Cheryl Marshall has had a ‘‘fabulous’’ weekend learning about her ancestors.
The Waimumu woman went to the first Balneaves family reunion held for more than a 100 years in Gore and Mataura at the weekend.
About 60 descendants of brothers Andrew and James Balneaves, who moved to Mataura in 1878, took part in the reunion.
The brothers had immigrated earlier to New Zealand from Forfarshire in Scotland.
Her grandmother Olive was one of James’s daughters, who married Sam Hillis, Mrs Marshall said.
The couple had 12 children and her mother Gwendoline, who was seventh in the family, was sent to live with James and his wife Agnes.
‘‘Grandmother was having a baby every 18 months and she lived to be 96 so it didn’t do her body any harm.’’
Her mother did not talk much about her childhood.
‘‘We just got little snippets from mum.’’
It had been very interesting finding out more about the family, she said.
‘‘They came out from Scotland to make a life and they certainly did.
‘‘They were hard-working and family-oriented.’’
She admired the courage of the brothers who left home not knowing what they were coming to, she said.
The weekend activities were organised by Jim McQuillan, of Dunedin, and Judy Young, of Wanaka.
Mr McQuillan’s grandmother Annie was a daughter of Andrew.
His mother Elspeth Robertson married Sandy McQuillan, of Mataura.
Mr McQuillan grew up on a farm near Mataura and went to Gore High School but, after leaving school and attending the University of Otago, lived in Dunedin.
The last reunion was held in 1917, at Myross Bush where James later farmed, Mr McQuillan said.
‘‘That was after the only son of James had been killed in the First World War.
‘‘It seemed to me, when I found out about that, it was time for another one.’’
James and Andrew opened a butchery and bakery in Mataura in 1881.
Andrew, in particular, was very involved in the community, he said.
‘‘They were very much involved in setting up a lot of community organisations.’’
Andrew was a member of the Mataura Presbyterian Church and donated a baptismal font in the memory of his wife Jane.
Six Canadians who were descended from James’s grandson, architect Charlie Wakelin, who emigrated o Canada, also attended.
The oldest descendant at the reunion was 92-year-old Jim Wakelin, of Dunedin.
As well as visiting the Mataura cemetery to view family members’ graves, people could also go to the Mataura Museum where volunteer Marie Wilkinson had put together a display about the family.