Category Archives: MacKenzie

Letter From Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – Summer 1855

This is a partial letter written by my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks to her cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining.  In the  letter, presumably written in the Summer of 1855, Jane discusses sewing and missing home.

To my great surprise and delight, Jane also mentions having “Dr. & Mrs. Forrest” to tea.  This would be Dr. Alexander Forrest and his wife Barbara Ross MacKenzie, who were also my 3x great-grandparents.  Jane’s daughter Annie would marry their son John Forrest in 1871, but in 1855 the Forrest family was living in Lunenburg along with the Duff family.  Fifteen years before they were married, the parents of my great-great-grandparents were friends.  It’s just a lovely discovery.

This is another letter where Jane employs the “cross-writing” style (known under many other names) on two pages.  Apparently, this style became popular in Britain to save money on postage.  Once you get used to it it’s not hugely more difficult to read than the normal style, but sometimes there are places that are still challenging to transcribe.

[Transcription follows.  Click on images to enlarge or download.  Letters courtesy of Catherine Duff and Family.]

Pages 5 & 8

Pages 1 & 4

Pages 6 & 7

Pages 2 & 3


== Page 1

it is loose ‘round the waist for her now as I think she is thinner since the warm weather.  Your kind offer of sewing dear Mary I mean to accept, although I am sure notwithstanding your occupations are different from ours that your time must be much taken up.  There are so many things occurring where you are to interfere with sewing that I should think you could not get through much particularly during the summer. However I will not refuse such a good offer and am going to ask you to make baby her frocks.  She

== Page 2

always wears coloured as she sits too much upon the floor to agree with white clothes.  I must ask you to purchase sufficient cambric and materials for us and make them up in any way you like.  I was looking for one to send but can find none that fit excepting those she is wearing, but I daresay you could judge or Kate could supply you with something.  She was a year old on Saturday and although quite fat is short and small for that age.  Get any colour you like for her frocks and if they don’t really fit I can easily alter them. The sewing work is a great boon.  I was

== Page 3 [Sideways]

just thinking how I could manage to make them.  I will ask Mr Duff to have the parcel-box sent to you when he arrives and if it could be sent to Bauld and Gibson on Thursday coming he would get it in the morning.  Whatever extra charge there is for the bonnet and whatever you spend for the other things if you do not see Mr Duff please send the account. How much I would like if it were in my power to see you all this summer.  But the more I think about it the greater seems

== Page 4 [Sideways]

the impossibility of leaving home.  Your letters give me a good deal of information about our friends that I do not hear from other sources.  I am always so glad to get them.  I am writing in great haste as I am expecting Dr. & Mrs. Forrest [Dr. Alexander Forrest and his wife Barbara Ross MacKenzie] to tea and they will be here immediately but I know you will sense both under the circumstances.  You must give much love to Martha, your mother, and Annie, I am, grieved to hear Isabel [likely Mary’s sister Isabella May Fairbanks] is so poorly.

love dear Mary, your affectionate,

Jane E. Duff

Letter from Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks – 13 Nov 1855

A partial letter from my 3x great-grandmother Jane Elizabeth Fairbanks Duff to her cousin Mary Martha Fairbanks Twining.  In this letter my grandmother mostly discusses some sewing Mary had done for her and the family, knitting with her sister-in-law, and the education of her children.

[Transcription follows the letter itself.  Click on the images to enlarge or download.  Letter courtesy of Catherine Duff & Family.]

Pages 1 & 4

Pages 1 & 4

Pages 2 & 3

Pages 2 & 3


Braco Nov. 13th 1855

My Dear Mary,

I received a large parcel from you on Friday quite unexpectedly as I did not even know the Packet had left Lunenberg [Nova Scotia].  We had had a good deal of stormy weather and I thought she was still here.  The chemises were in very good time and fitted me very nicely.  I am greatly indebted to you for the pains taken with them.  The workmanship was excellent and the hem edging just what I liked. I thought the cotton very strong and good.  It is a real luxury to have a whole set again after wearing such rags as I have been doing for the last few months. The children too feel the comfort of theirs.  How you

== Page 2

managed to get through them so quickly, I don’t now, for there is a great deal of sewing in them and had it not been for your kindness I should have been without for some time longer for I cannot sit at my sewing long at a time and now in the evenings I do not feel very able to exert myself in that way.  But with all your help, we have got on nicely with our work and are beginning to feel that we may almost take some rest now.  Aunt Margaret is a grand knitter and having promised some now I could work.  She is busy preparing the children’s feet for winter.  She says I must tell you with her love that we never would have got on at all without your assistance as it comes just when most-needed and which we greatly [appreciate].  The enormous contents of the parcel gave a great

== Page 3

deal of pleasure.  You are almost too kind dear Mary for you are continually remembering the children in one way or other and they want me to send a great deal of love and say how much they thought of what you sent them that I fear would not be an easy matter, for Annie is half-crazy about the frock collar (having an extraordinary fondness for dress), and William is greatly taken up with his book.  They still go to school and I hope may make some progress although unfortunately we have not such a thing as a good school here.  The little coat and pinafore were very nice and will be very useful indeed the latter is a nice pattern.  I am much obliged to you for thinking of the shirts.  I have a few, but these are very nice indeed and I am glad to

== Page 4

have them.  I don’t think you have charged me with all I owe you in the amount, for I think there must be some things unpaid yet.  I am sure about two or three parcels one 1/3 and the other 9 1/2.  I did not put them down at the time but perhaps you will remember yet.  You must not defraud yourself for you have had trouble enough with my things.  I intended asking you to purchase me some material for a dress for my Annie but when writing last to Annie as I wanted her to fit me with a pair of slippers, her feet and mine being somewhat of a size, I asked her to get it and send in the same parcel, but very likely she has not bought it yet so I mean to trouble you about it as it was nearly as nice looking woolen plaid.  I expected about 2/6 a yd, I wanted enough for dress

Alexander Forrest & Barbara MacKenzie – Portraits

I was contacted today by a 4th cousin from the Forrest side of my family.  This person sent me three lovely colorized portraits which were taken about 1865.  The first is of my 3x great-grandfather Dr. Alexander Forrest (1806-1875), the second is of his wife, Barbara Ross MacKenzie (1805-1880), and the third is of their daughter Helen Forrest Glendinning (1840-1926).

The portraits have been in his family for generations, and seem to be perfectly preserved. A real treasure!

Dr. Alexander Forrest

Dr. Alexander Forrest

Barabara Ross MacKenzie

Barabara Ross MacKenzie

Helen Forrest Glendinning

Helen Forrest Glendinning

All photos courtesy of John Hardesty.

A Letter From John Fairbanks to Nancy Prescott, 7 Sept 1822

This letter, also sent to me by the Halifax National Archives, was written by my 4x great-grandfather John Eleazer Fairbanks to Ann “Nancy” Prescott, his wife, in September of 1822.  John was on a business trip to Liverpool, England and missing home quite a bit.  In this letter “Lydia” is Lydia Prescott, the sister of Nancy Prescott Fairbanks.  The “little girls” are his daughters Catherine Prescott Fairbanks ( b 1820) and Ann Blagden Fairbanks (b 1822).  I think John’s penmanship and his sentiments are both rather lovely.

[Note: The “McNab” mentioned in the letter is almost certainly a relation of Ebenezer McNab who married my 3x great-aunt Margaret MacKenzie.]

To: Mrs. John Fairbanks, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Per Aurora [the ship which carried the letter]

Liverpool 7th Sept. 1822
Dear Nancy,

I have already written you twice since my arrival, once by the August Packet and on Saturday last by the Packet ship Panthea which sail’d for New York on Sunday – The Aurora, Capt. Nelson, now furnishes another opportunity and although I have nothing either new or interesting to communicate, I cannot allow her to sail without letting you hear from me.  In my letter to McNab per packet was the history of my mercantile proceedings thus far and must refer you to that letter for any information you may wish on the subject – but for fear that my letter may by any chance not reach him I ______ a statement of the sales of our property here which in that case you can snow him.  It is my intention to go to Glasgow on Monday next in one of the Steam Packets.  I wish this journey was over and I was once more sailing on my voyage homewards as I find my disposition for wandering considerably abated.  My happy and comfortable house with you and our dear little children seems now to have charms for me that no other scenes can possibly pofsefs and it is only in the hurry and bustle of businefs and the ever varying changes of a large commercial city that I can feel my thoughts for a moment diverted from my home.  The retirement of my own feelings and reflections on my pillow will make me feel comparatively unhappy until I again join you.  A Mr. LePage of P. E. [Prince Edward] Island is frequently my companion and in our rambles about this town notwithstanding all the beauty, variety, and novelty of objects which surround us, we have finally made up our minds that either Halifax or Charlotte Town [Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island] are either far pleasanter places and both heartily wish ourselves safe home again – I long to hear from you but shall feel cruelly disappointed if the Packet does not bring me letters – she is daily expected at Falmouth – I am enjoying very good health and notwithstanding a heavy cold and cough, the roast beef of Old England and a moderate supply of good ale seems to agree well with me. I only hope you are in as good health as well as our little girls.  Give my love to Lydia and all other friends –

And believe Dear Nancy

Your affectionate husband

John E Fairbanks
Net Sales of Cargo L 601.19.7
” “” Brjg.                      460. 0.0


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A Letter from John MacKenzie – 1831

Among the collection of Nancy Prescott Forrest is a copy of a letter from my 4x great-grandfather John MacKenzie to his daughter Margaret MacKenzie McNab.  It’s rather heavy with quotations from scripture.  It’s clear that the MacKenzies were very religious people.  John’s son Hugh became a minister.  His daughter Margaret had a son who was a minister.  Another grandson, John Forrest, was one of the foremost Presbyterian ministers in Nova Scotia.

The letter tells of the death of Isobella Ross, my 4x great grandmother.

Culnauld [Nigg Parish, Scotland], 5 March 1831
My dear daughter,

With a heavy and sorrowful heart I have sat down to inform you that your dear mother is no more in this world.  She departed this life the 28th last at 2 o’clock afternoon and was interred 2nd last in the church yard of Nigg aside her father and mother.  She was poorly long ago, only that she was getting little a little, now and then, she was since days in a great strait with a severe pain in her bowels, always throwing up, nothing would remain on her stomach – at first she took it to be the last message – all the means that was used in subservience to him who hath appointed them and can only give success to them – was of no avail for it was death – her feeling and speech remained until the last minute and she could take the drink with her own hand.

Dear daughter, I am now as a Pelican in the wilderness – it is a speaking and trying Providence and I have much need of grace and counsel from God to carry aright under it – to be submissive to his will – if any of my fellow creatures would do me any hurt – I would both ask who did it, and why did he do so – but when God doth anything to us we must remember – he is the potter and we are his clay vessels – yea break them in pieces at his pleasure – and there is none can stay his hand or say to him what dost thou – the gardener gathers at his pleasure the flowers and fruits of his garden – sometimes he cuts of the buds sometimes he suffers them to bloom, sometimes he gathers the green fruit, sometimes he stays till they are ripe – and every body thinks he may do with his own what he pleaseth and shall not the Almighty God have liberty much more to dispose of all that grows in his territories at his pleasure – we ought to guard against immoderate grief and excessive sorrow for this (is) sinful and offensive to God – Now grief is sinful and immoderate when it makes us grudge at God’s dispensation or murmur at his will – I do not mean to make light or to be unconcerned for the death of parents or dear and near friends – God will have us neither to despise his load not to faint under it – Heb. 12C, 5V, – God is displeased with those that are stupid and insensible under such afflictions – why they despise his rod and make light of his corrections – hence he complains of these – Jer 5C, 3V – “I have smitten them but they have not grieved” – he wills however – to feel his hand to induce into the meaning of God – for our grief will not be to no avail to the dead – we must bewail our dead hearts while it is day and strive to make our call and election sure.

I wrote today to Harthill – if Barbara will not come home I do not know what to do – as I am always poorly.   My foolish thoughts were going before your dear mother but the great ruler thought otherwise – your Aunt had a fever and she could not go to see her sister but she recovered a little a few days ago – but not able to travel but Sabbath last when she heard from them that were at the church that her sister was mentioned in the church – she came here at the glooming of the night, tender as she was – I am afraid this travel will be against her – your uncle had not much rest in one place – back and forward – I ordered Hugh to write to your Sister – you will direct to your Uncles – make offer my compt’s [compliments] to Mr. MacNab and children. Your uncle and aunt joins me here with their compt’s to Mr. MacNab – not forgetting yourself and the children.

I remain, my dear daughter, your afflicted Father

John MacKenzie

Rev. Hugh MacKenzie – Biography

Hugh Ross MacKenzie (1798-1860) was the brother of my 3x great-grandmother Barbara Ross MacKenzie.  I knew that he was a minister in Inverness, Scotland and that he had also worked as a missionary in Nova Scotia.  He returned to Scotland where he died on 31 Jan 1860 of a heart ailment [defective mitral valve].

Today I found a wonderful biography with many details of his life in the Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae, a reference which gives the succession of ministers in Scotland parishes.  Hugh is found on page 466 of Volume 6.  This was his entry (lightly edited):

HUGH ROSS MACKENZIE, appointed to St. Mary’s of Inverness, Scotland in 1848, was born in in Ross-shire, Scotland on the 20th May 1798.  He was the son of John MacKenzie (catechist in parish of Nigg, Ross-shire), and Isabella Ross.  He was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and licensed by the Presbytery of Hamilton.  He was an assistant at Harthill, and ordained by that Presbytery in August 1831 for service in Nova Scotia.  He was appointed by the Glasgow Colonial Society to Wallace, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, where he laboured from 1832 to 1840.

He married on the 8th April 1833 [in Nova Scotia], Hectorina MacLean Skinner (born 27th Sept. 1809, died 7th May 1883), daughter of James Skinner, M.D. of Pictou, Nova Scotia, and Elizabeth McCormick.

He was minister at Lochaber, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia from 1840 to 1844.  Admitted [as minister] to Tongue, [Highland,] Scotland on the 11th Sept. 1844.  Presented [as Minister of St. Mary’s, Inverness, Scotland] by Queen Victoria 8th April 1848, and admitted [to same] on 8th June 1848.  Rev. MacKenzie died on the 31st of Jan 1860.

St.Mary's, Inverness, Scotland

St.Mary’s, Inverness, Scotland

He and his wife had the following children:

James Skinner, minister of Little Dunkeld, born in Nova Scotia, 14th Jan. 1834.

Isabella, born 19th June 1835, died 12th July 1836.

John, coal merchant, Inverness, born 16th March 1837, died July 1873.

Isabella, born 29th Jan. 1839 (married Dr C. Deane), died Hawthorn, Australia, 12th Sept. 1923.

Eliza-beth, born 21st Feb. 1841 (married Dr Gill), died at Canterbury, Australia, 16th July 1919.

Margaret Ross, born 18th March 1843 (married Rev. Van der Straaton, London), died Aug. 1878.

Hugh Butler Gallie, coffee planter in Ceylon, born 1st May 1846.

Sally Mitchell, born 21st May 1848 (married Marcus Van der Straaton, Government Railways, Ceylon), died 28th
July 1917.

Hector, born 28th Dec. 1851, died in Australia in January 1901.

[Per Gregg’s History of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, 330.]

Hugh McKenzie - Bio

Hugh MacKenzie – Bio

The afore-mentioned “History of the Presbyterian Church in Canada” by William Gregg has a short entry on Hugh with some additional details:

In the year 1831 the Rev. Hugh MacKenzie was appointed by the Glasgow society to proceed as missionary to a settlement in Wallace, in the county of Cumberland, Nova Scotia.  He was a native of Ross-shire and a licentiate of the Presbytery of Hamilton [Scotland], by which presbytery he was ordained in August 1831.  In the following month he sailed for Nova Scotia, but the ship in which he sailed was driven back by a severe storm, and he remained during the winter months with his friends in Scotland.  He left the next spring, and arrived in Nova Scotia in May, 1832.  In his field of labour he had two stations, distant from each other nine miles, at which he preached in English and Gaelic with great acceptance.  Among his hearers were some old men and women who, til his coming, had heard only one sermon in twenty years in a language they could understand.  From 1832 to 1840 he continued to labour in Wallace and neighbourhood, and then removed to Lochaber, in the county of Antigonish.  He afterwards returned to Scotland, and became minister, first of Tongue, and then of the Gaelic Church, Inverness. [pages 329-330].

John MacKenzie and Isobella Ross

Still very much neck-deep in my Scottish ancestors.  I think it was the haggis I ate last week.

I recently wrote about Dr. Alexander Forrest (1806-1875) my 3x great-grandfather who was born in Cambusnethan Parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland.  His wife was Barbara Ross MacKenzie (1805 – 1880).  She was born in Nigg Parish, Ross-shire, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, in a place called Culnauld.  Culnauld was a former estate.

MacKenzie Clan Tartan

MacKenzie Clan Tartan

The “History of the Munros of Fowlis” by A. Mackenzie, notes:

The estate of Culnauld, parish of Nigg, was bequeathed to Andrew Munro (??-1580) by his father.  He was granted “half of the lands and town of Nig, and half the alehouse and its croft, with the keeping of the place and Manor of Nig.”

The careful reader may note that the Munro family and the Forrest family would go on to have quite a close relationship.  It’s possible it had its roots long ago in Scotland.

Barbara’s parents were John MacKenzie and Isobella Ross.  John was a weaver.  I was able to find several birth records for John and Isobella in the Scottish National Archives.  The first record showed the births of three children, Hugh, Margaret, and John:

McKenzie & Ross Births, Culnauld, Nigg Parish, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

McKenzie & Ross Births, Culnauld, Nigg Parish, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland

Hugh MacKenzie lawful son to John McKenzie, Weaver, Culnault & Isobella Ross his spouse, born 20th May 1798.

Margaret MacKenzie lawful daughter to John McKenzie, Weaver, Culnault & Isobella Ross his spouse, born 19th March 1800.

John MacKenzie lawful son to John McKenzie, Weaver, Culnault, & Isobella Ross, his spouse born 29th June 1803.

The next child was Barbara Ross:


Barbara Ross McKenzie birth record

Barbara Ross MacKenzie, lawful daughter to John McKenzie, Weaver, Culnault & Isobella Ross his spouse, born 3rd Jun 1805.

Unfortunately, the John MacKenzie born in 1803 must have died in infancy, because the next child born was also named John MacKenzie:

John McKenzie Birth Record

John McKenzie birth record

John MacKenzie lawful son to John MacKenzie, Weaver, Culnault, and Isobella Ross, his spouse, born 16th March 1809.

There is a birth record listing a child, John L.S. MacKenzie born in Cromarty Parish [i.e. not Nigg Parish] on 17 Oct 1814 and baptized on 19 Oct 1814.  The father, John MacKenzie, is listed as a “mason” [i.e. not a weaver], and the mother is “Isobel Ross” [i.e. not Isobella], so I’m skeptical about it.  It’s possible John changed professions, but it seems unlikely.  I’ve removed this entry from my tree, but I’m mentioning it here to be thorough.

John McKenzie birth record

John McKenzie birth record

There is a census from 1841, Nigg Parish, which lists a John MacKenzie and his wife Isobella.  John is listed as weaver (actually some kind of loom worker), but the birth dates for him and his wife are not realistic if one considers that their first son was born in 1798.  It says John was born in 1783 and Isobella in 1886, which would have made them 15 and 12 when their first child was born. Still I’ll include it to be thorough in case they were giving younger ages for some reason.  Again, the careful reader will notice the Duff family living next door.  Intriguing.

Nigg Parish Census, 1841

1841 Census, Culnaha, Nigg Parish, Ross and Cromarty, Scotland