In 1997, the Clan McAlister of America received a query from Rita Alvina McAllister of Quairading in Western Australia. In her query, she wrote that she was over 85 years old, her sister Jean was 94, their parents were John and Stella Bennett McAllister of Scotland, and John was a soldier. Rita joined the CMA in the same year, as Member 1117.
In June 2003, a query was posted on the CMA Internet Page, which read as follows:
Query 8-0603 from Elizabeth McAllister (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote June 17, 2003, via Lynn McAlister, Clan Historian.
Query: I am Elizabeth May McAllister, niece of Rita Alvina McAllister (Member #1117) who is currently 87 years of age. Aunt Rita is staying at my place in South Australia for a while and has asked me to carry on the search for our roots, on her behalf. Aunt Rita's membership is paid to the end of 2004. May I do that for her please? Since R's last contact with a genealogist she has established the surname of my great grandmother. I think computers are magical and will await a reply from you with bated breath.
Response: You certainly may use our auspices to help you and your Aunt Rita. Please send to us the name of your great grandmother, plus her spouse and the lineage from them to you and Aunt Rita. List the names, places and dates of birth, marriage and burial for all those who have passed away, as well as the same data for the living members of your family. We have a much better idea now of who went out from Scotland and Ireland to Australia, and when they emigrated. I am in touch with Peter Alexander, the head of the Clan McAlister in Australia, and he may be able to help. If your data is too large for an e-mail, please contact the Webmaster for data transfer instructions. (Note: Peter Alexander has since passed away. Our current sources of data on McAllisters in Australia are Michael Elliott and Max Milton MacAlister of the J10 line).
In March 2004, Elizabeth McAllister sent the following message:
Query: Thank you for your email of June 18, 2003. My Aunt, Rita McAllister, would like these questions put to you.
1. Did a Stella McAllister, nee Bennett, married to a John McAllister come to Australia between 1890 and 1900? Stella may have been with her two sons; Oliver Milton and Joseph, or have been joining those two sons in Sydney or South of Sydney.
2 Did such a person die in Australia?
Response: I reviewed your June 18, 2003 query and my response. Give our best to your Aunt Rita. It's always good to hear from a CMA member. I have not found a link to your family so far. We have very little information in our computer data base about Australian McAllisters and their families. I checked our Scottish Research Project files for the names Bennet and Stella and found nothing. I have sent an info copy of this message to Michael Elliott, and Max Milton MacAlister in Australia, who may have some information to help you. They are both related to Lachlan Macalister, who was the first MacAlister in Australia.
Soon after this message, we learned that Rita planned to attend the CMA Gathering in Tysons Corner, VA. Because of a last minute change, she was not able to make the journey. However, her relatives Heather and Darryl Luke of Gidgegannup, Perth, Western Australia, and Joan Underwood, who lives in Esperance, Western Australia. They made the long journey by air from Perth in Western Australia to New Zealand to Los Angeles to Washington. They brought with them enough genealogical information to establish a new family line designator for Rita, J81, which replaces her current "X". They also brought a number of photographs, some of which were selected for this article. On the reverse side of each photograph are comments from Rita, which reveal that she was an avid traveler, visiting places like Papua New Guinea, Israel and Scotland, where she visited Strathaird on Skye and Glenbarr in Kintyre.
In her cover letter, Rita wrote, "Can you please give me a family line and do away with the ‘X.’ We as a family have so many wonderful young people that need to be 'infected' with the genealogical bug." The J81 line designator has been assigned.
The progenitors of Rita’s line were John and Stella Bennett McAllister of Edinburgh, who had two sons, Oliver Milton (1883-1917) and Joseph, each of whom was married in Australia after they emigrated from Scotland. Oliver married Selma May Bailey in 1905, with whom he had six children, including Rita, her sister Jean, and four brothers. Oliver was killed during World War I in France. Joseph returned to Australia, settling in Newcastle in New South Wales in 1920. Rita’s sister Jean passed away on March 8, 2004. Her obituary is included in this issue. Rita included an "Open Letter to Clan Members", which she sent via Heather and Darryl Luke and Joan Underwood:
I am sending this message by my family party begging your understanding and compassion for my last minute cancellation. I am thoroughly stressed out with the prospect of coping with the whole process in my aged and physical condition. I thought I could but I can’t.
I can only blame myself for not starting preparations earlier and maybe I would have been stronger and calmer. However, the others will be able to attend on at least one of the days of the Gathering and will carry my goodwill.
Over the years I have followed the doings of the Society through the regular Journals and have been amazed at the achievements and contributions of Macalisters of many creeds and several colours!
I truly regret that this first real opportunity to personally join you has not materialized and another is obviously not likely. So I wish you well in your persistence to bring light to the past especially where it concerns Macalisters!
Your cousin from Australia,
40 Suburban Road
Write to Rita at the above address. I know that she would love to hear from you. She is your McAllister cousin in the truest sense of the word.