Archive for November 2012

FRIDAY SHOWCASE: The Bush Index, Auckland City Council History Index

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If you have someone in your family who was a Mayor or Councillor or senior official in Auckland City between 1870 and the 1970s, then The Bush Index is for you. 

 It provides references to newspaper articles, mostly the NZ Herald, and to Auckland City Council Minute Books

This database can also assist with information about local parks and other public services. 

Note that this only covers the old Auckland City boundaries, that is just the north eastern, central business district and north western pieces of the Auckland isthmus. 

The southern pieces only became part of the new Auckland City Council from 1989.

David Verran

Church histories as family history resources

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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.


New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871


In 2006, Auckland Libraries launched the Armed Constabulary of New Zealand 1867 – 1877 database on its website
This identified 3,281 members of the Constabulary from 1867 to 1871, including the Native (Maori) Constabulary, and was researched over many years by John Binsley. 

John has now expanded his research to identify 12,710 men who served in the Militia or Volunteers. 

Not every Militia member is covered, as the capitation rolls are incomplete, and those rolls contain only those who attended quarterly parades and other related events. 

In fact, it is impossible to determine how many Militia members there were, let alone all their names.

Auckland Libraries has now added the Militia and Volunteers details to the Armed Constabulary database, for a combined total of near 16,000 names for the period 1863 to 1871; - creating a new database called New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863 to 1871 note that some served in both the Militia or Volunteers and the Armed Constabulary.

Militias included those formed at Auckland, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki, while Corps included those of local Artillery Volunteers, Cavalry Volunteers. Engineer Volunteers, Naval Volunteers, Rifle Volunteers, Light Horse, Forest or Bush Rangers and Military Settlers. Some also served in the Commissariat Transport Corps.

The old Armed Constabulary database allowed searches by surname, first name, previous U.K. regimental or corps or police service, where served, as well as any notes – the latter included the facility to specifically identify all Maori constables. There was also a facility to keyword search. These have all been retained in the new combined database and there is now the ability to search for 'Subsequent service', as well as the ability to identify all Maori members of the Native (Maori) Contingent and the Arawa Flying Column (use Maori in the keyword search). Searching can also be restricted to just 'Militia and Volunteers' or 'Armed Constabulary'. 

Additional information and corrections are welcome.

When Militia members were called out, there was a compulsory register of all able-bodied Pakeha males aged between 18 and 65 years. Members had to be available for training 28 days a year. The “Native (Maori) Contingent” were officered by Pakeha.

Each battalion was divided into three classes: first class for single men between 16 and 40 years of age, second class for married men between 16 and 40 with children, and the third all those between 40 and 55 – known as “the Reserve men”. 

The first call was for volunteers, then the first class, then the second, and then the third to make up the numbers required. If not all within a class were required then there would be a ballot, and those balloted could provide a substitute if they paid 10 Pounds – there were 108 substitutions in the Auckland Province in February 1864, along with 238 medical exemptions for 1863/1864. Service was extremely unpopular because of poor pay, disruption to business and farming, and was a strain on colonial finances.

In Auckland, the local Militia was called out in June 1863 when three Militia battalions were formed, along with Corps for artillery, engineer, cavalry, rifle and naval volunteers. Militia members were limited to garrison duties in the South Auckland area, although a few were involved in minor skirmishes. Some instead formed local Volunteer Corps, which were self-governing with their own officers, regulations and uniforms.

The best description of the various campaigns is still James Cowan’s classic “The New Zealand wars”. The bulk of the fighting was in the Waikato, Taranaki, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Whanganui areas, and fell to British regular troops, Military Settlers and local Volunteer Corps, rather than the Militias. There were also Volunteer Corps formed in Thames and Wellington, some members of which moved to the fighting areas and joined local Corps.

One feature is to be able to identify some of the Land Grant numbers for Militia and Corps members in the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Whanganui areas.

Auckland Libraries has the Land Grant map for Hamilton West (Survey Office map 378 A1 & A2), while Hamilton Public Library, as an example, has a map for Hamilton East as well.

There have been some scholarly works on the military settlements in the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, along with more popular level publications by John Cresswell and Jeffrey Hopkins-Weise. In particular, Hopkins-Weise’s “ Blood brothers; the ANZAC genesis” is the best source for the Australian connection, following on from Barton.

Most Militia were wound up around 1865, but some of the Volunteer Corps carried on into the 1870s and later – after the end of John Binsley’s research. The Armed Constabulary was dissolved in 1877 and replaced by the Police.

David Verran

David is the Team Leader in the Central Auckland Research Centre at Auckland Libraries –

Photos: “Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries,
4-1336 and AWNS – 19140402-52-4”

Further reading:

Barton, Leonard L. Australians in the Waikato War, 1863-1864. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1979.

Binsley, John and David Verran. “Armed Constabulary feature of new database”, New Zealand Genealogist, November/December 2006, pages 385 to 387.

Cowan, James. The New Zealand wars; a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period. Wellington, Government Printer, 1922-1923 (and subsequent editions).

Cresswell, John C.M. The Bay of Plenty Volunteer Cavalry. Paradise Point (Qld), PCS Publications, 1991.

Hamilton, Ross B. Military vision and economic reality: the failure of the military settlement scheme in the Waikato, 1863-1880 (thesis). Auckland, University of Auckland, 1968.

Hill, Richard S. The history of policing in New Zealand, Volume Two, the colonial frontier tamed; New Zealand policing in transition. Wellington, Historical Branch Department of Internal Affairs, 1989 (particularly Section One on the Armed Constabulary).

Hopkins, Weise, Jeffrey. Blood brothers; the ANZAC genesis. Sydney, Penguin, 2009.

Hopkins-Weise, Jeffrey. A brief history of the Bay of Plenty Cavalry Volunteers, Tauranga Cavalry Volunteers & the Opotiki Rangers Volunteers. ‘The Volunteers; the journal of the New Zealand Military Historical Society’, Volume 28 Number 1, July 2002, pages 66-70.

Palmer, Jeni. Nominal and descriptive rolls of 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Waikato Regiments 1863-1867. Tauranga, Gencentre, c2007.

Spyve, Paul Joseph. The First Waikato Regiment and the settlement process of the Bay of Plenty 1864-1874 (thesis). Hamilton, University of Waikato, 1981.

Verran, David. “Researching militia members”, New Zealand Genealogist, January / February 2001, page 38.

The fishing fleet : husband-hunting in the Raj

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I highly recommend this book, and it would be of particular interest to anyone with ties to the Raj in India. Its a really fascinating account of the time.

We have several borrowable copies throughout our 55 libraries, and several on order due to its popularity!

The fishing fleet : husband-hunting in the Raj / Anne de Courcy.
"From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain's best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen.
With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake.
This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband.
They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold.
For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time.
By the early twentieth century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas, gymkhanas with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja's palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent.
But after the honeymoon life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival.
Anne de Courcy's sparkling narrative is enriched by a wealth of first-hand sources - unpublished memoirs, letters and diaries rescued from attics - which bring this forgotten era vividly to life."--