TRAGEDY ON THE TITANIC, MYSTERIOUS DEATHS AND HIGH-PROFILE KIDNAPPINGS - CANADA'S BREWING DYNASTIES HAVE SEEN IT ALL looks back through the records in honour of Molson Breweries' 225th anniversary

TORONTO, Jan. 17 /CNW/ -, Canada's leading family history resource1, is raising a glass in honour of the 225th anniversary of Molson Brewery, the oldest brewery in North America and the second oldest company in Canada.

Founded in 1786 by English immigrant John Molson in Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, the Molson name has become synonymous with beer in this country. But beyond the libation for which they are most celebrated, the Molson family has a rich and colourful heritage, according to

John Molson himself was a successful entrepreneur who also built the first entirely Canadian-made steamboat and opened Canada's first industrial grain-distillery. John and his and wife, Sarah Insley Vaughan, had three sons, John, Thomas and William.

Harry Markland Molson, son of William, inherited the brewery from his uncle John Henry Robinson Molson. Harry's life was cut tragically short as a passenger aboard the Titanic, and he was last seen removing his shoes with intentions to swim to a nearby ship. Unfortunately, Harry did not make it aboard the ship and his body was never recovered. His death notice is listed in newspaper clippings from the Syracuse Herald and The Indianapolis Star, which can be found on

Percival Talbot Molson, born in 1880, was a great-grandson of John Molson. Percival, a former McGill University sports star who donated money to build a stadium on campus, died while serving in World War I. Completed in 1915, the stadium was renamed to Percival Talbot Molson, in his honour. Percival's WWI enlistment paper, dated April 26, 1915, provides details about his life, including his next-of-kin (his mother), his marital status (he was single), his willingness to be vaccinated (he was), and even his signature. Percival also served in the war with his brother Herbert Molson and his cousin Francis Stuart Molson; all three can be found in's Canadian Soldiers of the First World War Collection.

When it comes to famous brewing families, the Molsons did not have a monopoly on intriguing stories. The second longest prominent family of Canadian brewers, Labatt Breweries, has been around since 1847 and was founded in London, Ontario by John Kinder Labatt.

John Labatt Jr. became involved in the brewery at a young age and did an apprenticeship in West Virginia before taking over the family business in 1866 when his father passed away. John and his wife Sophie were married, resided and died in London, Ontario. Mysteriously, Sophie's 1906 death record indicates that she was accidentally poisoned. 

The records also show that in 1934, John and Sophie's son John S. Labatt was kidnapped by gangsters in London, Ontario, held for a week and then released unharmed at Toronto's Royal York Hotel. Various newspapers clippings on the kidnapping can be found on, including front page coverage from The Lethbridge Herald. The Ironwood Daily Globe features an article on the kidnapper, Russell Knowles, going on a hunger strike while being held at the Kingston penitentiary.

Lesley Anderson, Genealogist with comments:"You never know what you will discover in your family tree. Family tree documents can reveal unique and sometimes mysterious findings, revealing a life or experience you may never have known your ancestors faced."

To highlight these historic Canadian families, is hosting a digital exhibition with the family trees and historical records of the Molson and Labatt families. Visit


Canada's leading family history website, has 128 million Canadian records in such collections as the complete Historical Canadian Censuses from 1851 to 1916, Ontario and British Columbia vital records from as early as 1813, Quebec Vital Records (The Drouin Collection), Canadian Passenger Lists and U.S. / Canada Border Crossings. was launched in January 2006 and belongs to the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by Operations Inc.), which contains six billion records. To date more than 20 million family trees have been created and 2 billion names and 45 million photographs and stories uploaded. (Figures current as of 28 October 2010)

The Ancestry global network of family history websites -  in Canada,  in the US,  in the UK, in Australia,  in Germany, in Italy, in France,  in Sweden and in China.

1 comScore, 2010, based on genealogy related websites selected from the Family and Parenting sub-category under the Community category


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