Wisdom Wednesday: Researching Chinese laundries in New Zealand

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The Chinese have a rich history in New Zealand and are amongst our earliest settlers - with large numbers arriving in the 1850s for the gold rush.

Unfolding history, evolving identity,
the Chinese in New Zealand

by Manying Ip
There have been some awesome books written about early Chinese. On our Chinese history and family history pages we highlight the famous books Windows on a Chinese Past written by James Ng and Unfolding history, evolving identity, the Chinese in New Zealand by Manying Ip.

However, we also have several books in our collection written by other authors and researchers such as Helen Wong's In the mountain's shadow : a century of Chinese in Taranaki 1870 to 1970 = Zai shan de yin ying : yi ge shi ji han ren Taranaki 1870 dao 1970 and To be Jungseng in New Zealand : descendants of Jungseng villagers who migrated to New Zealand from 1890.

Search in our catalogue using keywords "Chinese" and "New Zealand" for many other titles.

At the Auckland Family History Expo in August, the Chinese community of researchers had their own table, where they displayed many of the books that they had published.

The Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust has commissioned a project to research and produce a book about the history of Chinese owned and operated laundries in New Zealand, from the first laundries in the 1890s to the 1960s and 1970s when few remained.

They want to ensure that this significant part of New Zealand's social history is not lost. This project aims to preserve their memories of those times.

So if you know anyone in the Chinese community, or anyone else, who may be willing to share information, photographs or their memories of Chinese laundries, please contact:

Joanna Boileau, phone 09 528 1174 or 0226 710 334, 
or you could email her on joanna1boileau@gmail.com

Happy hunting


Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific

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Two academic staff at the University of Otago, Judith A. Bennett and Angela Wanhalla, have edited this excellent book, Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific, tracing stories of those children born to Pacific Island women and American servicemen during the Second World War.  Making use of oral histories, the various authors interviewed children of these love affairs: relationships that took place in the South Pacific islands during the war.

There are chapters covering islands from New Caledonia, to Tonga, the Gilbert Islands and the Solomons, but a must-read is the chapter on New Zealand: "I don't like Maori girls going out with Yanks." Between the years 1942 and 1944, 100,000 American soldiers were stationed here, as the February 1942 Battle of Darwin made the threat of invasion frighteningly real. The Kiwi girls were taken with the American men, as Mihipeka Edwards remembered: We (would) gaze at these beautiful specimens of manhood, so handsome. Even the not-so-handsome are tall and beautifully turned out, smartly uniformed and very military in their stance. I am carried away. I forget I am married.

The book is about the children born out of these relationships: some relationships were short lived, while others were true love stories that existed amidst the social climate of the time, the difficulties in dealing with bureaucracy, and the reality of men serving in a world war, men who were always going to leave New Zealand. Some of those babies were raised under the Maori whangai system, with young mothers playing the part of aunt or even a much older sister. There are stories of the men who wanted to stay with their "new" family but were unable to, such as Raymond Gipe who served in the US Navy, fell in love with Vivienne, fathered a son, Leroy, but who had to return home. As his family recalls:
"He loved Vivienne. It was not just a one night stand. He married her. He had his son registered and he was named after his father...  I think he tried on several occasions to get Leroy and Vivienne to come over. We understood that she was fearful of the ugly side of America, being Maori." Raymond provided for Leroy and on his death, left his estate to him.

There are the stories of mothers and families who tried to keep the identity of the father secret, of men who promised to return but couldn't or wouldn't, and stories of those children anxious to learn the truth of their birth parents. In some cases, information was deliberately withheld; for some mothers, there was a fear the children would be sent to America to live. John, for example, went searching for his birth father, Don, but discovered he'd passed away some years before. Yet in finding his American family, he learnt his father had known all about him, that his birth mother had sent photos and news of him to America, that Don had told his wife he had a New Zealand son, and that up to his death, he carried a photo around of John - the son he had never known.
Rusty Floyd (US Navy)
His niece has been searching for her Tongan relative. (p.173)
There are wonderful stories of reunions, although stories of sadness, too, from both sides of the "family." The descendants of Rusty Floyd who served in the US Navy, know he fathered (and abandoned) a child in Tonga but have no idea if the child was male or female, making the search for their relative near impossible. And in the chapter on the Cook Islands, Helen talks about having a pampered childhood as the only American in her family, and treasuring a photo of her USA grandmother that her father, Tom, left for her.  But there was grief for her mother, Ito. "When Tom learned he was being shipped out, he requested an army transport to bring Ito to the base to say goodbye. This request arrived too late, and Ito was so upset she refused to talk about this for many years. Helen believes her mother was traumatised by this experience of being pregnant, and not having the opportunity to say goodbye."
Might pay to grab a tissue for this one, people!
There are borrowable copies on the catalogue but be warned. This is one popular book, and you'll most likely need to place a hold/request, but there's no charge to do this, and you can pick the book up at any of our 55 libraries - whatever is convenient for you.

Joanne - Central Research

Saturday settlers: Settling New Zealand

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With the tens of thousands of refugees seeking safety in countries other than their own, we might reflect on the European settlers of NZ in the 1800s and their (comparatively) less traumatic but often torrid, journeys to this land of hope.

There are a number of books written on the subject. Some describe the voyage over of these immigrants and the lives they'd led in their lands of birth but also how they settled into this new country.

No Simple Passage : The journey of the London to New Zealand, 1849 – a ship of hope  describes the London’s journey to New Zealand in 1849. The author has created a diary of the trip her ancestor, Rebecca Remington, and fellow migrants made using, among other sources, the journals of the ship’s captain and that of a cabin passenger. She describes the England they escaped, the perils of the trip and follows the lives of the families on-board when they are in New Zealand.

The immigrants : The great migration from Britain to New Zealand, 1830-1890, is a scholarly read, describing the journeys of more than four million people who left the British Isles for New Zealand.  Tony Simpson looks at the reasons people left Britain, why they chose New Zealand, the schemes and incentives encouraging them to come here, their expectations, and how they found it when they arrived. Charlotte Godley wrote to a friend from Riccarton in 1852:

‘I am a little afraid of being alone. There are a number of somewhat disreputable people among our neighbours in the bush, some thirty or forty men, I should think, living [in] it for the present, to cut timber, and whose songs and jollifications at their evening tea parties, we can hear till late at night.’

On another level, but giving a compelling picture all the same, Mrs Shirley Kendall transcribed the Medical and Surgical Journal of the freight ship “Sir Robert Sale” 10th of June to 22nd of November 1847 by John James Lancaster, Surgeon Superintendent, M.D. from the original document held at the Public Record Office, Kew.

Divided into different sections we have Dr Lancaster’s Daily Sick List:

with another section on particular case studies

and a nice extra;  brief family histories of those London immigrants.

The above resources are just tasters of what we have in our collections at Auckland Libraries. They tell the stories of these hardy travellers who sought refuge for whatever reason in an unknown country, millions of miles from their own.