Archive for 2014

Workday Wednesday: Trade Unions

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Findmypast which is available on the Digital Library now offers access to some historic Trade Union membership records, especially those for the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (ASCJ).   Unfortunately it doesn’t include the other big craft Union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE).

Back in the day, I was asked for details on a carpenter who was active in Labour Party and Union politics in the early twentieth century in Auckland.  The family were unsure as to where he had first apprenticed and worked as a carpenter, but I happened to know that the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick in Britain had historical records of the ASCJ.   That Union, and others, acted as an international Union with branches worldwide, including within New Zealand.   The Centre in Warwick had no difficulty in tracing our carpenter and confirmed that he was a member of a Dublin Branch before moving to New Zealand, where he transferred to an Auckland ASCJ Branch. Members readily transferred from one Branch to another as they moved around the world for work.

Image of record from findmypast.

The example shows a page for the Mount Eden, Auckland, Branch of the ASCJ for 1911.   Note the Branch number was 892.

The particular carpenter I was looking for here was Tom (Thomas) Bloodworth who was a long time Labour Party, Trade Union and local body activist.  Note he is here just as ‘T. Bloodworth’, at number 10 on the page.

You can search by name, or drill down using Education & Work and then Record Set: Britain, Trade Union membership registers.  You can then select Image or Transcript.

David Verran

Wednesday's Child: Summer reads series

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Recommended read

Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

In this second post on young peoples’ fiction with a family history theme, I read the award winning novel, Holes  by Louis Sachar.

I’m not sure how it is I never really knew about this book before, when it’s been around for a while and has something of a cult following. This is seriously good fiction, with baddies, delinquent kids, a mystery, a curse, and a backstory to keep you guessing – the family history part of it. Whatever your age, child or adult, boy or girl, you should read this story. There’s a good chance you won’t be able to put it down.

Stanley Yelnats is our protagonist -  the loser kid we’ve probably all felt like at some time or another but poor Stan really does have bad luck, attributable to a family curse. He’s sent to a juvie camp out in the desert:

“A sign in front said, “You are entering Camp Green Lake Juvenile Correctional Facility.” Next to it was another sign which declared that it was a violation of the Texas Penal Code to bring guns, explosives, weapons, drugs or alcohol on to the premises. As Stanley read the sign, he couldn’t help but think, Well, duh!

Each day the boys must dig a massive hole - something to do with building character although if they find anything, they are given a day off. Hmmm. I won’t give anything away but a reviewer said that Holes is the kind of book that improves with each reading, showing you just how complicated it really is although as a read, this is simply a darned fine story that ties up at the end.  And there are nice bits, such as this at the end of a chapter after Stanley has taken the rap for stealing a bag of sunflower seeds:
He went over to his hole and to his surprise it was nearly finished. He stared at it, amazed. It didn't make sense. Or perhaps it did. He smiled. Since he had taken the blame for the sunflower seeds, he realized, the other boys had dug his hole for him.
“Hey, thanks,” he said.“Don’t look at me,” said X-Ray.Confused, Stanley looked around – from Magnet, to Armpit, to Zigzag, to Squid. None of them took credit for it.Then he turned to Zero who had been quietly digging in his hole since Stanley’s return. Zero’s hole was smaller than all the others.
Click here to grab a library copy though you might need to place a hold.

There are also formats from eBook to audio CD, and if the weather falls apart over the holidays, there’s the 2004 movie on DVD with young Shia LaBouef as Stanley.

Here’s the trailer. But go and read the book first!!


Maritime Monday: The sinking of the SS Ventnor

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Sir George Grey Special Collections, AWNS-19021113-2-1
In 1902 the SS Ventnor sank off the Hokianga coast with the remains of 499 Chinese people on board. It had left Wellington just two days before. The bodies were being returned on the Hong Kong bound vessel to their families to be buried in accordance with Chinese tradition.

The SS Ventnor had been hired by the Admiralty to carry a standard cargo of coal from Westport to Hong Kong but was also under charter to the Cheong Shing Tong Society. This Society was concerned with Chinese immigrants from the Poon Yue area in the Guandong Province of southern China, particularly the poor and the elderly, and operated under the leadership of prominent Dunedin businessman Choie Sew Hoy.

Choie Sew Hoy, about 1895
Choie Sew Hoy died in 1901. In 1883 the Cheong Shing Tong Society had exhumed and returned to China the bodies of 230 miners, so it was natural for his son Kum Poy Sew Hoy to arrange for the Society to return his father, along with many others, to his ancestral home.

The Auckland Star, 30th October 1902
Just after midday on the day of departure the SS Ventnor struck a submerged reef just off Cape Egmont. Wellington didn’t have the facilities to repair the vessel so it carried on to Auckland with water starting to enter the ballast tanks and at the entrance to Hokianga Harbour the order to abandon ship was given.

Nigel Sew Hoy, Great-Great grandson of Choie Sew Hoy wrote in 2007:
When Kum Poy Sew Hoy received the sad news, he immediately engaged people to search the area. A canvas bag of bones was found washed up on Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North. This was sent to China as the only remains. The rest of Ventnor's unusual cargo was not recovered. A court of inquiry ruled that the Captain had been negligent and incompetent and responsible for the wreck because of his poor navigation around Cape Egmont. (Bananas NZ Going Global International Conference 18-19 August).
Nigel and his family hoped to be able to carry out their grandfather’s dream to have the Ventnor salvaged, the bones identified and returned to China.

The location of the ship remained a mystery until December 2012 when, after a search of three years, it was found by documentary producer John Albert, assisted by charter boat owners John and Linda Pattinson and underwater explorer Keith Gordon. A recent article from the New Zealand Herald explains the story and highlights the importance of the find to ties between China and New Zealand.

For more on the SS Ventnor read the article 'The mysterious wreck of the coffin ship', pages 160-161, in Secrets & treasures: our stories told through the objects at Archives New Zealand, available for loan from Auckland Libraries.


Wednesday's Child: Summer reads series

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Recommended read

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle (2011)

I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment reading kids’ books, courtesy of one of our leaflets here at Auckland Libraries recommending children’s fiction with a family history theme. What better way to share the reading love, after all, than to read the story for yourself. Even better, it’s a kid’s book so you can finish in an hour or so.

First up on my mish is this wonderful Roddy Doyle story, A Greyhound of a Girl. It’s a lovely story, pretty much about death.  Four generations of Irish women – 12-year-old Mary, her mother Scarlett, her dying grandmother Emer, and the ghost of her great-grandmother Tansey come together as Tansey (who died in her 20s) wants to see her dying daughter, Emer (now elderly.) It’s funny, emotional, witty, plenty of flashbacks chronicling the girls, and absolutely suitable for all ages so don’t just get it for your kids to read. Read and enjoy it for yourself -  especially if you love things Irish and great dialogue such as this:

“Well,” said Tansey. “I’m a ghost. It sounds a bit daft, but I’m the ghost of your great-granny.” She looked at Mary. “Are you surprised?” she asked.
“Not  really,” said Mary. “If you are my great granny then you have to be a ghost or something, like. Because she – you’ve been dead for ages.”

“Clever girl,” said Tansey.

“Prove it,” said Mary.

“Prove that you’re a clever girl?”

“No,” said Mary. “Prove you’re a ghost.”

And later on, the young ghost Tansey meets her ailing eighty-something daughter, Emer. Emer speaks first:

“I think I know you,” she said

“Good girl.”

“You’re my mother.”

“Yes,” said Tansey.

“Have you come to collect me?”

“Not yet,” said Tansey. “There’s no hurry.”

“But you’re dead.”

“I am.”

And even better…. If you’re travelling over the holidays, we also have an audiobook you can click here to borrow. Not a bad way to pass the time on the “Are we there, yet” trek!er the summer holidays and have fun reading, completing challenges, 

For summer reading fun, get the kids or grand-kids involved with Dare to Explore - Out of this world, Auckland Libraries summer reading adventure. Visit the Dare to Explore homepage for more information or join up at your local library.

Joanne Graves
Central Auckland Research Centre

Tombstone Tuesday : Symonds Street story

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St Andrews Cemetery, Newcastle- Upon-Tyne 
A memorial in St Andrews Cemetery, Newcastle- Upon-Tyne says:

“In loving remembrance of George Brewis McQueen, solicitor of this town who went to Auckland New Zealand for the benefit of his health and died one month after his arrival November 16th 1874 aged 26 years and was interred in Auckland Cemetery. His gentle loving disposition endeared him to all who knew him. His end was peace. Also Robert McQueen brother of the above who died July the 11th 1859 aged 1 year and 10 months. Robert McQueen father of the above died December 14th 1890 aged 71 years. Also Frances his wife died October 9th 1893 aged 78 years.”

Symonds Street Cemetery, Auckland

George’s grave is situated in the Symonds Street Cemetery where his gravestone is still in fairly good condition.  A search of the Symonds Street cemetery records on Auckland Libraries Digital Library shows the partial transcription of the stone.  But what is George’s story? Why is he buried alone in Auckland when his immediate family are buried in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne?

A search of reveals that George Brewis McQueen was born in January 1849 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England.  His parents were Robert McQueen (1819-1890) and Frances (Fanny) Brewis (1816-1893) who married in December 1847.

George had one sister, Elizabeth Brewis McQueen who was born in 1851 and two brothers, William Brewis McQueen who was born in 1854 and Robert who was born in 1857 and died in July 1859.

In 1851 the family were living at 7 Wellington Street, Newcastle on Tyne.  George’s maternal grandmother was living with the family too – they were awaiting the birth of George’s sister so she was possibly with them to help with the new baby.  The family also had a 17 year old servant girl living with them.  Robert McQueen was a Cutler (a maker of cutlery) & maker of surgical instruments.

In 1861 the family are at 3 St Cuthberts Terrace, Gateshead, Durham.  George and his sister Elizabeth have been joined by their brother William.  Robert McQueen is still a Cutler by trade but he is now an employer of 1 man and 2 boys.  The family are cared for by a 16 year old servant girl.

In 1871 the family continue at 3 St Cuthberts Terrace.  Robert describes himself as a Cutler & Surgical Instrument Maker, George at the age of 22 years is an Attorney & Solicitor and William is an apprentice Cutler.  Robert will later change the name of his business to McQueen & Son when Robert partners with him in the business.

On 11 April 1873 The London Gazette reports that George is to be Ensign in the 8th Durham Rifle Volunteer Corps on 12 April 1873.

In January 1874, George is in partnership with William Chartres and John Youll, who are attorneys and solicitors at 18 Grainger Street West, Newcastle Upon Tyne. But the London Gazette of 21 July 1874 reports that the partnership of Chartres, Youll and McQueen has been dissolved by mutual consent on 6 July 1874.  Three days later, on 09 July 1874 George is in London boarding a ship for New Zealand.

Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals 1838-1889 says that George arrived in Auckland on the “Zealandia” on 15 October 1874.  A quick check of Auckland Area Passenger Vessels 1838-1886 and we find the “Zealandia” leaving London on 09 July 1874 with 219 immigrants aboard.  George is a Saloon passenger rather than an immigrant, so it may be that he was not planning to settle in New Zealand indefinitely.

George is now safely in New Zealand after a three month sea voyage and he books in to Riding’s Boarding House in Turner Street (off Upper Queen Street).  Mrs G L Riding provided apartments for families and room with or without board for gentlemen at Wolverton House.

Papers Past reveals that just one month later, George is dead.  Friends are invited to his funeral, leaving from Riding’s Boarding House.

Someone arranged his funeral, someone arranged for a burial plot and a gravestone.  We will probably never know who did this for him; or even why George decided to come out to New Zealand; or whether he came alone or with companions.  He may have indeed been ill as his memorial suggests (a colleague suggested tuberculosis) or there could have been other reasons to come half way around the world.

On 28 January 1875 Robert McQueen proved the will of his son George Brewis McQueen.  George left effects of less than £200.

His tidy grave site is tended by a kind hearted stranger who never knew George or his story.


Wednesday's Child: Poor Law - Part One

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This is the first in a series of blogs about Poor Law and how to research your ancestors in the variety of documents relating to the poor both in New Zealand and Great Britain.

Many records relating to the poor have been created over the centuries and I hope that this gives an insight into the wide variety of material available.  Poverty not only breeds contempt but, often from necessity, crime.  Look at records for bankruptcy, debtor’s prison, Petty and Quarter Sessions, Assize records, militia/militia records and of course, prison records as well.

New Zealand                                                                                              
Unfortunately, there are no records that are identified as “poor law” records although laws were introduced concerning how to treat and what to do with the destitute.  Much care of the poor in New Zealand fell to charities, hospitals and the police.  The first place to look is Archives New Zealand. The website Archway lists some of the records held:

  • Maintenance Order Guard Books
  • Destitute Persons Criminal Records
  • Papers of the Board of Public Relief 1863-66
  • Destitute Children’s Home, Auckland 1870-82
  • Superintendants’ Inwards Correspondence (names usually indexed on Archway)
  • Hospital Board records 
  • Charitable Aid Board records
  • Industrial Schools records
  • Vaccination Registers
  • Benevolent Society records

Records can also be found amongst the departmental groups: Child Welfare Department, Department of Education, Social Security, District/Magistrates Courts.

Records of Benevolent Societies are worth looking for as they were one of the earlier charitable aid societies. The Auckland Benevolent Society (the oldest in NZ) was formed to provide non-institutional aid to women and children through voluntary charitable work. The emphasis was on personal visits, providing advice and sympathy as well as practical support such as clothing, food, blankets, rent, fares etc.
In the cause of charity: fair collectors at work in the streets of Auckland in aid of the Benevolent Society's Appeal for Funds, July 24, 1909. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19090729-1-2.

In 1885 the Hospital & Charitable Aid Institutions Act was passed and some of the records generated by this, such as Applications for Relief, are held by Archives NZ.

Auckland Hospital & Charitable Aid Board Applications for Relief 1895
Some vaccination records have survived and these are worth checking as vaccination was first introduced for the poor in an effort to stop the spread of smallpox and measles.

Another source of material is the Appendices of the Journal of the House of Representatives  available on-line 1858-1954.

For Australia check the holdings of the relevant state archives offices.


Mystery Monday: Hidden Clues in Discarded Documents

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Family History involves a great deal of detective work which is both enjoyable and frustrating.

One tends to examine documents for the tiniest details and then put them to one side or, if you are really serious about your family research, file them away in the relevant family file.  Every so often they are pulled out to examine again and a real gem that hasn’t been noted previously may emerge.

Auckland Libraries have the most amazing Digital Library which includes library subscriptions to sites that I intend to personally subscribe to just as soon as I win lotto.  The websites that I use most often in the Digital Library are Ancestry and Findmypast but there are many others to be enjoyed.

In my search for Richard George Collins’ immigration to New Zealand circa 1880, several digital databases have provided the evidence I need to back up my hunches.

Long ago I downloaded a passenger list from Findmypast which I thought could possibly be “my” Richard:

Although the age was correct there were a couple of problems. Richard was never known as “Richard Collins” - from babyhood he had used his second name, George, as his given name.

The other problem was that the ship sailed a week after George’s wedding day and no wife was listed on the passenger list although it was clear from other records that she was in New Zealand at the end of that year.

So I filed away the passenger list because there was no conclusive proof that Richard Collins (with no second name recorded) travelling 3rd class from Plymouth England to Sydney Australia on the Chimborazo in January 1880 was my Richard George Collins.  Sigh.

Sometime later I thought it might be a good plan to see if there was anything about my man in Papers Past.  This website has digitised New Zealand newspapers covering the years 1839-1945.

My search turned up an article in the Auckland Star on 5 October 1897 with an interesting title – “Railway Disaster, the inquest”.  To my surprise Richard George Collins was a witness to a fatal accident between a train and a horse drawn bus. But it was the evidence of another witness which made my mind race:

Where had I seen the name “Maples” before?  Ah yes, that document that I had tucked away a few years back; the Chimborazo passenger list of 1880.  Just who was that person just above Richard Collins on the list?  It was Alfred Maples, the father of the bystander in the report above and also the uncle of Richard George Collins.  All of a sudden a document which had been a “maybe” suddenly became a “definite”.

Alfred William Maples senior, George’s companion on the Chimborazo was escaping England and deserting his wife in order to start a new life and a new family in Australia.  Young George was travelling with his uncle.

I was surprised to discover, when I went into another database in our Digital Library that the steamer Chimborazo’s voyage had been shorter than I thought it would be.  The British Newspaper Archive  is another site which is accessible free in the library, containing newspapers from 1603 to the present day.

The Chimborazo had a dreadful trip starting out on 08 February and striking a storm on 10 February.  Many newspapers in England, Australia and even New Zealand reported the tragedy that occurred – this account is from the Staffordshire Sentinel on 11 February:

After undergoing a refit she set off on her journey again on 16 February. One can only imagine how much courage it took for the passengers to re-board.

The following is a clip from the wonderfully named “Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate”:

Regardless of its false start, the steamer arrived in Sydney on 04 April having dropped passengers in Melbourne on the way – a total of just 47 days.  Not bad for 1880!

The Auckland Libraries Digital Library gives you lots of different options for “fleshing out” your ancestors without the need for expensive subscriptions.  Why not have a look?


Treasure Chest Thursday: Chinese Family History

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This morning in the Central Auckland Research Centre I took a telephone call from a customer who, after I had dealt with her enquiry, asked if I knew her story of being the first baby to survive the Fuji Village prisoner of war camp in Bahau, West Malaysia, during WWII. I had to confess that I didn't know her story, but told her I would investigate it as soon as possible.

I began my search and didn’t have to go far because one of the wonderful things about the Auckland Libraries website is the Digital Library.  It was there that I discovered a great website tucked away under “C” – Chinese Digital Community.

This website was jointly created by the New Zealand Chinese Association of Auckland Inc and Auckland Libraries. It contains historical and contemporary information, articles, images, audio, video, documents and web links about New Zealand's Chinese Community. Including a section on Chinese Family History.

Just one click to the Family History section and there was an array of family stories to choose from, which I found made excellent reading. The customer's story was there, and the stories of many others who have told of their experiences in New Zealand and beyond.

So if you have an interest in Chinese family history or if you would just like to read some interesting tales, I recommend that you find a moment to explore this website.


Amanuensis Monday:- Digitisation of UK's birth, death & marriage certificates?

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When researching in UK, we have several websites to choose from to collect numerous different records to support our online research.

The documents that are at the cornerstone of our research of course, are civil registration documents otherwise known as birth, death and marriage records (BDM), and census records.

We have extensive census record images already digitised from 1841 to 1911, that provide real insights into our ancestors lives.

However, they need to be backed up by the proof derived from civil registration documents. Civil registration started in 1837 in England and Wales, and from 1855 in Scotland. Prior to that we must look in parish registers for baptismal, marriage or funeral/burial records.

Birth certificates prove that the person existed, what their name was at birth, their date of birth, and the mothers' name; often also the fathers. Other information given, would be the area that the family lived in at time of birth. From 1911 mothers' maiden names are included.

George William BOOTHER (b1851)
m 1874
Margaret SULLIVAN (b1857)
Marriage certificates prove that the marriage happened, when and provide the spouse's name. Also provides occupation and addresses at time of event. Fathers are listed also along with their occupation. Scotland also provides mothers details.

The age at time of marriage must be taken with a pinch of salt, unless you have the birth certificate of the person to back it up.
No proof of identity was required and a person may lie about their age if they are not old enough to marry, or they may have another reason for not telling the truth - or they may not even be sure when they were born.

Sometimes names on marriage certificates can differ from that on a birth certificate. Changes of first and surnames since birth are common.

Names of witnesses on certificates are handy - often they are family members.

Death certificates prove that someone died, when and gives a reason why they died. It may tell you where they were living, and it will tell you who the "informant" was (who registered the death). The informant is often, but not always a family member. Sometimes it is a friend, or someone like a doctor or lawyer. The other details such as names, date of birth, occupation, marital status etc may be incorrect as the informant is providing details that they think might be correct - but not necessarily so. And of course, the deceased is unable to correct the info.

When searching for BDM events online for England and Wales, we get only the indexes to the civil registration documents.

These indexes are available on FindMyPast, Ancestry, The Genealogist and FreeBMD. They help narrow down our search but mustn't be used instead of the actual certificates themselves.

The indexes provide name, year, which "quarter", and which volume and page number to find the registration on and what registration district the event was registered in. This is to help you order the certificate you require.
George William BOOTHER
registered 2nd quarter (April-June) 1851
Shoreditch, Vol II, p453
Note - although registered in the 2nd quarter,
George was actually born on 8 March

An index is missing quite a lot of valuable information. Sometimes that actual event occurred in the quarter or even year previous, but was registered later. Sometimes there are multiple people with the same or similar names registered for that event around the same time.

You can't be sure without a copy of the registration that you have the correct person.

So if we have a civil registration event that we want a copy of, we currently need to take the information from indexes and order your English or Welsh certificate through the UK's General Register Office. It currently costs £9.25 per certificate and the site suggests approximately two or three weeks between ordering and receipt (although I've known it to take much longer).

Its fairly expensive, especially as genealogists and family historians only want the historic research value that the registration, rather than proving a legal identity by having a legally certified registration that is a certificate.

Scotland has a much better set-up for researchers by having their indexes and document images available for you to view and download online at their ScotlandsPeople website. Cost for viewing an index and an image is approximately £1.50, although you have to have purchased a minimum of £7 worth of credits first to get started.

It has its downsides, in that it is very easy to run out of credits very quickly if you aren't careful. But you do get instant gratification if you find what you want, and for a much cheaper £1.50 than England's £9.25.

Of course England and Wales have far more registrations to digitise than Scotland. But it seems that there is a move a-foot to do so with a call to sign a petition. Gould Genealogy blogged about this recently.

So, if like me, you would like the UK to digitise English and Welsh registrations, join me in signing the petition. Note you do have to be a British citizen (which includes ex-pats) and/or a UK resident.

And how awesome would it be if the New Zealand Government also decide to digitise its civil registrations too!

Happy hunting


Wisdom Wednesday: Migration to New Zealand: a guide for family history researchers by Christine Clement

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I have recently been revising my talk on how to locate passenger lists for those of our ancestors who have just appeared in records here in New Zealand.

During the course of this preparation I have been using a variety of material available here in the library (Auckland Central) and one in particular I feel is worth mentioning as for a small work it is so full of useful information.

The booklet covers the period 1840-1970 and covers a lot of ground in its 64 pages.

On the back of the booklet Christine explains its purpose:

I am often asked how to find when an ancestor came to New Zealand. This set me off on an exploratory path a number of years ago putting together the different schemes, periods and times to find out just who the people were coming at the different time periods and why.
This booklet is designed to make readers think beyond the square to see what else was happening in the world that may have led people to New Zealand.
So, what sort of things are included?  The usual suspects of NZ Company, gold rushes, Waikato and Taranaki military settlers (Land Wars), assisted immigrants etc.  However, it is the sections on the settlement of particular places in New Zealand and schemes that brought immigrants to this country that are invaluable.  For instance, those who arrived due to the cotton famine in the UK, Small Farmers with Capital, Brogden’s Navvies, Moravian Settlement, Sedgwick Boys just to name a few.

I was particularly interested to read about Brogden’s Navvies. I now think this may be how relatives of my 2x Great Grandfather arrived and this has given me food for thought about further possible records to explore.

The booklet is indexed with a bibliography of material additional to those mentioned in the text.

Anybody who is interested in immigration records into New Zealand should find something of interest in this short work.  Perhaps worth considering as a Christmas present for the family historian in your family?

Migration to New Zealand: a guide for family history researchers by Christine Clement (published by Unlock the past, 2014, Australia)


Friday Funny: Thwarting the descendants

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In the field of family history it’s fair to say not everyone gets excited by shipping lists, birth certificates, parish registers, and military files. I don’t. I’ve had nightmares about such things. Well, actually, I haven’t, but working in Heritage I fully expect to one day, because it has crossed my mind many, many times that family history is just a legitimate form of stalking. Especially when the people aren’t even dead.

For those who have relatives – which would be pretty much everyone – it’s possible that one day you may be the victim of stalking by some great, great, great grand-person who decides they want to conduct a little “research” into their ancestors. You would be forgiven for thinking this is creepy.

But what’s to be done? What can you do to avoid this if you value your privacy, if you don’t particularly want people, even if they are related to you, poking into your business - even many, many, many decades after your demise? How can you throw this potential “researcher” off your trail and thwart him in his tracks?

I offer suggestions. Caveat: no living or dead person, in any capacity, other than the author, i.e. me, endorses these, and to be fair, even I have grave doubts about a few of them. But here goes…

First up. Spread rumours about yourself. One of the traps the “researcher” may fall in to is to believe the rumour, and analyse the nefarious titbit to the extent that they ignore the real stuff. A hidden spouse, a virgin birth, a secret baby, some folie a deux - these are all fabulous tropes, much like the plot of a romance novel. Fortunately in our enlightened times, the notion of morality is out the window, and in fact the opposite is to be celebrated, so go hither and create a scandal or two. Preferably with progeny. Just don’t get carried away and hurt anyone real although you, of course, may appear emotionally wrecked because of this supposed incident. That would be quite brilliant.

Second. Claim you were adopted. Admittedly, most of us grew out of that fantasy before high school, but you can resurrect it easily enough. Brainstorm with fellow family history-phobics. Plot your story. Have turning points and an inciting incident. Milk that conflict. Give it a black moment and do try and fit some sexual tension in there. Leave no stone unturned. Remember this is not lying. It is creating. Creation is good. And the sublime beauty of it is you don’t need proof. That’s for your ‘researcher’ to tear their hair out trying to find.

Third. Throw in lots of mentions of another country to set people on a false trail. It might pay to go there as well and take photos. Target some unsuspecting but very rich and attractive local and make sure you get plenty of selfies with them around.  Preserve the pics. This will arouse the suspicion of the future “researcher”. They won’t be able to sleep for trying to figure out what you were doing in this country, and who that person was, and do they, your descendant, in fact possess this mystery person’s DNA and quite possibly a claim on their fortune? Photobombing a local politician could work to your advantage, too.

Fourth. Stalk.
Now, settle down.  I know what you’re thinking. Hashtag hypocrite.

But we are not talking stalking a real person here, or any kind of harassment. (See New Zealand legal information). We are not even talking cyberstalking with fake Twitter and Facebook accounts. We are suggesting stalking a ‘thing’. For example – just throwing this out there – stalking rugby league.

For example, you genuinely loathe league, loathe it passionately, and everyone knows it. What better way to arouse the suspicious mind of your future relative than to start quietly admiring it, and most of all documenting this perplexing admiration but without giving a sufficiently believable explanation. You head off to games. At work you start throwing around phrases like “goal line dropout,”  “knock on” and “credit to the boys.” You have in your desktop favourites. You appear at press conferences with a fraudulent media pass. (I have no clue how that happens but I’m sure you can figure it out.)

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19190717-40-1
Be diligent with your documentation so the future “researcher” latches on to this, suspicion mounts, over-thinking will occur, scenarios begin to haunt them at 2am rendering them useless at the day job. The point? That you have something to hide. That there is some dark, possibly deviant family secret lurking just out of reach, something you’ve never admitted to although this “researcher” just knows the puzzle is waiting to be solved. Family historians thrive on this kind of torture, this chase for the truth. Visualise yourself rubbing your spiritual hands together from the grave, or wherever it is they have disposed of your remains in years to come.

Fifth, and finally, this is a biggie. You must record fake death bed confessions even if you are young with no discernible health issues. In some circles this is known as oral history. It behoves you, if you are indeed serious about thwarting this blood related “researcher,” to cover all bases. It would be helpful to leave the recording with your lawyer: this information coming out prior to your demise would totally jeopardise your scheming and unravel horrifically and possibly quite humiliatingly, in front of you.  But exercise caution with your confessions. Your future “researcher” might be able to sniff out crazy. Just give them enough to tantalise. To set them off down a long and winding road from which they might never return.

That, then, should do it, so that you go to your grave confident your future relations have no idea who they’re actually dealing with.

And remember this. Biography is fact. Autobiography is fiction. 

Go forth, create, and thwart.

Joanne Graves

Treasure Chest Thursday: Fijian Birth, Death and Marriage Records

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We have Fijian birth, death and marriage records on microfilm on permanent loan from the LDS in the Central Auckland Research Centre. They are divided into the categories General, Fijian, Indian and European and are helpfully indexed.

This is an example of an index, taken from Fiji births, general index 1876-1960.

A birth record may give you date, name, sex, parent’s names and ages, whether married, previous children, profession and parents’ birth place, with signature or their ‘mark’. This example is from Births general 1883-1891.

This example is from Births general 1911 in Fiji (although the child was born in 1888 the birth wasn't registered until later, along with two of his other siblings).

There are, as is probably to be expected, inconsistencies within the four categories. Finding Indian deaths in the reel of Deaths European 1918 in Fiji is common.

Death certificates for Fijian deaths 1877 are written in Fijian.

Marriages Fijian 1876 are written in English, as are marriages Indian and General.

Essentially though, there is a wealth of information to be found in these films for the family historian with an interest in Fiji.


Tuesday's Tips:- Beginning your family history part 1

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a series of tips on getting started . . . .

3/4 group portrait of Jonkers family with
Private Cyril Gladwin Jonkers, Reg No 12/3372,
of the Auckland Infantry Regiment, 8th Reinforcements.
The older woman is possibly his mother
Agnes Campbell Jonkers.

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-J1890

Start with what you know and work backwards

  • Yourself
  • Siblings
  • Parents
  • Parents siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Grandparents siblings
  • Great-grandparents

Write down names, and any birth, marriage or death dates that you know of.

If you have any certificates or other documents that prove these details for each person, make a note of this also.

  • Interview your relatives to fill in any blanks - collect any anecdotal family stories as well as any facts
  • Ask your family if anyone else has done any previous research
  • Take all information you are given with a grain of salt, till you've proved it
  • Ask for copies of any family documents they might have 
  • Record women with their maiden names
  • Surnames are recorded in CAPS. This is so you can easily identify first name and surname - many names are interchangeable
  • Date format: 7 Jun 1876 - genealogy is an international pursuit, and 07/06/1876 means 6 Jul 1876 in some countries like the States
  • If you only know an approximate year, note it as c1876 or abt 1876 
  • Place format: Ellerslie, Auckland, New Zealand or London, England, UK.
    If you just write London - someone might think you mean London, Ontario, Canada, or somewhere else
  • Verify, check and double check all information
  • View original or official sources
  • Cite your sources: where did you get your information from?
  • Concentrate on one line at a time – retain focus!

    Happy hunting


Tuesday's Tip: Introduction to family history

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Genealogy is a study of pedigrees, a collection of names and dates, which trace a family line back through the past. 

  • When were they born? 
  • Who and when did they marry? 
  • How many children did they have and when were they born? 
  • When and where did they die? 
It's about establishing and proving relationships.

For some people genealogy is enough, their challenge is to go back as far as they can, but they know comparatively little about the people they are researching other than the facts.

Family history is a continuation of genealogy, in that it is also the research into the social history of the family. 

  • What did they do for a living? What was involved in their job?
  • What schooling did they have, and where? 
  • What events were happening around them during various periods of their lives? 
  • Why, when and how did they emigrate? 
  • Where are they buried?
- Its all about social, political, military, religious and cultural history.

Family history is about the stories.

Your library will have copies of “how to guides” that can get you started.

Genealogy is the skeleton
Family history is the flesh on the bones

Setting up your research

Note what you know in a pedigree chart - download our free Pedigree chart from our Resources page. 

Charting what you know allows you to spot the gaps.

Choose a genealogical software program that suits you.

Genealogy software programmes are complex database software programs that use a language called GEDCOM (GEnealogical Data COMmunication). 

Because genealogical programs use a common language, this makes sharing of information really easy.

Choices depend on budget and circumstance.
No computer? Try an online one, via a website.


  • Portable, you can access where ever you have internet access
  • Other people can usually search your Family Trees to see if you have common ancestors (but don’t forget to verify other people’s research)
  • Usually free, with upgradeable options if you decide to spend money later
  • Uses GEDCOM so if you later decide to download your family tree to your own software program you can
  • Its the internet, so things like privacy and control of your own info could be an issue
  • You need to be sure that the website you are going with is one that is going to be around for a while, and what will it mean to you if they start charging for access or decide not to run their site any more
However, people wanting to undertake this hobby seriously, will need a computer.

For your own software, whether free or purchased, you will need to do your own research to decide what’s right for you.

Read some reviews and decide which to invest your time (and maybe money) into. Remember, though the old “you get what you pay for” is often true. Although you don’t need to spend big bucks necessarily, it would do to remember that “free” products are usually limited in some way. is a good resource for all things genealogical, so try this page for software reviews: or

Keep a research notebook, note the person you are researching, where you have looked, and what information you found. Transfer this into your genealogical database.
Filing your paperwork is immensely important. Number your subjects:-

• your most recent subject is number 1,

father = no.2, mother = 3,

• fraternal grandfather = no. 4, fraternal grandmother = no.5;

• maternal grandfather = no. 6, maternal grandmother = no. 7
Keep a master folder for each branch with family group sheets inside, to act as your index.

Create another folder for each family member once they get married, and start collecting their info as they create their own family groups.

Colour code your stationery (folders, document wallets, boxes etc) for each branch so you can tell which line they belong to at a glance (blue, red, green, yellow for example).

Keep very good notes, and make sure you record where you got the information from, recording volume number and page/folio numbers etc.

If its anecdotal information, cite who that person is and how they say they came across the info. Try to prove or disprove the story.

What to do with the information?

Share your research with your family.

Consider publishing your family tree online.

Even if you’d decided not to assemble the information online via a website when starting out, consider uploading the GEDCOM information when you are a bit more experienced.

There are many websites out there that encourage you to share your data.
If you are comfortable enough with this idea, then it is a splendid way of finding relatives, by having them find you.

Consider also sharing via Facebook. Which is a whole other session by itself.

Consider publishing your research in a book. - Remember to donate a copy to your library!

Happy hunting


Thriller Thursday:- Ancestry AU comes to Auckland Libraries!

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The Road to Damascus 1916-18

ANZACs in Palestine

Commemorating the 96th anniversary of the
Ottoman surrender of Damascus to the ANZACs

When: Tuesday 30 September, 4.30pm - 6pm
Where: Whare Wānanga, Level 2, Central City Library, Lorne St, Auckland
Cost: Free
Booking: To secure your place, please book online or contact the Central Auckland Research Centre on 09 307 7771.
Join us to explore the shared experiences of the Australian Light Horse and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles during the First World War.

This panel discussion of family history experts including Ben Mercer from will cover the experiences of Kiwis and Australians who fought the Ottoman Empire across the Middle East.

Panellists for this event will be:

  • Ben Mercer from, speaking on the Australian Light Horse.  
  • Local military historian Terry Kinloch on the New Zealand Mounted Rifles
  • Rose Young from Auckland War Memorial Museum on artefacts from the Mounted Rifles.
  • Mark Stoddart from Archives NZ on extracting nuggets from the Services Archives.
  • Seonaid Lewis from Auckland Libraries on the war at home.

Special guest bio
Ben Mercer is Content Manager for the Australia & New Zealand branch of  family history research website

Before joining Ancestry, Ben’s interest in history compelled him to start Inside History, a digital and print magazine for Australian and New Zealand genealogists and historians.

Ben’s role at Ancestry allows him to combine his passions for history and technology. He works closely with the key cultural institutions that partner with Ancestry across the region, including archives, libraries, museums and societies, so that historical collections are digitised and made available on the Ancestry portal.

Of course, Ben has extensively researched his own family history. Two of Ben’s grandfathers fought in the First World War. Ernst Godlington Mercer fought for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the Western Front, and was wounded at the Battle of Menin Road in 1917. His other grandfather, George Wheeler Skennar, was a Byron Bay dairy farmer who served at Gallipoli with the ANZACs in 1915, and went on to be wounded in the Battle of Pozieres in 1916.

Contact us
For further queries, please book online or contact the Central Auckland Research Centre on 09 307 7771.

Motivation Monday:- The 10th annual Karen Kalopulu Family History Lock-In wrap-up!

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Our 10th annual Karen Kalopulu Family History Lock-In was a success again.

Forty-four guests, five staff and six volunteers from the New Zealand Society of Genealogists attended on Friday, 29 August to be locked in to the Central Auckland Research Centre from 8pm till 8am the next morning.

We had the pre-lock-in tour of the Research Centre, followed by a seminar "Getting it right first time".

Ancestry, Findmypast and ScotlandsPeople provided spot prizes for the evening.

Barbara won a 12-month World Heritage subscription to Ancestry, and Margaret, Joanne and Kim each won a one-month sub to Findmypast's World collection.

We started out with our usual traditional group photo.

We had two people who had attended all ten Lock-Ins.
Geraldene O'Reilly, our Irish expert from the NZSG
who has been assisting since the very first Lock-In
since the 2005!

Geraldene was one - our Irish expert, volunteering from the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. She'd assisted at all ten of our Lock-Ins, bless her!

Family history is about bringing families together - often long forgotten family members that you discover during the process of your family history research.

Family history can also lead you to discover living relatives who are either researching their family tree also, or are interested in your research.

Lauren & Julie (laughing) say: We are just here for a night out.
No, really, Lauren is researching her granddad's family in India
while I am trying to trace my father's family in England.

Some families also research together - whether by collaboration across distance, or getting together in person.

We often have mother/daughter, aunt/niece, father/son, sisters etc turn up at the lock-in to research.

Aslikia is looking for her paternal side of the family,
her 2x great-grandfather who was an interpreter to the
British consul in Fiji. Everything thing she has read has
referred to him as the son of a Fijian woman but this one
book mentions an American father.
She is trying to find out if the latter is true.

Some comments from the 2014 Lock-In guests:

Catherine Bell of Cambridge said:
“This is the fourth year I’ve come to the Lock In and I got more out of it this time than any year previously because I’m more familiar with the library. We’re finding out where more resources are. The more you come, the better it is and the staff are exceptionally helpful – I’m definitely coming next year.”

Margaret Treneman of Auckland:
This is my seventh Lock-In and I’ll be back next year. This year I especially wanted to research the session minute books (now held by Sir George Grey Special Collections) for St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for details about parishioners in the First World War.  I ended up discovering some lovely snippets. For example, in 1917 there was a move to start a Sunday evening service at the Tivoli Picture Theatre in K Road to reach “the non churched and lapsed Presbyterians.” The congregation unanimously agreed to it, St David’s Presbyterian in Khyber Pass protested, the Session went ahead anyway and asked St David’s to withdraw their protest, then Presbytery said the plan violated the Presbyterian Book of Order, and so St Andrew’s suspended their decision.”

Karen Lark and Sheila Holden of North Auckland
Karen and her mother Sheila from North Auckland had a massive research breakthrough on the night when they located details of an ancestor they’d been unable to find for years. They also located his military records and discovered he’d been an ANZAC in the First World War.

“We never knew he was an Anzac and it’s making the war commemorations more memorable for us knowing we had a relative who fought. If Seonaid hadn’t told us about the sites we would never have found about this relative – Seonaid and the staff have been so helpful.”

Joanne washing dishes, which is the smallest of
her very many and varied talents.

Happy hunting . . .

Seonaid and the Family History Team

Joanne Graves (staff)
This was the fourth time I’ve worked at the Lock-In and I just love the whole experience. It’s quite buzzy, you get to know the regulars, and there was an inspiring number of new faces this year. Each time it amazes me how well everyone just gets on with their research, and how many of them keep going right to the end - and then plan where they’re going for breakfast. Some just want to go home and sleep!

Jan Gow QSM FSG assisting a guest
with ScotlandsPeople