Archive for December 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.