Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Wedding of Note




After looking at the various places in New Zealand that the Middlebrook family purchased land, there seemed to be a definite trend to areas that held a Wesleyan Mission. This could well have been cooincidence, the family may have bought land there because they were areas of known settlement, but at least one story has John Middlebrook leaving the UK because of his staunch Wesleyan views . The truth of this may never be known but I feel its worth more research and so I shall be visiting the Methodist Church archives very soon in order to see if they hold any clues for us.


Journalling on this layout reads:
At first glance the wedding of Elizabeth Middlebrook and George Douglas Hardy seems to be a rather insignificant affair, held as it was at the home of Elizabeth’s mother Ellen Middlebrook, in Duke Street Auckland, however on closer reflection it appears to be a far more impressive occasion and gives us an insight into the religions background of the Middlebrook family.  
Historically the family had been Anglican for hundreds of years, but  in the  early 19th century with the formation of the non-conformist Wesleyan church in Yorkshire , the family appears to move to Methodism . While there was a “foot  in both camps ” approach in the latter years of their time in Yorkshire, one theory is that John Middlebrooks staunch Wesleyan views were  the crux of his decision to move his family to a new land.
James Wallis, the Officiating Minister at Elizabeth’s wedding was no mere local parish representative.
He had been one of the earliest missionaries to New Zealand , leaving the UK in 1834 to join the Wesleyan missionaries here who numbered just two! He set up missions at Waiangaroa, and Kawhia and spent much time in the Hokianga area ( quite possibly near where the Middlebrooks had purchased land after their arrival in New Zealand.
He moved to Auckland in the 1860s and retired from the Ministry Circuit but remained preaching part time and it was at this time he was called upon to officiate at the marriage of the young Elizabeth Middlebrook in her marriage to George Douglas Hardy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Latest Reunion Newsletter ( April 14)

Welcome to new Subscribers

We have had 5 new sets of contacts this week. Welcome to family near and far who are interested in joining us for our family reunion in January.
We hope to have some firm plans with prices very soon.
The difficulty of course is not knowing exact numbers so please do spread the word to your family far and wide and have them sign up here if they are interested so we can get a better indication of numbers . We would hate to book a venue that turns out to be too small and have to turn people away so its pretty important we get an idea of numbers as soon as possible.
You can reply to this email with an indication of how many you think might be coming from your family - no commitments needed - just an indication would be a great help.

Getting together

One of the reasons for a family reunion is for family near and far to get together.
The Middlebrook Family in have been coming together in various ways for over 100 years.
We have evidence of various branches of the family travelling to be with each other at numerous times .

This photo, taken at a family wedding features Edith Armstrong( daughter of John Middlebrook) with her first cousins, Mary Rush( nee McRa and Jane Elizabeth Simpson ( nee McRa)

This gorgeous photo shows John Stewart ( Johnnie) and John Thompson Middlebrook. Johnnie was the eldest son of Samuel Middlebrook and John Thompson was the eldest son of John Middlebrook.  This photo was  taken in Ponsonby where John was living at the time must have been taken about 1890-92 . Perhaps Samuel had made a trip up to Auckland from Katikati  for a family get together.

Obtaining both of these photos from 2 different sources allowed us to identify both girls - obviously taken the same day - the top one came from a collection of photos at Te Awamutu museum relating to the John Middlebrook Family.  - It was identifed as Harriet on the left, but we believe it was in fact Edith Middlebrook( daughter of John) .
The Other photo with Edith sitting and the other girl standing was identifed as Margaret ( Dot) Middlebrook ( eldest daughter of Samuel) on the left.  Edith and Margaret are only a year apart in age. This photo looks to have been take when the girls were perhaps in their very late teens or very early 20s so approximately 1906 or 7

This photo of John and Samuel was taken at Korakanui in 1933, perhaps at the funeral of John's youngest son Walter Middlebrook which occured in January of that year.

This photo of John Middlebrook and Jane McRae ( nee Middlebrook) was taken in 1935, not long before the deaths of both siblings. It is thought they were passengers together on a Pacific Island Cruise on the Monowai in that year.

Childhood Memories

(By Jennie Forder)

Hello, I'm Jennie Forder ( nee Goodwin)  and as a great granddaughter of Samuel,Middlebrook,
I have been very interested in following the informative reunion newsletters.
My grandmother was Ellen Goodwin (nee Middlebrook) who was one of Sam's six children.
I was born and lived in Auckland and from a young age, I fondly remember regular visits to Nana's and Da's ( as her husband Phillip was affectionately known by all family and close friends) in Mt Albert, Auckland, sometimes staying over a period of a few days during the school holidays.
In particular I loved staying those few days before Christmas when Nana would be busy baking and preparing wonderful dishes for the Christmas Day luncheon which would be enjoyed by all her family, many of them making the annual pilgrimage to Auckland from Wellington.  Not only was it an exciting time for me and my sister, Lorraine to meet up with our Goodwin cousins, but I would also be sure to "help" Nana with her baking by licking the bowls and wooden spoons thoroughly clean!
However, hardly a few days with Nana and Da would go by without me asking to see the Middlebrook family photographs.  This always gave me immense pleasure and Nana would oblige by dragging the suitcase out from the hall cupboard, which contained dozens of black and white photos of her relations ..... her father Samuel, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins ... made all the more fascinating for me because of their Victorian dresses and gowns.
Ellen and Phillip Goodwin were married in the Matamata Presbyterian Church on 6 January 1909  and what young girl wouldn't want to see a photograph of her Nana on her wedding day!  I clearly recall asking Nana on numerous occasions, "where's the photo of you as a bride?"  Her standard vague reply was always "well, Jennie, I don't know where it is.  Da and I shifted house so many times, it must've got lost somewhere."  My parents, Austin and Sylvia never saw one, nor did my sister or any of my aunts and uncles or cousins.
When Nana and Da moved out of their old home into a home unit in their twilight years, many of Nana's old photos unfortunately disappeared.  Since we  started on our quest to trace the Middlebrook ancestors and
descendants, some of those old photographs of my grandmother's relations have reappeared from others' photo albums, which has brought back many childhood memories of sitting on the lounge floor at Nana's and Da's, pouring over the contents of that old suitcase.
So .... if Nana and Da did have photos taken on their wedding day (and looking at how many others have come to light recently, proves the Middlebrooks were not averse to the click of the camera shutter) where are they?
So please check your family's old photo albums to see if there's one that may resemble a young man and woman aged 25 and 21 who are celebrating their wedding.  A photo may even have "Ellie and Phil" written on the back.

Middlebrook Family Pictorial History Book

We hope to have available for order and purchase at the reunion, a pictorial history book devoted to the Middlebrook Family.
In order for Lauren to complete this book, she needs copies of photos and in particular, if known, the stories relating to those photos as early as possible.
We would love to cover as many branches of the family as possible in the book, so dig out those photos and scan and send them to Lauren as soon as you can .
Unidentified photos are also welcome as we have managed to identify quite a few already with comparisons to other photos, and enquiries  with other family members.

Visit to Cemeteries

We would like an indication as to how many would be interested in trips to local cemeteries of interest.
John Middlebrook sr and son Henry are buried at the Wesleyan Cemetery at Symonds Street. It is thought though the location of the graves is known that there are no headstones .
John's daugther Ellen Farrer Middlebrook is buried in the Anglican Cemetery at Symonds Street.  Investigations are being made as to the location of this grave ( We suspect she is buried with her maternal grandfather John Tucker but this is yet to be confirmed. There was a headstone for her grave in 1950. Lauren will be making a trip to the cemetery soon to investigate further.
Ellen Middlebrook (sr)  and James Thompson Middlebrook are buried at Purewa. Ellen has a large marble headstone and we hope to have this restored by the time of the reunion.James has a ground level plaque beside his mother.
There are also at least 5 Middlebrooks buried at Waikumete .
With enough interest we could organise a bus trip to the cemeteries, and other places of note, as part of the reunion.
Middlebrook Family Website Coming Soon.
Lauren is currently in the process of building a website devoted to Middlebrook Family History. - more details to come on this in future newsletters.


Your Stories Required

We welcome and would much appreciate your reminiscences or stories relating to the Middlebrook Family for inclusion in future newsletters and on the upcoming website..

Sunday, April 13, 2014



“A while back I posted on my general family history blog  here  about Russell Middlebrook who was quite a famous clown in New Zealand and Australia.

I’ve recently discovered there was so much more to Russell than his performances as a clown. He was in fact a master at sculpture and modelling. Like others in his branch of the family, he was a great artist ( his sister Eva was a commercial artist and his brother Farrer was also involved in architecture and modelling, apparently being responsible for much of the Roman lettering on the Auckland Museum.

Russell’s sculptures graced such places as the Civic Theatre and the Tea Rooms at the Farmers Trading Company . With subjects as diverse as church alters, gothic gargoyles, fountains, and bunnies he was a master at creating them all.

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Charles “Russell” Middlebrook was born in 1908, youngest child of James and Julia Middlebrook, Russell is best known as a clown. His talents went way beyond this though. As a child he learned acrobatics, and when his deafness meant he could not serve during WW2 he joined the Arcadian Troupe who entertained the troops in Auckland Camp Shows. After the war he went to Australia and joined circuses such as Whirling Brothers and Robinson Brothers. A great crowd pleaser in his many clown persona, he was best known for his feats of balance. He would balance on his hands on a stack of chairs, with the chairs balancing on beer bottles.
By trade though Russell was talented in other art forms. He had as a teenager attended Elam Art School where he excelled in the art of sculpture and modelling. He worked on parts of the Civic Theatre and the Auckland War Memorial Museum. His sculptures were seen in the Farmers Trading Company and in churches around Auckland. He also dabbled in photography, a collection of his photographs of the Piha region is now held in Auckland Library Heritage Images Collection. Russell spent his lifetime entertaining and was still performing and riding a bicycle at eighty-seven, and was still performing with Robinson's Family Circus well into his eighties. He was presented with a Benny Award ( the highest honour that can be awarded to a New Zealand variety performer) in 1983, and passed away in 1999 aged 91.

Middlebrook Reunion Newsletter–Tuesday 8th April 2014



Jane Thompson Middlebrook
Weve had some confusion and mystery  regarding Jane Thompson Middlebrook, the eldest child of John and Ellen. Of all the children who survived to adulthood, she is the one who's life probably carries the most intrigue.
Certainly, of all the children, we have the fewest photos of her, and to this point we have discovered none of her as a young woman.
In an early newsletter we posted a picture we thought was Jane with another elderly woman but we think perhaps it was not her . Until yesterday we only had one confirmed photo of her and that was one with her brother John as shown here. It appears the earlier photo we thought was Jane may not be her at all.

Yesterday, however, after going through some old photos with Judith Anderson, a Great Granddaughter of Jane found this photo below which  by a matter of elimination we have decided is definitely Jane.
Jane's early life is a great mystery.
She apparently married a James John McRa ( also sometimes spelled McRae and Macrae ) who was a Scotsman from Tasmania
He was part of a family of brothers who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s from their home in Tasmania.
James was 22 years older than Jane which is a little unusual in itself, but one can imagine with her father having died in 1866 it was probably pretty urgent that Ellen get her daughters married fairly quickly to make life a little easier.
In the book Macraes to New Zealand by Molly Akers, it is stated that Jane married James twice - Once on 18 May 1868 in Auckland, and once on July 29th 1869 in Tahiti.
There is no official record of either marriage that we have found despite extensive searching. Thats not to say however that it didnt happen.
Whether either marriage happened, what did happen is that Jane and James had 8 children between 1869 and 1885.
Interestingly there is no birth record for the first 2 children, Amelia ( Amy) and Ellen Margaret ( Nellie) .
Amy's marriage certificate ( in 1902 to Patrick Fennell)  states she was born in Tarau Creek Thames in 1869 ( which casts doubt on that marriage in July of that year in Tahiti)
Amy died in 1917 at the age of 48 and is buried in Waikumete Cemetery Plot : WESLEY DIVISION B Row 7, Plot 23X
Nellie is even more of a mystery. No birth record, and No death record. It is as if she never existed, but we know she did from letters written between Jane and her brother in law.
The remaining 6 children are far less mysterious - each having a birth, marriage and death record with New Zealand Births Deaths and Marriages.
There are stories that Jane Thompson (Middlebrook) MacRae owned boarding houses all over New Zealand and in Fiji. We certainly  have evidence she did own a boarding house in Arkles bay in 1915, where Ellen Middlebrook died.
In the "Local Matters" newsletter of Gulf Harbour a story about an early resident of Whangaparaoa says
"The family stayed in a boarding house on the main road above Arkles Bay for the night when they came from Auckland by steamer to look at the land. Jack’s mother Emily speared a small eel with her hatpin at Arkles Bay wharf after it had been attracted to the surface for food.  Jack’s father skinned it on a post and the owner of the boarding house, Mrs McCray fried the eel for them for breakfast. The McCray’s house stood on the main road by the Arkles Bay Road intersection. "
One can only assume that the Mrs McCray was in fact our Jane Thompson MacRae .

Despite her marriage to James John McRae, with whom she must have been living until at least 1885 for the birth of her last child Robert Irwin, by 1889 it appears the couple are no longer together.
There is no mention of him in Janes letters to his brother Welsh, in fact it appears that Jane may indeed be looking for male companionship in some of her letters.
The 1890 electoral roll sees James John in Helensville and he lives there until 1894 when he dies ( after slipping on the wharf and hitting his head on the Steamer Osprey).
A rather sad ending, his death certificate lists no known family.
Meanwhile, Jane is living in Opua .As I mentioned there is a regular correspondence between Jane and James' brother Welsh who is apparently in Auckland.  It appears he is watching over his sister in law and making sure her needs are taken care of by sending packages of food and fabric . In his letter of 14th November 1887 he states " In reply, will say, am pleased that you received beef in good condition. Sorry bacon proved fraud.  Will forward some "Canterbury" this trip..tested and proved bood. Also chest tea of undoubted quality from a Mongolian importers in Quay Street. Will send along ( at some future time) fixings for Christmas. Information of needs in this respect acquired beforehand."
Later in this letter ( obviously as a reponse to Jane asking him to come for Christmas) he states " Your complaint of feeling longly in the bosom of your "cheerful family" doth considerably surprise and grieve me. And if I might hazard the remark that my presence would aid in mitigating it, I would be most happy to give you a prolonged trial of it. And notwithstanding my taciturn and uncommunicative disposition, the result might justify experiment.  But unfortunately, I cannot even promise that Christmas will bring us nearer to each other, as city pastimes ( at this season )are too attractiveto be exchanged for the country.  Notwithstanding the coveted companionship of you and your worth family, and the unremitting and unmerited kindness that ( I am certain) would be awarded me. But as I am sending along my good brother Hector's address. I am hopeful you may secure his presence during the holidays. He is better qualified, by nature and art ( than I am) to impart tone and zest to social gatherings, no matter for what purpose assembled.. eating, drinking, dancing, singing. What you please... in the house or out if it Tis all one to him."
This introduction is to be lifechanging for Jane as on 27 December 1890  she marries Hector ( yes if you will notice that James is still alive at this time in Helensville- yet her marriage certificate states she is a spinster.
Jane appears to remain in Opua through the 1890s, but by 1898 she is living in Auckland at Cobden Street - a residence that is owned by her mother Ellen. Later she is listed in Eden Crescent, but is back at Cobden Street in 1904 .
At  some point between 1906 and 1911 it seems she goes back to the Bay of Islands because we have this photo postcard sent to her granddaugther Olive

This house sits at the very end of the beachfront at Russell, and is in fact still standing ( though much renovated and enlarged.
I believe this is Jane standing outside with 2 of her granddaugthers.
It is understood the grandchildren would be sent to stay with their Grandmother, having been sent via the Steamer "Clansman" which plied the waters between Auckland and the Bay of Islands.
Its possible Jane ran this house as a boarding house however we have no evidence of this to date. Much research is still required.
Soon after this photo was taken, it appears Jane moved to run the Arkles Bay Boarding house where she was until at least 1920 according to the Electoral Rolls.
By 1930 she was domiciled at 20 Kiwi Road Devonport ( shown below)  ( however she also owned a property at Owens Road Devonport that her daughter Jane Elizabeth Simpson and her family lived in for a time)

Jane died in 1935 aged 86. A long and very interesting life that still is shrouded in mystery.
We would love to be able to solve some of those mysteries before the reunion.


In Katikati, Lauren was gifted a large number of albums and photographs that had belonged to Bess Middlebrook ( Elizabeth Alice Middlebrook) youngest daugther of Samuel Middlebrook. This woman appears in many of the photos in one of the albums. The photos in this album appear to date from around the beginning of WW1 . They are not studio photos, and many are faded beyond recognition but there are some great images amongst them
This woman appears in a great number of the photographs in the album. Does anyone recognise her?

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Latest Middlebrook Reunion Newsletter–The Samuel Middlebrook Exhibition Reportback

The Samuel Middlebrook Exhibition

Report on a Wonderful Day in Katikati ( by Lauren Bavin)
Approximately 25 of us attended a wonderful day on Sunday in Katikati for the opening of the Samuel Middlebrook exhibition. It was so exciting to meet up with cousins close and distant, many of us meeting for the first time.
Paula at the Katikati Museum has done a wonderful job of displaying the many artifacts that Samuel collected during his lifetime, and it was quite emotional to see them together displayed for everyone to have access to.

A powhiri was performed by the local Maori elders and there was a performance by the local school Kapahaka group . before the opening of the exhibition.

The family had been given a private viewing of the exhibition before the opening so we had plenty of time to take it all in, though I'm sure many of us will be returning at a later date to take it in more fully.

Most of the exhibits were Maori in origin ( some extremely rare) but amongst them were these dental tools which really brought to life ( and proved) the family stories that Sam had acted many times as the dentist to the local Maori ( and one would assume the settlers also)

Frustratingly we never managed to capture a photograph of all of the family members there (  though we are hopeful that the journalist attending may have got one) but here are some of us. From left to right
Carolyn James ( Great Granddaughter) Jennie Forder ( Great Granddaughter) Diarne Poole ( Great Granddaughter) Julene Clough ( Great Granddaughter) Lynese Macfarlane ( Great Granddaughter) Lauren Bavin ( Great Great Granddaughter) Mary Beeching ( Great Granddaughter) Rebecca Theobold ( Great Great Granddaughter) Brooke Theobold ( Great Great Great Granddaughter)

Really we cant thank enough Julene and Lynese for their generosity in making this collection available to all of us.
I firmly believe we are not owners of our ancestors possessions and photographs  but just caretakers. It is just by chance that we have possession of them and that they didnt get passed down a different line - or horror of horrors, sold or destroyed over the years, and it feels so wonderful to know that others feel the same way by making available to all of us what is in essense all our histories.

WHO AM I ( and a lesson)

This photo which I scanned in the weekend while away is a great lesson in the phrase "Assume makes an ass out of "u" and "me".
I had previously had a copy of this photo , but it was a photocopy of just the photo- no surround, and had names written on with names .
The names written on the back were  Ellen Middlebrook (nee Farrer) with her daughters Elizabeth and Jane (?) and unknown granddaugther.
On looking at the photo I felt sure that this was correct and had assumed the woman on the left was in fact Jane. ( and I did recognise the woman on the right is in fact definitely Elizabeth)
However on scanning this original I was able to research the photographer to more accurately date the photo.
Theophilus Fairs operated a studio out of Pitt Street from 1891 through till the 1920s. We know Ellen died in 1915 so this photo must range from approximately 1891- through to just past the turn of the century based on the clothing worn.
Jane at this time would have been 50 years old. The woma n on the left is definitely NOT 50, and thinking about this photograph, it seems likely to me that it is in fact a "4 Generations Photo" .
So this is Great Grandmother Ellen, with daughter Elizabeth, Granddaugther and Great Granddaughter.
We have photographs of Elizabeths daughter Ellen Hardy so I believe this woman on the left must be Susan Jane Cooper ( nee Hardy) and the little girl may be her daughter Grace Ivy Cooper.
If anyone can confirm this I would dearly love to be able to put this new mystery to rest.!

Reunion Talking Time

One lesson we learned from this past weekend is that we need to allow plenty of casual talking time at the reunion. In the few hours we had on Sunday most of us mentioned it was impossible to speak to everyone we wanted to speak with, and how much more overwhelming it will be at the main reunion in January so we will be talking about how we can allow plenty of time for casual get together chats and how best we can arrange the rooms to allow for this at our next committee meeting.
Ideas on reunion organising would be MOST appreciated.  Feedback from you all is most welcome . You can simply reply to this email to have your say!