Church histories as family history resources

The local church has been a feature of the New Zealand landscape for decades but that landscape is changing as dwindling congregations are forcing churches to reconsider the practicality of staying viable.

A church in point was the recent  sale of Castor Bay Presbyterian on Auckland’s North Shore .  The ageing membership combined with decreasing numbers meant the congregation had to make the decision that it could no longer stay open. 

The process of selling the church was in this case simplified by there being no graves on site, nor historical/heritage classifications on the buildings.

While the parish itself may no longer exist,  there are, fortunately for the family history researcher, memories that have been compiled by parishioners over the years. Castor Bay Presbyterian is one such church. 

In 1983 it published a brief history, “Fifty Years in Good Soil” which related the history of the church up until that point, while harking back to the 1930s when the Rev Morgan Richards, a retired Presbyterian minister began an unofficial ministry to the residents.

Christ Church, Russell, the oldest church in New Zealand with
gravestones and monument to Tamati Waka Nene.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-6159

While your ancestors may have had no devout affiliation with a denomination that you are aware of, it is possible they may have had a connection to the local church, given it was such a social as well as spiritual focus of the time. So don’t discount church publications when you’re trying to track down family.

These histories are often written by the parishioners of the time,  and can include a wealth of local information on dates and events within that community.

Here in the Central Auckland Research Centre, we have a good selection of church histories shelved in the 285s on the open shelves. Just ask us at the desk if you're not sure where to look.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 and is filed under ,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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