Thursday, December 15, 2011

Captain John Linklater

Captain John Linklater, native of Scotland and citizen of Wanganui & Wellington. I’ve been trying to establish if he was the brother of my great-grandfather James Linklater of Kaiapoi, Canterbury, NZ. There are other Linklater families in NZ who don’t seem to be related to mine so I need to find that link which so far has evaded me!

James Linklater was born in South Leith, Edinburgh on the 28 Oct 1842 & baptised in the North Leith church on the 18 Dec. His parents were Magnus Linklater & May McKay. Their other children were:-

John 1827-
Robert Sinclair 1829-1834
Barbara 1832-1834
Jean/Jane 1834-1883
Magnus 1837-
Thomas 1840-

John & Magnus (more on him later) have so far eluded me, John since the 1841 census and Magnus the 1851. They both seem to disappear into thin air, no marriages or deaths found for them in Scotland and believe me I have a few wrong certificates to prove it!

Then all of a sudden earlier this year as I was Googling the Linklaters up popped a link to a website that had cemetery records from drownings in NZ Disasters & Tragedies:-

Headstone in the Old Wanganui Cemetery:
June 1876 Captain John Linklater 49 Brig Britain's Pride.

The brigantine "Britain's Pride" under the command of Capt Linklater left Hobart Town bound for Wellington on 17 June 1876 & was never seen again. On board were the three sons of one family and two daughters of the owner of the ship.

When I noticed that the approx birthdate of this John Linklater was 1827 my heart skipped a beat! Could he possibly be the brother of James I’d been looking for all these years?

I set about to see if I could knock this brick wall down…..and so started the most frustrating research I’ve ever undertaken!

First stop was the NZ BDM website but no luck there, no marriage and of course being lost at sea there was no death certificate. Next stop Papers Past where I hit the jackpot! I found many articles on the loss of the ‘Britain’s Pride’ plus lots of other articles on various other ships, plying their trade between various ports in NZ & Australia, that he was the captain on.

bp3-350w-web The ship was heavily laden with timber, shingles, iron palings, posts & rails destined for Queens Wharf in Wellington. From various other newspaper articles the earliest I’ve found John Linklater in NZ was on the schooner Tyne in 1857 although there is one able bodied seaman named John Linklater aged 27 on board the vessel ‘Juno’ when it arrived in Sydney from Auckland in 1855:-

Juno1855-webI was mostly interested in the ‘he leaves a widow’ bit! A bit more searching found these from 1893:-




  And this one in 1872:- emilydeath1872-web-295

Both certificates were ordered that day, but as per normal for me they brought up more questions than answers!


Emily Louisa aged 22 died from typhoid fever on the 23 Dec 1872 in Wanganui. Unfortunately it was in the early days before parents’ names etc were included. Interesting to note that in the death notice in the newspaper her mother’s name wasn’t mentioned, is there a reason for this I wonder, even if she was her step-mother surely it would say daughter of John & Elizabeth? Or was that just the style of the day? The latter most probably.

Emily Louisa’s name hit me in the eye straight away, that was the name of James’ daughter and the elder sister of my grandmother. As Emily Louisa had died at such a young age I thought perhaps James & his wife Elizabeth (another one), had named their next daughter after their niece who had died so tragically? A tenuous link to say the least but I’ll take it! Anyway it spurred me on to further search for the real proof.

James & Elizabeth’s next child after 1872 was a boy but in 1874 they had another daughter whom they named Emily Louisa. Tragically, in 1880 she died, along with another sister May, from diptheria. Such was their mother’s grief that she tried to kill herself by cutting her own throat, another newspaper find, however, she fully recovered and went on to have another seven childen, one of them being named Emily Louisa, this Emily lived until she was 89 years of age……but I digress.

I still couldn’t find a marriage between John Linklater and wife Elizabeth Ann in NZ or Australia or even Scotland & England. Seeing he was a sailor I thought perhaps he had met & married her overseas and maybe their daughter had been born overseas too because I couldn’t find a birth for her in NZ either. Then when Elizabeth Ann’s death certificate arrived I thought I had the answer, she had been married before, but no such luck, still no second marriage found for her!


Keeping in mind that the details on this certificate were given by the undertaker the following is what I managed to find on Elizabeth Ann’s early years before she met John Linklater.

She was born in England about 1824 & had been living in NZ since she was 17 years old. From the names of her parents on the certificate I couldn’t find a death for either of them in NZ but I did find a marriage certificate between a Richard Husband Williams and Elizabeth Ann Alexander:-


Normally on the very early certificates you don’t get a lot of detail but I did have a stroke of luck this time and found that she came from Kent which helped me no end as I probably would have wasted my time looking in Scotland. Then another bit of luck but not until I’d exhausted the searches for the parents’ names of George & Lucy! It wasn’t until I left the father’s name off the search that there she was - Elizabeth Ann Alexander, baptised 17 Oct 1824 at Hollingbourne, Kent, daughter of Samuel & Lucy, Lucy’s maiden name turned out to be Ware not Ward, close but enough to confuse me for 10 mins or so!

I was on a roll now, Google came to my aid again:-


Elizabeth Ann Alexander had arrived in NZ on board the Katherine Stewart Forbes on the 24 June 1841, aged 17 and with a baby daughter who had been born at sea. Within a year she had married Richard Williams. I don’t know what happened to her daughter after they arrived here, there doesn’t seem to be a birth registered for her in NZ so if anyone knows where I could look for births at sea registrations I’d love to hear about it, either in NZ or the UK. I haven’t bothered too much about finding her because on Elizabeth Ann’s death certificate it says she had no living issue.

It remains to be seen as to whether Elizabeth Ann was Emily Louisa’s birth mother. Elizabeth Ann’s death cert said she had married John Linklater when she was aged 30 which puts the date at about 1854 and Emily was born in 1850, but with the information being given by the undertaker he might have just guessed at the age she married John, indeed if they were ever legally married. She seems to have been living in Wellington when she died in 1893 but was buried in Wanganui, Emily died in Wanganui but that was 21 years earlier. After John died in 1876 Elizabeth might have moved to Wellington, or perhaps they had homes in both places as John seems to have plied between both of them over the years from what I gather from the newspapers. These are an interesting couple of articles on the building of the steamship ‘Wanganui’ and it’s arrival in NZ, the second one being from James Garland Woon in 1906, one of the sons of the Rev William Woon, Wesleyan Methodist Missionary and one of the first missionaries to NZ:- 16-12-1862-wanganui-web


That is where I left my research on Captain John Linklater as I couldn’t seem to go forward from there at that stage. Until a few days ago when I started going over it all again and I suddenly realised I had completely forgotten to search the NZ Electoral Rolls which are now available on I had the sinking feeling that it might be too early for him to have shown up before he died in 1876 so I was pleasantly surprised to see just one entry for him and I was able to add yet another piece of circumstantial evidence, still no proof though!

e-roll1875-webNZ Electoral Rolls 1875-1876 Manawatu-Wanganui

It looks like he owned four properties in Wanganui, one of them being in Campbell St which is the address given on his daughter’s death notice in the newspaper. I also found this advertisement just a few weeks after his daughter’s death:- houseforsale-4-1-1873-web

What I was most surprised about was his name - John McKay Linklater - up until now I had no idea he had a middle name so I wasn’t too sure it was him but I realised that the address & his name in both of the other two newspaper articles at least proved they were one and the same person. Unless there was another person with the same name who lived in Wanganui, there was one other person named John McKay Linklater in NZ (that I know of) and he was the first son of my greatgrandfather James, but he wasn’t born until 1873 so he couldn’t have been the John McKay who owned the houses in 1875-6. McKay was the maiden name of James & John’s mother, May McKay, so it all seems to fit in, James had obviously named his first son after his eldest brother John McKay, or had he? He could have just been given the middle name after his grandmother.

Still no absolute proof but with four pieces of circumstantial evidence, it’s all adding up quite nicely!

1) date of birth.
2) both men had daughters named Louisa Emily.
3) McKay was the maiden name of their mother.
4) James named his first son John McKay.

I would love to have a photograph of Captain John’s headstone in the Heads Rd Cemetery in Wanganui if anyone reading this lives close by. Also, if some kind person is able to do some research for me in Wanganui I would love to hear from you.

I have more information on the Williams & Alexander families so will attempt to put together articles on them very soon.

References:; NZ BDM Online; Papers Past; NZ Disasters & Tragedies; Scotlands People. 


PS please see tomorrow’s addendum post.

Dawn Scotting


  1. I think it highly likely that your John Linklater was the Captain of the "Elibank Castle" that was washed ashore on Ninety Mile Beach - about 11 miles north of the Ashburton River in June 1875. I will be publishing a complete account of the Elibank Castle on my Flickr site My email is

  2. Hi. Am a direct relative of James linklater from kaipoi. Would like to now more.

  3. Unknown, please leave me an email address so I can contact you, would love to find more new rellies :)