Seonaid (Shona) Lewis, the new Family History Librarian at the Auckland Research Centre in Auckland City Library.
I am delighted to be given this opportunity to introduce myself to the New Zealand genealogy community and look forward to meeting and working with you in the forthcoming weeks.
I have always had a love for history, starting with sneaking historical novels off my parents’ bookshelf when I was about nine years old – getting lost in the world of Tudor Kings and Queens.
I can also thank my parents for my passion for family history. My Scottish mother is a fabulous storyteller and she entertained me with stories of her family and what she knew of her ancestors. I would hang on her every word. Her mother was descended from McKenzie of Applecross, who reputedly sheltered Bonnie Prince Charlie when he came over from Skye prior to Culloden. My Scottish ancestry has always meant a lot to me.
My English father, on the other hand, knew very little about his father’s family. He was the youngest of a large Catholic family, his mother died of TB when he was about four months old, and his father, being a Merchant Seaman, was away at sea all the time. My father was fostered out and brought up by neighbours.
All we really knew about his father’s family was that his father had left Newfoundland for England at a young age during the First World War, and lied about his age to get into the Merchant Navy.
When I was living in London, my father asked me to look into some details for him. And before long, I was hooked and had completely caught the genealogy-bug! Currently I have hit the proverbial brick wall at around 1800 where both my father’s maternal and paternal lines lead back to Ireland. Nevertheless, my father now knows about his grandparents and his uncles and aunts and has connected with cousins he never knew before.
I have had much more luck with my mother’s line, tracing both branches back to the 17th Century. I have still to corroborate the McKenzie of Applecross story though . . .
When in London, I was a frequent visitor to the Public Records Office (as it was known then) and loved looking up the original indices. Since returning to New Zealand, I was a frequent visitor initially to Auckland Library, then also the LDS Family History Centre in Takapuna.
The advent of the internet has made researching family history a lot more accessible to the general public. My favourite online tools have been Ancestry, the Origins network, FindMyPast and RootsWeb. Being an “Apple Mac” person, my genealogy software tool is Reunion for Mac.
I have been very excited to find and be found by relatives when we’ve discovered each other on genealogy forums. Its been a delight to connect with a fellow family historian who is related to me, and we’ve been able to help each other with our brick walls.
Latterly Facebook has been a real boon for me. I started Facebook genealogy groups in the names of the four branches of my family trees, and relatives are now finding me all the time.
I come from North Shore Libraries, where I had been working as a general Librarian with duties as a trainer, also working with the Oral History team, assisting with workshops and training people how to use digital technology. I’d also been converting tape cassettes over to digital format to ensure their continued preservation.
So through these important tasks, I have also discovered a passion for Oral History and love listening to the older folk describe their earlier life experiences.
Formerly, I had worked for 26 years’ in design and publishing for both print and web! After starting my working life as an apprentice Typographer, I became heavily involved in management and IT.
Once I had had my family, I decided I needed to have a change of career. After weighing up my options, it made sense for me to choose librarianship and so I left my career to study and work my way up through the library system, with the idea that some day somehow I could become a family historian.
In the four years since making that decision I have gained my library qualifications, and my professional library registration and I am intending continue my studies towards a degree in history.
Library work seemed the perfect way of bringing together my love of history and books. I have also been very pleased to help others with their family history – so this is my dream job, doing what I love! Family history research and helping people!
I intend on carrying on Karen’s legacy and will develop some new ideas and services in the future.
Meanwhile, I look forward to meeting with you all in the near future…
Genealogy Blogging Beat – Tuesday, 25 April 2017
7 hours ago