An interest in Genealogy seems to be a rare pursuit. Most of my relatives have no interest in their ancestors, whatsoever. Fortunately, in each branch of our family tree there is someone who has been endowed with curiosity, some research skill and a desire to tell the story of the forefathers. And what a saga of family trials and tribulations they have collected.
As the administrator of this site, I have learned that the study of a family helps with an appreciation of world history. Our family was affected by the Highland Clearances, British Colonization, the Gold Rush in Australia, , World War 1 and 2 , and the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Going back farther, the census data reveals some ugly truths. Women, up until the mid nineteen hundreds, were having babies about every two years. Many of the women died in childbirth or had their lives shortened by the strain of giving birth to a dozen children. Young women, who may have become pregnant before marriage, left the country to give birth, or left the newborn with its grandparents. Often newborns died within their first year. While avoiding scandal, it placed a heavy burden on an aging couple.
Scotland’s people endured a social structure akin to the feudal system of the Middle Ages. There were a few lucky souls, born into families that held title to the land, but the majority of Scots were poor crofters, paying the rent to a wealthy landowner. In the Highlands a genetic blessing might be to carry the McKenzie DNA. An incredible number of the McKenzie clan lived well into their nineties.
During the industrial revolution the lowland Scots in our family were working in the textile trade. Many were processing linen or working on looms. Many of the children left school at 12 to work as agricultural laborers or domestic servants. The mid 1800’s seem particularly difficult and it is apparent from correspondence that families in the Highlands were relying on the generosity of their kinfolk overseas to sustain them.
Some pioneers arrived in a new land at an opportune time. Investment in cheap real estate always proved prudent. In later years, education was a wise choice enabling families to find gainful employment. But the formula for success was ever-changing. It seems that the key to success was adaptability. The family members supported each other with love and understanding and were prepared to change their jobs, their location, and their thinking in order to thrive.
My branch of the Mckenzie family lives in western Canada. We have been here since Douglas Mckenzie was enrolled in the Air Force Commonwealth Training Program during WWII. He was stationed in Winnipeg, Manitoba. There he met a Canadian woman named Margaret Meldrum and they corresponded throughout the war. He proposed marriage and after 1946, like many other war brides in the Commonwealth, Peggy Meldrum took a ship to an unknown country to start a new life.
Doug's family had already been living in New Zealand for three generations and had established sheep stations, productive farms, a reputation in breeding Hereford cattle and an excellent dairy in Featherston. Doug was the youngest in a family of twelve. After the war he apprenticed as a carpenter and he and Peggy lived for two years in Wellington. She worked for Watkins, a home products company, then found a job as a waitress in "The California Cafe". Peggy was feeling homesick. Her father needed help on the farm in Rosenort, Manitoba so the couple decided to return to Canada. Their daughter Isabel was born in Winnipeg. Farming in this part of the world was a hit and miss occupation. After severe flooding of the Red River in 1952 and three brutally cold winters, Doug was ready to move elsewhere. They headed for the west coast. Initially they had not ruled out returning to New Zealand, but Vancouver Island reminded Doug so much of home they decided to stay. Their son Bruce was born in Nanaimo.
Doug and Peg have passed on and we are still here, near the island, on the island, or in planning stages to return.
THE MCKENZIE PRAYER
BLESS A' THE MCKENZIES AN' A' THE MCKENZIE CHILDREN THEIR SONS AN' SON'S CHILDREN AND THEIR DOCHITER'S
FOR A THOUSAN' YEARS TO COME.
BE YE GRACIOUS AN' SEND DOON MOUNTAINS O' SNUFF,
AN' RIVERS OF WHISKEY.
AN' OH LORD SEND DOON SWORDS AN' PISTELS AN' DAGGERS, AS MONIE AS THE SANDS ON THE SEASHORE
TO KILL THE MACDONALDS, THE CLAN RANALDS,
AND THE CAMPBELLS.
AN' OH LORD, BLESS THE WEE COO,
AN' MAKE IT A BIG COO.
AN' OH LORD BLESS THE SUCKLIN, AND MAKE IT A GRAND BOARD. AN' OH LORD, BLESS THE WEE BAIRNS, YON ANGUS, ALEX AN' BESSIE AN' MAGGIE AN' FLORRIE.
AN' OH LORD, BUILD UP A GREAT WALL BETWEEN US AN' THE IRISH, AN' PUT BROKEN BOTTLES ON TOP, SO THEY CANNAE COME OVER.
AN' OH LORD, IF YE HAE ANYTHING GUDE TO GIE,
DUNNA GIE IT TO THE IRISH,
BUT GIE IT TO YOUR CHOSEN PEOPLE, SCOTS,
ESPECIALLY TO THE CLAN MCKENZIE AN A' THEIR FRIENDS.