Monday, June 30, 2014

The McRae Letters continued..


This is the second letter in the series – Unfortunately we dont have Janes reply to Welsh’s last letter . The next letter we have is a couple of weeks later in November


Auckland 14 November 1887

Dear Jane,
Yours of the 9th to hand, and contents noted.  In reply, will say yes, am pleased that you received the beef in good condition. Sorry bacon proved fraud. Will forward some 'Canterbury' this trip..tested and proven good. 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. Will make enquiries re “Norval” and be guided by your suggestions( as far as may be) re future shipment of goods.  My letters are still being illegally detained at Opua. Am sending along stamps and a preemptor order to the bungling official for their immediate release and dispatch to Auckland.  Failing in this, I will report his conduct at headquarters and see if such culpable neglect is  not punishable by the Department.
Sorry you did not act more advisedly in the matter. Much worry and bother might have been avoided all round and I would be in possession of my own long ago.   I look forward with extreme pleasure to the receipt of Amy's and Nellie's letters and can appreciate the love they send along, especially Amy's. As I know , it is genuine. It has the true metallic ring,, its existence is a reality.. an established fact.. a bygone conclusion,, returnable in time. But I grieve that you see fit to foreshadow your disgrace in the dear girl's future. And I despise the most remote thought of its realisation and cannot entertain it even for a moment. Though I am willing to admit that her moral bias has received a slight shock from evil example and improper tuition ( and this is equally applicable to Nellie). But time will certainly overcome this difficulty. And my pet will come out all right in the end..'top side up'. And don't you forget it. I may  not hazard an opinion, for good or evil, regarding Nellie, as my knowledge is altogether too limited. But from what little I know, I have learned to esteem her highly, and this is as far as I desire to extend.
Your complaint of feeling lonely 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 attractive to be exchanged for the country.  Notwithstanding the coveted companionship of you and your worthy 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 that 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 of it. Tis all one to him. I am proud of the opinion you entertain concerning him as I know it is merited, and would as who is the young lady( to whom you refer)  as having a like opinion of him? If she is a good looker, amiable, unmarried and not too young, I might endevour to supplant him in her esteem, though not so worthy of her, by a long way. I have been instituting enquries at Hannaford's on the subject of a wife. There are numbers offering.. mostly too young.. and not quite up to my standard in other aspects.
I had a very pleasant time of it Fathers Day, with an excursion party to Governor Grey's Island home 'Kawau'. Started out per steamer 'Belling' at 8 a.m. And returned to town 9 p.m. All well.
Sorry to learn of your  mother's illness.. trust it will be of short duration.. remember me to all.
Yours very sincerely ,
PS “Norval” schooner not reported in. Will ship goods per “Clansman: viz 1 chest 5 ½ pound. Tea 12/6...16lb bacon@ 6 ½ d. 8.8
                                        1.1.2 freight not paid
Hector McRae, Hokaihau, Bay of Islands
( oh this is actually Okaihau)

Unfortunately we dont have the letter from Jane that Welsh refers to in this reply, however this letter does give some great insights into life in 19th Century New Zealand.
You will note that Welsh had sent Jane some bacon but it was clearly not of great quality.  Articles in NZ newspapers in the late 1880s elude to the fact that Canterbury bacon was consistently  of great quality, however bacon from other areas of the country, (especially Auckland) often was of dubious quality.

The “Norval” and the “Clansman” mentioned in this letter,  were two of the coastal steamers whic plied the waters and carried goods and passengers between Auckland and the Northern Regions. Travel by Steamer was the main form of transport between Auckland and the North.

It is of great interest to read that Jane felt  lonely. It is not surprising- Its clearly apparent that her husband is not living with her and she has several children to bring up alone. Her brother James Thompson Middlebrook did move to Opua around this time, he was newly married in 1887, however this marriage too was fraught with difficulties, so perhaps he was not much company for his elder sister either. It seems both Jane and Welsh at this point are toying with the idea of developing a relationship beyond that of brother and sister in law but the city life seems to have a greater pull for Welsh at this time. You will notice that Welsh is instrumental in this letter, in the introduction of Jane to his younger brother Hector, and we know that this introduction had great consequences in Jane’s live, as she went on to marry Hector 3 years later.

Welsh mentions that he has enquired at “Hannahords” re suitable women. Hannafords was a “Matrimonial Agency” in downtown Auckland.  A precursor to todays match making website,s Hannafords claimed to “ not only obtain ”life Partners” for gentlemen in town and country, but those who have suited themselves can have all the preliminaries  taken off their hands by addressing themselves to Hannafords Agency. They can then be married any day or hour that they like, without the least trouble on their part,everything being done for them”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The McRae Letters–Part one


We are lucky enough to have transcripts of 6 letters between Jane Thompson McRae ( nee Middlebrook) and her brother in law Welsh McRa.

This is the first of a series of layouts featuring the letters which appear on one side, with the facing page having notes and explanations (where possible) . Unfortunately there is no information contained within the 6 letters to help us with the “marriage” of Jane and James John McRa, but he is clearly not living with them at this time despite Robert Irwin, their youngest child being only 2 years of age when the first letter is written.


Kaeo 5th October 1887
Dear Jane
I address you this time on the subject of your daughter, Amy, and as her moral and physical welfare deeply concerns both of us, I feel compelled by a sense of duty, to strike a note of warning in reference to her present position and surroundings. And while, unbiased by malice, and unprejudiced by selfish conceit, I strongly advise ( in the interest of all concerned) that you remove her into your own keeping for a season.
As from long absence from home associations and your moral tuition she is losing track of those influences that should serve as “guide marks” to her proper course through life; moreover, I am not aware that she reaps any substantial remunerations from the performance of her arduous duties here. Harriet is to mean and Jack too poor to contribute any material assistance in this respect. And I am certain that her “employment” is a lamentable failure in reference to mental and moral culture and cannot be regarded as commendable, from a physical standpoint, Fact is, Harriet was never designed by God as a trainer for the young, otherwise she would have had children of her own running round. She is altogether too versatile and volatile for the business, and her relations to Amy are simply of a mercenary nature. A mere matter of pounds, shillings and pence, and only a mockery of interest in her general welfare.
I am far from being a 'moral' man myself, but I claim to be nearer to heave than nine tenths of those who wear the cloak of religion to hide their moral deformaties, and my esteem for Amy is so sincere that I would grieve beyond measure if it were ever hinted to me that she was running on a 'down grade'. But I have no fear that this can ever be stated truthfully of her... I entertain too high an opinion of her merits to even dream of such a calamity. Nevertheless (for obvious reasons, subject to her removal from her, and as I have the consent of all interested parties, saving your own. I will say in order to gain yours, that I intend to leave this section by steamer on the 12th inst( if all goes well) and I am prepared to take Amy along with me, and convey her to your door in safety, and defray all the expenses of the trip, provided that you forward your answer by return mail and I receive it in time.
Trusting that this may merit your approval and that our greeting will take place on Opua wharf as desired,
I remain,
Yours very sincerely
P.S. Whether you sanction this proceeding otherwise, I am duty bound to go through with it anyhow. And will shoulder all the responsibility attached to it. So that if we are not at Opua by the next trip of the steamer, we will certainly be there, trip following.
With kind regards from Amy and Jack
Welsh McRa was Jane’s brother -in-law. Born in 1829, he is 20 years older than Jane, but two years younger than Jane’s “husband” James John McRa. Unfortunately nothing in these letters gives us any more indication of the nature of Jane’s relationship with the father of her 7 children, though it is clear that she is not living with James at the time of these letters.
Amy is Jane and James’ eldest daughter, born around 1869, she would have been 18 at the time of these letters and it appears she is “working” for another McRa brother, John ( Jack) and his wife Harriet, who were living in Kaeo. ( In electoral rolls from several years later John is listed as a surveyor, and also as a bushman)
It is clear that Welsh doesn’t think very highly of his sister in law Harriet. At this time she and Jack had no children but later apparently was to have a son Ian Malcolm who died in infancy, but neither the birth nor death appear to be registered. Later she and John apparently adopted 2 other children, Malcolm Innes, and Lucy Selina. Malcolm died in Palestine in World War I but Lucy lived till her late 80s.
We dont know what Jane was doing in Opua during the late 1880s. A timeline of her life sees her moving frequently, and often between Auckland and areas of Northland, from Whangaroa to Matakohe, but her brother James was also living in Opua during this period. He built a house on the top of the hill overlooking the wharf. We are unsure of where exactly Jane was living in the small settlement, however she had at least 5 children at home with her, if Amy and Nellie( who is mentioned in later letters) were away, that would leave 16 year old John Roderick ( known as Roddy), 9 year old Thomas, Jane Elizabeth aged 7, Mary aged 5 and Robert Irwin aged just 2 years. Quite a handful for a woman on her own ( which we know from future letters that Jane was at this time) .
Family legend has it hat James John McRae was somewhat of a drinker- perhaps Welsh felt some responsibility to his sister-in-law because of this fact.
A note on the surname McRa. : Welsh, in his letters always signs his name McRa. The eldest of Jane and James’ children are registered with the surname McRa, but the younger children are registered as McRae, and Jane signs her name as McRae in these letters. It seems that the spellings are fairly interchangeable

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Grandsons


Here is the Grandson version of the post I did yesterday – We are missing a few photos here and I made an educated guess on Robert Farrer Middlebrook- so please do correct me if I have the wrong person in his spot. If anyone has better quality photos of anyone in this layout, or any at all for any one missing, please do send them to me as I would love to include them.



Once again I see remarkable resemblances here – especially between Walter and Russell in the bottom line, and Robert Farrar and several of the sons of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook.

This has been a most interesting project Im sure you will agree.

The Granddaughters

After doing the layout showing the similarities between Ellen Hardy and Jane Thompson Middlebrook, I decided it might be a great idea to display the photos of all  of this generation – As there are 43 1st cousins I decided to split it into 2 layouts – One for the Granddaughters and one for the Grandsons

Here is the page for Granddaughters.


As you can see we are only missing a few photos – those of the daughters of Benjamin and the first two of Jane’s daughters, along with the three girls who died in childhood, of whom conceivably no photos may ever have been taken.  There are similarities amongst many of the girls – the square chin, that seems to have passed down several generations, is evident on many of the girls, along with dark hair in most .

If anyone has better photos of Eleanor, Mary Ann Harriet and Olive I would love to include them in this layout, but all in all I think we are quite lucky to have photos of so many of this generation.

Look out for the Men’s photos tomorrow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Family Likeness


The Middlebrook Family photos show some remarkable likenesses between siblings, but not only relationships as close as that, as these photos show. Jane Thompson Middlebrook, eldest daughter of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook, ( not to be confused with her Aunt of the same name) on the left, and on the right, Ellen Hardy , 2nd daughter of Elizabeth and George Douglas Hardy were first cousins but as shown in these photos could almost be mistaken for the same woman. Jane ( known as Cis) was born in 1876 in Auckland and Ellen was born two years earlier in 1874 also in Auckland.  We know the Middlebrook families connected with each other frequently despite geographical distance between them - I wonder how often Jane and Ellen's paths crossed and if they too remarked on their likeness.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Latest newsletter–June 16 2014

Welcome to new subscribers to the newsletter

We have 5 new family groups who have subscribed this week to the newsletter.
Welcome! - Its so exciting to see us growing in numbers.
Remember if you haven't already - Please fill in a Family Group Sheet so we can add you and your family to the Middlebrook Family Tree
Click here to fill one out - this can be done online

Family Bible Update

Its still missing but we now have a photocopy of some of its pages
Thanks to John Rush,  ( Great Grandson of Jane Thompson Middlebrook ) we now have a photocopy of a few pages from the Middlebrook Family Bible. Most excitingly on comparing the handwriting to the will of Ellen Middlebrook ( which was hand written) its clear that some parts of it were added to by her. T

This is obviously the same bible that several other family members have transcripts taken from as the wording on the second page here is identical to those transcriptions

The words "near Leeds in the West Riding of Yorkshire " is written in the same handwriting as that of Ellen Middlebrook's will which was included in the last newsletter.
The third page includes obituary notices for various family members back in England and some unknown people - who perhaps were good friends of the family as at this point the names are not known to us.

Most of the clippings are from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, except for the clipping regarding Bernard Montgomery which must have been placed much later by a member of the family who believed the story that several branches of the family were told - that we were related to Archbishop Frederick Farrar and therefore his grandson Bernard Montgomery. ( This of course has since been proved false).
Below are transcriptions of some of the clippings on this page- If anyone has further info on any of the "non Farrer" names and their connection to the family we would love to hear from you.

DEATH OF Mr B.P. FARRER - We regret to have to announce the death of Mr Benjamin Piercy Farrer, solicitor of Scarborough,  eldest son of Dr Farrer, formerly of Brighouse. Mr B.P.Farrer who was articled with Messrs. Chambers and Chambers, solicitors, of Brighouse, was well known in this district where he practised for some time prior to his removal to Scarborough. In politics Mr. Farrer was a Conservative, and when in Brighouse, he took an active part in the Conservative ?..... He was of the founders of the Brighouse Conservative Club and was for some time a member of the Committee. Mr Farrer,who had attained the age of 41years  died at the residence of his father, Eawood Lodge,Scarborough, on Wednesday afternoon. The funeral is to take place at Brighouse Parish Church tomorrow ( Saturday) forenoon, and the cortege will leave the Brighouse Railway Station at half past eleven o'clock.

Benjamin Piercy Farrer ( son of Robert Farrer who was Ellen Farrer Middlebrook's brother) 1853-1894

The dean of the surgeons of the Atlantic Fleet, if not among the steamships of the world, is Dr J. Fourness-Brice, of the steamship Cymric, of the Boston-Liverpool Service of the WhiteStar Line. Dr Brice, has practiced his profession on shipboard since 1859. He was born in England in 1826, was graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1850, and from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, in 1838.His connection with the Steamship Service, came about as the result of an accident.  Had already come into extensive practice in South Yorkshire, having followed in the footsteps of a kinsman lately deceased. When one day on a foxhunt, his mount fell, and the young physician received an injury that prevented his continuing in practice.  He went to America and after an extended stay, returned as surgeon on the American Steamship Congress. Dr Brice, in spite of his 78 years is an active progressive physician. When he is ashore in America he spends most of his time in the hospitals in order to keep abreast of the times. When the ship is at Liverpoool, he betakes himself to his Yorkshire home, where he enjoys the freedom of the moorlands and the society of his ...... two daughters. Dr Brice has crossed the Atlantic  nearly 900 times .

FARRER -  On May 15 at Beancroft House Castleford Aged 66, Charles Farrer, Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages, Interment at Castleford Cemetery tomorrow ( Tuesday May 19), leaving the ?house at 1.00. Friends will please accept this ( this only) invitation(?)

OBITUARY-   On Tuesday last, the interment of Mr Chas. Farrer, of Beancroft Road for many years, the district Registrar, took place in the grounds of the Castleford Cemetery.  The deceased was held in high esteem by a large circle of friends. Mrs Farrer is also suffering from influenza. Much sympathy is expressed toward Mrs Farrer and the family.

Charles Farrer ( Brother of Ellen Farrer Middlebrook) 1825-1891

ARIELL -   On September 9 at Thorne, Paparoa, Kaipara, William Whittaker Ariell, Esq. J.P. of Thorne, Paparoa and Doncaster, England. Aged 76 years. London and Yorkshire papers please copy.

William Whittaker Ariell died in 1897 . Could the Ariells possibly be neighbours and friends of the Middlebrook family who had land in the Matakohe /Paparoa region in early years they lived in New Zealand?

Baron Farrer, aged 80 is dead. He was Permanent Secretary to the Board of Trade,(resigning in 1886, the title of Baron, being granted to him for public service.

At this point we can not find a relationship between Baron ( Thomas Henry) Farrer and Ellen Farrer.

MARRIAGES - ELLIOT-RHODES-  January 14 at the parish church, Thornes by the Rev. W.J. Pearson, vicar of St Marys Old Sculcoates assisted by the Rev.J Coombes vicar of the parish. Henry Stephen, second son of Stephen Elliott, Newmarket House, Stanley to Mary Penelope, eldest daughter of William Rhodes, Duncan House Thornes.

This connection took a little while to find but we found it!!
Stephen Elliott, the father of the groom in this marriage notice was the first son of Thomas Elliott and Hannah Elliott ( nee Thompson) Hannah Thompson was the youngest daughter of James and Elizabeth Thompson, therefore the sister of Ellen Thompson who was Ellen Farrer's Mother, making Ellen Farrer, first cousin of the father of the Groom .

(1904)  Miss Jessie Fairchild, daughter of the late Mr James Robert Fairchild, of Melbourne, was married on June 1 at St Lukes, Redcliffe-square, London, to Mr Lester Browning Booty, sixth son of the late Mr James H Booty..

Jessie Mary Farrar Fairchild was the  daughter of   James Robert Farrar Fairchild. His father was  James Farrar 1818- 1845 apparently and was married to Mary Ann Finley. We are yet to find the connection between James Farrar and our Farrer family. More research is obviously required.

London February 14 1908
The by-election for the representation of South Leeds in the House of Commons, rendered necessary by the death of Sir John Lawson Walton ( late Attorney- General), resulted in the election of Mr Middlebrook(Liberal). The voting was as follows
Middlebrook (Liberal) 5274
Neville ( Conservative) 4915
Fox (Labour) 1451

This refers to Sir William Middlebrook who was the son of George Middlebrook, brother of Thomas Middlebrook- 2x Great Grandfather of John Middlebrook ( the patriarch of our family). This makes Sir William a first cousin, 3 times removed of John Middlebrook.


This photo was from the collection of John Rush. We think she may possibly be a young Jane Thompson Middlebrook, but this is just supposition based on a comparison with some other photos we have of Jane such as the one below . Both women share similar features in the shape of their eye and brow line and similar nose ( though the older woman has slightly more prominent nose as is common in older people.)

Middlebrook Family History Website is now Live

The first stage of the Middlebrook Family History Website is now up and viewable.
All the links to the first generation are live and more will be added over coming weeks and months. There is also a link to subscribe to this newsletter and a link to the reunion on the website
You can view the website here  Currently this website is being serviced with a free option which requires the small advertising banners- however its possible it can be upgraded at a later date.

Reunion Registration is now Open

We are excited to announce registration is now open for the Reunion.
The reunion will be held on January 24th and 25th 2015 at Fairway Lodge, Silverfield, Takapuna.
We have negotiated what we feel is the best  price and format for our needs and we are able to offer several options in our aim to have as many attend as possible. We hope to make  this event pleasurable and enjoyable as possible while making it as affordable as we can.
To that end we have formatted the two days as follows:
Saturday 24th January
11am - 4pm
The day will begin with check in where you will be issued with name tags denoting which branch of the family you belong to . This will make it easy for you to recognise those who descend from the same branch of the family as yourself.
From 12 noon we will have our photographer taking formal group photos of each branch of the family and of the whole group, along with roaming candid photos throughout the day.
These photographs will be available in an inexpensive  book form, after the reunion. Orders to be taken on the day or beforehand  via a form which will be included in a later newsletter.
Leading up to the reunion we will announce the price of  a photographic family history book which will be available for pre-purchase and pick up at the reunion.
Finger food and tea and coffee will be supplied throughout the day and a cash bar will also be available for those who wish to make use of it.
There will be photographic and informational displays and a large family tree available for viewing.
Saturday primarily though is a mix and mingle event where we can all get to know each other.
Feel free to bring along any photos or copies, along with family mementos you wish to share or display.
Saturday Evening
This is at your leisure. We have suggestions for local restaurants for those interested.
Sunday 25th January
12 noon - 3:00pm
Buffet Luncheon
Sit down lunch with presentations and speakers (descendants) and cutting of the Reunion Cake
Middlebrook Reunion Registration Form
If you prefer to print and fill in a paper form you can download it here
Please share the registration forms with anyone who may be interested in attending

Your Stories and Photos Required

We welcome and would much appreciate your reminiscences or stories relating to the Middlebrook Family for inclusion in future newsletters , in the website, and in the to be published Middlebrook Pictorial History Book. Please send these to Lauren.

The Stewart Connection



It seems that the stories of the Stewarts and the Middlebrooks are very intertwined. Each family had a massive effect on the other.  The tangled web begin in 1873 when George Vesey Stewart, arrived in New Zealand on a search to find land in which to accomplish a protestant Irish Settlement. The Survey Department put at his disposal Samuel Middlebrook, who lead him through the Bay of Plenty where Stewart chose an area now known as Katikati as the perfect area for his settlement and he was granted 10,000 acres for the purpose.  The first party of settlers arrived on the Carisbrook Castle in 1875 and amongst them was Stewart Rea and his family. Rea had worked for Stewart on one of his Irish Estates.
Stewart Rea’s eldest daughter was Mary Jane,  and in 1883 she went on to marry  Samuel Middlebrook

The connection with the Middlebrook family did not end there though, In the early 1890s a young Ellen Hardy, daughter of Samuel’s sister Elizabeth was living in Katikati with her Grandmother. It is assumed it was at this time she met John Rowley Miller Stewart, 4th child of George and his wife Margaret.
Their paths were to cross later as John, despite his marriage and 7 children with Ellen Furness, he maintained a second home with Ellen Hardy and their 3 children, John Rowley, Ethel Muriel and Douglas Stewart.  Despite his promises to the contrary, on the death of his wife, John Rowley Stewart did not marry Ellen Hardy, but married yet another woman.  A  heart broken Ellen was taken under the wing of John Rowley Stewarts mother, Margaret , who had recently separated from her husband George Vesey Stewart . It was on her suggestion that Ellen took on the surname Miller which had been Margaret’s maiden name.

The, actions of their father, in effect disowning them had a life long effect on the three children.   The children suffered emotionally and eventually John and Douglas were to legally change their surname to Miller.  Ethel spent much time in her childhood in Katikati with her “Aunt” Minnie, the 6th child of Margaret and George Vesey Stewart - and in  the process became good friends with her Middlebrook cousins, the children  of Samuel Middlebrook

James Thompson Middlebrook–A Timeline




Here’s a simple timeline for the life of James Thompson Middlebrook.  I’m sure there are many gaps in this which I will fill in as I find more information about his life but I like this format for easily getting a snapshot of someone’s life

BIRTH – Millbridge Yorkshire 7 march 1858
BAPTISM – St Barnabas Hightown Yorkshire 4th July 1860
DEPARTURE – In August from Liverpool onboard “Shalimar”
ARRIVAL -  Into Auckland In December 1862
SHOT -   In the arm while “Placing the Butts” age 13 years – Tararu Creek Thames
RESIDENCE – Matakohe, Occupation  Carpenter 1880 Electoral Roll
MINING CLAIM – Lucky Strike Gold Mine Te Aroha January 1881
RESIDENCE – Katikati 1882 Freeholders Roll
RESIDENCE – OIiphant Street Auckland 1883 Valuation Roll
PURCHASE – “Cains Hotel” TeWharau Loading Grounds 1884
OCCUPATION – Begins working for NZ Railways as Carpenter 1885
MARRIAGE – To Elizabeth Edgar Murray 1886
RESIDENCE - Opua Bay of Islands 1890
RESIDENCE – Opua Bay of Islands 1900
DIVORCE – Application for divorce from Elizabeth Edgar Murray 1902 on grounds of Desertion August 1902, Absolute November 1902
MARRIAGE -  to Julia Bartle Sullivan 7 December 1902
BIRTH – Son Farrar Middlebrook 28th November1903
BIRTH – of Twins Eva Rhys and Nelson Bartle 26 January 1905
RESIDENCE – Opua Bay of Islands 1905
BIRTH – Son Charles Russel Middlebrook 7 April 1908
RESIDENCE – Ward Tce Kingsland 1911
RESIDENCE – Mamie St Remuera  1914
DEATH – of Stepson Frank Arnold Sullivan at the Dardanelles  1915
RESIDENCE – “Ngapuhi” Manukau Rd Epsom 1919
RESIDENCE – 13 Burch Street Mt Albert OCCUPATION Retired 1928
DEATH – November 29th 1930
BURIAL – Purewa Cemetery

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reunion Registration is now Open


We are excited to announce registration is now open for the Reunion.
The reunion will be held on January 24th and 25th 2015 at Fairway Lodge, Silverfield, Takapuna.
We have negotiated what we feel is the best  price and format for our needs and we are able to offer several options in our aim to have as many attend as possible. We hope to make  this event pleasurable and enjoyable as possible while making it as affordable as we can.
To that end we have formatted the two days as follows:
Saturday 24th January
11am - 4pm
The day will begin with check in where you will be issued with name tags denoting which branch of the family you belong to . This will make it easy for you to recognise those who descend from the same branch of the family as yourself.
From 12 noon we will have our photographer taking formal group photos of each branch of the family and of the whole group, along with roaming candid photos throughout the day.
These photographs will be available in an inexpensive  book form, after the reunion. Orders to be taken on the day or beforehand  via a form which will be included in a later newsletter.
Leading up to the reunion we will announce the price of  a photographic family history book which will be available for pre-purchase and pick up at the reunion.
Finger food and tea and coffee will be supplied throughout the day and a cash bar will also be available for those who wish to make use of it.
There will be photographic and informational displays and a large family tree available for viewing.
Saturday primarily though is a mix and mingle event where we can all get to know each other.
Feel free to bring along any photos or copies, along with family mementos you wish to share or display.
Saturday Evening
This is at your leisure. We have suggestions for local restaurants for those interested.
Sunday 25th January
12 noon - 3:00pm
Buffet Luncheon
Sit down lunch with presentations and speakers (descendants) and cutting of the Reunion Cake
Middlebrook Reunion Registration Form
If you prefer to print and fill in a paper form you can download it here
Please share the registration forms with anyone who may be interested in attending

By John McBain

I have such a wealth of memories! First off I feel very privileged to have known one of the original Middlebrook  immigrants to New Zealand. John (the son) was my great-grandfather. He died in Te Awamutu in 1939, I was then aged 6.
Te Awamutu,  then as now, was small town N.Z. John loved the town, loved the people and everybody loved him. By the time I was aware and had a memory of such things he was living with his daughter Ettie and son-in-law Sid, who had a house on the main street in town. On a sunny day he would be out with his stick and two steps on his way, he would be chatting with somebody. Progress was slow in a town where everybody was a friend. I was living in Te Awamutu

then too and in such a town, as a 5 year old I was free to wander on my own. Sometimes we would meet on the street and he would stop to chat, occasionally  I would go to see him at his room, which had a doorway onto the large sweeping verandah. At the time I saw nothing “special” in that, he was my great-grandfather, I thought everybody had one! Now in hindsight I realise just how special that was.

But past “memories” in these newsletters have been been of grandparents, mine were John Thompson Middlebrook and wife Susie(nee Frost) I had no other grandparents, my Dad was an orphan from an early age. John Thompson had worked with his father John in the butchery almost from the beginning in Te Awamutu, so succeeded him into the business. Around 1938 they moved into a new house they had built in the town. My memories are of a refrigerator (it was a Westinghouse)  in the house, so normal these days, but I had never seen one in a house before. You could put water in trays in an icebox at the top and “next day you had ice”, even in mid-summer! Hot days it was wonderful to have a cube of ice in your drink.
I would visit after school, just to get a cool drink. My grandparents also had a summer bach at Cockle Bay (now a part of Auckland). For a week in summer I would travel up there with them and my Mum came too. A week at the seaside,

Such bliss! The final year that we made the trip, a Japanese invasion was a major worry and Cockle Bay beach had been festooned with a tangle of barbed wire, with only a small gap to walk through to reach the water for swimming.

But my grandfather was having health problems. The doctor advised that his work “in and out of chillers “ was likely to aggravate the condition seriously. He really had to move!  So they did, to a small farm in Manurewa. But my visits didn’t end.

Summer School Holiday I was off up to Manurewa by train. Still the worry of Invasion, my grandfather had made an “air raid shelter” in the vegetable patch. A trench with a ramp entry and timbers over the top, with a pile of soil atop the timber.
Pumpkins sprawled over all , it looked a part of the garden. Manurewa was within range of Auckland, a wondrous place for a 9 year old. Off with grandma in a taxi , which in wartime you had to share with other fare paying passengers,to save  petrol. The train with engine belching steam, was at point of departing and it was a dash across the platform. Back on the farm –my grandfather had a barn, a treasure trove for a young boy. He had such a lot of tools, some I knew others I was  a little unsure. Pots for nails and screws- I reached for a distant one with inquisitive fingers to identify what might be within. Certainly not the expected! It moved! In panic, I withdrew with the largest spider I had ever seen clinging to my  fingers. I never returned to the barn again!


This photograph shows the wedding of Ethel Hardy (daughter of Ellen Hardy (Miller) and John Rowley Stewart) and William Henry Hewett on 1st September 1921.
We believe the 3 attendants could be Coopers - Children of Susan Jane (Hardy) and James Bailey Cooper. We would welcome confirmation or otherwise of this from anyone familiar with the families. Email lauren if you have any information

Will of Ellen Middlebrook

This is the will of Ellen Middlebrook. I believe it was written by Ellen herself as the handwriting and the signature on the second page match perfectly.
Here is a transcription of the will.
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 daughter 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 .
What we can learn from this will.
1. Ellen was living in Auckland in 1892 when this will was written ( She had been in Katikati and Opua in the 1880s)
2. Clearly Ellen didnt think highly of Jane's husband Hector - she states that the money due to Jane is for her sole use and benefit., however she states that the money to be left to Elizabeth should be held by her husband GD Hardy.
3. Ellen still owned land in Katikati ( Tawhio seems to be a misspelling of Tahawai as there appears to be no place named Tawhio) in 1892 . She had been living there in 1881 according to an article in the Bay of Plenty Times which described the settlement and its inhabitants.
4. Ellen owned property  (38 Cobden Street Auckland) which she likely purchased after this will was written.

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..

Middlebrook Reunion Venue and More!


We have a confirmed venue and date for the Middlebrook Reunion!

Our big  news for this newsletter is that we now have a confirmed venue and dates.
The reunion will be held at Fairway Conference Centre ,17a Silverfields Takapuna.
For those who are familiar with Aucklands North Shore, this is directly behind( with nice views of) Takapuna Golf Course, and adjacent to the North Shore Events Centre.
The Venue has  a lovely spacious  room for us with large windows and doors that open out on to spacious decks overlooking the golf  course.
The formal portion of the reunion will take place there over 2 days - Saturday January 24th and Sunday January 25th 2015.
Saturday will consist of a more casual atmosphere, with registration, family and group photographs, informational displays.  A Huge Family Tree and individual family trees for each of the 6 family branches. There will be places for you to display and display  any photos or family related items you might wish to share.
The main goal for this day is to allow us all to get to know each other in a casual environment.
Refreshments will be served throughout the day in the form of finger food platters, and tea and coffee, and there will be a cash bar available.
If you can only attend one day, then this would be the day to come as we would love to be able to include as many as possible in the reunion photographs.
Sunday will consist of a formal sit down lunch, with speakers ( calling now for volunteers ) telling the story of the Middlebrook family.
Additional activities will be announced later - these would be optional but could consist of dinner on Saturday night at a local restaurant, and cemetery visits.
Prices will be formalised in the next week and we will be calling for deposits from early June.
There will be an early payment discount put in place also.


Our family is blessed with many many photographs which allow us to get to know our ancestors so much better. Many families have very few if any photographs of their ancestors, yet we have literally hundreds and hundreds. We should be very thankful that those who went before us valued photography so much.
It was probably a little easier for the Middlebrook family, than many others because of Henry ( known as Harry) Whitnall Smith - a professional photographer married into the family in 1902 when he married Jane Thompson Middlebrook (1876-1966) - daughter of John and Mary Anne ( Tucker) Middlebrook,not to be confused with Jane Thompson MIddlebrook (1849-1935) and it appears he became the "go to man" for portraits, for many branches of the family.
This self portrait of him was sent to Jane Elizabeth( Jeannie) (McRae) Simpson and her husband Duncan .

There are many other examples of photos taken by Harry Whitnall Smith from various branches of the family such as this one of Mary Jane (Rea) Middlebrook, wife of Samuel.

and this photograph of Samuel's son John Stewart Middlebrook as a boy

and this as yet unidentified baby photo,

We would love to see other examples of family photographs, taken by Harry Whitnall Smith if you have them

Aromatic Memories of the Early 1940's

by Diarne Poole ( Eldest Grandchild of Phillip and Ellen Winifred Goodwin nee Middlebrook).

Oh, the lovely smell of pikelets cooked on Nanna's Coal range in Hobart Street, Mirimar, Wellington. A real treat for a little girl sitting in the kitchen with butter dribbling down her chin.
When Nanna and Da ( as Phillip was known to all family) left Mirimar for Auckland I only saw them occasionally until I was a teenager, going up on family holidays.
However, I still remember clearly those early days. The scent of Nanna's Ponds Vanishing cream, "Three Flowers" face powder and "Evening in Paris" perfume in the little blue bottle.
Most of all I recall the acrid smell of her little green bottle of smelling salts for when, as we are used to say, she had "an attack of the vapours".
I think this remedy consisted mainly of ammonia!!
In later years in Auckland the aroma of Nanna's roast hogget was so appetizing  and very tender to eat. It was always put in the oven very early for Sunday dinner. "Five hours slow cooking dear" was her standard comment.
I believe, when in Wellington Nanna wouldnt trust the butcher's ready made mince, and would choose a piece of "best blade" and troup across the sawdust covered floor to the rear of th eshop and watch the butcher mince it up for her.
This practice continued for some years- albeit minus the sawdust floor.
Nanna was a great cook. She needed to be as Da would only eat goods that Nanna made. For years she even made her own laundry soap in the basement of their Balmoral Road Home.
I find it rather wonderful and comforting that the simple pleasures of smelling home baking, and the soft scent of cosmetics ( not forgetting the pungent smelling salts) can evoke such fond memories of special times spent with Nanna so long ago.

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..

Middlebrook Family Website Update

Good progress is being made on the website - it should be up and running before the next newsletter. ( albeit a work in progress)

Who are we??

These two cuties probably come from the Jane Thompson McRae (Middlebrook) branch of the family.
This photograph was taken by "The Art Studio" Whangarei.
From what I can find out about this company consisted of Adela Mary Younghusband and George Woolley  it appears to have been in business in the early and mid 1920's in Whangarei and Dargaville, and later in Devonport Auckland .
This would make these two girls birth dates between approximately 1910 and 20  .-
They could possibly be Beryl and Joyce Simpson ( born 1915 and 1917 ) two of the daughters of Jane Elizabeth McRae and Duncan Simpson, though the family were living in St Heliers in the early 20's so the Whangarei Photo Studio is a bit of a mystery.
If you can identify these girls we would love to know who they are.

Recently Acquired

We have recently acquired copies of the will of Samuel Middlebrook( 1784-1846 - Innkeeper, Millbridge Yorkshire), and  James Thompson ( 1748-1841) Innkeeper, Fairburn Yorkshire ( yes this is the source of all the Thompson references in the Middlebrook family)
The next newsletter will have transcriptions of the wills and information on both Samuel and James.

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 .
If you dont have a scanner one of the committee may be able to come and visit with a portable scanner.
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.

We Will Remember Them Middlebrooks in World War I


With the Centennial of WW1 this year  it seemed a fitting day to pay tribute to  the Middlebrook sons who served in World War One.

For those who are unaware New Zealand Archives are attempting to digitise all of the WW1 soldiers records and they have made a huge indent into this mammoth task, to our benefit as we can now access many of the records of the grandsons of Ellen Middlebrook who served in WW1.
I believe Ellen would have had 13 of her  Grandsons eligible to fight in the Great War .
I have found records for the following
(Son of Elizabeth Hardy nee Middlebrook, and George Douglas Hardy)
Robert is listed as a Baker and Butcher, working for Briggs Butchery in Parnell at the time he was enlisted.
He was married to Florence Jessie Meldrum and had 2 children , Florence Jessie Hardy, and Robert Farrer Arthur Hardy.
Robert Farrer Hardy served a total of 1 year and 217 days during WW1 before being discharged as medically unfit.  During this time he served in Egypt and then at Gallipoli .
He attested in August 1914 and was  initially posted to the the Auckland Mounted Rifles, but was transferred and transferred to the N.Z.F.A.  as a driver in March 1915  and then in July of that year was promoted to Bombadier . During this time he took part in the Gallipoli campaign, being hospitalised twice, once for "Debility" and the second time for Enteric Fever, which eventually resulted in his discharge back to New Zealand in 1916.

Son of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook,
At the time of his enlistment he is listed as a butcher, working for his father John Middlebrook with a wife, Susannah and one child Thelma.
John Thompson was called up by ballot in May 1918 and in August of that year he was enlisted and sent to Camp at Trentham, where he promptly fell victim to Influenza and was hospitalised for a week
In September he was transferred to Featherston Camp with E Coy.  46th Rifles where he was demobilised in November being classed "medically unfit to travel beyond the seas"

Son of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook

Nelson enlisted in July 1915 "aged  21,  for the duration of the war" .  At that time he was already a member of the 4th Waikato Military Reserves.  He is documented to have severe scarring on both arms and his left thigh  from an accident pre war at the butchery he worked in. He had  with many skin grafts and poor scar tissue that is prone to break down .
He is listed as a Butcher working for his father John Middlebrook.
Nelson's WW1 file is long and detailed.
He served for 3 years 315 days, 3 years and 199 days of which was overseas in Egypt and in Western Europe
From enlistment at Palmerston North he is sent to Egypt .
He is hospitalised twice while in Egypt and then in April 1916 he embarked for France where he joined  No 3 Company Field Butchery division.
In January 1918 he is promoted to the 1st NZ Field Butchery with the rank of Warrant Officer 2nd class, where he remains for the remainder of that year, before being demobilised in Glasgow in March 1919.
Son of Samuel and Mary Jane Middlebrook

Samuel Robert "Bert" is 31 years old when he is called up by ballot and his attestation is dated 23 May 1918.
He is married to Dorothy Clarice, and has one daughter Valerie at the time of his enlistment.
He is already a member of the 6th Hauraki Reserves Regiment and is listed as a Carpenter, working for Harris and Smith, Waihi.
Bert is transferred in September 1918 to the NZ Medical Corp at Awapuni , and from there to D.A.I.M.S in Wellington where he was eventually demobilised in 1919.
Son of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook

Victor was enlisted in July 1916 aged 21 . He served for 3 years 227 days. 3 years and 54 days of which were overseas. He is listed as a Butcher  working for his father  ( Incorrectly listed  as T Middlebrook- with his father listed also incorrectly as James Middlebrook)
Victor spent most of WW1 in Western Europe and remained in Europe for the duration of the war serving first as a Loader, and then as a Driver.
Whilst overseas he must have met his future wife Madge Carlin whom he married in January 1919 before being demobilised in October of that year.
Son of Julia Middlebrook, stepson of James Thompson Middlebrook

Whilst not a blood relative, Frank Sullivan was definitely part of the family, having been 13 when his mother married James Middlebrook. Frank was a veterinary dentist when he enlisted in August 1914 Frank unfortunately  paid the ultimate price for his participatio
n in World War 1 being killed in action in the Dardanelles less than a year later, on the 19th May 1915 on the very start of the Gallipoli Campaign.

There may well have been other members of the family involved in World War One. NZ Archives digitising of files is not yet complete.
If you are interested in viewing the complete files for these men you can find them and others at Archives NZ Archway site

Reunion Planning Update

Planning for the January reunion is well underway and we have narrowed down our venue choices to three. We will be making a decision on the best venue within the next two weeks.  While trying to keep costs as low as possible we also want to make the venue as practical and easy to access as possible, and without knowing numbers this hasnt been an easy task, however we should have a venue finalised soon and then we can begin taking registrations

We are still missing many living people on our family tree. If you havent filled in a Family Group Sheet please click here to do so .You can fill in the form online and it will be submitted automatically.