Mystery Monday: The Manuel Jose Family

Sometimes in family history, you come across a story that sounds more like the plot of a sweeping historical saga than a real life event. Such is the case of the story of the Spaniard, Manuel Jose.

Māori Children on a North Island East Coast Farm, 1937
Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19370630-51-3
The story began in 1840 when Manuel - reportedly tall, red-haired, and green-eyed  – settled on the East Coast of the North Island in the Waiapu Valley north of Gisborne – Ngati Porou land.  His background was cloaked in mystery, and still is. He came to New Zealand as a whaler, set up business as a trader, and subsequently married five times –folklore has him as being an attractive man, and liked by women ( probably not liked quite as much by the men!)  All his wives were Māori, and all the marriages resulted in children. You can imagine the descendants of these Spanish-Māori unions now number in their thousands.

We have two books on the family in the Central Auckland Research Centre, both written by Vivienne McConnell, a  Manuel descendant, and her husband, Bob. “Olive Branches” is a meaty history that track’s Manuel’s descendants to the 1980s  with photographs and profiles on family members.

"Ole Jose” chronicles the first ever reunion of the Manual Jose clan, held in 1980. For one weekend in December, descendants converged on Tikitini, on the East Coast for a celebration of their Māori/Spanish heritage.  At that time two of Manuel’s grandchildren were present at the reunion,  including 88-year-old Juliana Rickard, herself the mother of eleven “still living” children, 53 grandchildren, 71 great grandchildren and two great,  great grandchildren.  Subsequent reunions have been held, and even trips to Spain. An article in the publication Te Māori at the time, estimated there were 5000 descendants of this one man. Subsequent estimates put the number at more than twice that today.
Māori home in the Urewera Country, 1909.
Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19091230-10-1
Interestingly, it came to light in recent years that while there had been a rumoured connection of Manuel to the South American Incas, this proved false when the discovery of Manuel’s actual birthplace was announced. Valverde, Spain.

Ole Jose!!

More information is available at


This entry was posted on Monday, 17 March 2014 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

One Response to “Mystery Monday: The Manuel Jose Family”

  1. Coincidentally, there is a new play from the Auckland theatre company at the Maidment which explores an East Coast Maori family with Spanish blood coursing through their veins! Check it out here....


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