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At the end of this exploration, I am a bit wiser about our family. Firstly, I think they personify the Scottish tradition of migration, within Scotland and around the world, that had more to do with seizing opportunity than fleeing hopelessness although the C19th had its economic challenges, particularly in the Highlands.


One source says that the Scots benefited from having an excellent education and were generally better educated and better off financially than other migrants to new countries. Certainly, the children of our forbears from the 1841 census onwards were listed as ‘scholars’ until their mid-teens, whether their parents were bankers, railway surfacemen, or deerstalkers.


It looks to me as though my paternal grandparents, David and Jessie Wilson, were climbing the occupational ladder in the Border mills when they migrated to New Zealand. Presumably, they left home because they saw greater opportunity to get where they wanted to be in their lives but I’m sure they would have lived comfortably had they stayed in Innerleithen. 


The same motivation possibly drove the Andersons although their story seems to be more complex. After weeks of work, I suddenly discovered that William Bain Anderson was a widower when he migrated. He had been a wool merchant in Halifax, Yorkshire, and continued that profession in Dunedin. His brothers, David Charles and John Bain, were also in the business as a fellmonger and dyer, respectively. There is much more work to be done on the Anderson branch, records permitting. For example, William Bain had two children with his first wife but they are nearly invisible in NZ’s records. I have found nothing about his son, William Wallace Anderson. William, David Charles and James moved to England while their father, David, was alive and left for New Zealand shortly after his, and William’s wife, died. Why did none of them stay in Dundee/Broughty Ferry where generations of their forbears had prospered?


The Finlaysons and the Brewsters may have had greater motivation to look elsewhere for economic opportunities. The Highlands in the early- to mid-1800s suffered a mass exodus of people who were evicted from lands wanted for sheep and/or who were escaping starvation when their staple diet of potatoes vanished due to major crop failure. By the time our Finlaysons emigrated, things were beginning to look up. Ironically, the famine had wiped out the sheep farming industry and vast tracts of vacant land were turned to a sporting (i.e., killing things) industry. 


After decades of economic disaster and abject poverty, the situation had begun picking up in Ireland, too, when James Brewster and Martha Dickson left Derry, separately or together, for the Antipodes.


Secondly, I am struck by the role of sheep in our history. The sheep that caused Highlanders to be evicted from home and occupation; Finlay’s move to being a shepherd when he emigrated to Dunedin;

William B Anderson’s career as a wool merchant both in England and New

Zealand and his brothers’ move into the industry following their migration;

David and Jessie Wilson’s occupations in the cloth milling industry both in the

Borders and Mosgiel, Otago.


Did their paths cross in New Zealand? Did D Charles, the fellmonger, meet

Rebecca, the shepherd’s daughter, in the course of his business? Did William B

provide stock and station services from his agency in Gore to the farming

Brewsters in Southland?  I think this is unlikely. Despite WD’s memoir saying

William B founded the stock and station business, a history of Watson, JE and Co.

Ltd reports it was founded in 1835 by a JD Hunter who sold it to William B in 1890.

It was sold again, two years later, to Messrs Tothill and Watson and the name

changed to Watson and Co. Interestingly, a James Graham became its manager

in 1892, and a partner when Tothill retired in 1902. William B’s daughter, Marie, married a James Graham, also in 1892: maybe William B’s money helped the happy couple start out in their shared life. Coincidentally, a Proudfoot also married a Graham, centuries before.


Post Script

I continue to roam around the web in pursuit of more information. Very recently, I found Ask About Ireland, a site where one can query Irish heritage in materials collated from libraries, museums and other sources such as Griffiths Valuation. This source is the alternative to census material in that it holds property records for 1847-68. I entered William Brewster and just the name Dickson for Londonderry and one hit came back for each. I doubt these are ‘our’ Brewster and Dickson because there had to be more than one of each. But, for what it’s worth, a William Brewster lived in the parish of Formoyle, Coleraine, Derry and rented property from the Worshipful Company of Cloth Workers, implying he worked in the textile trade, working with linen or, again, woollen cloth. Alexander Dickson rented property from James Clark in the Macosquin parish of Coleraine. It would be nice to think these men were ‘ours’ but I really doubt it.


Some of the pictures I've used are rather blurry, due to technical issues that mean they were processed twice to be useable. Some weren’t very clear to start with. The originals are in the family photo albums I have here so can be seen in their better version. 


Likewise, the bits of ancestry charts I’ve put in are screen shots of either our tree in (Andrea Wilson’s tree) or Reunion for Mackintosh that I bought for my desktop because the records in kept changing. If you go in to, you might find children listed twice or some “to an unknown mother”. She isn’t unknown, I just hadn’t clicked the relationship when I’ve accepted ‘hints’ because I knew it was already there.


So this isn’t the definitive version of our family, there will be more to come, but it’s what we know mid-2015.




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