Archive for November 2013

Workday Wednesday: Railway men and Posties

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Did your ancestor work on the railways in the UK?

When I give my family history talk on, I always like to mention the databases of Railway and Postal employee records as most families will have, at a bare minimum, at least one family member who was employed by one of these organisations.

Palmerston North Railway Station, 1899
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-18990728-3-1
Auckland Libraries has in its collection the Who do you think you are? magazine and the February 2012 issue has a good background article about what some of those working for the railways did and covers the post World War One period as well. The article ends with a round up of depositories and a brief description of the resources held at each of them.

Rural postal near in the Cambridge District Auckland, 1914
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19140618-48-5
If you have a railway employee in your family you may also find the following books of use and they are all available in our family history collection at the Research Centre:

Was your grandfather a railwayman?: a directory of records ... by Tom Richards (Federation of Family History Societies, Lancashire, 2002)

Railway ancestors: a guide to the staff records of the railway companies of England and Wales,1822-1947 by David Hawking (History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2008)

Tracing your railway ancestors: a guide for family historians by Diane K. Drummond (Pen and Sword, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, 2010)

Marie Hickey

Treasure Chest Thursday: Ancestors magazine is a treasure of articles

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While I was recently indexing some of my own copies of the now defunct Ancestors magazine, I was
struck by the wide array of subjects covered in the articles.  This is one of the reasons I had taken
out a subscription albeit a little late as publication ceased shortly afterwards. We do have the complete run of this publication in our collection at the Central Auckland Research Centre.

Ancestors, September 2005 issue.
The records covered by the magazine were, in the main, held by The National Archives (formerly Public Record Office), Kew, England.

Did you know that competition between doctors was so fierce at one time that soliciting for patients sometimes resulted in a duel?  This and other fascinating facts about the medical profession are found in an article - Health of the Nation which was featured the November 2004 issue.  There are several articles about how the Derbyshire village of Eyam dealt with the bubonic plague which arrived in the village in the form of infected fleas in a parcel of cloth from London.  A short article in the September 2005 issue describes the type of clothing to be worn when travelling by train; aimed at first time travellers by this mode of transport that included the suggestion to wear light coloured clothing and patent boots instead of ordinary ones.

Of course, there are many articles about all branches of the military and their records, those who
emigrated or were transported, Friendly societies, Freemasonry, and tips on preserving records and recorded media as well as the occasional article featuring a particular person.

If you have never delved into this magazine do have a look particularly if you have UK connections as there should be something of interest to you.

Marie Hickey

Tombstone Tuesday: Brutal murder of Rev Carl Volkner, Opitiki

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'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-6097'
Showing the headstone and grave of Rev Carl Sylvius Volkner CM,
who was murdered on the 2nd March 1865

Read the story in PapersPast

Brutal Murder of Rev. Mr. Volkner,
Resident Church of England Missionary
at Opitiki, Bay of Plenty

Treasure Chest Thursday: Scottish Land Transactions

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Many of you reading this will have Scottish ancestry,  have you considered checking land records for your family? Okay, I can hear some of you saying ‘my family were too poor”.  While this may apply to England and Wales it does not necessarily apply to Scotland, so give it a try and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19130731-50-1
One of the most used land records are the Sasines which record transfers of land and in some instances can include extracts of wills.  We recently purchased microfilms of the Sasine abridgements c1768-c1968, places index 1781-1930, people index – between 1781-1868 (date coverage varies between counties), General Register index 1617-1700.

Person Index
Place Index
To use the abridgements, first check the index.  These are often separated into years so you should check the whole of the index for the place/person of interest so you can be sure of locating all entries.  For instance, your place may be Kinross, so using the places index you may find an entry in 1831-1835 for Kinross 31, 59, 82 etc.  By going to the abridgements for this date and referring to number 31 etc you will find your entry.  The same applies to entries from the name index.

Sasine abridgements.
The abridgement is often enough information for most people but you may want a copy of the Sasine itself (which will usually be several pages).  To order a copy you will have to contact National Records of Scotland (formerly National Archives of Scotland) quoting the GR or PR reference in the bottom right hand corner of the abridgement.

Marie Hickey

Tombstone Tuesday:- Michael Gallagher, Symonds Street Cemetery

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'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC265'

Showing the grave and tombstone of Michael Gallagher in Symonds Street Cemetery.
The inscription reads: In affectionate remembrance of Michael Gallagher who died May 26 1894 aged 38 years. Erected by his widow, H K Gallagher. In charity with all men.
The grave and headstone of his mother Mary Gallagher is partly visible to the left.

Treasure Chest Thursday: Ranfurly Home, a fine and noble institution

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If you have been travelling near Three Kings, Auckland, lately, at the intersection where Mt Eden Road meets Mt Albert Road, you would have noticed a vision of historic gorgeousness appearing  – the stunning, original, century-old 1903 Ranfurly Veterans Home which for decades has been hidden behind other far less attractive buildings.  Over the past few months, the demolition work has revealed the house that had remained virtually hidden to most commuters along Mt Albert Road.

Originally known as the Auckland Veteran’s Home, the facility was the initiative of Lord Ranfurly (the same Ranfurly who gave us the Shield) and was inspired by London’s Chelsea Home to honour those who fought in the Boer War.

Those residents in the early years also included returned servicemen who had fought in both the Crimean and New Zealand Wars, and as a correspondent wrote in the Evening Post in 1926, the home was regarded with much respect. “As a frequent visitor in bygone years to the Veteran’s Home at Three Kings, Auckland, this institution has always appealed to me as one of the finest and noblest works ever achieved by any Governor of New Zealand…. .  I had the privilege of being present when the late Lord Kitchener inspected the home and the resident veterans; it brings a lump to the throat now when I remember how smartly, yes smartly, though some of them were bowed with years,  those veterans paraded, how intently they listened to Lord Kitchener’s brief address, and how spruce were their quarters.”

Lord Ranfurly himself was also viewed with great affection by the residents as this 1924 report says, “The Earl of Ranfurly who was governor of New Zealand from 1897 to 1904 was remembered with gratitude by the older inmates of the Veterans home on account of the keen interest which, during his residence in this country he displayed in their welfare. Last Christmas 20 inmates of the home sent  to the Earl an original Christmas card  designed by one of their outside friends Mr Payne  and bearing the signature of each of the senders...”

If you suspect an ancestor may have been a resident of the home, there are records held by the Ranfurly Trust, including a list of those buried at Waikaraka cemetery, but these records have not been maintained over the years and are sparse. Your best bet is to contact the voluntary archivist at the Trust for further information at

In the meantime, if you can’t get along for a glimpse of the house in person, enjoy these glorious photos of this historic building. It appears that views of Lord Ranfurly’s most excellent vision may well be obscured again from street level once construction begins on the apartments of the new retirement complex.

House with bare ground around it, 1905.
 Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1241.

House from a distance with trees around it, 1924.
 Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1826.

Photo of war memorial inside the Ranfurly Veteran's home, 1924.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1833.

Photo showing interior view of the library and reading room, 1905.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1503. 

Photo of residents sitting on the steps of the building, 1924.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1828.


Tombstone Tuesday: Josiah Clifton Firth

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'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 34-F56F'

Picture of the headstone of Josiah Clifton Firth
born October 27 1826, died December 11, 1897
Aged 71 years