Saturday, July 31, 2010

Natural parentage

An important aspect of adoption is access to information about natural parentage.

I don't know if I'm the right person to comment on this, being adopted myself, I'm emotionally involved in the subject and it may colour my comments too much. My own access to information was unproblematic. I had a copy of the original adoption paper stating my mothers' name. This was done prior to the 1955 Adoption Act.

And you will see in any official discussion on the subject of adoption, that emphasis is on the acting adults in the situation, what protects them and their information. From what? Emotional harm?  No. I think its more the system, designed by emotionless officialdom, that tries to send the adults on their journey in life without fear of repercussion. After all, they are the taxpayers. Babies don't pay tax and can't speak for themselves.

In the discussion paper submitted by the Privacy Commissioner to the Law Commission labelled 'Options for Reform' 2000, the Privacy Commissioner argues for a more open information system and discusses the modern problem of artifical reproduction, the other aspect of natural parentage which will become of interest in the future for those growing up at present.

People are largely a product of their ancestors. When we look back at these ancestors, we see the traits we notice in ourselves and its comforting to realise that our lifetimes are coloured by theirs and that we are part of a much larger family.  To be denied access to that heritage is quite unsound. Our foster parents belong to a different branch of humanity and although its interesting, its not personal except for the love we have for them.

In the families I have researched in depth, I've noticed that these traits do repeat. Take a look at my foster mother's family and my natural father's family and you will perhaps notice that these families have different behavioural aspects. You can't deny blood.

My husbands family is different again. I visited some people with the same surname in Napier once, not knowing where they fitted in. The wife said her husband (70yrs) was in bed (8pm) because although he was retired, he ran a pig farm and got up early to feed out. Although we could not connect our families, I thought they must be related somewhere because my husbands ancestors did exactly what this chap was doing, working till he dropped!

National Library

The bad news is that the National Library is out of action at the moment which is old news for many of you. There was a good article on the subject by the Dominion Post in August 2009.

The good news is;
So far, only 4 per cent of all newspapers, and a fifth of 19th century newspapers, are available on the library's Papers Past website. The library is spending $700,000 a year adding its collections to an online format, and while only 1.25 per cent of photographs are on the internet, it hopes to digitise a quarter of the photographic collection in the next two years.
When the library moved out for two years, 19 librarians were assigned to digitising photographs, manuscripts and other materials so that more of the collection will be available online.
We have to wait until 2012 for the opening of the revamped library, but what a great legacy they are building online for New Zealanders who don't live in Wellington.

Have you been affected by the closure?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Adoption a personal view

To anyone who was not adopted out at birth, this post will be unbelievable.  I can accept that, because it's difficult to feel something we have no experience of.

I wonder how many adopted adults would choose to adopt out their own babies, not many I suspect. The reason being that they know on a primitive level, the lifelong damage it can cause psychologically. I'm not against adoption. In my own case I am sure I had a better life with my adoptive parents than if I'd been raised by my mother. I met her, she was an ok person really and the things I learnt in my foster home were of great value to me.

Firstly though, what I have come to understand about adoption of babies is that the first year of life is so important to a person that any really bad experience suffered in that time will have long lasting effects. I could even get closer to the truth by saying that it is the first 6 months of life which is even more important. The reason is that babies aren't completely separate from their mothers until this time. They are born and cut off physically from their mothers, but the cognitive cut off doesn't really happen for some months afterwards and is a slow process whereas the baby wakes up to itself being a separate human being.

When a baby is separated at birth from its mother, its a rip from the womb into a harsh world where it almost has to stand up in its bassinet and say - how do I survive? From then on, the baby has to adapt, not trust, be careful, observe etc. It's not nice. What, you say? It's a baby, how can babies feel that?  All they do is eat, sleep and poop. No, thats not all they do, they learn every minute of the day and night and twelve months later the baby is playing, walking, communicating, developing personality and trying out manipulative social skills. It's an amazing transformation.

But for adopted babies, its a bitter-sweet transformation. They spend a whole lot more time concentrating on things another baby doesn't have to. Sure, they are well looked after most of the time, loved to bits I bet, however, the underlying neccessity of surviving, is eating up the baby's trust in the world. That trust is not really replaceable. The world has become an unfriendly place and the new mother and father have their work cut out for them. I really believe a baby should stay with its natural mother for at least 4 months before being handed on.

Adoption in NZ

Pre 1881
Adoption in this time period was informal and the courts always found in favour of the birth mother if there was a dispute between the adults unless the mother was found to be grossly unsuitable.
Before the 1867 abolition of the Provinces Act, neglected children were the responsibility of the provinces. The Neglected and Criminal childrens Act was introduced in 1867 for children under 15yrs and the Industrial schools became the responsibility of the Justice Dept. Caversham Industrial School opened in Otago 1869 and Burnham Industrial School in Canterbury 1874. In 1880 the Industrial schools became the responsibility of the new Education Dept.

Post 1881
The 1881 Adoption Act. A private members bill introduced by George Waterhouse provided for adoption of children under 12. Under this act, adopted children retained their original name and added a hyphenated new name as well. The Howe St Industrial school in Auckland was taken over by the Education Dept in 1881. Parents could leave their children at the Industrial schools, if they were in poverty or could not control them but still retain guardianship. Otherwise the school took over guardianship until the person was 21. Baby farming, an age old practice whereby a couple could get paid for fostering or adopting other people's children happened too. Minnie Dean murdered two children, a famous case at the time, she was executed.

Post 1893
The Infant Live protection Act provided for foster and adopting parents to submit to home inspections. There must have been private adoptions as well though because Minnie Dean went under their radar. In any case, this act also made it illegal to receive payment for adopting a child without the consent of a magistrate. And although the parent or parents continued paying others, the government administered it, paying up when the parents could not.
The Infants Act in 1908 meant foster and adoptive parents could be licensed. In 1825, the Child Welfare Act increased the responsibility of government supervision of these homes, and the conferring of a new Christian name for the child.

Post 1955
The Adoption Act 1955. This increased the governments powers again. Firstly to screen prospective parents, have a judge take the report of a social worker into consideration and install a six-month probationary period during which all is observed in the home and the welfare of the child. It has never been illegal for parties to an adoption to have contact with each other. It was the Social Welfare depts subtle influence on changes to legislation and internal procedures which led to closed adoptions. Birth parents were prevented from choosing a more open adoption by not being presented with the forms to do so. Pity they didn't have the Internet then, it would have made front page news. This Act also;

  • Conferred a new Surname for the child.
  • Closed the court for adoption procedures.
  • Hearing attended by only the adoptive parents and child.
  • Consent for adoption could be without knowledge of the identity of the adoptive parents.
  • Adoption orders gave the adoptive parents all rights. 
  • Source: Adoption New Zealand by Sheryn Gillard Glas and Jan England (2002). In this book there are many adoptive children's stories.
  • Source: Our Stuff... at Rootsweb.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tangled in the branches

It happened slowly. Someone asked me who my grandfather was. Since I had only known one grandparent who died when I was seven, I could only reply, " I don't know."

The family relationships weren't easily explained either. Being adopted meant four parents, eight grandparents etc. The adults around me understood but the children would be asking questions.

I'm not really self centered!
And so it started, one certificate at a time. As time went by and the family tree blossomed and grew, I thought I might leave it in the wilderness to look pretty and go and do something else with my time. But it nagged me. I got a few holidays from it but always came back to examine it and do a bit of weeding or throw on a bit of fertilizer and it grew and grabbed hold of me.
I'm hopelessly tangled.  Does anyone have a cure?

Births Deaths and Marriages NZ

Background to remember when searching the historical index online.  It's all about the names.

  • All the older indexes were compiled by humans, mistakes happen.
  • There are approximately 60-80,000 errors in the online index.
  • Some pages missed/skipped the scanning process.
  • If you find the name on the fiche but not on the online index, let them know
  • Names on the fiche may be missing from the online index because the newest index has the newest instances of the records, adoptions, re-names etc will be missing but will still be listed on the fiche.
  • There were two sets of the original registers, one was sent to the central register and this was cut up and scanned for the online index, the other is held at Archives NZ.
  • You may request permission to see the original registers at Archives from the Register General but this is very unlikely to be approved.
  • Advise is to use all the tools in your toolbox to find the records, not just the online historical bdms.
  • The records were never crossed checked between the birth, marriage or death of a person and spelling changes won't be picked up.
  • Ringing / asking internal affairs to find a record you can't find online won't be of any use, they use the same system we do.
  • The good news - they may be adding a 'fuzzy search' facility in the future. I can't wait!

The Missing

Death records missing.
If there was no body there will be no death certificate.
Spouses sometimes walked away from unhealthy situations and changed their names.
People sometimes became mentally unstable and wandered off and died incognito.
They went on a trip overseas and died there.
They changed their name by deed poll.
The name is wrongly spelled in the bdm indexes.

Marriage records missing.
Names wrongly spelled in the bdm indexes.
They got married in another country.
They were married by a drunk priest who forgot to register the marriage.
They acted as though they were married but one of them was already married.

Birth records missing.
Names wrongly spelled in the bdm indexes.
Their parents didn't care to register the births.
They were registered in another country.
They were born on board a ship.
They were adopted.

They refuse to give up their information - at least - that's what it feels like.  You are not alone, here is my list (priviledge of authorship):
  • Death: Vulenza Booth nee Welsh born 1851, St Neot, Cornwall - last seen in the records, Queen St, Masterton NZ, electoral roll 1908. 
  • Death: John Draffin born 1811 Ireland, last known record, Cresswick, Victoria, Aust 1860 on the death of his wife.
  • Death: Edward Theodore Erikson born 1870, Akra, Norway, last known record 1917 divorce Taihape NZ, son-in-law of Vulenza. 
  • Death: George Menzies, killed on the 18th Feb 1869 at Papatupu, north of Wanganui. There is no mention of him in the bdm, still I least know what happened to him thanks to Paperspast.
  • Marriage: Julia Costello to William Patton, Auckland, 3rd of April 1885. The date is on their son's birth certificate but it's not in the bdm records. Julia had to fight Public Trust in the 1920's for land her husband owned as the Public Trust said there was no marriage.
  • Births: The children born to John Costello and Ann nee Kelly in Coromandel 1850's. Fortunately, they were baptised but I'm not sure I got a complete list of children.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Folklore, Myths and Facts

How many of us have been tripped up when doing family research? The first rule should be, check the original documents. The second rule should be, don't quote family information you haven't checked.

In an ideal world, all research would be backed up with source detail so that a careful person could go back and check all that is quoted to see if it is true.

And some people do. I'll never forget the gentleman I sat next to in the library one day. He said, "Ah hah, found them!" He explained that he'd been visiting relatives and they'd given him information which he was now checking to see if their data was on the bdm indexes. (Before bdm nz was online.)

Another story I heard (very second hand), was that of a lady at the GRO in London found crying. It turned out she had been researching the wrong family for five years after assuming some information found in her earlier research days was correct.

Families can sometimes defy logic. I have one family which named two surviving daughters Isabella with a slight differentiation. Another family was complicated by their being two instances of the same combination of names in the same locality, one not being family at all.

I've made assumptions too. What dear old such and such says must be true because it fits. But the real facts were much more interesting as it turned out. I've been embarrassed at my own naivety. However, I've learnt that I can admit when I'm wrong and carry on after the deflated feeling goes away.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Coromandel History site

I've been interested in the history of Coromandel, (township) for many years and had a site displaying the information I had collected. It was at corohistory at google pages. I've had to reload the information onto a new address which is

I hope you find someone interesting among the data. If you've been before, there is not anything new there., but there might be at some future date.


Book: Early Settlement of Port Fitzroy, Great Barrier Island

What will be of interest to researchers of this district is the book written by Cyril Moor of Orewa, 1987. It is a very easy book to read and Mr Moor has done a lot of in-depth research. He quotes his sources as he writes, many of which I've not come across.

He has not done an index, bibliography or table of contents and does not explain how he published it or anything about himself.

He starts the book quoting the logbook of the brig Mermaid of London 1795 which he found in Sydney on a dusty shelf in a secondhand bookshop. He takes the reader through to the 1940's. It was difficult deciding on what page to show you, they were all so good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

LDS Family Search Indexing

If you want to help the LDS on their indexing projects, you will find them here.

A whole lot of indexing appears to have recently been completed and a pilot search of them is online.

Good hunting in the records!

The recent indexing projects completed includes a few New Zealand passenger lists 1871 - 1915, but most of the projects were of the US.

FamilySearch Shares Plans to Digitize Billions of Records Stored at Granite Mountain Records Vault

NZSG's Index Version 5

This CD was released by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists in 2008. It contained 7,538,831 records from 164 sources of which 144 sources (4,733,606 records) were available to the public in general.

If you were a member of the Society at that time, you could purchase a key to access all the records on the CD.

It was an awesome resource for New Zealand genealogists but sadly it came to grief. Insufficient checking of the records resulted in a few living people having their records included and it was withdrawn from sale in 2009.

There is a rumour of a cleaned up version being released for sale. Another rumour is that the index's will be offered individually at some time in the future. Meanwhile, those members lucky enough to have purchased the CD before it was withdrawn have something unique.

An enormous amount of work was done behind the scenes by volunteers for years to achieve this CD and it was a blow to them as well as researchers. Let's hope its only a temporary setback. I thank all those volunteers sincerely, including those who neglected to check thoroughly - mistakes happen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Be careful on family history trips

Who would have thought a penchant for family history would be dangerous. When Wellington man, Donald Stewart, was bashed to death in Hamilton last month, he was on such a trip.

Mr Stewart's cousin the Rev Lance Riches said Mr Stewart stopped at his Taumarunui home on June 13, on his way to Waikato to gather names for his genealogy investigations. "There was always somebody he was trying to trace down or names he was trying to trace down."
Mr Stewart had links with many people, both Maori and Pakeha. "He had a great interest in history . . . and was very much into genealogy. That's basically what he would do. His car was full of photos of people and family and others he knew."
Moving around this country is not quite like it was in yesteryears, but we don't have to be 'streetwise' to do it and I hope it never comes to that. Precautions are always advisable. At least let people know when you are leaving and when you are due to arrive and what route you are taking.

National Library Bibliography database

I use the National Library of New Zealand's Bibliography database which is online to find out what has been written about the district I'm interested in. Just make sure 'Publications NZ' is selected. It usually defaults to this.

A search of a district will give you many books to choose from. Some are more use to family historians than others. School histories are always a good bet. The National Library has most (all?) of these books and if your local library does not have a copy, the local librarian can request it on the interloan service or you can order it online. (I haven't used this system yet).

You can find out if your local library has a copy easily by clicking on more....
And choosing 'Maybe available in other New Zealand libraries...
Results look like...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First time Maori research

Knowing nothing about Maori research, I tentatively approached Anna at the Auckland Library for an introduction to the subject.

The first question she would put to a new researcher is where were their parents and grandparents born. Without this information it is quite difficult to identify the tribe the researcher might belong to.

To complicate this, the New Zealand government didn't make it compulsory to register Maori marriages until 1911, and births and deaths in 1913. And even then, Maori names were often mis-spelled so detective work is necessary. The Maori registrations were kept separately until 1967, when they were combined with everyone else's.

But if the first hurdle is passed then she would point the researcher to a Marae in the district identified. A visit to the Marae would find the elders of the district, sometimes indirectly.

The elders may probe the reason for the visit to find out if it was genuine. Oral histories are still passed on to descendants who have the best attributes, namely, good memory retention and respect for the information. It may not be passed on all at once.

There are two good resource books , Whakapapa by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists and Te Haurapa by Charles Royal.  There are some other documented sources of information as well, but we will explore them another time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Genes United

There is a success story in the online newspaper Stuff today telling of a man who found his long lost siblings in the UK using Genes United, the paid online tree sharing site. Don't you love it? Families being united again?

Genes United is a site I have belonged to for about six months. I've found it somewhat useful. Loading of the site is often very slow, the matching of my data with other peoples is uninspiring and even if my relatives were born in New Zealand, the program will try to find them on the UK census, its a bit hilarious.

So its been of limited use to me and I can probably spend my few spare dollars more wisely elsewhere, still, I was heartened by the story and know that what works for me and other people can be very different.

Book: The Rock and the Sky

This book is the story of Rodney County by H. Mabbett. ISBN 0-86864-018-2, first published by Wilson and Horton Ltd in 1977.

The first settlements were near Orewa, Helensville, Warkworth and Wellsford. The book takes a reader from the early European settlers in the 1830's to 1976 and doesn't include the Maori history.

It is a work of great detail, 500 pages, has a text book feel to it and is almost intimidating to a non-academic such as myself. There is a very good index in the back but no bibliography.

If you have relatives in this area, you have a treasure trove here. There are interesting photographs of people and places, wonderful maps, and the author must have personally researched every family in the County down to what they ate for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Private photographic collections

I love historical photographs, they tell me so much more than words. A lot of elderly people have wonderful New Zealand history stashed away in their cupboards. I've come across two collections so far and was able to persuade the owners to let me scan them.

I took a laptop and a scanner (they are so light these days), to one relative's house and scanned the lot, while she chatted to me about who was in them. This I noted on word as I went, numbering the comments and the photos which were done in batches. It took all afternoon. The other was an album mailed to me already annotated.

The owners received a dvd of the photos, saved as tiff files to preserve all the information available. These can be cleaned up with photoshop later if need be. I've been told recently that png files would be better. Png stores less information, but is lossless like tiff.

A little digital camera with a good macro facility such as you may take to the archives is a good idea when visiting. If you have a steady hand, you can get a shot almost as good as a scan. I have used a tripod sometimes or a special stand for the camera. Lighting is important but don't use the flash. Here is an example of a pretty lass from one of the albums.

Three genealogists, which type are you?

  • (Coffee club genealogists CCG's).Those retired people who join groups for the coffee, chat and listening to interesting speakers.
  • (Take Out genealogists TOG's). Those who get their information largely from the internet and have vast databases of people they don't know.
  • (Detective Superintendent genealogists DSG's). Those who spend years, time and money checking every fact, these people enjoy the chase and can speak and write about their families very well.

I've nothing against any of these groups, they all get enjoyment at their level of participation. But I don't think they understand each other very well, there's a bit of snobbery about it.

A DSG I talked to, divides his database up when it comes to sharing, sending a paper written tree to the TOG's with a small deliberate error so that he can identify it if it comes up on the internet . He only shares fully with his peers in his own group.

I'm trying to emulate the DSG's but even in this group, there are those who delve a lot deeper than I do. I confess to using information I find on the internet without checking it sometimes. Whoops! But I at least buy certificates for all my direct ancestors and some others (there's a bit of snobbery for you....). I know I can do better. How about you?

Living People's information Alert

It's a peculiar period we are living in right now. We are living longer and have more leisure time and at the same time, the internet makes communication easier. This has resulted in a lot of older people, digitally naive, who have gathered information on their families including that of living relatives whom they don't know very well.

Do they realise the seriousness of disseminating this information? Would they personally get in touch with every living person on their database and ask permission before sending it to a second cousin or such? I doubt it.

You may think that its a small mistake but what if it was your information? And what if, as often happens, the second cousin uploads it to or another such repository? Who is responsible?

What you should do with your information on living people is that you should keep it to yourself. Lets talk and communicate about the deceased only.

No more finger wagging for today, but I'll be developing this topic as time goes on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The British Museum online photographic collection

Thank you kintalk for alerting me to this fabulous resource for family historians. Anahera Sadler of the Auckland library writes;
the Pacific collection appears to be twice as large (3000+ images) than that offered on Matapihi (the NZ archived image database).
So eager to try it out, I used the first search term which came easily to mind, 'Coromandel', an area in New Zealand of special fondness for me. Up pops a beautiful early photo I haven't seen before, such good quality too.

I  filled out a form on their website ordered it immediately and it arrived by email as an attachment about 2hrs later. And here it is so that you can see if for yourselves. (I told them on the form that I would be displaying it here).  I hope that you find what interests you as easily as I have.

Copyright in New Zealand

This is a big subject for family historians. What can be used, how and when. If you are like me, you may not understand legal terms very well and engaging a solicitor to work it out is too expensive.

Thats why I was excited to come across this easily absorbed article on this morning. In particular, the subject of using old photographs is covered.
New Zealand photographs taken before 1945 are out of copyright, because until the start of the current Copyright Act in 1995, the terms of protection was only 50 years from creation.
For written works (published), the rule is '50 years after the death of the author except for the following;
An unpublished work made between 1 April 1963 and 1 January 1995 where the author died before 1 January 1995, will remain in copyright for up to 75 years beyond the author’s death.
Another obscure exception is:
 Any unpublished literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works (other than photographs) created by unknown authors before the start of the 1994 Copyright Act, remain in copyright until at least 2046..
Are you still confused?  My brain is tired too, I think I have a headache coming on. Be careful about material from unpublished manuscripts lodged in repositories by Joe Public. They are a wealth of information for us but use them only as reference material.


The National Libraries Paperspast website has revealed many details of my families which would have been very difficult to unearth.

This month they will be adding or have added:

Poverty Bay Herald (gap: 1902)
Lyttelton Times (1851-1862)
Evening Post (July-December 1871, 1916-1945)
Thames Star (1901-1920)
Albertland Gazette (1862-1864)
The Colonist (1857-1889)
Otago Daily Times (1861-1900)
Waiapu Church Gazette (1921-1945)

So be sure to revisit.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fiji Times Newspaper

This paper started in 1869 and has run continuously. For this reason it is a valuable source of information and trends in the history of Pacific people.

Up until WW1 the paper was European centric and only recorded accidents etc of the native people. But then something amazing happened which all centered around one man, Ratu Joseva Sukuna who later became the first Prime Minster of Fiji.

A chief's son, he was sponsored by the Fijian government to study law in Britain. When WW1 started he tried to enlist in Britain but was told that they were not accepting native colonials. Later on, after Britain's army had been decimated, they would accept anyone but by that time Ratu Sukuna had travelled to France and had joined the French Foreign Legion where he rose to Lieutenant and had been awarded a Medaille Militaire. He was wounded in the battle of Champagne and returned to Fiji.

During the war, officers of any sort were saluted in the street. They commanded respect. But some Europeans complained to the editor of the Fiji Times about saluting Ratu Sukuna. The editor reminded them that Ratu Sukuna had fought for them and had been wounded for them and that
yes, they should salute him. After this date, the tone of the paper changed to include more news and articles about the native people and the Indians in Fiji.

At the present time the Fijian Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch of Australia and Fiji's military dictator, Frank Bainimarama, censors it and has even threatened to close it down. We hope sincerely that this newspaper survives.

There are two places for obtaining the Fiji Times on microfilm in New Zealand, the National Library and Massey University Library. It is available for inter-loan and Massey University's copy would be the best, it's probably more under-utilised.
Thanks to Christine Liava'a for this information.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pamphlet: Kaiaua Coast History

History and Legends of the Western Coast of the Hauraki Gulf Book
I found a booklet in a second-hand book shop in Devonport Auckland called,
'The History and Legends of the Western Coast of the Hauraki Gulf' by Henry Ashby.

No date, but he later adds the comment, 'I will here briefly go over these notes and try to bring them up to date as this is now July 1961. Henry was born in 1885.

He tells the legends of the Maori beginnings in the area, the foundation stock of the Ngatiwhanaunga tribe, the crafting of a huge canoe, one of the biggest one-piece boats in the world.

His grandfather, Jack Ashby, purchased some blocks of land near Kawakawa Bay in the middle sixties. Mr Scott, the surveyor who died at Clevedon, Mr Robert Cashmore who milled the timber, a bullock driver by the name of Maxwell and Captain Andrew Duthie, are mentioned amongst others.

He tells of a Maori meeting in the late 1860's of over 2000 Maori who assembled to discuss how to live in peace with the Pakeha and that they had two canon salvaged from the wreck of  H.M.S. Buffalo which they fired in salute to welcome official guests.

He laments the removal of the Old Orere House and says that if the history of that old house could be written, it would suprise most people and shock the rest.

I won't say much else about the contents except that for a reluctant author, Mr Ashby did remarkably well. I hope your libraries have copies, its a good read. No Index.

Local History Book Index

Writing up one's research would be much harder if it wasn't for local history books to explain what conditions our ancestors were facing and what may have influenced their decisions. These books bring to us the neighbours, the local council activities, road boards and the influence of central government.

And best of all, they sometimes detail our ancestors activities in the district. The authors go to great lengths to make it interesting, finding photographs of people and activities from well known local historians who can't help their gathering habits and are willing to hand it on, knowing the respect it brings to their beloved district. The authors comb the archives and libraries then spend many hours checking facts and writing. And we get this bounty for a song. I doubt they make much money at it.

I haven't done a survey but have noticed that indexing was not a strong point with many of the authors, they either leave it out entirely or apply a slap-dash system to it. Some have done a very good job of it.

Indexing is an art so I've read and these artists are in demand. An index is not covered by copy-write, or so I'm told, so it is possible to publish one for these books of which we are not the authors.

Is it pie in the sky to wish for a central index of all these wonderful books so that family historians can identify which books to read? It would a mountain of a task. But first we would need the training to be able to do it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book: Land of the Three Rivers

Here is the story of the Piako County formed in 1876  by the Counties Act.
ISBN 0-86864-001-8. First published in 1976 by Wilson & Horton Ltd for the Piako County Council and written by C.W. Vennell (part 1) and David Moore (Parts 2,3 and 4).

This is a very worthwhile book to have on your bookshelf.  Te Aroha is the seat of the County and it borders Waikato in the West, Ohinemuri and Tauranga in the East, Hauraki Plains to the north and Matamata to the south.

It details the early land buying period by speculators and the missionaries activities, the confiscations of land after the Maori wars and the land grab by rich Aucklander's. These men developed their acquisitions, attracted people to live there, sold it on and generally enabled the less rich to benefit through hard work, throughout, of course, benefiting greatly themselves.

The book goes on to explain in ever increasing detail, the work of the new County, the farmers and their activities, schooling and the draining of the swamps.

The author mentions the remains of a two-million year old forest buried by successive lava flows which was encountered by the Kaimai tunnelers in 1975 which made drilling a nightmare. So you see, there is lots of interesting bits and pieces for everyone.

It has a good index and a small bibliography, some wonderful photographs and illustrations. 366 pages.

Friday, July 16, 2010


NZSG AGM at Hamilton
This commenced today at 3pm at the Kingsgate hotel in Hamilton. Tainui started the proceedings with a prayer and hymn. The outgoing President, David Bryant announced a time constraint on speakers hinting to us that he expected a lot of discussion. In fact, it turned out that the meeting finished 30mins early.

There was a great turnout of 380 voters including proxy votes. 263 members being present. The scrutineers for the voting were announced, being, Colleen Main, Carolyn Williams, Trish Tohuy (sic), Diane Wilson, Alison Glennie, Bruce Tudor, Robyn Williams and Elaine Bell.

There are three new cd's on sale at the family history fair in the weekend. 1882 Landowners, 3electoral rolls, and Evening Post obituaries.

The next council was welcomed and there are a couple of new faces. The next AGM will be in Dunedin to mark 150yrs since the goldrush in the south.

This was the first time I'd attended a NZSG AGM, I can understand why so many choose not to go. Not even a cup of tea on offer. I drove back to Auckland with my tongue hanging out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Auckland Museum Library

My first visit to the Auckland Museum Library happened about 20 years ago. I found it in an upstairs room filled with unbelievable treasure for browsing through. I came across the original passenger lists for the Matoaka and Berar Oct 1873 voyages on microfilm which I transcribed and still have on my hard-drive.

Since then, a lot has changed. The museum upgraded the building including the library facility and although you can still peruse books on shelves, the true treasures are hidden away for safe-keeping. Access is via their ordering system and like all major repositories now, you leave bags and coats in a locker.

Finding the library is not straightforward, you can access it from the ground-floor atrium after asking an assistant for a swipe card to use in the lifts.

The good news is that their online catalogue can be accessed at home.

The reading room and special collections are open Monday to Friday 1pm to 5pm and on Saturday 10am to 5pm.

More after my next visit where I will dig out a treasure for examination.

National Archives online ordering

Wonderful news from National Archives. There is a new online ordering system for the Christchurch archives for four weeks starting yesterday the 13th July.

Then a roll out of the system later in the year to every branch.

You will need a reader number though its not clear at the present if one reader number will access all of the branches. In the past, each branch issued its own reader number. I have a different one for Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington.

This is good news for time hungry researchers.

Archway link.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

19th C records at Archives

In 1957, the government passed the Archives Act requiring departments to pass on their records to National Archives. Between 1990 and 1993, Wellington National Archives moved into the building they currently occupy and acted to protect the records in their collection by upgrading security. Up until then the records had been easily available to researchers in a minimally controlled environment.

Before the changeover, some records had been misplaced, some had been misappropriated. There has never been a full audit of the records. Occasionally, staff have been assigned a specific record group for retrospective checking. Resources are now fully committed to managing new records and the modern delight of digital records.

So be aware that some delicious pieces of history may not be available at the present time but may yet turn up at some unknown date if there was ever a full audit started, funded.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book: Making Waves

Making Waves by Felicity Campbell, published in 2004 by Steele Roberts Ltd
ISBN 1-877338-27-3

Subject: The impact of Jock McGregor on the history of Wanganui and his story which has not been told before.

Jock McGregor, born 1813 Cherry Bank, Perth, Scotland, died in Wanganui Feb 1882, arrived in Australia in 1834 and moved to Stewart Island in 1836, partnered Hinekawa and married Isabella Lockhart. Isabella arrived in Port Nicholson Feb 1840 on the Bengal Merchant, she was born in Scotland in 1817 and died in Wellington on the 19th of Nov 1902.

The subject of Jock McGregor became of interest to the author because of a property Jock developed and which the Campbell family now reside in. Felicity found that Jock was largely forgotten in Wanganui even though he was one of the very first settlers. All of Jocks natural descendants are through his son Teone, Isabella was childless but she was an astute businesswoman.

The book is full of wonderful detail which any student of the history of Wanganui would love. The book has a biblography and a good index. I found it a bit disjointed and had to use sticky notes to keep track but that might be just me.

Isabella Lockhart was my great aunt. Felicity added important detail to my understanding of her but one important assumption was incorrect. Overall, I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Finding deaths in NZ

Looking for death notices can be time consuming but necessary part of research. After trolling through the fiche at the library and finding the year of death you are then confronted with looking up the local paper to find the actual date of death and family notice. This is possible but not attractive.

Burial Locator
We all have our own methods. Mine is to use the NZSG Burial Locator V.2 disc to find what they display. It's quite comprehensive and a fabulous resource to own if you have a large family in New Zealand. 

Then I would look up the name on National Archives 'Archway' and see if the persons probate is in my area. If it is I would order it the next time I visit National Archives. The probate would give me the full date of death and possibly the full names of any children.  If the probate was in another area, I would note it in my gene program and look for other sources.
Next I would go to is the rootsweb hosted New Zealand Cemeteries online site where I may possibly find a local council has provided some wonderful information like age at death, date of death etc.  

By this time I probably would have just about everything I needed when next at the library to find the newspaper notice. But some people are hard to locate and need more creative thinking.

I might troll though the Electoral Rolls to find when they 'disappeared'. I would ring other family and ask questions which sometimes lets me know that the person retired offshore to Australia or England. Even if they did this, a notice is sometimes placed in the home newspaper to inform family and friends. 

I could then ask the Northshore branch of the New Zealand Society of Geneologists which has the New Zealand Herald death notices back to about 1940 and will do look ups for a donation. This donation is a fund-raiser for them and well deserved. Mail service only - Please send SSAE and donation to: North Shore Branch Research Officer, D. Cook, PO Box 89045. Torbay, North Shore City 0742.

But there are these other online resources as well and you might get lucky.

What method do you use?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Library Visits

I sometimes go to the Auckland library with a vague idea of what I want to know, a list of names in my head and the odd puzzle still to be solved.  The trusty notebook and pen in my bag has been forgotten at times and I've had to 'borrow' paper from the library assistant.

Other times, I plan so well that the list of questions is too long for the time available and I am dissatisfied with my trip. What did I achieve and was it worth the parking fee? Consistency must be the key to getting it done, but I lack the self discipline.

I remember when I had to get to the library early to get a seat in the family research room, especially on the weekend. Those were the days. These days, its pretty easy to get a seat. Has all the research been done? Or is the internet now so good that the library is only used when all else fails?

The library became a place of conflict for me when I had two public arguments with the same assistant. I hadn't meant them to be public but she shouted it out anyway, much to my embarrassment. I didn't go back for years. In the meantime the place had become less popular - I wonder why? I hope she didn't put too many other people off.

But what a treasure trove it is. I sometimes fantasize that I live just down the road and can 'pop in' between chores or after work.

Do you use the library?

Adoption Research

Have you ever been asked to try and locate an adopted person's natural parent? I have and it turned out to be so interesting. For privacy reasons, I'll call him Joe.

I'd been researching for many years when Joe mentioned to me that he was adopted. I asked him if he knew who his real mother was and he said that he had a name and knew that she'd tried to look after him at first but that due to circumstances (of slight neglect), she'd given him up for adoption at about 6months old. But he said, his adoptive mother was so good to him that he felt it would be a betrayal of her to look the woman up.

Years went by and I mentioned one day that if he was to decide to look her up, it had better be soon as Joe was approaching 60yrs himself and his mother must be at least 80yrs if she was still alive. He rang one day and said "do it".

I went the following day to the library in Auckland and spent about three hours in front of the fiche machine and found the whole family living in Auckland, half brothers and sisters, their married names etc. I'm sure it isn't this easy usually, Joe and I were just lucky.

With his permission, I rang his younger sister and made an appointment to see her. The old lady was still alive and living in New Lynn but I felt it might be too much of a shock to her. Her daughter, (I'll call her Lucy),was my age and any shock would be just that - shock-  not heart attack material.

When I arrived, Lucy was in the garden with her friend and her husband and the four of us sat down with coffee - all very civilized. Lucy was anxious to know why I'd come and I told her gently about Joe. I wasn't prepared for the result.  Lucy's husband said, I know Joe, he and I did................. and Lucy's friend said, I too know Joe, he taught my son to ....................... So the upshot was that the only person sitting there in the sunshine who didn't know Joe was his sister.

How about that?  I was shocked now in a nice way. Joe met his sister, his other siblings and his mother and all is well.

Public or Private?

Is the history of your family for the public eye? Or do you prefer to keep it private?  It depends strictly on how you feel about it - there is no right or wrong, as long as you adhere to the policy most commercial websites follow that block the publication of information on the living or leave it out entirely.

I personally prefer the public aspect because I can't see the use of looking up the history of the family and then keeping it to myself or close family. Mind you, I do feel bad about preventing other's from enjoying doing the research when perhaps I could just erase it from my hard drive and let them do it again. It's such fun at times.

Is it snooping? Some think so. What if you found your grandfather doing time for crimes in his youth? And if he was long gone, would you tell the world?  In other words, do you sanitize your findings when publishing? I don't because, it tells me (and maybe others) a little more about him - that he was brash enough or bored enough to rebel. But then he became the husband/father/grandfather that we knew, kind and upright. It helps me put in perspective the experience of opening the door at 2am to a policeman asking where my offspring is.  It's not the end of the world and I can still go on believing in and supporting the youngster.

What do you think?

Blogging family history

I started blogging to display the results of my research to people who in a moment of utter boredom, google the name of their great-grandmother and discover stories and descriptions allowing them to connect with a person who had a great deal to do with their existence.  A real person, not some words on a page.

Family researchers get so needy of recognition and its a trap. All those hours spent at the library, money spent on certificates, lonely (not looney, though some may think it,) hours googling paid sites for clues. The euphoria of finding that small piece in the puzzle and the glazed look in other's eyes when you attempt to explain, make you wonder if indeed, you are looney. Who cares anyway?

You care, and thats what matters. It really does not matter what others think - remember that and survive.

Now what do you do with all the material you have painstakingly collected?

I am suggesting that you display it as I have in a blog so that you can update it, change it, delete it (in a bad moment), but put it out there for others to find.

There is stiff competition today for your data, places like Genes United and many other places on the internet where you can lodge the results of your research and thats fine if all you have collected are the names and dates. But what about the stories? What about making it as easy as possible for people to get a really good idea of what the family's about and how they fit in? Having your own blog will do that.

You could write a book but it is an expensive and time consuming method of doing what you can do for free and quickly with a blog. You could use your internet provider's home page option but still, that does take some expertise, probably a lot more than a blog.

It really is that easy to have your own blog. I've only used blogspot but they may be others just as good.

Have you done something the same or similar?