Monday, 23 September 2013

My great-great-grandmother's brooch

Elizabeth Lorne ("Lizzie") BRACKENREG (1853 - 1949), the eldest daughter of Charles John BRACKENREG and Mary Ann BAILEY, was born at home into a family of publicans and racehorse owners in High St, West Maitland. Charles was the grandson of a NSW Rum Corps soldier, James BRACKENRIG, who arrived on the Neptune with the Second Fleet, and Mary Ann's father was a convict from London, Samuel BAILEY. Lizzie's younger sister, Ruby, lived with my father's family when he was a child, and he remembers her saying that her grandfather "was on the Governor's second boat".

Lizzie was an accomplished pianist, who played on a Sunday at one of the Anglican churches in Maitland. They lived at a property called "Wyndella", at Luskintyre, which is 18 kms from Maitland. There is now a suburb named Windella near that area. She also gave piano lessons. Her piano was handed down to her granddaughter, Florence Mary O'NEILL, who then passed it onto her only daughter who is my Aunty Rea (Marea). There are little holes on the front of the piano where the candle holders that lit up the sheet music were removed. Lizzie's great uncle, Thomas STUBBS, was a well-known violinist and composer, as was his granddaughter, Maud FITZ-STUBBS, as well as her brother, Percy FITZ-STUBBS and her daughter, Madeline WOODS. Sadly, their musical ability has not trickled down to my branch at all.

The family must have made a comfortable living, as I have a few photos of Lizzie throughout her life, and she was very well dressed in each of them. In every photo she is wearing a gold brooch, that has worked it's way down the generations, and the current custodian is another Australian descendant who lives in England. It must have been important to her if she wore it for every special occasion. I have no idea if it was a gift to her, maybe as an engagement present from her future husband, John CRUCKSHANK, who she married when she was age 25, or maybe it was left to her by her own mother. There is no specific mention of it in her will, although it was handed down to her fourth daughter, Ruby. Maybe Lizzie gave it to Ruby before she died, rather than through her will.

Ruby's daughter had the brooch cleaned in 1984 for her daughter (Patricia, the current owner) to wear at her wedding as her dress was Victorian in style.  Patricia remembers her Mum saying that she loved to play with the dangly bits as a child and had actually pulled one off although it's not obvious from the photo, so she thinks a jeweller must have repaired it at some stage. The brooch has a pin on the back to fasten it to clothing.

Gold brooch with seed pearls and emeralds

Lizzie Brackenreg wearing the brooch.
Elizabeth at the wedding of her daughter, Ida, in 1915, age 62

Lizzie's husband, John CRUCKSHANK, predeceased her by 37 years, and although she lived in Westmead (Sydney) after he died, they are buried together in the Anglican section at Cessnock's Nulkaba Cemetery. I hope Lizzie's longevity genes are very strong in me, as she was 96 when she died.

Elizabeth and John's grave at Nulkaba, near Cessnock


  1. That is a very beautiful brooch... what a treasure!!! Cheers, Catherine.

  2. Janelle,

    What a beautiful brooch. And to have pictures of your ancestors wearing it is priceless!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Lovely post & brooch. A delight to still have it in the family along with the photos.

  4. Such a detailed information and love to see more family information. As a teammate of probate property finder, I appreciate the efforts.