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Where they went

Where They Went: Newfoundland, Canada

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
Globe Staff / April 25, 2004

WHO: Mary, 62, and Harry Drake, 60, of Bedford

WHERE: Newfoundland, Canada

WHEN: A week in June

WHY: "The trip was genealogy based," Mary said. "My mother and two sisters were born in St. John's, Newfoundland, and they always called it home."

ROOTS REVIVAL: "The research is very time-consuming, so I hired someone to do it," said Mary. "We were given all the addresses of where my mother had lived. Also, I had a cousin Fred [Smeaton] in Newfoundland I'd never met. He's 81 and remembers my sisters. They were 7 and 8 when they left; they're in their 70s now. Fred and I started e-mailing back and forth." Mary's sisters live in Montreal, where she was born and raised.

EUREKA: "I had two very old pictures," Mary said. "One was a grave of my grandfather. And we actually found the grave. It was a large cemetery, but my grandfather was a concrete block maker and had a little concrete fence around the grave. My grandmother, grandfather, uncle, and aunt were buried there." "We also had a photo of the place where her mother's father, the concrete block maker, had a little shop," Harry said. "We went back and forth on the street until we found it. We even found the original sign with his name on it: 'David Whittle, concrete block maker.' "

OUT AND ABOUT: "In St. John's, we stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, the Abba Inn. I'd been so intent on the genealogy piece of it that I didn't know a lot about St. John's. I thought, 'Wow,' when I got there," Mary said. "The whole city is on a hill, and as soon as we got out of the car, we both noticed how clean the air was."

TAKING A GANDER: They drove five hours to Gander, cousin Fred's home. His father had moved there from St. John's to build the airport, and Fred worked there all his life. The airport first was famous as the last place in North America for refueling before crossing the Atlantic, and in 2001 for being where flights were forced to land on Sept. 11. "This tiny town just rose to the occasion," Mary said. "Fred was just the most amazing person," she said. "He's the historian of the Smeaton family."

NEWFOUNDLAND, FOUND: "I would love to go back," Mary said. "I went for a specific reason and I didn't know just how much was there."

To see more photos of the Drakes' trip and other reader vacation snapshots, visit www.boston.com/wheretheywent. Send your story suggestions to ddaniel@globe.com.

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