A history of the Brewster name indicates it came to Ireland from Scotland where it is a sept of the Fraser clan. According to one source, Brewster is an anglicisation of Macgruar, or brewer’s son. Another source says that the Scottish Brewsters settled in Lanarkshire after arriving in Britain following the Norman Conquest. The ‘ster’ indicates brewing was a woman’s occupation. Ah ha, so it’s genetic: not the brewing so much as the quaffing.
There is very little known about the Brewster branch of our family before their NZ history. This is likely to be because the various troubles in Ireland saw much of the civil record destroyed by fire. One source says that census returns of 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851 were nearly all lost and those of 1861, 1871, 1881, and 1891 were totally destroyed.
We do have a family tree provided by my cousin, Sandra, in Christchurch that tells us our grandmother, Martha Brewster, was the daughter of James Brewster (b. ca 1846) and Martha Dickson (b. ca 1857), both of Londonderry.
James, in turn, was the son of William Brewster (1814-1891) and Mary Jane King (1810-1878). William’s and Mary Jane’s birth dates are from a web search which also said they, and James and Martha, lived in Coleriane, Derry. I can find no record of James or Martha’s births or migration but I have a marriage certificate for a James Webster and Martha Dixon who married in Timaru on 14 August 1879, which gives his age as 31 and hers as 32.
Frustratingly, both place of birth and parents’ names field are blank. If this is our couple, Martha’s age may be a typo. Certainly, the groom’s age sort of fits our man. Our couple’s first child was born in 1879, which may be just coincidence. The web chat says that James emigrated to NZ with his brother, John Edmund, who married in 1882 and died in 1887. Our James and Martha farmed in Tokonui, Southland, and had a big family.
William James (1879-1957)
Mary Jane (1882-1951)
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Dickson (1885-1931)
John King (1887-1943)
David Wark (1889-1969)
Henry Harvey (1891-1957)
Edmund Samuel (1896-1976)
Florence May (1898-1975)
Daisy Maria (1899-1980)
Frederick George (1901-1916)
According to my email correspondent, whose post gave William’s and Mary Jane’s life spans,
all the sons became farmers. NZ’s records are so woeful that I can’t find anything more,
although many were indeed farmers, and the lifespan dates above are suspect.
Martha trained to become a nurse. During her probationary training, she met WD and
they married in Invercargill on 29 February 1916. According to WD, Martha hated her name and was known as Peggy or Peg.
I think she and WD shared a good life. Again, I know little about it but there are pics of them on holiday and sharing family
occasions. Peg is always smiling and WD looks untroubled. There are pictures of her playing golf and I have a miniature golf club
that she won.
By 1961, when WD wrote his memoir, only four of the Brewster family were alive: David (Dave), Edmund (Eddie), Florence and Daisy.
Martha (Peggie) Anderson (née Brewster)