Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Latest Middlebrook Reunion Newsletter ( March 27)

Middlebrook News

Welcome to New "Cousins"
Welcome to those who have signed up for updates since the last newsletter went out last week. Its great to see we are growing in number. Remember to spread word to family and have them sign up or email to sign up.
We now have descendants signed up from 5 of the 6 children  who survived to adulthood of John and Ellen ( we are missing descendants of Benjamin who moved to Australia and worked as a ships engineer - though  her returned to NZ to marry Alice Lane- he settled and had his family in New South Wales) .

Reminder - Samuel Middlebrook Collection Opening this Sunday  - 30 March - in Katikati

We believe there will be about 20 of us at the opening of the Samuel Middlebrook Collection in Katikati on Sunday.  Paula from the museum is reserving tables for us for lunch after the opening. For many of us this will be the first time we have met so it is very exciting ( A pre reunion reunion so to speak), and is arranging a private viewing before the official opening for us. 

There are several newspaper articles being published regarding the collection and also the reunion.
Many thanks of course go to those descendants who donated the collection,  making it available to everyone in the family, and the public. What a wonderful gift to us you have given.
For those who cant be there , the next newsletter will contain photographs of the event .

Last weeks Who Am I photo is still a bit of a mystery. However it was pointed out that perhaps the woman on the right who we thought was Jane Thompson Middlebrook ( the elder) perhaps is NOT her.   The woman on the left appears indeed to be one of the "Farrer Sisters" - ( daughters of Ellen Farrer's brother Robert)   and as these two women have quite a strong family resemblance, perhaps they are sisters
If this is the case, then descendants of Jane and James were both in contact with the Farrer Family back in England, with both families retaining  photos

Another Family Pub!

Thanks to Peter Hingston, the Thompson branch of the family tree now has a lot more leaves! - and a pub.
Ellen Middlebrook's parents were Benjamin and Ellen Farrer - Ellen's  maiden name was Thompson,and her mother was Ellen Thompson .  The Thompson family hailed from the village of Fairburn, very near Pontefract where the Farrers lived. It seems they had lived in this village for hundreds of years.  The village was so small it didnt have its own church until 1846 and previous to that was part of the parish of Ledsham.
The parish records of Ledsham were transcribed in the early 19th century and from there it was easy to tell the Thompson family had been part of the community for  a long time ( at least as far back as the early 17th century)
By researching the parish records I was able to add many Thompsons to the family tree.
Ellen's father James Thompson  ( 1748-1841) was the "Victualler" at the Three Horse Shoes Pub in Silver Street Fairburn as shown in the photo above ( Google Street View Screenshot)
James had one son ( James) and at least 5 daughters. His daughters Elizabeth Sarah Ann and Hannah seemed to take over the running of the pub after James death.
I (Lauren) have ordered a digitised copy of James' Will ( and also that of Samuel Middlebrook (1784-1846)) which is available through the Prerogative and Exchequer Courts of York and will let you know of its contents when it is delivered .
Elizabeth and Sarah Thompson never married and are buried at St James Churchyard in Fairburn

    You can learn more about the history of Fairburn here


    Would anyone care to have a go at dating this photo, or working out where it is and who the little girls are?
    This photo is from the collection pertaining to Jane Thompson McRae ( nee Middlebrook) ( Of course this photo may not be Jane's immediate family just to confuse matters but there appear to be other photos of these two girls - or girls very like them, amongst the photos)
    Based on the state of the road it is quite early but it is clearly in a built up area ..
    Jane is known to have lived in the following addresses ( and there could be more places we arent aware of )
    Opua ( 1880s and 90s , Cobden Street Auckland,( 1898, 1904, 1905-6) Eden Cres Auckland ( 1900, 1901)
    Arkles Bay 1911-1915, Owens Road Devonport and Kiwi Rd Devonport.
    We can discount Opua Arkles Bay and Devonport , but of course this photo may well relate to one of her childrens residences
    Her daughter Jane Elizabeth  lived in Karangahape Road in 1905-6, at 27 McKelvie Street Grey Lynn in 1911and later at St Heliers .
    We would love to be able to place this house and these little girls .  If any of you have any ideas please let us know at


    If you have any stories and or photos you would like to share in the newsletter please do send them to Lauren . We would love to include them in forthcoming newsletters.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    A Young Soldier



    One of my  most interesting ancestors to date has to be Samuel Middlebrook. My great great Grandfather on my mothers side.

    He emigrated as a child with his family from Yorkshire, and by the age of 17 was apparently fluent in Maori. I know little of his early life as yet, but on a recent trip south we stopped at the KatiKati Museum.  I knew that he had raised a family there and was important in the settling of the area by the Ulster Irish Settlers.

    In the museum we found this treasure of a portrait. One I had never seen or heard of before.



    The journalling on this layout reads:

    This portrait of Samuel Middlebrook was hanging in the
    KatiKati Museum. Its description stated he was about 17 years old, and in the uniform of the Tauranga Armed Constabulary. His son Bert once said in a speech to the Ohinemuri Historical Society, that Sam ran away from home at 17, joined the Armed Constabulary in Tauranga, later joining the Lands and Survey Department where he would be involved in the original surveying of the Tauranga district, and later assist Sir George Vessey Stewart lead his Irish settlement party into the district.
    The Armed Constabulary and had the combined roles of regular police work and also supporting the militia during the Land Wars of the mid to late 19th Century. Initially Law and Order was kept by British forces but increased taxes on the colony for each British soldier meant by 1846 the time had come for the New Zealand Government to raise its own force to supplement their numbers With a combination of mounted and unmounted members the recruits were trained as light infantry and cavalry and their numbers were drawn from volunteers. From 1867 -1886 they were the only permanent force in New Zealand until the permanent Militia Force was formed in 1886.

    An Historic Vessel–The history of the Phenella , built by Samuel Middlebrook

    Samuel Middlebrook, my 2x Great Grandfather was a fairly well known identity in Katikati which he had a hand in founding, by being the one to lead George Vessey Stewart into the area with his group of Irish Settlers. He remained living in the area until not long before his death and for many of the latter years of his life lived aboard his boat the “Phenella”

    Here is a layout that recounts the history of the boat, both during and well after Sam’s death.


    Journalling on the layout reads:

    Built on the Uretara River in the early 1900s by Sam Middlebrook with help from his friends William Mulgrew and Noble Johnston, the 28 foot long Phenella was a well known vessel in the Kati Kati area. It was Sam Middlebrook's second boat, the first having been wrecked by a stray kauri log in a flood on the Tuapiro River. It was built as a houseboat and in fact Sam did live on the boat for more than 20 years in the latter part of his life. Most of the hardware on board including the “Union Engine” was salvaged from the wreck of the previous boat, the Monuwai. It was fitted with a Mast and Sails and often was sailed on the harbour.
    Sam used Totara for the hull, and Kauri for the upper works of the boat.
    Sam was an excellent and experienced boatman with an expert knowledge of the Tauranga Harbour; and on one occasion was responsible for saving the lives of a party of excursionists caught by a storm on the harbour. When Sam “retired” to Waihi, the boat was sold to a Mr Blomquist, the Chairman of the Tauranga Harbour Board who renamed it the “Whanganella”. During World War II it was designated a rescue craft in case aircraft flying off the Mount Maunganui aerodrome crashed into the harbour, but it was only once called out due to its mooring on the Uretara River and it could only get out to the harbour on the high tide. On one occasion one of the RNZAF planes made a mock dive bombing attack on the Whanganella when it was out on the harbour.
    When Mr Blomquist died the boats ownership was passed to a Mr Claude Hume. By this time age and years had caught up with the old vessel, but its totara hull was still sound , though the kauri upper-works had to be entirely rebuilt by a professional boat builder.
    Mr Hume kept the boat for 20 years on the harbour near his home at Matahui, and he cruised in it extensively, going as far afield as the Bay of Islands. He renamed it the Kotuku and then this name was retained when the boat was once again sold to a Mr Lomas who took ownership in 1971.
    When Mr Lomas had a minor collision with a wharf, the boat builder who repaired the boat said the hull was as sound as the day it was built over 50 years before.
    In fact the timber in the hull where two planks needed repairing was so hard that he could not saw out the damaged pieces, and they had to be burned off.
    I wonder if the old boat is still sailing now. It certainly would have some stories to tell .

    A Grave and a Will

    When I visited Archives in Auckland , I was really excited to find a will handwritten by Ellen Middlebrook, my 3x Great Grandmother.

    It was an old photo of her gravestone that got my interested in Genealogy in the first place, and I had not long before found her grave myself.

    It is still standing at Purewa Cemetery in Auckland, and beside her grave is that of one of her sons James Thompson Middlebrook.  From the cemetery plans it appears there was one other person buried in this family plot but no gravestone exists and there is no record of who it might be.



    This is the last Will and testament of me Ellen Middlebrook Widow of the CIty of Auckland in the colony of New Zealand.. I give and bequeath to my children here- after mentioned. To my daugther Jane Thompson, the wife of Hector McRae the sum of fifty pounds sterling for her sole use and benefit, and to my sons Benjamin Middlebrook and John Middlebrook the sum of fifty pounds sterling and to my sons Samuel Middlebrook and James Thompson Middlebrook, the like sum of fifty pounds sterling held by them in promissary notes and to my daughter Elizabeth Hardy the wife of george Douglas Hardy the sum of fifty pounds sterling held by GD Hardy her husband on promissary note and the remainder of any monies possessed by me at the time of my death to be divided into six equal portions and given to my six children before named. And the piece of land belonging to me at Tawhio KatiKati to be sold on the decision of the majority of my children and the proceeds to be divided equally among my six children before named and George Douglas Hardy and John Middlebrook of Auckland to be executors of this my will . Signed by Me Ellen Middlebrook in the presence of us present at the same time who in their presence and in the presence of each other and subscribe our names as witnesses hereto. Withnes my hand this 27th of February 1892
    Ellen Middlebrook
    What a treasure to find the hand written will of my great great great Grandmother at Archives in Auckland. I wonder about the differences in the delivery of the money to the daugthers - clearly one daughters husband was not at all in favour!
    Ellen Middlebrook’s grave still stands proudly at Purewa Cemetery
    with her son James Thompson Middlebrook

    Tuesday, March 18, 2014

    The Middlebrook Brothers





    Journalling on this layout reads

    These 4 brothers, from a family clearly steeped in family values, each having been named after an ancestor,from a family who obviously valued family ties,  and yet a family far far away from their birth country,and spread far and wide within their new homeland (and in the case of Benjamin even further afield in Australia).
    Despite their geographic separation it has been obvious they stayed close as a family, with regular visits  (as evidenced by photos of their children together, stories of visits  of their children to uncles, visits with each other over the years). Its immediately obvious these men are brothers - they are so alike in their looks.
    Each of these 4 sons forged a successful and adventurous life, Benjamin, as a Ships Engineer eventually moving to New South Wales, John,as a successful butcher and prominent businessman and town councillor in Te Awamutu, Samuel being responsible for guiding George Vesey Stewart to Katikati where he would play a big part in the setting up of the worlds first planned Irish Settlement, and James as a successful carpenter and builder.
    We should not forget there were originally 5 brothers, their youngest sibling Henry Cockroft Middlebrook having died aged just 15.


    Though I’ve had the photo of Samuel for some time , its only in very recent weeks Ive seen photos of James John and Benjamin as young men. I first was shown the photo of John and thought while there were definite similarities to Samuel ( the nose and mouth area in particular), they didn’t strike me as all that alike – however on seeing the photo of Benjamin I was struck by how very alike he and John were – The hair type and hair line, the eyes and nose are so similar to me I may easily have thought I was looking 2 photos of the same man.

    Similarly when I saw the photo of James I was struck by how alike he was to Samuel – even in their latter years the two men look so very alike .

    When you start researching your ancestors and only know details of one sibling its easy to think of them in isolation, but Ive discovered through stories, letters and photos that these brothers were often together ( despite often  being geographically separated from each other .

    There are photos of John and Samuels sons together as young children despite Samuel living in Katikati and John in Ponsonby at the time. There are stories that Benjamin’s daughter spoke to her children of visiting her “Uncle John”  in New Zealand, and there are photos of Samuel and John ( and John and sister Jane)  together in their latter years


    John Stewart Middlebrook ( son of Samuel Middlebrook) and John Thompson Middlebrook ( son of John Middlebrook)

    . JohnJaneMiddlebrook

    John  Middlebrook and Jane McRae ( nee Middlebrook)


    John Middlebrook and Samuel Middlebrook

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    James Middlebrook–A House in Opua


    Journalling on this layout reads  :

    The photo above shows Julia Middlebrook on the balcony of the “Opua House” which appears to be a fairly newly built home . It would seem that James Middlebrook owned several properties in the Bay of Islands and this was likely to have been the last house he owned there before moving his family to Auckland .
    The house can clearly be seen standing proud at the top of the hill above the Opua Wharf in the photo below taken in 1912. James advertised to sell the property in December 1908 The notice stating“FOR SALE House of-9 rooms, at Opua, Bay o,f Islands; "large allotment; good view of harbour; "close to wharf,- railway terminus, and public school. Would exchange for town property.—For particulars apply to J. T. Middlebrook, Opua, Bay of Islands”, however its not obvious the property was sold as later, in 1912 he is noted as advertising“RESIDENCE, seaside, Opua. Bay of Islands, for Sale; would exchange for town property.-J Middlebrook. Mamie-St.. Remuera”


    I was lucky to get  copies of the two top photos in this layout from a relative in Sydney. Previously I had only had one poor quality photocopy of a photo of James Middlebrook and I wasn’t even 100% certain it was him. ( Im pleased to confirm it was)



    I really like the look of this house of James’ standing proud on the hill above the bay in Opua. – Imagine its worth now if it were still standing.

    I dont believe, however that it is still standing

    Its just visible on the top right before the hill goes up, in this photo taken in 1915 from


    This photograph taken in 1960 on  it could be there tucked into the trees at the top of the hill but Im not sure its the same house at all, and the angle of the photgraph and the geography of the hillside has changed somewhat making it more difficult

    Car ferry, Opua - Alexander Turnbull Library


    Currently I havent found a photograph that would confirm its existence between these two photos.

    Ill keep searching though and post any future photos I might find here.

    Friday, March 14, 2014



    The Middlebrook Reunion News.

    (To receive these newsletters automatically just sign up in the slot at the top right of this page

    Hello again!
    Welcome to new subscribers! We are slowly growing in number but we still need you to be spreading the word.
    Remember to forward this newsletter to your family members who may be interested in attending or finding out more about our upcoming reunion on Auckland Anniversary Weekend next January 24-26.
    We know it seems miles away but in order to maximise value for money it would help a lot to have a vague idea of numbers who  might attend.
    Make sure they sign up  to receive future newsletters on the blog

    In the mean time there is quite a lot of news on Middlebrook Family Research since we last wrote.
    The big news is the opening of the "Samuel Middlebrook Collection " at Katikati Museum on March 30th
    Samuel was known to be well acquainted with the Maori and fluent in the language. This is probably why he was hired by the Lands and Survey Office, and acted as a guide to George Vesey Stewart.
    He also apparently acted as dentist to the local Maori tribes and this collection includes a bag of dentist tools which must have been those he used.
    The collection was in the possession of Samuel's son Bert ( Samuel Robert Middlebrook) until close to his death and until recently was housed in the Thames Museum to where it was donated by Bert's daughter Valerie.
    Valerie's children have most graciously donated the collection to the Katikati museum, returning this important collection to the area in which it rightfully belongs.
    There will be a group of us attending the opening on the 30th and we would love to meet up with other family while we are there.

    Samuel Middlebrook 1856- 1945
    Here is Samuel Middlebrook, looking very regal in his "Orangeman" regalia. Samuel, like his other brothers was a devoted lodge member - In Katikati the local lodge was the Orange Lodge, being a town predominantly made up of Irish Protestant immigrants.  (John and Benjamin were known to be members of the Masonic Lodge)
    Samuel married Mary Jane Rea , daughter of Stewart and Margaret Rea who were settlers  in  the 1st party of Irish Immigrants in George Vesey Stewarts scheme.
    For some time he was a butcher like his brother, father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather,but also followed other trades, carpentry, mining and engineering.

    Elizabeth Middlebrook  1851- 1943
    Elizabeth Middlebrook - This photo must have been taken not long after her marriage to George Douglas Hardy in  December 1868  as it is annotated on the back as Mrs G Hardy, Auckland. The photo was taken by Crombie Photo Auckland ( John Nicol Crombie was a well known early Auckland Photographer who set up a studio in Auckland in 1855. He took over 1000 portraits in his 1st 15 months in Auckland . He travelled extensively, returning at least twice to Europe before selling his studio in 1872)

    WHO AM I?

    The man in this photo is a real mystery man.  We know who all the other people are.
    This photo is a photo of Ellen Hardy ( known as Ellen Miller) and her 3 children, John Rowley Miller, Ethel Muriel Miller and Douglas Stewart Miller, along with Margaret Stewart and her sister. We know the man's surname is Hardy because there is a photo in the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection of the same  man identified as "Sapper Hardy"

    Despite researching the sons of Elizabeth and George Douglas Hardy in NZ Archives WW1 Collection we cant identify this man as one of Elizabeth's sons.  If anyone knows who this man is please please let us know!

    Thanks to you we have identified the woman in the photo in the last newsletter as "Mrs Harrison" - so apparently not a family member. Another mystery put to rest.

    Remember to fill in a Family Group Sheet Form here if you havent already