John Francis Drake (1770s?-1820s?), whose parents are unknown, was probably born in the 1770s or earlier, possibly somewhere along the Hudson River Valley of New York. Although there is much uncertainty, we assume that he may have died sometime in the 1820s, probably in upstate New York. Aunt Mary Swansborough names this man as her maternal grandfather in a letter on the family history that she wrote about 1930 to her little nieces. As such, Mary's grandfather is the earliest Drake ancestor whom we can document, and Mary relates the following about him.
"Tamar Geraud [Mary's grandmother], married a man named John Francis Drake, a descendent of Sir Francis Drake. Grandpa and Grandma Drake lived on the American side of Niagara Falls and kept a large hotel, or hostelry as they were called in those days. They raised a large family of children, mostly girls. Grandpa Drake was an ardent Mason and the Lodge of Masons met in the banquet room of the hotel and one night, Betsy, one of the girls in a spirit of girlish mischief hid in the closed in the hall and heard and saw everything the Masons did. When her father found it out his wrath was something terrible, for in those days children were raised to fear and respect their parents. He laid the matter before the members at their next meeting and they settled it by making her a member in order to keep their secrets, so Aunt Betsy became a Mason in good standing."
Gilbert Drake of Queenston - Aunt Mary Swansborough in the above narrative names John Francis Drake as her maternal grandfather, and she is one of the information sources for Notes by Irene MacBeth, wherein the name John Drake appears a second time. We know that the Drake family lived at times at both Sackets Harbor, and at or near Niagara Falls, where they had a tavern and/or hotel near the Falls. There are some interesting, if not amazing coincidences, when comparing the information Mary relates about John Frances Drake, to information that we have found about a certain Gilbert Drake of New York, who from about 1801 to 1809 was an innkeeper at Queenston in Ontario, Canada. The City of Queenston from 1792 to 1796 was the capital of Upper Canada, and it sits on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, about 5 miles north of Niagara Falls, and 5 miles south of Niagara-by-the-Lake, where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. Some of what we know about this Gilbert Drake follows.
"Gilbert Drake announced in the local newspaper [Niagara Herald, Jan. 24, 1801] in October 1800 that he was recently arrived from New York and had taken over operation of the Lyon Hotel. Four years later he opened a tavern in Queenston, which ke kept until at least 1809." Ref: Nancy Butler, Richard D. Merritt, Michael Power, eds. (1991), The Capital Years: Niagara-on-the-Lake 1792-1796, Dundurn Press, Ltd. and the Niagara Historical Society, Toronto, Canada, p. 213.
"... your Petitioner has been in this Province about Six years, has a Wife and seven Children in this Province, and is in sufficient circumstances to go upon a new Farm." Ref: An Upper Canada Land Petition of Gilbert Drake of the Township of Niagara, Innkeeper dated at York (Toronto) on Oct. 6, 1806 on a pre-printed form with fill-ins.
The Niagara (Canada) Lodge of Masons.
Gilbert Drake became a charter member in 1803 of St. John's Lodge of Friendship, no. 2 Niagara.
Gilbert Drake then served from December 1803 to June 1804 as Junior Warden of the Lodge.
The lodge met "From 24th July, 1804-10th October, 1805, at Bro. Gilbert Drake's tavern, Queenstown."
Gilbert Drake next served from June to December 1805 as the Worshipful Master (supreme leader) of the Lodge.
The lodge met "From 6th October 1808-3rd March 1809. Gilbert Drake's tavern, Queenstown."
Ref: J. Ross Robertson (1900), The History of Freemasonry in Canada from its introduction in 1749, George A. Morang & Co., Ltd, Toronto, p. 506 & 509-510.
Drake's sojourn in Queenston ended around 1810, after he was arrested, but not convicted, as a member of a band of counterfeiters. The incident arose when fake 10-dollar notes of the Columbia Bank of New York began appearing in early 1809 in communities along the U.S.-Canandian border. Drake was subsequently one of seven men arrested on March 24, 1809 and jailed by Canadian authorities, who claimed that he was part a "gang" led by Philander Noble (1772-1845), the latter being a clockmaker, jeweller and expert engraver, who had served time in Vermont for passing fake bank notes.
The case came to trial in September of 1809 in Canada, and ended on September 25th with Philander Noble and four others being sentenced to six-month terms in the Niagara Gaol, and fined 20£ each, plus additional sureties (Niagara Historical Society Bull. No. 42, 1931, p. 98-102). Although Gilbert Drake and Solomon Franklin were not sentenced, they were nonetheless present at the trial, where they were "admitted as king's evidence" (Vermont Courier, Rutland, VT, Saturday, May 20, 1809, p. 1; and Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, May 1919 - Feb. 1920, v. X, p. 523). Presumably, this means that charges against the two were dropped in exchange for their testimony against Philander and the others.
Although Philander Noble and his accomplices finished their six-month jail terms on April 26, 1810, they remained locked up, as they were unable to pay the fines and sureties demanded of them as part of their sentences. They appealed their case on the grounds that such amounted to life imprisonment. The authorities, who apparently were also fearful of a jail break, recommended a pardon, which the lieutenant governor's office granted on May 2, 1810, sometime afterwhich the men were released. No mention is made of Gilbert Drake, nor is there any further mention of him in the records of Upper Canada, but if he had indeed testified against the counterfeiters, then he might well have feared retribution, and felt it wise for him and his family to leave town.
Some amazing coincidences are already evident if we compare the life of John Francis Drake, an inn keeper of Niagara Falls, with that of Gilbert Drake, an inn keeper of Queenston. Four more events worth noting are listed below.
John Francis Drake has a daughter Nancy Drake born on Jan. 14, 1801 in Sackets Harbor, New York.
Gilbert Drake announces on Jan. 24, 1801 in a Canadian newspaper called the Niagara Herald that he was taking over a local hotel.
John Francis Drake has a daughter Frances Drake born on July 14, 1810 in Queenston, Canada.
A Gilbert Drake is listed on or after Aug. 6, 1810 in the U.S. Census for that year as the head of a large family in Jefferson County, New York
in the town of Brownsville, which is a rural community on the east side of Sackets Harbor.
It is tempting to surmise that John Francis Drake and Gilbert Drake are the same man, and that he moved his family from Sackets Harbor, New York to Queenston, Ontario in 1801 to run a hotel there, and later a tavern. Then in 1810 he disappears under duress from Upper Canada, only to reappear 150 miles away in the Sackets Harbor area, from whence he had come from some ten or so years earlier.
An analysis of U.S. census return provides some insights as to whether the Drake family of the Queenston/Niagara area of Canada, and a Drake family living from 1810 to 1840 in the Sackets Harbor area of New York might be one and the same.
1810 U.S. Census - The head of household is Gilbert Drake, born between 1765 and 1775. His household of 10 people in Brownville Township, Jefferson County, New York included 2 males and 1 female between 26 and 45 years old. There was also 1 female between 10 and 16 years old, with 3 males and 3 females all under the age of 10. Brownville is located about 8 miles to the northeast of Sackets Harbor.
1820 U.S. Census - The head of household is Gilbert Drake, born before 1775. His household of 8 people in Hounsfield, Jefferson County, New York included 1 male 45 years of age or older, and 1 female 45 or older. There were also 2 males 16 to 26 years old, 1 male 16 to 18 years old, 1 female 16 to 26 years old, 1 female 10 to 15 years old, and 1 female under the age of 10. Hounsfield is located about 6 miles to the southwest of Brownville, and 4 miles to the west of Sackets Harbor.
1825 New York State Census - The head of household is Lamour (Tamar) Drake, who is probably a widow, as no Gilbert Drake appears in this nor any subsequent New York census. Her household of 5 people in Hounsfield, Jefferson County, New York includes 2 males and 3 females.
1830 U.S. Census - The head of household is a James Drake, who is shown as 15- to 20-years old, but it includes a 50- to 59-year old female, who is almost certainly his presumed mother Tamar Drake. This makes 1771 to 1780 her approximate birth date. However, it is important to note that the name on the census is not entirely clear, and it may actually be "Tamor", and not "James". In addition to James and Tamar, this houshold of four people in Hounsfield, Jefferson County, New York also includes a male and a female between 5 and 9 years of age. Hounsfield is located about 6 miles to the southwest of Brownville, and 4 miles to the west of Sackets Harbor.
1840 U.S. Census - The head of household is Tomas (Tamar) Drake. She was born 1761 to 1770. Her household of four people in Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, New York includes a female between 70 and 79 years of age, along with a female between 5 and 8 years old, and two males under the age of 5 years.
We conclude from the above that John Francis Drake and Gilbert Drake are probably the same person. Furthermore, Gilbert was born before 1775, most likely in New York, and died sometime between the 1820 U.S. Census and the 1825 New York State census. Also, his wife Tamar Geraud was probably born about 1770, almost certainly in New York, and she died between the 1840 and 1850 census. Although we do not know the names of their parents, we can make some guesses on the ancestry of Gilbert, which are covered in the Appendix that follows; and we strongly suspect that Tamar is somehow descended from the Gerow/Geraud family of New Rochelle in Westchester County, New York. However, these again are only guesses, and much work remains to be done to ascertain the true origins of Tamar and Gilbert.
We do know from Aunt Mary Swansborough's letter, and other sources that John Francis Drake (or is it Gilbert?) married Tamar Geraud (Gerow), presumably in the late 1790s in New York, and that they had several children, mostly girls. Only those children whom we are able to document are listed below.
children - DRAKE
Elizabeth "Betsy" Drake (c.1800-?) is assumed to be one of the older daughters, but his is not known with any certainty. The only mention of her is in a brief story related by Aunt Mary Swansborough, wherein Betsy sneaks into a meeting of her father's masons lodge and observes their secret rituals.
Nancy Drake (1801-1879) was born on Jan. 14, 1801 in Sackets Harbor, New York. When she was about 16 years old (i.e., in about 1817) she married James Smith, who is said to have been a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and they had a daughter Frances Maria Smith (1825-1892). James died young, and Nancy brought her daughter to Burlington, Wisconsin, where they lived with Nancy's younger sister Frances McCumber. There Nancy's daughter married an Englishman named William Toombs (1824-1892), and relocated with him in the 1850s to Placerville, California during the Gold Rush. Nancy eventually joined her daughter's family in California, probably traveling across the country in 1869 or 1870 by train, just after the trans-continental railroad had been built. She died on Dec. 29, 1879 in Placerville, where she is buried in the Old Union Cemetery. More information on Nancy and her family are given in a separate section in the Toombs Genealogy.
Frances Drake (1810-1878) was born on July 14, 1810 in Queenston, Ontario, Canada. She married Francis McCumber (1806-1888), and they had several children. She died on Jan. 13, 1878 in Racine County, Wisconsin, where she is buried with her husband in the Old Burlington Cemetery. More information on Frances and her family are given in a separate section in the Toombs Genealogy.
James Drake (c.1812-?) is known only from the 1830 U.S. Census, which shows him as the head of a household of four people in Hounsfield, Jefferson County, New York that includes himself (age 15-20), a female age 50-60, a male age 5-10, and a female age 5-10. The earlier 1825 New York State Census for the same town shows his presumed mother Tamar (Lamour) Drake as the head of household; and the subsequent 1840 U.S. Census shows Tamar (Tomas) again as the head of household, but this time in Sackets Harbor, which is adjacent to Hounsfield. James' age of 15 to 20 in the 1830 census makes 1810 to 1815, let's say about 1812, as his approximate birth date.
The map on the left, dated 1809, shows the Lake Ontario region along the Canadian-American border. Note that the distance, as the crow flies across the lake, from the Queenston/Niagara area to Sackets Harbor is about 150 miles. The map on the right, dated 1829, shows the towns and townships in the Sackets Harbor area. Note that Sackets Harbor is actually part of the Hounsfield Township that is shown in pink. Gilbert Drake and his family lived in Brownville, and later his widow Tamar lived in Hounsfield/Sackets Harbor. Another Drake family, whose relationship to Gilbert Drake is unknown, lived in Antwerp, which is located off the map some 25 miles or so to the northeast of Brownville (see the David Rumsey Map Collection).
Appendix: Speculations on the Ancestry of Nancy Drake's father
Mary Swansborough (1855-1941) writes in The History of Evelyn's and Helen's Maternal Grandmothers that her grandmother Nancy Smith (neé Drake) was the daughter of "a man named John Francis Drake, a descendant of Sir Francis Drake" (c.1540-1596) - the famous sea captain and explorer. The problem here is that Sir Francis Drake did not have any children of his own, legitimate or otherwise. Despite this, many family trees that descend from one of the Drake families of New England claim Sir Francis Drake as their immigrant ancestor.
To get around the above problem, a few family trees attempt to claim descent instead from Sir Thomas Drake of Buckland Abbey (1556-1606), the younger brother of Sir Francis Drake. However, extensive research by the Drake Exploration Society has yet to turn up any documentary evidence to support claims of descent in the paternal line from either Sir Francis Drake, or his brother Sir Thomas. Suffice it to say that the only evidence these trees can provide to claim one of the famous Drake brothers as an ancestor are unproven stories of unknown origin. Thus, despite all claims to the contrary, the evidence is lacking, and we probably need to look elsewhere to find the true ancestors of Nancy Drake and her father.
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Although Nancy Drake and her father cannot possibly descend from the famous Sir Francis Drake, an alternate possibility is that they descend from a Capt. Francis Drake, who was not a sea captain at all, and probably bears no relation to the famous Sir Francis. This lesser-known Francis Drake appears in the mid-1600s in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where for a time he was a land holder. He is thought by some to have been the son of a Robert Drake of Colchester, Essex, whose son Nathaniel owned land next to Francis in Portsmouth. However, there is no mention of Francis in the will of Robert, which makes a strong case that they are not related. Also, genetic research indicates that the descendants of Capt. Francis Drake belong to haplogroup R-M512 (Branch R1a), whereas those who descend from Robert belong to haplogroup R-M269 (Branch R1b). This confirms that Francis and Robert are not related (at least within the last few hundred years). Francis ultimately settled in the New Jersey Colony, where he died on Sept. 24, 1687 in the Piscataway settlement that today is part of Middlesex County. He had several children, and many members of the Drake family believe they descend from him.
DESCENDANTS OF JOSIAS DRATZ (DRAKE) OF BROOKLYN
Although evidence is lacking, many family trees show Dutch immigrant Josias Jansen Dratz of New York (d. c.1701) to be either a son or grandson of the aforementioned Capt. Francis Drake. However, it is much more likely that the ancestry of Josias is entirely Dutch, and that he bears no relation at all to Capt. Francis Drake. Also, genetic research shows that the descendants of Josias are in haplogroup R-M269 (Branch R1b), which confirms that they are not related to the family of Francis, who belong to haplogroup R-M512 (Branch R1a). Irregardless of his parentage or ancestry, Josias had a son named John, born and baptized in what back then was the city of New Amsterdam in the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. This corresponds today to Brooklyn (Flatbush) in Kings County, New York. This John relocated in 1733 or 1734 from Brooklyn to Goshen in Orange County, New York, where his son Benjamin Drake (1734-1817) was born, married and died. Benjamin and his first wife Sarah Smith (d. 1775) raised a large family in Goshen, most of whom lived out their lives there, but some of whom moved on to other parts of the country.
The Orange County Drakes: One of Benjamin Drake's sons is William Drake (1761-1842), who about 1788 married Margaret Dowdle (1768-1848) in Goshen, Orange County, New York. William, and perhaps a brother, served as loyalists during the American Revolution, probably in the King's Royal Regiment of New York commanded by General Sir John Johnson. He remained in New York following the 1784 disbanding of this regiment, but no doubt found himself at odds with neighbors who had supported the American cause. This may have led him to seek redress from the British government of Canada, and William in 1794, with members of his wife's family (the Dowdles), occupied land near the modern town of Cheapside, west of Niagara Falls on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie. Two years later, they petitioned for and received 200-acre plots in this area after presenting themselves at Fort George, Canada, where the outlet of the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario. His wife's family ultimately settled on the northwest side of Niagara Falls, where for a time they were members of the Canadian community there, whereas William and family relocated to St. Thomas, Ontario many miles to the west of Cheapside.
Frances Drake, the wife of Capt. Francis McCumber, and a probable sister of Nancy Drake, was born on July 14, 1810 in Queenston, which is on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. John Drake and his wife Tamar, the parents of Nancy Drake, and likely the parents of Frances as well, ran a hostelry at the time somewhere near the Falls. Also, William Drake's in-laws the Dowdles were prominent members about this time of the Niagara Falls community. Because of Nancy Drake's close association with Niagara Falls, and the close association of William Drake's family to the same, it is possible that Frances and Nancy Drake are relatives of said William Drake. If so, they, like William, descend from early Dutch-born immigrant Josias Jansen Dratz.
The Ulster County Drakes: There is record of a Josiah Drake (1750-1833) from Fishkill in Dutchess County, New York, who relocated in the late 1700s to New Paltz in Ulster County, where he is found during the 1790 census. His parents and ancestry are unknown, but the repetition of the name Josiah in his family, and its similarity to Josias indicates that the Ulster County Drakes may descend from previously discussed Dutch immigrant Josias Dratz (Drake) of Brooklyn. If so, the Drake families of Ulster and Orange Counties may actually be related. Josiah Drake of New Paltz lived not too far from the Gerow (Giraud) family of Plattekill, his farm being about 8 or so miles due north of theirs. Interestingly, he had a son named Gilbert Drake (1781-1867), and a descendant named Mary Tamar Drake (1855-1910). The appearance of the names Gilbert and Tamar Drake, and the proximity of the Gerow and Drake family farms in Ulster County make us wonder if the origins of Nancy Smith (neé Drake), and her parents are to be found there.
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DESCENDANTS OF JOHN DRAKE OF WINDSOR
An Alternate Ancestry - Another possibility is that Nancy and Frances Drake share a common ancestor with members of the Drake family found in Jefferson and Oswego Counties, New York, around and near Sackets Harbor, which is where Nancy Drake was born, and probably married. The immigrant ancestor of these Drake families is a John Drake Sr. of Windsor (d. 1659), who was born in the late 1500s in England, possibly in the parish of Wiscombe, Devonshire, but more likely born in the parish of Arden, Warwickshire*. He left England prior to Jan. 26, 1640 with his wife and children to come to America, where they settled in the “Massacoh Valley” of the Farmington River. This area is on the outskirts of Windsor (previously called Dorchester), the first English settlement in the Connecticut Colony, and it corresponds today to the town of Simsbury.
John Drake's name first appears in the Windsor, Connecticut town records is in 1640, when he was granted a home lot of 14 acres. The records next list the 1646, 1648 and 1649 marriages of his sons Job, John Junior, and Jacob. The elder John Drake was killed in a tragic accident on Aug. 17, 1659 when he fell beneath the wheels of his ox cart, and was crushed. His widow survived him by another 22 years, and he was also survived by their three sons. His son Jacob died in 1689 without any children, but when John's other sons Job and John Junior died that same year, both were survived by several children, all believed to have been born in Windsor. (Stiles, 1859, p. 583-584; Gay, 1933, p. 1-3). Two groups of descendants of the elder John Drake eventually settled in upstate New York. One group centered around Antwerp in Jefferson County, just 8 miles east of Sackets Harbor where Nancy Drake was born and married; and the other group centered around Redfield in Oswego County, which is about 30 miles to southwest of Sackets Harbor.
*Although the descendants of John Drake of Windsor do not claim the famous Sir Francis Drake, or even the lesser known Capt. Francis Drake as their ancestor, many believe that their John Drake was born sometime after 1591 in the parish of Wiscombe, Devonshire, as the son of one William Drake of Surrey (e.g., Kiepura, 1965). Unfortunately, the underlying reason for embracing the Wiscombe baptism is probably because this notion grants the bearer of such a pedigree bragging rights to an illustrious medieval ancestry (Weis, 1992, 2006). However, this lineage is controversial, as it depends on a weak assumption that is now disputed by many (e.g., Anderson, 1988). A much more likely interpretation is that John Drake of Windsor is the same man as a John Drake of unknown parentage, who came from Arden, Warwickshire, and was probably born there. (Anderson, 1995).
Interestingly, genetic research shows that the descendants of John Drake of Windsor belong to haplogroup T-M70 (T Branch), which is fairly rare in western Europe. This means that John's descendants are only very remotely related to most other branches of the family, as any common ancestors would have to be many thousands of years ago. The Drake Exploration Society is adament that there are no confirmed living descendants in the male line of the family of Sir Francis Drake, which means we have no Y-DNA of his family to test. Therefore we do not know which haplogroup his family belongs to. However, less than 2% of the population of England and the Netherlands belongs to Haplogroup T, whereas nearly two-thirds of the popluation belongs to the R haplogroups, which makes a connection much less likely between John Drake of Windsor and the other Drake families of New England.
The Redfield, Oswego County Drakes:Reuben Drake (1741-1825), a great-great-grandson of John Drake Jr. (d. 1689), was born in Windsor, and married there about 1766 to Elizabeth Rockwell. This Reuben, his wife and their two grown sons Rodolphus (1767-1847) and James (1769-1855), and possibly others, came about 1800 to the town Redfield in Oswego County, New York. Redfield sits only 30 miles south of Sackets Harbor, where Nancy Drake of the above narrative was born, and probably married. Her association with Sackets Harbor, and the proximity of Sackets Harbor to Redfield makes it possible that Nancy's father John Francis (or is it Gilbert?) Drake was a close relative of Reuben Drake. Also, Reuben's great grandson Andrew Jackson Drake (1816-1838) resided in Sackets Harbor some years after Nancy's mother Tamar Drake was there. Unfortunately, Gay's (1933) study on the Descendants of John Drake of Windsor, a very throrough, well-done treatment on the family, makes absolutely no mention of Nancy Drake's family. This casts doubt on a close connection between Nancy Drake and Reuben Drake, but does not rule it out.
The Antwerp, Jefferson County Drakes: Another possibility, and perhaps a more likely one than the preceding, is that Nancy and Frances Drake are close relatives of Josiah Drake III (1762-1846) of Antwerp, which is in Jefferson County only 8 miles east of Sacket's Harbor. This Josiah was a great nephew of the above-named Reuben Drake, which means that Josiah also descends from John Drake Sr. of Windsor. Josiah's son Ziba Drake (1784-1852) settled about 1808 in Antwerp, and about 1814 Josiah makes his home there as well. The 1810, 1820 and 1830 U.S. Census places Tamar Drake, the mother of Nancy and Frances, at Brownville and Hounsfield, which means she lived probably five or six hours ride (25 miles) by horse or carriage from Josiah and Ziba. This make it possible that Tamar's daughters are related to the Drakes of Antwerp, Tamar's husband possibly being Ziba's brother? But, as with before, Gay's (1933) thorough study on the Descendants of John Drake of Windsor makes no mention of Nancy Drake's family
The Westchester County Drakes: It is also quite possible that Nancy and Frances Drake descend from a Samuel Drake of Westchester (d. 1686), who is first mentioned on Sept. 13, 1650 in the town of Fairfield in the Connecticut Colony. Most family trees show this Samuel to be the son of the previously discussed John Drake, Sr. of Windsor. However, this is an unfounded assumption, as no document of the time has ever been found, despite many decades of searching, that names a Samuel as one of John Drake's sons. Irrespective of his parentage, this Samuel sometime in the mid-1680s relocated to the western part of Westchester County in New York. This county, which today is part of the New York City metropolitan area, is on the north side of the old Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam that had only recently come under English control. The Giraud (Gerow) family, about this same time, immigrated from France to become one of the founding Huguenot families of the settlement of New Rochelle in the western part of the county (adjacent to Long Island Sound). Land transactions and shared marriages between the Drake family of Westchester, and the the Giraud/Gerow family of New Rochelle prove that they knew each other, which makes it possible that the ancestors of Nancy and Frances Drake, and of their Drake and Geraud (Gerow) parents, might be found here.
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Some Final Thoughts - The Drake family name is rather common, and many individuals bearing this name immigrated in the 17th and 18th centuries to the British Colonies of North America. Some of these Drakes were closely related, but many were not. Some returned home, or died with no issue, but a few stayed, settled in New York, and had children, so that today many branches of this family exist with origins in the state. We have identified a few of these branches that may contain the ancestors of our John Francis (or is it Gilbert?) Drake, the husband of Tamar Geraud (Gerow), but we know so little about him, that it is impossible to identify which of these Drake families, if any of them, our man belongs to.