Archive for January 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Mr and Mrs Ching

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Another Wedding Wednesday post featuring a wedding portrait from Heritage Images collection, these photographs mark the marriage of Mr Arthur Ah Ching to the former Miss Anna Theresa Ertel in 1920.

Mr and Mr Ching, 1920
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-WP872

Ching-Ertel bridal party
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-WP873

Ching-Ertel bridal party
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-WP874

If you are interested in wedding fashions from the past, you may enjoy Sandra Coney's book "I Do: 125 Years of Weddings in New Zealand", there are borrowable copies from Auckland Libraries.


Census Sunday: Proposed UK Census changes

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The other day a colleague handed me an interesting article by Simon Szreter to read from this month's issue of  History Today magazine (January 2014) about the proposed changes to the collection of UK census information.  In fact, the Office of National Statistics or ONS as they are more often called -- the department responsible for the census 'are proposing two possible options for the 2021 census' which according to the article are:

'One possibility is to try to ensure that the census is returned online as much as possible. 
Provided the proper safeguards are put in place to cater for information from the predominantly
 older section of the population who would otherwise be disadvantaged by this new method,
 this is probably a sensible move.'

'The second option under consideration would represent a historic abandonment of the census's democratic principle of information collection established since 1841. This idea is to drop the census of every individual and instead patch together a number of disparate sources of more partial or anonymous statistical information on the characteristics of the British population already collected . . . . the argument is that this kind of composite database can provide more regular updates on change . . . to satisfy the needs of government bodies  . . . and will be cheaper to administer than a census . . .'

If the ONS does decide to follow this radical second option we can all imagine what the ramifications are for future generations of family historians who will have an even greater challenge of finding information on their own UK family's past.

'Taking the Census' an illustration of 1861.
Image from History Matters, January 2014.

If you would like to search the 1841-1911 UK Census records they are easy to access for free at any of the Auckland Libraries through the Ancestry and FindMyPast databases in the Digital Library.

For some useful hints on using census records you may want to check out a new book in our family history collection by  Emma Jolly, 'Tracing your Ancestors Using the Census: A Guide for Family Historians', which is packed with advice on how to explore and get the most from these records.


Workday Wednesday: Children and Employment

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What were working conditions of children like in Britain in the 1840s?

I was checking out the library edition of for any newly added databases to bring to the attention of staff recently and came across the 1842 Commissioners’ report of children’s employment (appendix, trades and manufactures part 2) .  It is a very interesting document in that children and adults from all over the British isles have been interviewed about the working conditions children are being employed in.  Not only that but you get the child’s name, age, occupation, address of home and work and sometimes mention of other family members and pay rates.

Two children and a trolley laden with boxes, c.1928
Sir George Grey Special  Collections, Auckland Libraries.

The document has been name indexed so is searchable but there is also a name index at the end of the work as well.

If you are interested in social history, you will find this worth reading.  It is rather a lengthy tome but probably dipping in and out of the interviews would be enough to give a flavour of the document.

Marie Hickey

Tuesday's Tip: Irish Townlands

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‘Irish townlands are a puzzle and a joy. We shouldn’t throw them away.’

'To foreigners, and direct marketers, Irish townlands can seem like something from Alice in Wonderland. Where in rural Ireland do people live? In a townland. What’s a townland? It’s a place where people in rural Ireland live. The recurrent complaint is that only the local postman understands the local place names. But why exactly should that be a problem?'

Historic map of Ireland 1797 by cartographer Daniel Augustus Beaufort.

Click this link to read John Grenham's comments as posted January 6th on his Irish Roots blog on the place of townlands in Ireland and the current moves to introduce postcodes across Ireland.

For a list of all the materials held at the Research Centre relating to Ireland family history research including land records search the Auckland Libraries catalogue using the call number 4 IRL.


Wedding Wednesday: Mr and Mrs Heather

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'Wedding Wednesday' highlights a wedding portrait from the Heritage Images photograph collection and this week we are featuring Mr W Norman Heather and Miss Myrtle Chatfield of Auckland who were married in October of 1899.

This photograph of the bridal party was taken on the front steps of the Chatfield family home located in Bridgewater Road, Parnell.

Heather-Chatfield bridal party, 1899.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

The happy event was reported both in the Auckland Weekly News  27 October 1899 supplement as well as the 20 October 1899 edition of the New Zealand Herald which offers some lovely details about this special day.


Tuesday Tip: New Zealand Electoral Rolls

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NZ electoral rolls – tips and tricks!

So, why are electoral rolls such a big deal for NZ family history, anyway? The answer is that we don’t have the personal information from the NZ census of past decades such as exists for England and some other countries. So electoral rolls are one of the sources that we use as a substitute. Through them, we can find the living place and (often) occupation of ancestors who qualified to vote. However, that’s also where things get a little complicated, because the rules about who could vote have evolved over the decades since the 19th Century and the changes affect which ancestors appear on rolls and which do not.

To help with this problem, the Auckland Libraries website has a NZ Voting Rights Timeline of important dates when rule changes were made about the eligibility to vote. Some like 1879 (male franchise) and 1893 (women’s franchise) have a very big impact. Others (like changes over time about the age at which people could vote) are more subtle, but still important.

Lady voters going up to polling-booth, election day, Auckland, 1899.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A12353

The NZ Electoral Commission’s website also has a section called The History of the Vote which I recommend  to researchers wanting more historical background. It offers some interesting snippets of social history – such as an account of drunkenness and corruption in Auckland elections of the 1850s, including tampering with the electoral rolls!

NZ electoral rolls 1853 to 1981 are now digitized and available through This database may be accessed through the Auckland Libraries website on library premises for free. (It is not available through the website from home computers.)  NOTE: scroll to the bottom of the page of the NZ electoral roll database and you will find a detailed list of the election years covered. Those (few) without an asterisk beside the year are not yet searchable by voter name, but only browsable.

New Zealand Electoral Roll for Geraldine District, 1876.

For the years after 1981, come into the Auckland Research Centre on level 2 of the Auckland Libraries building in Lorne Street, in central Auckland. We hold a full set either on microfiche or hard copy that continues to the current – 2013 year.


Wisdom Wednesday: A newsy item from 1883

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There are certain records such as UK census records that are frequently consulted for doing family history research. Unfortunately, no such records exist for New Zealand so we have to rely on other records to find information about households - two popular alternative sources are the Wise’s Directory and of course, the NZ Electoral Rolls.

One our customer’s who regularly searches Papers Past for historical information about Auckland
came across a news item in the 9 February 1883 edition of the New Zealand Herald reporting on a City Council meeting which offers insight as how these records were introduced into the library's collection.

Check back later this week for a new blog post from Janelle with some tips and tricks on the NZ electoral rolls.


Treasure Chest Thursday: Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals (Part 2)

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As mentioned in my 18 December blog about searching for passenger lists, particularly for those of us with ancestors who arrived through the port of Auckland, things are looking up!

Landing passengers, c.1910.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19100721-3-1 
There is another online source which might help. The free website offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints now includes NZ passenger lists digitised from microfilms held by Archives New Zealand. An online name index is gradually being built up by volunteers (they still want help if you feel like joining in) and is worth checking. If you don't get a hit on the family name, there is an alternative, but be warned it is not a quick fix.

It is possible to browse through the more than 350,000 images of ship passenger lists for the period approximately 1855 to 1973. Now, I am not suggesting this for someone who hasn’t a clue on what ship or in which year their ancestor came into Auckland. However, if you have got a hit in either the Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals Index, or the online newspapers' shipping news, which means you have a ship name and date of arrival, then the task, although onerous, is possible!

The images of passenger lists are arranged by port and year, with different sequences for Auckland. For instance there is 'Auckland',  'Auckland (inwards)',  'Auckland (other ports also listed)', 'Auckland and Hawkes Bay' and so on. Each of these categories needs to be checked in turn to see if they cover the year in which you are interested. Where that year is listed you need to check through the listings of that year to see if your ship name appears. Where it does, scrolling through the images will reveal the original record and date of the passenger list(s). But be warned. Some vessels, particularly Trans-Tasman ones, made multiple trips into Auckland in the same calendar year so care is needed to check you get the right date of arrival.

So what do you get as the reward for all this effort, I hear you wondering?

Image from NZ, Immigration Passenger Lists,

Well, the results are variable. Some passenger lists are hardly more useful than the brief stuff in the papers, but others yield details such as ages of passengers and ethnicity. Some include occupation and (at least by the 20th century) some give a basic address from their place of origin.

The results may be rewarding or disappointing, but that is the essence of all family history research, is it not?

Good luck!


Oh, and I should add, these search strategies and techniques work for other ports as well. For a discussion about finding passenger lists and some of the online sources that exist for other NZ ports, see my blog post from 25 May 2011.