The Bryson reunion

The Bryson families from all over during the reunion of Bryson family at Uprising Resort. Picture: RAMA

IT was a proud moment for the Bryson family as more than 160 members from across the world gathered at the Uprising Beach Resort at Pacific Harbour last week to mark their first family reunion.

This week, we look at how the family planned and celebrated the historic moment and how they came to know of their original roots.

Edward Bull, a member of the family and part of the four-member organising committee for the family reunion, said the occasion was a historic one for the family since a reunion of this magnitude had never been held before.

Mr Bull, who was born in Suva, lived in Fiji for 32 years before migrating to Australia in 1997.

“This concept came up about two years ago. One of my cousins suggested to hold a small family reunion,” Mr Bull said.

“So we formed a four-member committee comprising two members from Australia and two from Fiji to plan and set up the whole reunion. This is when the idea of having a larger reunion came up.”

He said the reunion committee included himself, Doreen Culliver, Viti Whippy and Sydel Whippy. According to Mr Bull, his great-grandfather, Thomas Baird Bryson was born in Scotland and moved to Fiji in 1870.

“He was a skilled boatbuilder and he constructed the original Bryson homestead at Muanivatu, also known as Ucuinacula and Bryson’s Point,” he said.

“In 1872, he married Adi Karalaini Aumbars (great-grandmother), whose mother, Adi Marica Dikalapo was from a powerful and feared chiefly family of Lomaiviti.

“They had 14 children, of whom eight survived. This was between 1874 and 1898 because of the high infant mortality rate back in those days.

“Adi Karalini died in 1921 at the age of 65 and Thomas in 1930 at the age of 82, both buried in Draiba cemetery in Levuka.”

Mr Bull said in an effort to find out more about the family links, he had his DNA tested by Ancestry.com in 2016.

“More family members then also took the DNA test which confirmed a lot of family links in the process,” he said.

“Family members who have gathered for the reunion have come from the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Fiji and Hawaii.” He said once the DNA tests were done and confirmed, they decided to go ahead with the reunion plan.

“About 130 family members have come from overseas and nearly 30 are from Fiji for this reunion.

“This is a very special occasion for the family. The members present are from the remaining eight siblings who had survived,” he said.

“Another important element to this is that the family members from teh US are meeting the other relatives for the first time. Our family reunion started last Tuesday where we met and greeted each other.

“On Wednesday, we had set up a genealogy display and sports day for all members.

“On Thursday, we took part in various water and land activities. Today (Friday last week) is our final gathering with family performances and a lovo night.”

For whatever the reason may be, they always say no matter where you are, family will always come first and this was a testament to the Bryson family as they organised a reunion of meaningful significance.

  • ┬áNext week we will look at Thomas Baird Bryson’s humble beginnings in Scotland and his journey to Levuka.

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