Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Researching New Zealand Ancestors

New Zealand Ancestors


Photographs of my mother as a child are few, however, those which survived a house fire, show her in Auckland and Rotarua, in New Zealand, as a baby and in the years until she was 6 years of age. The photograph below right, was taken in Rotarua at the age of 10 months. I regret that as I grew up, I did not ask my mother or grandmother any questions about their years spent in New Zealand. It would have saved me quite a lot of searching, had I inquired as to why my mother's parents (Reece-Hoyes/Weston) left Australia and travelled to Auckland with a new baby and why they returned from New Zealand to live in Brisbane, Queensland. 6 years later.

After researching my family for many years, I know that people who immigrate, do so, for any number of reasons including the quest for better work opportunities, improved health or a new start in life. Importantly, I recognise that there is often a family connection involved when people migrate from one place to another. For example, my Irish great grandparents ( White/Thompson) came to Queensland Australia, sponsored by my great grandmother's brother. My Scottish great grandparents ( McDade/Gibson) came also to Queensland, Australia in 1923, sponsored by my great grandmother's sister. A family connection was, I finally discovered, the most likely reason for my mother's parent's move to New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand was the birth place of my maternal great grandfather. The fact that all of my grandfather's paternal relatives lived in Auckland and Rotarua, would have been a certain motivation for relocating his family during the Depression years, to New Zealand, a smaller country with seemingly less employment opportunities than Australia.

So began my search for family in the 'land of the long white cloud.' Since first setting out on the hunt for my mother's Hoyes ancestors, I have had to become very familiar with research in New Zealand as I soon discovered that I had quite a few more ancestors and relatives in both the South and the North Islands. The brother who sponsored my paternal great grandparents from Ireland to the Darling Downs in Queensland, had in fact, arrived in Australia via New Zealand. Still in the South Island around Taieri and Dunedin I discovered many Thompson relatives. On my husband's side, his grandfather, William White, ran away from New Zealand to Sydney Australia at the age of 16. His family farmed on the Canterbury Plains in the Waikari and Hawarden area and his sister's descendants still live in New Zealand. I have traced the White (+Crail, Jordan) family from New Zealand back to County Down in the 1700's, the Hoyes (+Morley Berry, Berrife), family from New Zealand to Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire in the 1600's and the Thompson (+Clarke, White) family from New Zealand back to County Derry in Ireland in the late 18th century.

William White and family in Harwarden, New Zealand

Here are some of my tips for the best sources for researching ancestors and relatives in New Zealand.

  1. New Zealand Historical Births Deaths and Marriages Online. http://www.bdmonline.dia.govt/nz/ This site has the added bonus of updating daily. If you are searching on November 9, 2010, you can search up to the same date in 1960. If you search again the following day on the 10th of November, the search takes you up to November 10, 1960. You can search for births which occurred at least 100 years ago ( up to 1960), stillbirths which occurred at least 50 years ago, marriages and civil unions which took place at least 50 years ago and deaths which happened at least 50 years ago (or for a person whose birth date was at least 80 years ago). This sounds a little confusing however, it becomes quite simple when you begin to search. When you order certificates you have the choice of ordering copies of certificates or printouts at different prices.

  2. Archives New Zealand and Archways
    http://www.archives.govt.nz/ http://www.archway.archives.govt.nz/ There are more than 1.5 million records which have been collected from government agencies and are held in the New Zealand Archives. The Archive search facility, Archway, is a collection of records from the four main archive centres in New Zealand - Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin. This is an excellent place to find probate and divorce records, company records including registration, insolvency and bankruptcy, land titles and war service records and much more. There are a number of ways to access records from the Archives, such as online access or ordering online. I found that a telephone call or an email to the archives to check whether records contained the information I was looking for was met with friendly and helpful assistance before committing to ordering. I have ordered the divorce records for several ancestors from Arhives new Zealand and these documents providied me with much more information than I could have hoped for. Included were copies of personal correspondence, photographs, addresses and of course some insight into the character of my ancestors. Company records have also provided a source of particularly useful information.

  3. The Society of New Zealand Genealogists http://www.genealogy.org.nz/ If you have a few New Zealand relatives, then membership with this Society may be very worthwhile. Currently the yearly charge for a standard membership is $82 and in my opinion, is money well spent. In addition to an especially interesting 'first family' search you can easily access passenger records through a simple name search. This search can link you to descendants as well as ancestors. New Zealand cemetery records, newspapers and many more New Zealand records, Interest groups, Research assistance, English, Scottish and other resources as well as one of the best produced members magazines I have yet to see, make this society a must for New Zealand researchers.

  4. The National Library of New Zealand http://www.natlib.govt.nz/ New Zealand's National Library is a great place to explore a diverse range of online collections as well as making use of the online 'ask a librarian' service. Librarians always seem eager to be of assistance. I have found that emailing New Zealand libraries has resulted in many of my questions being answered and in several instances I have been referred on to historical societies by helpful librarians. This happened recently when I contacted the Christchurch Library http://www.christchurchcitylibraries.com/ . In a reply to my email, the very kind librarian informed me that she had contacted the Waipari Historical Society on my behalf. I received an email from a researcher from this group within days and he had much information to pass on to me free of charge. Coincidentally he put me in touch with someone who he believed 'might know the area you are researching' who actually turned out to be a cousin!

  5. The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre http://www.nzetc.org/ This site is a wonderful resource for family historians. A part of the Victorian University of Wellington Library, it houses a wealth of searchable collections of heritage documents and other digital material such as correspondence, biographies, journals and a vast amount of information about New Zealand history. Also on this site is the Cyclopedia of New Zealand which is a collection of biographies of prominent people in provincial areas including the Canterbury and Auckland Provincial areas. There are Railway Magazines, Farming stories to be read as well as information about soldiers at Gallipoli and much more. There is so much of interest on this website that you could easily find yourself spending quite a lot of time searching here.

  6. New Zealand Museums New Zealand has some wonderful museums which hold excellent records and material of special interest to family historians. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/ holds archived records which are worth searching online. Another excellent resource in the South island of new Zealand is the Canterbury Mueum. http://www.canterburymuseum.com/ This museum has many interesting collections but of particular interest to family historians is its searchable Documentary Centre which contains a wealth of information about New Zealand heritage and history through letter, diaries, and narratives of people and places. The Whakapapa or Family History section of this musuem holds some very important collections such as The Clifford Collection of Photographic Portraits of Canterbury People, indexed by name and the MacDonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biographies which comprises more than 20,000 'biographical entries for Canterbury people from prominent to less well known citizens'.

  7. Passenger Lists There are quite a few websites which you may find helpful in your search for ships on which your ancestors arrived in New Zealand. Google is an excellent tool for finding ships passenger lists however, here are some sites which I found helpful: http://www.listjaunay.com/ http://www.genealogylinks.net/newzealand/nzships.htm http://www.coraweb.com.au.nzsites.htm/

Some of the stories of my New Zealand Ancestors can be found on my blogsite http://www.sharn-genealogyjottings.blogspot.com/

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