Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ellen (Farrer) Middlebrook

I think of this woman ( my 3x Great Grandmother, as the  matriarch of my family . It was she and her husband who chose to bring their family of 6 children to New Zealand in the 1860s to start a new life. Sadly her husband John died less than 4 years after their arrival, and how easy it may have been for Ellen at the time to return to Yorkshire to the very well established Farrer family, and yet she remained, with her children and forged a life for herself and brought up 6 children each of whom became successful in their own ways, all having children of their own.

I hope to learn more about her life but I needed to create a layout with the information I know now and hence this layout using a very small and poor quality photocopy of a portrait taken probably in her 30s  or early 40’s – maybe  before she left England.

I would love to know where the original of this is.



Journalling reads
Born Ellen Farrer, to father Benjamin (clock maker) and Ellen nee Thompson, in Pontefract, Yourkshire on August 4 ,1820, Ellen married Johhn Middlebrook, brewer of Millbrook, Leedson February 2nd 1847 . They lived in the Liversedge area of Yorkshire for the early part of their marriage and and emigrated to New Zealand with their 6 children under the assisted immigration scheme, arriving on the ship Shalimar in 1862 ,to begin a new life.
They bought land in Matakohe and Whangarei, but moved to Auckland, and when her husband died in 1866 Ellen remained living in the central Auckland area for some time but did live with her children at various times She lived till the ripe old age of 94, dying in Arkles Bay at the home of her daugther Jane, of old age. Through Ellen Middlebrook I became the 6th Generation of my family to live in New Zealand.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Wedding of Jane Thompson Middlebrook and Henry Whitnall Smith


I love this wedding photo. The fashions are glorious and the bride beautiful and the groom handsome.

This Jane Thompson Middlebrook is not to be confused with her aunt of the same name.  She was the second daughter of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook, who,  at the time of this wedding were living in Ponsonby in Auckland but later moved to Te Awamutu.


Henry Whitnall Smith was the son of Henry James Smith. According to a newspaper article I have regarding his Diamond Wedding Anniversary, he was born in Auckland around 1870 and was the first baby baptized by Bishop Cowie in Old St Pauls Church.  Henry was a well known Auckland Photographer, with studios in Queen Street for many years.  Quite a few of the family photographs I have are Whitnall SMith photos.

There was a lovely description of the wedding in the Social Sphere  column of the New Zealand Observer

The New Zealand Observer was one of a number of illustrated weekly newspapers popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was first published in Auckland in 1880 and continued, with name changes, until November 1954.

The column read

A pretty wedding was celebrated on Wednesday afternoon, March 26th, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Khyber Pass. The contracting couple were Mr H. Whitnall Smith, of Auckland, and Miss Middlebrook, second daughter of Mr -J. Middlebrook, of St. Mary's Road, Ponsonby The Rev. G. Carver, officiated. The bride was given away by her father, and looked very pretty in a handsome trained dress of white brocaded silk, made with transparent yoke and sleeves, and trimmed with chiffon and orange blossoms she also wore a coronet of orange blossoms, tulle veil, and carried a beautiful shower bouquet presented by the bridegroom, who also gave her a dainty gold watch.
The bridesmaids were Miss Wood, Miss Wild, and Misses Edith and Ettie Middlebrook, two little sisters of the bride. The first couple wore charming dresses of fine white muslin elaborately tucked and inserted with lace, and trimmed with cream silk, white chiffon picture hats, and each carried a beautiful shower bouquet and wore a gold twin-dove brooch, presented by the bridegroom. The little girls wore dainty creme cashmere frocks, tucked, and the yokes and sashes of silk, and white leghorn hats trimmed with chiffon They carried baskets of flowers and wore gold brooches, the gifts of the bridegroom. Mr Kinnear, dentist, acted as best man, and Mr J. Middlebrook, Jr. as groomsman. Mrs Middlebrook, mother of the bride, wore a handsome black silk gown, trimmed with lace, turquoise blue and jet bonnet Mrs F. Stonex, sister of the bride, wore a pretty grey voile dress trimmed with creme guipure insertion threaded with black ribbon velvet, and the bodice trimmed with chiffon, black toque Mrs Whitnall- Smith, mother of the bridegroom, wore black Mrs Armiger, black silk tucked blouse, black skirt, and black hat. The bridal party drove to the residence of the bride's parents, where they were entertained at afternoon tea, and in the evening a party was given in the Ponsonby Hall, which was most enjoyable and successful.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Golden Wedding of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook

It seems long marriages are common in my ancestry – I found this article on Paperspast regarding the Golden Wedding Anniversary of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook which gave me more information on the family. I was interested to know that John was not initially a butcher ( a career which ran in the family- his father and brother being butchers as well as several of his sons) but was a printers apprentice to begin with.  I have little information on the early years after the Middlebrooks arrival in New Zealand so I relish every little snippet of information like this.

Papers Past has been a great source of information. I am lucky as it appears there were only 2 Middlebrook families in New Zealand in the early days so a search of the name yeilds great results.


Journalling in this layout reads

TE AWAMUTU, Thursday.
To have experienced a full fifty years of married life comes to few couples, but such a distinction has just been achieved by Mr. and Mrs. John Middlebrook, two of Te Awamutu's most respected and revered townspeople. Mr. Middlebrook came out to the colony in 1562, from his home in Yorkshire, by the ship Shalimar, while his ultimate bride-to-be had accompanied her parents to New Zealand four years earlier in the ship Spirit of Trade. As a youth Mr. Middlebrook tried his prentice hand at printing, working for some time on the old "Southern Cross" (now incorporated in the "New Zealand Herald" and afterwards taking up the trade of a butcher. In 1874 Mr Middlebrook considered his affairs had prospered sufficiently to warrant his taking unto himself a life partner, and on July 22nd of that year he was married in Newton. Auckland, by the Rev. Ward, to Miss Mary Tucker, daughter of Mr. John Tucker, formerly of the Royal Artillery. Mr. Middlebrook and his bride settled down in Auckland until early in the present century, their family growing up round them. In 1902 Mr. Middlebrook decided to remove to Te Awamutu, and he has in the interim built up the butchery business that bears his name. To mark the golden wedding anniversary the family—or as many as could attend —assembled at the old people's residence and celebrated in customary style, a feature being a repetition of the wedding ceremony of fifty years previous. Mr. and Mrs. Middlebrook were the recipients of many congratulatory messages from friends all over the Dominion, and at the wedding breakfast felicitous speeches were made and toasts enthusiastically honoured. The family consists of eleven sons and daughters, twenty-two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Victor and Madge Middlebrook


This layout features a couple of the photographs I got copies of from the Te Awamutu museum when I visited there last month. They had a collection of over 30 photos relating to John and Mary Ann Middlebrook and their children and family.

I know very little about this photo of the wedding of Albert Victor Middlebrook to his bride Madge.
The photo was part of a collection held by Te Awamutu Museum. It states its circa 1914 and that Madge was a war bride.
There is no record of the marriage in New Zealand, so I assume the wedding took place while Victor (as he was known) was posted overseas in World War 1.
I suspect the wedding is later than 1914 though based on the ages of both Victor and Madge. Madge (who I know nothing about at all), died in 1968 aged 68, according to NZ records so she is unlikely to have married as young as 14 .Victor too was only 16 in 1914 so I believe this wedding took place later in World War 1 .
From what I have found on the Cenotaph Database Victor was part of the 15th Reinforcements of the NZ Field Artillery and his rank was that of Gunner and his embarkation date was 26 July 1916 so I suspect this wedding took place between 1916 and 1918.
Victor was the 11th of 12 children of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook. and the 4th of 5 sons. His elder brother Nelson also saw active service in WW1 .
Albert was a butcher with his father prior to being called up but by the 1930s he was farming in the Auckland region.
I have yet to discover if Madge and Victor had any children, but the only other photo I have of Madge and Victor looks to be taken in Rotorua and it does look like she may well be pregnant. Madge died in 1968 aged 68 and Victor lived a further 2 years dying in 1970 aged 72 .


I see Archives NZ holds several documents relating to Victor Middlebrook. There are 4 files regarding bankruptcy in 1930, insolvency from 1935, a consent to property purchases in 1946 and a sale in 1947  from 1947 and also his probate from 1970 . Interestingly I cant see any war records for him for his WW1 service – I can see those of his brother Nelson and several of his cousins but his name doesnt appear. The probate especially may give me more information on any children Madge and Victor may have had so this layout may need a post script after I have been out to Archives for a further look.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

John Middlebrook

Ive been really busy lately – some of the busy times were genealogy related.  I drove down to Te Awamutu Museum which had a wonderful collection of photos relating to John Middlebrook ( he was the 2nd son of John and Ellen Middlebrook- the couple who emigrated to NZ with their children in 1862 and the elder brother of my 2x Great Grandfather )

Im still discovering things about John’s life – his story is not remotely complete ( in fact I found an article in Papers Past regarding his 50th Wedding anniversary which stated he started his working life as an apprentice at the Southern Cross newspaper.

Id assumed he was always a butcher, as the trade definitely ran in the family.  He also appears not to be buried in the Te Awamutu Cemetery with his wife and many children – though I havent discovered where he is buried .

In any case I did a layout using one of the great photos I copied when down at the museum.

Journalling reads:

John Middlebrook was born in 1854 in Millbridge,near Leeds ,Yorkshire as were his  siblings. 5th of 8, he was the second eldest son and was named after his father John.
The family emigrated to New Zealand, in 1862, when John was aged 8 years old. .
The Middlebrook family has a long history in the butchery business and John took up this trade around the time he married Mary Ann Tucker. He owned butchery businesses in Western Springs, Newton and in Ponsonby from the 1870s to the end of the 19th Century. Around 1904 John purchased , and also leased land in Te Awamutu from Maori under a land alienation scheme set up at the time, however it appears John did not take advantage of the Maori, as he was known by the local tribes as “honest John and like his brother Samuel was a friend of the Maori . John and Mary Ann had 13  children. Several of the sons joined John in his butchery business.
John became a prominent businessman in the town and was a member of the TeAwamutu’s first Chamber of Commerce in 1911-12, and was a member of the first Te Awamutu Borough Council in 1915, and was instrumental in the development of water supply and drainage to the town.  He also helped establish a stockyard in the area which assisted the districts community and farming ventures . John lived in Te Awamutu until his death in 1939