Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Public Trust Records

Playing detective is second nature to family historians and mysteries are attractive. So when I phoned Public Trust in Wellington this morning, imagine my surprise when the phone call turned to more unanswerable questions by the person on the other end when I'd expected the call to be fairly dry and boring. What I got was a person both defensive and indignant that I should be asking questions (of a general nature) at all.

A bit of background:
1st case: In 1910, Justice Sim, ruling over the bitterly contested will of John (Jock) McGregor, of Cherrybank, Wanganui, who had died October 1882, effectively upheld the 1876 will which in the meantime had cost £12,000 in legal fees and incalcuable emotional toll. The Public Trust managed the estate 1909 - 1935, by mortgaging it and letting it run to ruin, the house was occupied by possums and rats, the fences fell, the gorse bloomed, sheep shat on the rosewood staircase, tenants came and went in cottages built by the estate, some paying, some not.

2nd case: Julia Patton nee Costello born (but not registered in bdm) to a government shy Irish family who lived in the Maori Pah up the back of Coromandel township in the 1850's. They were all timber workers. She said on her son's birth certificates that she and her husband, William, were married at the Auckland Registrars Office on the 3rd of April 1885. They lived at Kihikihi and then Te Awamutu. William was a coach driver. In the late 1920's a relative who is still alive, visited the family with her mother and sister, and recalls Julia's agitation over the fight she was having with Public Trust which was saying that because she couldn't prove she was married, her late husbands estate was not hers. Much correspondence - but where is it? Julia was a strong-minded woman who spoke fluent Maori and felt more at home with Maori than with government officials.

So I will pursue this question of the Public Trust records. Records which must give a very valuable insight into the personal, social and financial history of New Zealanders.

See former posts:
Estate Management
History of the Public Trust 1872 - 1895


  1. Some Public Trust records seem to be held at Archives NZ Wellington, and are listed on Archway.

    LEDGERS (PUBLIC TRUST OFFICE) (635) 1873 - 1891


    The ledgers remaining are few, making explanation and identification of series difficult. The Royal Commission on the Public Trust Office (AJHR
    H3 1891) extensively investigated the system of accounting in the Public Trust Office. Returns are appended to Report as evidence which set out in clear diagrams the record keeping system of the Public Trust Office. The diagrams also illustrate the movement of money through the system. Returns detailing the ledgers and cash books created by the office were found in a letterbook (Accession Number 34).

    These notes describe the function of the Ledgers (No 1, 2 & 3) and explain predecessor/successor relationships. These relationships are explained here because they are quite complex. The Successor Series do not exactly succeed logically, because both the series and its successor were often in use at the same time; the series is carrying on its original function and the functions of a successor. The reason for this lies with the accounting system. Ledgers were not always closed and ruled off with balances being transferred to a new ledger. For example, many balances in Ledger 3 remained active (at least to 1891) even though they should have been ruled off and transferred to the proper class ledger.

    Ledgers show the state of accounts between parties. All transactions relating to an individual estate are collected together in one place - an account. Ledgers are posted daily from journals and cash books. Posting is accomplished by means of "folios", for example:- against an entry in Journal, there is folio L/1 which means the entry is posted to account X in Ledger at folio 1. In Ledger against the entry is folio J/1 which shows that it was posted from Journal folio 1.

    The Public Trustee began with three ledgers and then because of delays in audit the ledger was split into class ledgers (for Intestate Estates, Lunatic Estates, Estates in the Office, Real Estates, Native Reserves).

    The ledger series is:-

    Ledger No 1 8 August 1873 -
    Ledger No 2 1 January 1878 -
    Ledger No 3 1 July 1878 -

    No 1 ledger accounts are continued in No 3; No 3 miscellaneous accounts are transferred to No 2 ledger and the Estate accounts continued in Intestate No 1, Estates in Office No 1, Real Estate No 1; Lunatic Estates Ledgers Accounts in No 2 Ledger continued in Miscellaneous Ledgers 4 & 5 and Native Reserves Ledger No. 1.

    The predecessor relationship is not clear but is not as complex. The Treasury seems to have kept a Ledger of Intestate Estates Accounts drawn up from the payments made by Curators of Intestate Estates in each province into the Colonial Treasury. Archives remaining (Accession numbers F, 24, 64) are these ledgers. F has entries back to 1856. Ledger No 1 of the Public Trust has postings from Ledger H (Accession No 64). The postings are the final balances in accounts of Curators. The Curators' ledgers are not predecessor series because they are not ruled off with any indication of transfer.

    This outline sketches relationships and functions in brief and requires further investigation.


    Bound volumes, spines broken


    Legislation Public Trust Office Act Amendment Act 1873 - (Sections 32-44)


    system description
    Arranged by account name or type, and divided into five sections; Intestate, Real Estate, Lunatic, Wills and Trust, and Miscellaneous Accounts. Indexed alphabetically by account name, and within that by province.

  2. Wow, thank you. All is not lost after all. I'm going to try this out when next in Wellington. I'm sure others will find it just as interesting. There has been a lot of interest in this subject.