Saturday, November 27, 2010

Q: Boycott of BDM registrations

Q. Was the 1916 boycott by Maori in the Waikato, Taranaki and East Cape districts, which was an outcome of resisting conscription, to the registration of births, deaths and marriages ever repeated?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sharp records.

People left so few footprints before the internet became popular. Their thoughts, deeds and movements were private to themselves and those in the community. People passed on and memories were extinguished and usually the only way we can think them up again is to study the general history of that place and era and use imagination to describe individual's lives, ie; the attraction to step from fact into fiction.

Sometimes we come across a sharp record such as the one following which happened to my grandfather in Somerset.

Jane, wife of Hugh Crabb, died (aged 40yrs) on the 15th of May 1878 at Illminster, Somerset of congestion of the lungs at their residence, North St, Illminster.
On the 22nd of May 1879, Mr Hugh Crabb, corn merchant of Illminster was out shooting birds with a group of gentleman friends at Jordans. After having killed his rook, he was in the act of resting his gun, a double-barrelled one, on his arm, when it accidently went off and killed a youth named Ernest Samuel Morgan, 11yrs old, the son of a harness maker.
A constable who was near-by had endeavoured to keep the crowd of young boys back from the shooters but Mr Hugh Crabb's foot slipped into a rut and in endeavouring to save himself from falling, he dropped his gun into the hollow of his left arm and the gun went off. The boy died instantly.
An inquest was held at the Catherine Wheel Inn, and a verdict of accidental death was returned. The deceased's father, who was present, endorsed the verdict. The jury gave their fees to the bereaved parents.
By November 1880, Hugh had removed himself to New Zealand leaving behind his children in the care of his younger brother.

The attraction here is to project the utter despair of Hugh into a flight to New Zealand, his escape from the events which had overtaken him. A new beginning, a geographical cure. On the other hand, his sister and family were already here and he may have been contemplating the move for some time. Who knows? The first scenario is more dramatic, the second, quite dull and practical.

We are bound to come across these sharp records which leave us shocked. Our ancestors certainly experienced more drama than most of us starting out research may think. Most of my researched families have one or two recorded, and its possibly quite normal, I've even had one or two myself. One things for sure, the internet makes these events more widely available, if you tell people about it. Here's one of mine;

1976; I was spending the weekend on a boat fixing food for divers. On the Saturday afternoon just when the divers were returning to the boat off Little Barrier in the Hauraki Gulf, the weather suddenly turned very nasty. The skipper, Mark, powered off to Great Barrier in a hurry but we didn't make it. The waves and wind increased to mountains and the only thing he could do was to turn the boat into the waves and chug up and down these roller coasters. The thirteen of us were sick as dogs, it got dark very quickly and the noise was horrendous. About 9 or 10 o'clock, a monstrous wave broke over the boat and smashed all the front windows, the sea poured in and the pump couldn't cope. There were two men in the bilges, one nursing the pump the other passing up buckets, there were two men at the forward windows holding squabs in the broken holes where the windows used to be, trying to hold out the water. We sent out a mayday but there seemed little hope of survival. The only female of board, I was folded up into a corner of the lounge, hanging on, watching Mark at the controls, occasionally he would stick his head out the window and peer into the night and reassuring us somehow that he knew where we were. "I can see the lights at Tiri Tiri Matangi", I heard him yell at one stage.  The men were taking turns at the various jobs and they were exhausted. Then the tide turned and Mark could turn the boat and we surfed all the way back to Kawau Island arriving at 4am where we slept amid the chaos until the hotel opened.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding a Probate in NZ

Finding probates is usually as easy as looking up the name on National Archives site: Archway. Sometimes its not that easy. Not all probates are listed on Archway.

All probates are listed on the Registers (lists in large heavy books), which were compiled at the various courts around New Zealand and National Archives holds most (if not all) of these Registers. However the files that the Registers refer to are not all at National Archives. Sometimes the Registers have a very wide date range and the more recent probate files referred to in the Registers may still be held at the courts. But at least you get to know that the probate exists and where to write to and request a copy.

All of Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin probates up until 1997 are listed on Archway.

Wellington is not complete: Here is an update from Wellington Archives.

  • Palmerston North, up until the 1960's is done.
  • Napier up until the 1960's is done.
  • Wellington up until the 1960's is done.
  • New Plymouth not done.
  • Masterston not done.
  • Wanganui not done.
  • Blenheim is fully done and on Archway.
  • Nelson is fully done and on Archway.

Wellington does however have an in house database compiled by the NZSG that they can look up for you. This database comprises of over 700,000 probates indexed from the registers but the dates vary from court to court. The list was compiled from the NZSG Index4 and is also available on the later CD Index5. The CD is available at most large libraries.

The government of the day set the amount of money under which a persons possession were not required to be probated. So if you cannot find a probate this may be a reason. If on the other hand, the person was very rich, you may not find a probate because they had shifted their wealth to a company trust or gifted it before they died to avoid death duties.

For the latter, you may have luck following the sale of real estate, getting the company name and looking up the company registers which are held at Archives. Gifting is recorded now days by the IRD but IRD's records, like the Public Trust records were excluded from the 1957 Archives Act. Possibly they required people to record gifting from an early period, I really don't know.

Another reason a probate is not available is that the person died without making a will. In this case the person's affairs were dealt with by the Public Trustee and will be listed in the Intestate Registers.

Another reason is that it may be recorded under a different name or its been indexed with a spelling error. People sometimes went by one name but a probate would be in their official name.

There may be other reasons that a probate cannot be found and I'd like to hear from you about these.

The LDS is currently digitising some probates for us. Three cheers for that. It will not be comprehensive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Archway records

An interesting question arose this week on another list. What percentage of records held by National Archives is listed on Archway?

Today I spoke with an archivist in Wellington who explained that this figure is about 60 - 70%. This figure sometimes includes boxes of items (not the contents) so the figure in real terms is likely to be lower.

Recently a couple of projects boosted this figure a small amount when they listed items in Maori Affairs and 19th century correspondence.

I was surprised that the percentage was as high as it is. Well done National Archives.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Australian Women's Weekly online

The Australian Women's Weekly is currently going digital. Some of it has been uploaded already. I always liked this magazine. Good on you Aussies, thank you very much. Hopefully the 'New Idea' will go on sometime.
http://www.nla.gov.au/pressrel/OurgifttothenationTheAustralianWomensWeeklygoesonlinemedrel.html

The National Racing Museum

Racing horses for sport in our country has had a long tradition. I'm not sure when the first races were held. Maori people really enjoyed the sport too.

Over the years, New Zealand has developed one of the best reputations for blood-lines and have bred many international winners. The ordinary folk like my parents who were brought up on horses to use as transport carried on to become race betters on a small scale and the Saturday races were a highlight.

Behind the scenes was big money breeding and training these horses and it seemed that every town had its racecourse and local enthusiasts.

Being such a big part of life in New Zealand you might think that the racing industry would have its own museum. It did have one at the Ellerslie Race Course up until 2003. It was run by enthusiastic volunteers with no real training and it became a central repository for regalia and records. But sadly, the building it occupied was condemned and the contents were stored in a very bad manner. This was soon rectified by a well-known business woman who moved the contents into a warehouse and a container.

To cut a long story short; the NZ Thoroughbred Racing Board of whom Simon Cooper is currently head of, has the ownership of the treasure but doesn't seem to be doing anything with it. The Auckland Racing Club it still looking after part of the contents but again, doesn't seem very enthusiastic about it.

I've alerted Te Papa and some local business people to the situation and I sincerely hope that this important collection can be suitably housed and made accessible to the public again.

Cycling in Christchurch 1937

A photograph of a Christchurch intersection, February 1937.  People of all ages riding their bikes to work or do their shopping just like in some countries of Europe today. The  lycra clad athletes, water bottle on back, on lightweight bikes are absent.

Perhaps we need a revolution to return the streets to crowds of ordinary folk using a bike as basic transport. Car drivers beware! If we had it once upon a time, we may be able to have it again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A name by reputation used on marriage certificate

An article in the New Zealand Free Lance 6th August 1930 talks about a man who was brought up by a foster parent and he used their name by adoption. This man became a leading man in Palmerston North though the article doesn't mention who he was. A problem surfaced when the gentleman was about to be married to a well-known resident of the embryo city.

His real mother desired the secret to be kept, for she had no other children and was also well known.

The Registrar of Marriages, being acquainted with the delicate problem of what name to use legally on the certificate of marriage, wrote to the Chief Justice of the time, Sir Robert Stout and received the reply :

"A man may legally acquire a name by reputation."

The gentleman then married with a clear conscience.

I read a comment by a person who once worked in bdm, she said, "Until 1986, you could be called by any name you wished and have this endorsed on your birth certificate". So it stands to reason that the name used on a marriage certificate could be the one you were usually known by.

That makes searching for people a bit more difficult though.

The Soper Family Rugby Team

I guess a lot of guys might fantasize about producing a rugby team but this man did it. William Davis Soper and his wife, (the article doesn't tell us about her ), came to New Zealand (date not told but I think they infer the gold mining rush in the 1860's), and William became a jack-of-all-trader at Garston.

He had fourteen sons and two daughters and when he died and was laid to rest in Garston cemetery there were 92 grandchildren, 126 great-grandchildren and one gggrandchild.

In 1925 the Soper fifteen was born and beat the Balfour Warriors. In 1928 they were invited to play a sub-union representative side as a curtain -raiser to the Otago-Southland game at Rugby Park. To the delight of the 10,000 spectators, the Soper's prevailed.

The Soper family is due to have their second reunion soon. To get in touch:
http://soperfamily.com/page1/page1.html

The New Zealand Freelance 31st March 1937. To read more, click the image to get a readable version.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Freelance No.38 24th March 1937

Being a pictorial magazine, it has many photographs. There is just five here with good enough quality to show you from this issue. The magazine itself is quite interesting. It seems to focus on the Manuwatu, Wellington, Wanganui, Gisborne etc and aviation as a subject. There are plenty of society people depicted, a big sport section, movie stars and such but does tell the odd history story. Auckland had it's own pictorial magazine. I'll be sharing more of these issues as time goes on. Let me know if you find them interesting or underwhelming.

Paperspast has this magazine 1900 - 1909 whereas the copies I have are 1930's to 50's.

At the Tekapo Sheep Sale. Three well-known South Canterbury auctioneers find time for a quiet joke between sales. From left, Messrs A. Anderson (Timaru), R. J. Smith (Temuka), and R. G. Kilgour (Timaru).

Debutantes: Misses Gaby Heighton, Ruth Kay-Stratton, Berry Reyburn, Gwellyan Hender, Esther Rankin, Betty Atkinson, Edith Bongard, Nancy Coates and Mary Hall.
A. Bergen and N. Murray of Wanganui
The Manuwatu representative cricket team.

The wedding of Kathleen Mains to Tony Lester.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Probate found, no death

I was looking for a probate for Ellen Carey in Wanganui, I knew she lived there. Ellen was born 1877 and was given a lovely home by her grandmother to live in until she either died or married. So I expected her to die unmarried.

I found a probate for Ellen Carey around about the right date and place and ordered it up at Wellington National Archives. But this Ellen Carey I'd found had married a William Carey. She could not be mine I guess, but stranger things have happened.

Yet when I went online to do a death search at births, deaths and marriages, the entry did not come up. It could be one of those missing ones I guess. I'll have to check the fiche records.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrating the Chinese Republic 1952 in Wellington

Hundreds of Chinese from many parts of New Zealand gathered at Karori Park, Wellington on October 10th 1952 to celebrate the national day of the Chinese Republic with similar celebrations were held by other Chinese communities in the Dominion.

1.Five of a kind. These smiling lasses are, Joyce Lee, Ashburton, Molly Joe, Upper Hutt; Carole Wong, 2.Wellington; Eileen Wong, Dunedin; Maisie Lowe, Oamaru.
3.Father and Daughter. Rev. Timothy Mah, Wellington, holds his 19mnth daughter Dora.
4.Fun While it Lasted. Boy with an outsized balloon, will it last much longer?
5.Brought Her Knitting. Mrs J Joe of Otahuhu with Katherine Ngan of Shannon.
6.Doctor's Orders? Anthony Law aged 3, don of Dr Roy Law of Wellington demolishing an ice-cream.
7.On Your Marks. Girls line up for the egg and spoon race.
8.Vigorous Protest. Made by Maureen Gow when her grandfather Mr H. Gow of Otaki suggested it was time to go.
From the New Zealand Freelance Pictorial Weekly Wednesday October 22nd 1952

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Old Land Claim letter from George Moore

These files were quite good, I'm always interested in the beginnings of our government here in New Zealand. The Land Claim Files (OLC 1 70 at Wellington National Archives) are mostly very hard to decipher. Here is one from George Moore dated 1851 which is legible. Click on image to read.

A Government Land Purchase file

The Balfour Estate file at Wellington National Archives was a substantial one and dated 1914 - 1957. In the end the land was not purchased. I've imaged some of the files (appox 25%) to give you an idea of what such a file might contain.


  • The file contains a note from Sir Keith Holyoak.
  • A reply to Sir Keith Holyoaks letter.
  • Descriptions of the land by various officials.
  • A letter from the owner, Mr Williamson of Christchurch.
  • The 1914 official land to be taken for settlement notice.
  • Maps.

















The Armed Constabulary 1860's

Rummaging around in National Archives, I brought up a file (P1 2) on the armed constabulary. The filed contained correspondence from Tauranga, Taranaki, Picton and Wanganui. It consisted mostly of applications from settlers to join up. But one note was quite interesting. It was from Camp Matata dated 16th Sept 1869. Click on image to read.

Warrants Industrial Schools Act

The example picked out here is for a James Fraser, one of four children whose father had been sentenced and whose mother was living at Palmerston was committed under the Industrial Schools Act 1882 due to destitution.

Caroline Carline, a housewife of comfortable circumstances from Caversham put up her hand to take James and his siblings. Caroline is a friend of their mother. It states that the father had left goal but hadn't been seen since.

This series of records are at Wellington National Archives. Click on images to read.

Picture Cards from Burnley England

These two cards in my collection are needing a new loving owner. They cost me $18 for the two found in a Mt Eden seconds shop. I've no connection with Burnley (which I think is near Manchester) and the National Library rejected them for not conforming to their collection rules. Any takers?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tawhiti Museum Hawera

This has to be the best Museum ever. If you are contemplating a trip to Taranaki, its a must stop and leave plenty of time to appreciate it.

Although not strictly a family history stop for they have no archives, the curator and presenter has done wax exhibits that will wow you and make you laugh. The scenes he's created are true life ones of families doing ordinary activities in bygone days. It really gives a sense of being there in those days.

Coming from Auckland, turn off at Normanby, its signposted.

I spent an hour and a half here and I was on my own, I think if you could chat it would take even longer. They also have a bush railway, a maritime shop and a cafe. I didn't go on the railway which takes another half an hour or so.

Normally, I would straighten up my photos for you, but this time I'm not going to. Has anyone else got this handicap of eyes which see everything seemingly straight only to find its all on a slant. I can't hang pictures, check a sight line or write a letter with straight lines, but its a fairly consistent slant which is worse in bright light. I don't think there's a cure!

Our beautiful country

I hardly ever go south of the Bombay Hills but when I do, I'm always struck by the beautiful countyside I'm driving through. Would you take it for granted if you lived there?  I resided in Hawera for a short time and the mountain was a view out my front door but I never ventured up and I've always regretted it. I'm afraid that if I was seduced by the beautiful country to go and live there, I would ignore it like I did at Taranaki.

After visiting a family member in Palmerston North, I ambled over to Feilding only to find the Library closed. Darn. Now I had time to kill. Part of my family first resided in Halcombe which is near Feilding, so I adjusted the GPS and handsome (he's got to be with a voice like that), Richard navigated me to it.

Well, Halcombe's had its day and wasn't very exciting even though there are new houses there. But I had a map showing some of the blocks of land my people owned so I went for tiki tour. I'm not a great map reader, hence Richard accompanies me most places, but I think I got it right.
I was looking for the block of land on the far left at Tokorangi and when I got over the hill, this is what I found. I don't think I could ever take a view like that for granted. (Map from the Feilding County Council).

Mokau Museum

Wending my way south to Hawera a week ago, I was barely paying attention when passing through a town, Mokau the sign read, I noticed the Museum and thought wow, this town's lucky having such a facility. Mokau - oh wait, I have family who lived here!

 Screech - that museum is traffic hazard for a record hungry family historian.

The lovely outside facade was followed by a delightful inside. The building is only 15yrs old and was built with the help of grants and donations. The Lions club made a big donation when it closed in the town and lately a local German farmer donated enough to start an expected extension soon, plus others have helped. So it's well supported and a must stop when on your way to Taranki. The extension is supposed to be completed by February.

The helpful museum volunteers, one of whom is Mavis in the photo, knew the family name and looked up records for me. I was very impressed, I think you will be too.

Spot the error in this Intentions to Marry record

Click on image to prevent eye strain.

Coroners Registers

I had a look at this register while at Wellington National archives last week. As you can see, it includes reports on fires around the country. I thought that was interesting. The example shown here was for 1902.
For a closer look, click on the image. Using the reference number on the right, the file can be ordered up.

A soldier of the 57th in NZ

Great-aunt Agnes Stevenson nee Lockhart, widow, married George Menzies in New Zealand on the 1st Sept 1862. He was only a name to me until I found an article in Paperspast telling of his demise during a Maori ambush on the 18th Feb 1869 at Papatupu, north of Wanganui.

To find out more about him, I looked in the 'Discharged in New Zealand' book, written by Hugh and Lyn Hughes for the NZ Society of Genealogists, published in 1988.

George Menzies, Regimental No. 1789, Sergeant, had arrived in NZ with the 57th Regiment on the ship 'Castillian' which left Bombay, India, on the 27th Nov 1860 and that he had been discharged from the Regiment in Auckland to a pension on the 30th Nov 1867. He then became 'attached' to the 2/18th Royal Irish Regiment.

The AJHR had this to say regarding the incident:
Division Armed Constabulary, under Sergeant Menzies, was cut off by Big Kereopa ( a herculean savage of the Nga-Rauru Tribe,) by an ambush-party at a peach-grove on the opposite side of the Waitotara to the Karaka camp. The sergeant and his nine men had obtained permission to cross the river in a canoe in order to gather peaches in a large grove on the north side about 300 yards from the river. The foragers had scarcely reached the peach-grove when they were fired on by a large force of Maoris; the Hawhaus knew that the fruit was a tempting bait, and had laid an ambuscade in the edge of the bush above the grove and about 60 yards from it in the expectation of a visit. The Constabulary men raced for their canoe, but most of those who escaped the first volley were overtaken and tomahawked. No.1 Division, hearing the firing, hurried to the assistance of their comrades, but it was too late to do anything but exchange a few volleys with the enemy. They had killed Sergeant Menzies and six of his men; three only escaped. Tutange struck him on the temple with a manuka paddle which he snatched up from the canoe, and when the sergeant dropped back into the canoe stunned or dead a Maori named Toa-wairere slashed off his left leg with a tomahawk and carried off the leg into the bush, where it was cooked and eaten by Kereopa and some of his comrades. 

Its most perplexing that I cannot find a death certificate for George, not in New Zealand nor in England. Is a dead constable/soldier a forgotten soldier? 
At Wellington archives I searched for a mention of him and found a couple of references, one of which was for an unclaimed medal.
A medal was granted to Her Majesty's forces for service in New Zealand during the years 1845-47 and 1860-66. It was available to survivors and in those of the Royal Navy and was restricted to those men who actually landed.
An extension of the awardees was to men who served in the local forces was granted in 1869 and allowed the next of kin of those killed in action or died from their wounds to make a claim for the medal.
Although the Imperial Regulations did not allow for the medal to be claimed by the next of kin of those who died, there are seveal instances of it being issued to widows and mothers of Royal Naval personnel. 
During the 1960's a number of unclaimed medals were sold by the Ministry of Defence to registered collectors with the recipients name 'Xed' out, and the Ministry stillo holds a small number. Of the 4,457 medals something in the order of 4.400 were issued. 
The rules around the medal awarded changed over time and it is a subject for a website in itself, I've only mentioned a few things here, it's be no means comprehensive. This information came from a folder at National Archives in Wellington.

Another brief mention of him in a list was found in the reception area photocopy box just noting that he was killed. Thats it. I would love to know more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

National Archives Wellington

I've just got back from a week in Wellington where I was house-sitting for a cousin. I spent three and a half days at the archives, riding the bus in from Newton with the commuters in the morning and returning with them after four in the afternoon. The weather except for my last day was brilliant but the occasional breeze still had a bit of bite in it and I was glad of my winter coat.

The archivists were extremely helpful and didn't bat an eye at my persistent need of help. I've been there before and have often come away so frustrated that I swore I'd never go back. But this time, because I had all week, I didn't get impatient when my searches turned up nothing. All the other times, I was terribly time constrained although my visits were well planned, the time spent waiting for records to arrive in front of me raised my blood pressure and if it was followed by a negative result, I could barely contain myself.

If you are in the position of being time constrained, be aware that things change at archives from time to time, they may put away a few fragile registers downstairs or change their system, or microfilm records that in the past you could order and this can be perplexing. They also develop new finding aids which would be helpful if you knew in advance about them. I do recommend an extended stay in Wellington rather than just flying in and expecting to get a result, then flying out again or employ an agent.

Their indexes do have mistakes in them, I found one of these by accident last week. On archway, the probate name was spelt wrong. They fixed it immediately.  Sometimes you find what you expect to be a break-through record, only to open the folder and find one sheet of paper nearly empty of words!

There's no doubt about it, the archives do have amazing information, but the trick is - finding it.

The most helpful records for family historians are the probates which are being digitized at present by the LDS, the intention to marry records, also in the pipeline for the digitisation process and the WW1 serviceman records which also are being digitized slowly. This will leave the reading room for those researching material for books, government material researchers and those hardy souls who just love reading any records and who hope that luck will turn up something pertinent for their family history.

I should mention the coroners records which are also very helpful. I intend to highlight some of the records I found last week, but I warn you, they could be boring.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bulls Museum

I called in there yesterday, you can hardly miss it being in the main street when on your way north to Taihape.

It has a family history corner, although the archivist, Ann Simms, was not there when I called in, I took a photo of it some of the box files which looked very interesting.
To write
Bulls & Districts Historical Society, 81 High St, Bulls, 4818, New Zealand.

So if you are passing, do call in, they plan on updating the displays regularly.

Now, it hungry work, driving around the country and I've found a place to eat that is so scrumptious, don't miss it. ( I have no relationship to the cook!).

Its called 'Sugar Plum Cafe' and its just past the last turn off to Marton when on your on way to Taihape. So its out in the middle of nowhere but open for breakfast and closes at 3pm-3:30pm.

The building was originally a factory making electric fences and the present owner (a very good cook) has been there for six years.