A Golden Opportunity

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists
Annual Conference 2011
John McGlashan College, Maori Hill, Dunedin,
Queen's Birthday Weekend, June 3 - 6, 2011

Seonaid's perspective:
Marie Hickey and I had the privilege of attending the 2011 NZSG Annual Conference in Dunedin over the recent Queen's Birthday weekend.

The theme for this year’s conference was “A Golden Opportunity”, a reference to the Otago goldfields of which the area was originally founded on, and the fact that it was 150 years since gold had been discovered in the area. At the time Dunedin was the second largest city in New Zealand.

There were so many good quality subjects in the programme, I had difficulty choosing which ones to attend.

In the end, I chose:
  • Christine Hurst, Librarian, NZSG Family Research Centre, Panmure
  • Gold in Otago by Professor Tom Brooking (Otago University)
  • Freemasons in the Goldfields by Hugh Montgomery, Librarian of the Research Lodge of Otago
  • The Making of a City by Dr Jim McAloon (Victoria University)
  • Miners by Dr Terry Hearn, lecturer, historian and researcher
  • Ancestry.com by Christine Clement
  • Early shipping by historian and archivist Ian Church
  • Otago Settlers Museum by archivist Jill Haley
  • Maori-European intermarriage in 19th century New Zealand by Dr Angela Wanhalla
  • Heritage Room by heritage collections librarian Lorraine Johnston
  • Hocken Collections by reference librarian Anne Jackman
  • Finding and Telling, the “Ted Gilbert Literary Trust Plenary” by Ros Henry

All were extremely interesting presentations!

Angela Wanhalla's research on the intermarriage of Maori with European settlers was fascinating. She discussed individual couples, and the fact that marriage (whether under European law or Maori tradition) was actively encouraged in their early days by both sides. Mainly European men marrying Maori women and from all stations in life. It was seen by the powers of the day, as a good way of encouraging men to stay and of integrating Maori into European life. From the Maori perspective, it was seen as politically advantageous by the majority.

Later there were concerns about the children of these unions - getting recognition for them under British law.

Angela speculated whether the New Zealand wars were the reason for the downturn of inter-racial marriages, and the change in social attitudes.
The highlights for me, were listening to the historians. As a family historian, putting your ancestors into context is an important part of your research – a collection of names and dates are not much fun on their own, and are just the beginning!

I was very interested to hear the historians paying tribute to the quality of research undertaken by family historians and the contribution family historians had made to their research and understanding of early New Zealand.
Although I don’t have any New Zealand ancestors, learning more about New Zealand history was excellent, and it has already reaped benefits in allowing me to assist customers here in Auckland.

Happy hunting everyone
Marie's perspective:On Queen's Birthday weekend Seonaid (Family History Librarian) and I attended the NZSG conference in Dunedin titled 'A Golden Opportunity'.  The committee are to be congratulated on such a well run conference, the exceedingly high calibre of speakers and wide range of topics offered – there was something for everyone.  The committee and helpers dealt with questions and problems with a friendly smile and appeared to be unfazed no matter what they were faced with.

I think everyone who attended enjoyed themselves and learned at least one new thing; made new friends and caught with old ones, which is partly what these events are all about. 

We flew down on Thursday morning as we had arranged to have "behind the scenes" tours of Hocken (Otago University) and Dunedin City libraries and Archives NZ (Dunedin).  I always find these interesting as you see items which you may not notice on a catalogue.  (Of course, having Dunedin connections myself, I was itching to rifle through the boxes in search of family members).  Speakers from each of these depositories also spoke at the conference as did representatives from the Settlers Museum (closed until about Nov. 2012) and Dunedin City Council Archives.  Unfortunately, there is no script for these particular talks included in the proceedings (available from NZSG); however, all of these depositories have websites with links to their catalogues - where available.

Christine Hurst (NZSG Library Supervisor) gave a talk on the opening night about the NZSG catalogue and how to use it which was very clear and easy to follow - I'm sure the Mr Bean clip at the end was enjoyed by everyone (You Tube - enter Mr Bean library).

Over the rest of the week-end I attended talks about the Otago goldfields (from a social history and international perspective), education, Freemasons, Prisoners, Irish migration, the early days of Dunedin, several other talks and panel discussions.

Dorothy Page described the struggle to get schools built due to lack of interest by some parties and infighting amongst other factions.  She described how hard it was for staff to exist on their often meagre wages and how much was expected of them.  This is a very enlightening paper as similar circumstances must have been experienced throughout the rest of the country. 

Kathleen Stringer gave a humorous talk on prisoners using her ancestor's experience as an example of the types of
records which are available.  This involved someone who was supposed to have jumped ship and changed his name to
avoid capture by the authorities – turns out that he was imprisoned for theft but I will leave the rest for you to
read in the proceedings.

Sean Brosnahan gave us all food for thought with his talk on Irish migration.  He told us of how the bulk of Irish migrants arrived over a period of about 40 years, that they came from specific areas in Ireland and how the religious
make-up was 60% Roman Catholic and 40% Protestant.  Sèan also stressed that if you make a presumption without definite documentary proof to state how you came to the conclusion and the resources used to base this on.

I found Hugh Montgomery's talk on Freemasonry enlightening as not only did he show us some different types of regalia and explain the differences but also gave an explanation of the different branches of freemasonry ie temperance, masonic, benevolent etc and some of the associated records. 

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