Just a wee while ago, Di and Fiona, librarians from Waiheke Library rang to ask me if I was interested in a family tree that a customer of theirs had found in their attic. They thought we might be able to find the family it belonged to, and if not, maybe it would be of interest to keep in our Sir George Grey Special Collections manuscript collection at Central City Library.
When I received it here in the Central Auckland Research Centre, it was rolled up in a tube - and had obviously been rolled up for some time. The photos attached were curled up, and a couple fell off when I removed it from its tube.
As a family historian, this tree excited me. It is A2 in size, and the first date on the tree was 1620, so the research had gone back for more than 500 years. It has been meticulously drawn out - and was beautiful in its own right. The family had taken care to record its genealogy in 1894 - courtesy of Mary Adelaide, Lady Jennings.
A branch of the Jennings had emigrated to New Zealand in 1849 with three children, and settled in Nelson; where they went on to have 11 surviving children altogether. This genealogy was then updated in 1969 by an F(?) Keiller. The document states that this it is page 1 of a 2 page document, and that the second page contains the genealogy of the New Zealand line and is accompanied by a book!
The family tree contains photos of key individuals, a drawing of the ancestral home "Hall House, North Side", and the Armorial Bearings of Sir John Roger Jennings.
As a researcher, I was keen to get to and conduct the detective work, and try and find the Jennings descendent who had left the chart behind on Waiheke Island. However, as a librarian with some archival training, the initial focus for me had to be on conservation and preservation.
We have a specialist conservation team here at the library, and it took them some three weeks to flatten the document and the photographs. The photos that had come adrift had to be reattached, and minor repairs had to be made to the document itself. Its now sitting flat in a protective sleeve.
Copies were made so that I didn't have to work on the original document. I felt confident that a family who were so keen in preserving their genealogy would be fairly easy to find. The difficulty would be finding the correct branch that left the document behind on Waiheke!
I am also extremely keen to review the second page of the tree, and also the book that I didn't have.
We decided that the first step in our quest to reunite the document with its owner, was to publicise the find. It would be good timing, as it now coincided with Family History Month, so the focus would already be on family history.
I was interviewed by Jim Mora on his afternoon show on National Radio, and you can listen to the interview here:
Jim Mora in the Afternoon - Ancient Family Tree
and I was also interviewed for NewstalkZB, so there is quite a bit of excitement out there about the find.
You can also read an article about the find in the Aucklander, and the Nelson Mail has also published a story as this is where the Jennings family settled on arrival in New Zealand.
So far I have had numerous emails and phone messages about this story, which is very exciting. So the publicity is certainly getting the word out for us! A few of them definitely seem to be direct descendents, but no lead as yet on the Waiheke descendent, but it is early days!
A Jennings descendent that has been in contact, has advised me that this genealogy was updated in 1999 for a family reunion - exciting stuff.
Anyway, that's the update for now - more later, I will keep you posted - I have some Jennings descendents to contact!