The Mystery of Hannah Justin Dries


The photograph below shows Hannah Buffier with her husband and children about 100 years ago. An enlargement of Hannah's picture is on the home page of this website. There is little outward resemblance between Hannah Buffier and Anna Bourke, although they are supposed to have been full sisters, and there will always be some lingering doubt about the link, particularly as Hannah appears to have gone by the name of Hannah Justin for part of her childhood.

Hannah Buffier was born, according to family tradition, at Belford, 30 kilometres west of Maitland. Her birth seems never to have been registered. Margaret Edgley has a hypothesis to explain the lack of a "Hannah" birth registration: that Andreas Dreis's daughter Ann, born 1854, had been officially given the name Hannah already, so it could not be repeated, and therefore the family neglected the registration. But there is no proof of this. One researcher, Maureen Crawley, believes she was the child registered as "Mary Dreis" who was born 6 April 1867 at Patrick Plains. That does seem more likely.

Her mother died soon after she was born. That death, at Belford in November 1868, was registered: a youngest child, Hannah, one year old (*1867) was listed. When Hannah's father, Andreas, died in 1883, it was stated that his youngest daughter Hannah was 16 years old (*1867) and when Hannah herself died in 1949, her age was stated as 82 (*1867). This concordance suggests Hannah and "Mary" were identical. A record from 1890 that states Hannah's age as 22 (*1868) is probably false.

Iron proof that Hannah was Andreas Dreis's daughter does not exist because Hannah never seems to have cultivated links with the Dreis family. But young Hannah "Dries" did state on the 1.5.1887 church record of her marriage that her parents had been "Andrew and Anna". The statement on her death certificate that her parents had been Henry Drice and somebody Justin is false.

Mary Buffier wrote in 1982: "My mother, Johannah Justin Drice, was born at Belford and reared by a Mrs Justin -- I do not know why this was so -- some family mixup I believe." Another daughter, Frances Kelly, explained to me in 1966 that her mother had been a Dries but was brought up Justin, but shied off a close discussion of the topic. It may have been simply that she did know the answer, but one always wonders if there was not something painful in the matter.

Perhaps the best answer to this problem would be to discover more about Mrs Justin: who she was and where she lived.

Hannah Justin Dries, her husband Bulger Buffier and their children

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© Jean-Baptiste Piggin