Sunday, August 24, 2014

20 Ancestors in 20 Weeks–Number 5–George Douglas Hardy Sr



We tender our sympathy to Councillor G.D.Hardy of the Borough Council ( Devon-port) on the death of his father, Mr George Douglas Hardy, who died at his residence, Bollard Avenue, Avondale at the age  of 88 years.
Mr. Hardy was born at Troon, Scotland, and came to New Zealand in 1865 on the ship Armstrong. For two years after his arrival he served in ships trading between Australia and New Zealand, and he then settled permanently in Auckland and became an attendant at the Avondale Mental Hospital . There was no resident doctor in those days and after a few years Mr Hardy was appointed head attendant. A doctor called daily for about an hour or two, but apart from that Mr Hardy and no supervision of his administration.
After 20 years at the hospital, Mr Hardy entered business , from which he eventually retired about 25 years ago. Mr Hardy was married in Auckland in 1868, and when he and his wife first settled in the Avondale district there were very few houses in the neighbourhood, and the only means of getting to the city was by foot or on horseback along a rough track. Mr and Mrs Hardy celebrated their diamond wedding in 1928.
In earlier days, Mr Hardy was a prominent Mason and was a past grand master of the Newton Mark Lodge and of Lodge Eden. Among his greatest treasures were presentations in the form of medallions from both of these institutions.
Mrs Hardy survives her husband, and in addition to Cr. Hardy there is a family of three sons and three daughters as follows :- Mr Ben Hardy of Mt Eden, Mr Robert Hardy Wellington, Mr Frank Hardy of Newton, Mrs J B Cooper of Otorohanga, Mrs E Miller of Grey Lynn, Mrs W Sill of Remuera. There are also 18 grandchildren and 16 great  greandchildren.
NorthShore Gazette Devonport  October 1933.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

20 Ancestors in 20 Weeks–number - John Thompson Middlebrook



Thanks to John McBain for the journalling in this layout . He is a wonderful story teller


John Thompson Middlebrook was born in Auckland in 1883 , and he seems to have grown up mainly in Ponsonby. His father having a butchery business in St Marys Bay Road.  There were stories of him delivering meat before school in the mornings. Leaving school he entered into an apprenticeship with A.& T. Burt in Auckland to train as a plumber. One story that comes from that time was that he was working on the “Clansman” that was a coastal steamer. It operated a regular service between Auckland and Whangaroa , he had some pipework to attend to on the ship. But come sailing time and the job wasn’t yet completed! So John had an unscheduled voyage to Whangaroa and return.  He had leave owing at Christmas/ New year (probably 1904/5) and so spent it in Te Awamutu , with  the family after they moved there.  Fate took a hand here in two ways (1) there was sickness in the staff at the butchery. , so John T. was called upon to do duty in the shop and (2) he had met a girl (Susie Frost) that he rather fancied , who lived at Te Rahu, close to town. The two things must have combined to persuade him to contact A. & T. Burt and terminate
his apprenticeship. So he was now an apprentice butcher, though it probably wasn’t exactly new to him anyway. He continued to court Susie Frost and in 1906 they were married .They lived on the outskirts of town on Te Rahu Road. Their daughter Thelma was born in Oct.1907 and was an only child. In 1918 John T. was “called up” to go to War and entered Training Camp, but happily the war ended , so he was released from duty and he returned to the butchery to work with his Dad . When brothers Nelson and Victor returned from the war , the Government had some scheme to settle Returned Soldiers on the land. Nelson and wife May acquired a farm at Korokonui and ran dairy cows on it. Meanwhile John T. continued to work with his Dad in the butchery. Sometime around 1920, John T. bought land at Korokonui , on Happy Valley Road (the same road as Nelson was on).  It was in a rather rough state with a lot of clearing still to be done. But there must have been quite a good house and there were outbuildings.

But of course John senior still needed John T. in the shop, the more so now as he was aging. Its hard to contemplate now, butKorokonui was quite distant from Te Awamutu in those days .  Monday mornings early, John T. rode a horse down to the Main South Road, and left the horse grazing for the week in a paddock. There he would catch a bus which took him into Te Awamutu. He would work the week in the shop, lodging with his parents and then on Saturday afternoons after the shop closed he would return to the farm. Meantime on the farm Charlie (a Maori farmworker )and Susie would milk the few cows (by hand) (and Thelma helped a bit too!). Charlie did some clearing and the usual farm chores. At a later period , probably around 1926/7, James Mc Bain (who went on to marry Thelma) was engaged to work on the farm  . He took over from Charlie, who I presume was aging. But things were changing, Electricity  was now coming to town and refrigeration was revolutionising the butchery business,. Things had to change. Already things had changed .John T. now had a car , probably early in the 1930’s. Which would have made things easier. So although John T. was still on the farm ,most of his interest had now switched back to the butchery. Somewhere around 1935-36 the farm must have been sold . Thelma  and John McBain  married in 1928 and they had been running the farm in the main somce tjem .  John T. and Susie had a new house built in Teasdale St. It was wartime by 1939 and John Sr. had passed away.  John T. was having some health issues  himself . The doctor was treating him, but said that really his occupation wasn’t helping, as he was in and out of chillers constantly. He said that his health would continue to suffer unless he changed his occupation and even better moved to somewhere warmer. So in 1941 they left Te Awamutu and moved onto a small farm  of 15 acres at Manurewa. But 15 acres is a problem, a hobby farm really, too small to be profitable and yet you are tied to milking cows to the same degree that a larger farm requires. So after a year they sold it and bought 100 acres at Whitford. Again milking cows, but profitably this time.  They needed assistance though and with it being wartime, labour was hard to find. There was a 16 year old lad that worked for them but  after a year they decided to enllist the support of Thelma and James McBain. With 2 houses on the property it was the obvious answer.  By1947, the war had ended and  John T. and Susie had a house built in Howick to which they retired. Unfortunately soon after that Susie was diagnosed as having cancer, but she died quite suddenly one night  John sold the new house it had no happy memories for him, and he had a room at his sister-in-laws apartments in Auckland city. He had his meals with them , so it really was quite good. He could no longer drive (he’d had a stroke some years earlier) I had a license so had taken over the driving of his car. But Health problems returned and he came back to the farm where he was diagnosed as having cancer. He died at the farm in 1950

Sunday, August 10, 2014

20 Ancestors in 20 Weeks–Number 3–James Thompson




James Thompson was born in 1758 in Fairburn Yorkshire. The family been residents  in Fairburn for hundreds of years.
Son of William Thompson of Fairburn .  He was baptiised on July 23rd of that year at Ledsham  Parish Church.  Nothing is known of James’ life until his marriage at Ledsham to Elizabeth Whittaker. In 12 March 1798, James, along with Edward Williamson and Thomas  Jackson purchased a property described as two dwelling houses, a blacksmith and outbuildings.
At what point James decided to create a public house on the premises is unknown but the Baines's Directory and Gazetteer Directory of 1822 lists James Thompson as Victualer of the 3 Horse Shoes  .
James and Elizabeth had 6 children, a son, and 5 daughters.  Son, James, born in 1784  became a chemist and moved to Stonegate York.
Ellen Thompson, born 1787 married Benjamin Farrer, a successful watch and clock maker from nearby Pontefract.
The other daughters were Elizabeth born 1793, Sarah born 1795, Ann, born 1800 and Hannah born 1802 . Hannah married Thomas Elliot a farmer from Wakefield Yorkshire in 1831
James  remained in Fairburn as publican at the Three Horseshoes until his death in September 1841 aged 80 where he resided with his 3 unmarried daughters, Elizabeth Sarah and Ann.  His will was very specific. He left the pub and its surrounding property to his unmarried daughters, as long as they remained unmarried.  Elizabeth and Sarah went on to become the publicans at the Three Horse Shoes until their deaths in 1866 and 1867 respectively.  Ann remained living in the pub until after 1851 (aged 51) but her whereabouts after this date are unknown .




James Thompson of Fairburn in the County of York, Gentleman, made this Eighteenth day of April in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and thirty one. First I direct that all my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses and the charges of proving and registering this, my will be fully paid out of  my property by my Executor, which I here appoint my Son Mr James Thompson of York, Druggist into whose hands I entrust the whole of  my property for the use of Elizabeth my wife and Daughters as follows. I Will that my said wife Elizabeth Thompson shall have the whole of whatever property I may have for her and by Daughters who remain unmarried/Sole use and benefit during the term of my said wife’s natural life and at my said wife’s death I will that those my daughters, who may remain unmarried shall have a house genteely furnished out of the house which I now reside then I will that the property now consisting of Three dwelling houses, with the premises thereto belonging situate about the centre of the Village of Fairburn, near the crofts be given to my daughters for there support while they remain unmarried  . Should any of them marry or die, the said property to be held by the single daughter or daughters so continuing unmarried and then I will that the completion of this part of my will that the remainder of the furniture with the house in which I now reside together with the land belonging thereto be valued and disposed of according to the judgment of those my son and daughters concerned to do as they may think proper and if the parties concerned agree to sell the property I will that it be so sold and the money equally divided amount them, share and share alike and then I will that at the marriage or death of my daughters, now single, the said property which haws held by them shall with all the residue of my property be disposed of to the best advantage for the use and benefit of those my Son and Daughters concerned and should my Son or any of them my daughters die before the execution of this my will leaving lawful issue such children to have the parents share equally divided amongst them share and share alike And I hereby revoke all my former wills In witness whereof I the said James Thompson have to this my last will and Testament set my and and seal the day and year bore written
Signed sealed published and declared by the said James Thompson the testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us, who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses.

Monday, August 4, 2014

20 Ancestors in 20 Weeks– Week 2–Jane Thompson Middlebrook



Here is my second instalment in my 20 Ancestors in 20 weeks layout challenge . I chose to do a timeline layout for Jane Thompson Middlebrook – who seemed to move around so frequently- having most of her babies in different towns.



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Family of Benjamin Middlebrook


As part of the Middlebrook Family Reunion effort I am attempting to produce a book which includes as many of the family photos as I can . Obviously in a book which tells stories of family history it is impossible to include all the photos we have copies of- so there is a need for a book which will display the photos attractively, and will include photos that we currently are not able to identify as well as members of side branches of the family.

I started the basic book design today and started with the family of Benjamin Middlebrook, for it is his branch of the family I have the fewest photos of.

This design will form the basic template for the book which I will put together over the next 6 months. Obviously some branches of the family will have significantly more pages devoted to them – and may have sub-sets of pages of descendants families.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

McRae Letters Part 4



Opua December 14th  1887

Dear Welsh,
I received your letter last week but had not time to answer it for I did not get it out of the Office until Thursday morning. I hope I have not troubled you too  much in asking you to get the calico. If I have, do not get it. I was going to trouble you further in getting a little fruit , for we can not get any down here and I should like to get some for the children at Christmas.
They are all talking about hanging their stockings up. Amy sends her love and she hopes you are enjoying yourself in town.
She also wishes you would come down, but I suppose it is no use to ask you to come to such a dull place as this. Roddy wishes to be remembered to you. I have not sent him to Kawakawa. Mrs Harris says it is too near Christmas for him to go now, but I shall see about him going after.  But I must come to a close for I do not feel inclined to write much and I have two other letters to write, and I am sure they will be short. Things are very dull here but we must live in hope if we die in dispare. (sic)
If things are not better, I shall have to leave Mother in charge and see if I cannot get a situation as a Housekeeper or somethign else to do. Trusting you are well, I remain
Yours sincerely,

P.S. The Norvel and Saxon will be going to town this week - and both of them will be down before Christmas


From Jane to Welsh, 14 December 1887

This letter from Jane to Welsh ( and the first one we have from Jane) could be in reply to his letter of 21st November but I suspec t it is a later letter that we do not have a copy of . Once more though there is much talk of the desire of both Jane and Welsh to be together.
It is clear in this letter that Jane is not in a great financial situation . We assume she is running a boarding house as this seems to have been her main form of income through most of her life. It sounds as if there isn’t much business just prior to Christmas

“Roddy” refers to John Roderick McRae , Jane’s eldest son. Born in 1871 he was 16 years old at the time of this letter and one would assume Jane was keen for him to be out working to help support the family


Dear Welsh,
We received your letter last week and all the goods all in good order and we are much obliged. I also let Amy read your letter and what she could not make out , I read for her. I told her to write today but she did not, but she is such a poor writer that makes her not like to write. But I am not a very good scholar myself so I should not say much about any one, eh!  Amy and I are very glad you are so comfortable. It is a nice part of town that you live in, not too thickly built on.
I must now thank you for the things you sent. The calico is very good. It was for Amy and she is much pleased with it and all the other good things. I do not think they would have got much if you had not sent them for I had the misfortune of braking(sic) the clock and had to get a new one for we could not do without the time in a place like this. I am glad that you have the prospect of such a merry Christmas.  The town will be quite lively, but we shall be quieter than usual, for the people are all going to town ( that can afford it); but it is getting very late. I had some work to finish and send home first thing in the morning so I had to finish it tonight, but I will add a few more lines in the morning. I have had a very bad head ache all day, in fact I am hardly ever free from it.
Thursday morning, and a beautiful morning . The Bay is so pretty.. there are a lot of boats about with their white sails set. I trust we shall have Hector over for Christmas Day. We are all going out the day after to a picnic party ad a place called Wapau, a very pretty place.
You say in your letter that you wish we were with you, so I can say in return that I wish you were with us. I wish we could do anything for you to help to pay for your kindness. Amy sends her love and wishes you a merry Christmas. She says you promised to come back, but she will write next week. With the complements of the season, I must now close, I remain
Yours Truly
Jane McRae

From Jane to Welsh, 20 Dec 1887

It is clear from this letter from Jane to Welsh ( replying to a letter we unfortunately dont have a copy of) that he has sent the “fixings for Christmas” he referred to in a previous letter. . Again we get a clear impression that financially things are not great for Jane. Replacing a broken clock ( which could be a considerable expense in the 19th century) used up much of the money she would have spent on the family Christmas .
Jane’s mention of having Hector over is another indication of that relationship growing but it was to be another 3 years until she married him.

I have not been able to find out where “Wapau” might be. We could assume it is relatively close to Opua, a day trip or less by boat or by road as they were headed there for a picnic

20 Ancestors in 20 Weeks–Number One–Benjamin Middlebrook


I decided to challenge myself to a layout a week – an ancestor a week – and this would in turn help me complete my book for my upcoming family reunion. ( Hence all my 20 will most probably be from my Middlebrook branch)

For the first week I started with Benjamin Middlebrook who is the eldest son of John and Ellen Middlebrook, and the one I have no immediate contacts for – in fact I havent yet traced a single living descendant of Benjamin’s which I find quite sad.




The eldest son of John and Ellen Middlebrook, Named after his maternal Grandfather, Benjamin was born on March 21st 1850 in Millbridge Yorkshire, where his father  was an Innkeeper. He was, however baptiised in the home town of his mother Ellen, Pontefract Yorkshire, in the church of St Giles . on April 28.
Little is known of his childhood, but by age 12, along with the rest of his family, he boarded the ship “Shalimar” in Liverpool to make the long journey to a new land and a new life in New Zealand. 

It appears this voyage was most formative in his life, perhaps developing a love for the sea, as Benjamin became a ships engineer, spending the bulk of his life on the sea .
His name does not appear on the NZ electoral rolls at any time, so one would assume he left home at an early age. We find him first in 1873 departing from Manukau for Sydney on board the vessel Phoebe, aged 23, 3rd Engineer. Benjamin appears to be involved in the route between Australia and New Zealand for several years, and on one of these voyages perhaps he met his future wife Alice Lane.  He returned to New Zealand in 1875 to marry her, but they made their home in Sydney, living in Balmain by 1880 and later in Lakemba NSW.  He gained his 2nd engineers certificate ( number 36) in Sydney in 1876 . In 1878 he joined the crew of the “City of Newcastle” in early September 1878 and was unfortunate to be on board and on duty  when the ship  ran aground.
He remained a man of the sea though, joining the crew of the “Esk” which plied the waters  between Sydney and Tasmania .

Ben and Alice had 3 children, Sarah, Mary Ellen and John Farrer . Mary Ellen was known to have visited her New Zealand relatives on more than one occasion and was fond of her uncle John Middlebrook
Son, John, followed his father into Engineering, serving as an apprentice at Cockatoo Island, but didnt continue in the trade, instead he followed his artistic side, like many members of the Middlebrook family he had a love for music and he earned a living as a pianist.
Throughout his life, Benjamin, like some of his brothers, was an active member of Masonic Lodge.
Benjamin died on 11 August 1928 aged 78, of a stroke and is buried  at the Field of Mars Cemetery, North Ryde,New South Wales,
Plot: Portion: Ang Section: Sec K Plot: 200