Hundreds of people will attend the reunion of two of New England's oldest families

FAMILY HISTORY: Siblings Bruce Newberry and Penny Williams at their ancestor John Eckersley Newberry's grave, Armidale Cemetery.  (Photo: Nicholas Fuller.)
FAMILY HISTORY: Siblings Bruce Newberry and Penny Williams at their ancestor John Eckersley Newberry's grave, Armidale Cemetery. (Photo: Nicholas Fuller.)

Two of New England’s oldest families, the Newberrys and the Braziers, are holding a reunion in October, and hundreds of people are coming from across the state to meet their relatives.

“This is the first big one,” said Bruce Newberry, who’s organising the event with his sister Penny Williams.  “A lot of branches of the family have had reunions in the past, but everyone has said for a long time we should have a reunion.  We’ve bit the bullet.  We’re planning it, and we’re giving people plenty of time.”

Plenty of time and planning are needed; more than 800 people are expected to come to the reunion at the Armidale Bowling Club over the October long weekend, which will include a midday luncheon and a slideshow of photos, some taken a century ago with old Brownie cameras.

The families have been in the region for a century and a half. 

John Eckersley Newberry, an English convict, arrived in Australia in 1839; worked as a drover; and eventually settled near Armidale in 1868, where he raised a family of 16.  Two of those children married Braziers.

FAMILY FOUNDER: John Eckersley Newberry (1820-1900) and his wife Bridget (1842-1927).  (Photo: Supplied.)

FAMILY FOUNDER: John Eckersley Newberry (1820-1900) and his wife Bridget (1842-1927). (Photo: Supplied.)

John Howe Brazier, his wife, and seven of their children moved to Australia from England in the 1850s, and eventually settled near Armidale.  According to family legend, they were the first to introduce blackberries to New England.

Today, the Brazier and the Newberry descendants live throughout the region. 

Some are landholders – and, Mr Newberry said, “some of the country’s been in the same hands for well over a hundred years.” 

Some are graziers, wool growers, or into cattle.  Some run businesses in various little towns.  There are motor dealers in Armidale, while others are stock and station agents, or rural suppliers in Glen Innes.  Some are academics and clergymen.  One entrepreneur exported wine – in cans – to China.

“The big contribution is to the rural area, the woolgrowing, the sheep, developing properties,” Mr Newberry explained. 

When the Newberrys and Braziers first arrived, the region wasn’t developed.  The families fenced off land and developed pastures; created rural holdings; raised sheep and cattle; established schools; and started businesses, including the Wicklow Hotel in Armidale, which Mr Newberry’s great-grandparents owned, and where his mother was born.

“We feel we’ve come a long way; we’ve got a little dynasty,” Mr Newberry said, “and we’ve helped Australia get to where it is, and this area get to where it is.”

With such an extended family, keeping track of them all is a massive undertaking.  A Facebook group allows its 300 members to keep in touch with far-flung branches of the family trees.  Several of the guests, Mr Newberry says, are in their nineties, among them Teddy Newberry, the original Newberry’s only surviving grandson.  There’s even a sprinkling of centenarians.  One old woman is coming all the way from Braidwood; her family is feeding her fruit and vegetables to keep up her health.  And the Newberrys are expecting even more relatives.

“We’re still finding people,” Mr Newberry said; “even last night, I found a branch of the family that left here a hundred years ago.  They moved to Bathurst.  We didn’t know, nobody knew.  Somebody must have known, but they were hard to find.”

One branch that remains elusive is the family of John Eckersley Newberry’s daughter Margaret, who married a William Jones; she died in Sydney in 1926. 

“We haven’t got tabs on the Joneses,” Mr Newberry said.  “We just haven’t found them yet; we believe they’re there, and we’re hoping they’ll come out of the woodwork somewhere along the line.”

If you have information about the Newberrys or Braziers, Bruce Newberry and his sister Penny Williams can be found in Armidale, or contacted through the Newberry / Brazier Reunion group on Facebook.

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This story Gathering of the clans for old New England families first appeared on The Armidale Express.

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