A Genealogist Looks for A Real Character and Finds Maurice Barrymore: Their Family Tree

The Barrymores are known to the world as a family of actors. Yet, when our RecordClick professional genealogist begins watching the
family show, she finds that there is even more information behind the scenes.

The genealogist knows that every family seems to have one. When you do the genealogy research, you find that some families are littered with them. They cause the genealogy researcher frustration and fun.

Who is this THEY?

They are the “characters” in the Barrymore family tree.

Sometimes it may be a direct line – a grandparent. More often, though, it is an uncle or cousin who left home on some type of adventure. As time passes the genealogist will find that the facts may get a bit hazy, and then the family history story is that the uncle went west in search of gold or took off on a whaling ship sailing whatever sea there was to be sailed. They looked and lived a life outside the box.

This leads me to a group of people who are generally known for being outside the box – actors.

If a genealogist has an actor ancestor, it means names can be changed, unusual lifestyles, and stories may be embellished. Most every genealogist will recognize one of the oldest acting families in the United States: The Barrymores.

They date back five generations – give or take. In the first half of the twentieth century, siblings Lionel, Ethel and John were an acting dynasty. Their parents were Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew:

  • Maurice Barrymore, b. 21 Sep. 1848 in India; d. 26 Mar. 1905 in NY; buried in Philadelphia; m. 31  Dec. 1876 in Philadelphia
  • Georgina Emma Drew, b. 21 May 1856 in Philadelphia; d. 12 July 1893 in California; buried in Philadelphia.

Their children:

  1. Lionel Barrymore, b. 28 Apr. 1878 in Philadelphia; d. 15 Nov. 1954 in California.
  2. Ethel Barrymore, b. 15 Aug. 1879 in Philadelphia; d. 18 June 1959 in California.
  3. John Barrymore, b. 15 Feb. 1882 in Philadelphia; d. 29 May 1942 in California.

Georgina was from an acting family and first appeared on stage when she was small. Less is known about Maurice, but when he came to the United States from England he was a thespian. It is the search for Maurice that is interesting to this genealogist.

The genealogy research has an added twist for a family history researcher when there are name changes and spelling variations. Maurice Barrymore began life neither as Maurice nor Barrymore. He was Herbert Arthur Blythe – with or without the “e”.

In the 1880 U.S. Census, the genealogy researcher will find that the family was living at 15 East 16th Street in Manhattan, New York City:

  • Barrimore, Morris 28           Actor                    India     England               England
  • Georgia                    23           At Home              Penn     England                England
  • Lyonel                        2                                          Penn     India                      Penn
  • Ethel                       6/12                                        Penn     India                      Penn

Georgia had roots in the Philadelphia area. She was married there. Her children were born there. She and Maurice are buried there. Although it is not known exactly how the couple met, according to Philadelphia marriage records, Maurice Herbert Blyth, 27, of New York and Georgina (also known as Georgiana and Georgie) Emma Drew, 21, of Philadelphia were married in her mother’s house at 119 No. 9th Ave on December 31, 1876.

One of the hazards for the genealogy researcher is that one may easily get sidetracked. As impressive as the Barrymore family is, Georgiana’s family is notable as well. Her mother, Louisa Lane Drew made her acting debut with Junius Brutus Booth and was the manager of the Arch Street Theater in Philadelphia for over 30 years.

This historic stage family has interesting naming and property stories.

This historic stage family has interesting naming and property stories.

In the 1870 U.S. Census, the Drew family’s real estate was valued at $20,000 and their personal estate was estimated at $10,000. The Drew family in the 1870 U.S. Census:

  • Drew, Louisa 50            Manager Arch. St. Theater            England
  • Louisa              18           At home                                              New York
  • John W.           16           At home                                              Pennsylvania
  • Georgianna     14           At home                                              Pennsylvania

Although Maurice Barrymore seemed to be making a good living in the theater, he looks to this genealogy researcher like he married well.

Maurice was probably bitten by the acting bug in England. The earliest newspaper record found for him by this professional genealogist, checking both Barrymore and Blyth(e), was in the spring of 1875 in Boston. It looks like he did some traveling that year.

In July of 1875, a San Francisco newspaper listed M.H. Barrymore and John Drew as passengers on a train bound for California. That fall, Maurice was added to the acting company at The Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City. Amongst the other troupe members was Edwin Booth. Actors and performers are noted for having to pay their dues in the profession – working from minor parts to leading roles. Maurice seems to have had higher billing upon his arrival.

There is more the genealogy researcher may want to find out.

  • How did Maurice get interested in the theater?
  • When exactly did he change his name?
  • Why did he select Barrymore?

When the genealogy researcher searches for immigration records, things may take a different tact. Often we genealogists assume our ancestors found accommodations in steerage. This genealogy researcher found that Maurice could afford better.

Then, this genealogist has more questions:

  • Who were his parents and siblings?
  • What happened to them?
  • Did he ever make any trips to visit them?

When you have questions about your family history and your ancestors, contact a professional genealogist at RecordClick. Our genealogists for hire will help you find the answers. RecordClick genealogy researchers have access to resources worldwide. We will get answers for you and get all the information back in the genealogy box.