Sunday, August 3, 2014

Middlebrook Family Reunion Newsletter dated July 1 2014

Welcome to our new subscribers.!...

We have 3 new subscribers to the newsletter this week making a total of 57.  Welcome to you all. Its exciting to see the word about the reunion spreading.  We have a substantial and growing but far from complete family tree to display at the reunion. We need you to fill in the blanks for us . Please fill in a family group sheet if you havent already
Click here to fill one out - this can be done online .
The more information you can add the better.
Alternatively you can email Lauren or Jennie  or Judith with your family details
Can you help us at the reunion or before??

We are looking for more helpers for the reunion. Organising an event like this is a massive undertaking so we welcome any assistance we can get.
If you have any skill that you think may be of use please let us know .  We are all new to reunion organising so we welcome as much input as possible!!
Please email Lauren if you think you may be of assistance in any way at all ( Or indicate on the Reunion registration form in the space allocated)

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.
The McRae Letters - Part 1

We are lucky enough to have transcriptions of several letters between Jane McRae and her brother in law Welsh.  Most of the letters are from Welsh to Jane but we have a couple that are her return letters to him and each of the letters are a great insight into their lives and personalities.
Unfortunately they dont give us much insight into the marital status of Jane which is such a mystery, however within the second letter is the introduction of Hector McRae into Janes life ( who she subsequently married)
These transcriptions, and notes made regarding research around them are quite long and involved so I will split them up into parts over several newsletters
The first few letters are all from Welsh to Jane and unfortunately we as yet dont have her replies to him which would have been very helpful!

Click here to view larger image
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

Click here to view larger version

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”

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

Who are we?
This is Samuel Middlebrook ( in the hat) on his boat.  We have quite a few photos of Sam on his boat  with various people but  does anyone know who are the 3 people  with him on this day?
Email Lauren if you have an idea

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

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