Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Middlebrook Brothers





Journalling on this layout reads

These 4 brothers, from a family clearly steeped in family values, each having been named after an ancestor,from a family who obviously valued family ties,  and yet a family far far away from their birth country,and spread far and wide within their new homeland (and in the case of Benjamin even further afield in Australia).
Despite their geographic separation it has been obvious they stayed close as a family, with regular visits  (as evidenced by photos of their children together, stories of visits  of their children to uncles, visits with each other over the years). Its immediately obvious these men are brothers - they are so alike in their looks.
Each of these 4 sons forged a successful and adventurous life, Benjamin, as a Ships Engineer eventually moving to New South Wales, John,as a successful butcher and prominent businessman and town councillor in Te Awamutu, Samuel being responsible for guiding George Vesey Stewart to Katikati where he would play a big part in the setting up of the worlds first planned Irish Settlement, and James as a successful carpenter and builder.
We should not forget there were originally 5 brothers, their youngest sibling Henry Cockroft Middlebrook having died aged just 15.


Though I’ve had the photo of Samuel for some time , its only in very recent weeks Ive seen photos of James John and Benjamin as young men. I first was shown the photo of John and thought while there were definite similarities to Samuel ( the nose and mouth area in particular), they didn’t strike me as all that alike – however on seeing the photo of Benjamin I was struck by how very alike he and John were – The hair type and hair line, the eyes and nose are so similar to me I may easily have thought I was looking 2 photos of the same man.

Similarly when I saw the photo of James I was struck by how alike he was to Samuel – even in their latter years the two men look so very alike .

When you start researching your ancestors and only know details of one sibling its easy to think of them in isolation, but Ive discovered through stories, letters and photos that these brothers were often together ( despite often  being geographically separated from each other .

There are photos of John and Samuels sons together as young children despite Samuel living in Katikati and John in Ponsonby at the time. There are stories that Benjamin’s daughter spoke to her children of visiting her “Uncle John”  in New Zealand, and there are photos of Samuel and John ( and John and sister Jane)  together in their latter years


John Stewart Middlebrook ( son of Samuel Middlebrook) and John Thompson Middlebrook ( son of John Middlebrook)

. JohnJaneMiddlebrook

John  Middlebrook and Jane McRae ( nee Middlebrook)


John Middlebrook and Samuel Middlebrook

Monday, March 17, 2014

James Middlebrook–A House in Opua


Journalling on this layout reads  :

The photo above shows Julia Middlebrook on the balcony of the “Opua House” which appears to be a fairly newly built home . It would seem that James Middlebrook owned several properties in the Bay of Islands and this was likely to have been the last house he owned there before moving his family to Auckland .
The house can clearly be seen standing proud at the top of the hill above the Opua Wharf in the photo below taken in 1912. James advertised to sell the property in December 1908 The notice stating“FOR SALE House of-9 rooms, at Opua, Bay o,f Islands; "large allotment; good view of harbour; "close to wharf,- railway terminus, and public school. Would exchange for town property.—For particulars apply to J. T. Middlebrook, Opua, Bay of Islands”, however its not obvious the property was sold as later, in 1912 he is noted as advertising“RESIDENCE, seaside, Opua. Bay of Islands, for Sale; would exchange for town property.-J Middlebrook. Mamie-St.. Remuera”


I was lucky to get  copies of the two top photos in this layout from a relative in Sydney. Previously I had only had one poor quality photocopy of a photo of James Middlebrook and I wasn’t even 100% certain it was him. ( Im pleased to confirm it was)



I really like the look of this house of James’ standing proud on the hill above the bay in Opua. – Imagine its worth now if it were still standing.

I dont believe, however that it is still standing

Its just visible on the top right before the hill goes up, in this photo taken in 1915 from digitalnz.org


This photograph taken in 1960 on Digitalnz.org  it could be there tucked into the trees at the top of the hill but Im not sure its the same house at all, and the angle of the photgraph and the geography of the hillside has changed somewhat making it more difficult

Car ferry, Opua - Alexander Turnbull Library


Currently I havent found a photograph that would confirm its existence between these two photos.

Ill keep searching though and post any future photos I might find here.