canadian National Railway (CNR) and worked there until early 1960.

He was very involved with amateur radio and to the children this was his way of life, having consistently heard the noise of the radio and having strangers come in to make contact with family members that were away.

Contained in Claudia’s family tree book are two letters sent to Harold on separate occasions, recognizing his work with the radio and how his efforts helped to save people’s lives during emergencies.

The first was dated for February 5, 1964 and came from the CNR.

During a storm dated from December 19-21, communications were lost between Bishop Falls and Port aux Basques and with Harold’s amateur radio and its wireless connection he was able to keep communications open.

He was commended for his work and tireless efforts throughout the emergency.

The second was from a fleet company out of Marseille, France.

The ‘Douala’ sent out distress signals that could only be transmitted through a make shift aerial on short waves.

Harold picked up the radio messages and was able to pass them on to St. John’s authorities that organized air/sea searches.

Thanks to Harold’s quick thinking and radio abilities, 17 officers and crew out of 29 were rescued.

Claudia and her husband Louis marked the fifth generation for her family tree.

Together, they had three children that were all raised in Port aux Basques. Her children mark the sixth generation in her family tree.

All of her children have children of their own which makes the seventh generation for her book.

As of recent, two of her grandchildren have had kids, them making eight known generations for what Claudia has come up with for her family history.

Her binder full of pages not only includes stories and history, but also photographs along the way. As many photos as she could find, so that in the years to come, her family can put faces to the stories they hear.

Claudia has also made a history book (family tree) for each of her children as well. Her books are all done on scrap paper and used stickers and designs to brighten up the pages.

Most of her information has been found through Joseph Smalls’s diary, family members, Newfoundland Grand Banks website, church offices, cemeteries and more.

She is still in the process of finding out more information and will add more as she finds out.

Organizations: Canadian National Railway, Newfoundland Railway

Geographic location: Burgeo, West Point, Liverpool England Port aux Basques Trafalgar Halifax Marseille France

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Recent comments

  • Dennis E Lawrence
    August 18, 2013 - 11:09

    Would like to contact claudia by email if possible

  • Diane Tibert
    July 24, 2013 - 07:47

    This is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.