Treasure Chest Thursday: A gold mine not to be overlooked

No Comments »

When sorting through some books that had been donated to us, a while back, I came across a copy of NZ Pioneers’ & Descendants’ Club Inc. Silver Jubilee 1939-1964 booklet of which there are several copies in the libraries’ collection.  This small publication runs to 63 pages and probably would not attract the attention of many if seen on the library’s catalogue or a shelf somewhere.

How wrong we would be to disregard this little gem!  It gives a brief history of the club and why it was set up: “To create the spirit of friendship; To get memories of the early days published in detail…”  The rest of the booklet offers much for those whose forebears either belonged to the club or are the subjects of the histories included.  There is a list of present and past officers, list of current members and date when forebear arrived, ships date of arrival and member’s name, alphabetical list of surnames mentioned in articles followed by many brief details about (mainly grandparent) immigrants who arrived in the 1840s-1870s.

Some entries give a human insight into events such as the Waikato and Taranaki Wars that you don't get from the many history books available to us; while many of the members were living in Auckland their immigrant forebears settled all over New Zealand.

The following is an extract from a typical entry “…The family travelled by bullock waggon along the coast to Bulls, finally settling at York Farm, Marton.  He was hopeless as a farmer, so became a teacher.”  This man was not alone in failing at what he chose to do on arrival in order to put food on the family table.

An interesting read, and pure gold for anyone whose ancestor is listed.

Marie Hickey

Woeful Wednesday: Records for the poor

No Comments »

The Otago Benevolent Institution Casebooks

During their research, most family historians will find a family who were not only poor but required the assistance of the parish or government in order to make ends meet.  Many of you reading this will be familiar with records available for such circumstances in the UK- but what about New Zealand?

Unfortunately, there aren't many records available in New Zealand relating to those who needed help for short or longer periods.  However, all is not lost.  Archives NZ is the first place to look for such records – the hospital, police and charity record series should be of use, as well as Department of Education, Social Security, Child Welfare and District/Magistrates Courts.  The Appendices of the Journal of the House of Representatives (AJHRs or A to Js) can also be fruitful and these are available on-line, up until 1954 and name searchable.
Outdoor Relief Casebook Nos 1-556

One of the earlier charitable agencies were the Benevolent Societies. The Auckland Benevolent Society is the oldest in New Zealand, and was formed to provide non-institutional aid to women and children through voluntary charitable work with an emphasis on personal visits, providing advice and sympathy as well as support in kind, clothing, food, blankets, rent, fares etc.

Recently the records for the Otago Benevolent Institution Outdoor Relief casebooks 1889-c.1910 were digitised; they can be viewed for FREE through the Archway website  Each volume is indexed although on volume is missing.

As I have family in Dunedin, I decided to have a look “on spec” and was duly rewarded. So what did I learn?  Quite a lot. Such as how much rent was paid, the amount of relief paid and when, where they lived, if anyone in the house was working, what they did, and how much they were paid, and the circumstances of application. For example: “Husband been in the Asylum for the last 14 months. She says she does very little work.” You also get insight into the character of those involved, such as this comment: “There is not a bit of reliance to be placed upon this woman's word.” Other information includes how long they'd been receiving assistance and any extras that were paid for, such as boots.

Outdoor Relief Casebook Nos 4447-5004
This has given me more of a sense of the character of the women involved and an insight into their living conditions. I'm unaware of any other Benevolent Society casebooks having been digitised so you'd probably need to visit Archives NZ to view those for the area of your interest but it will be a worthwhile exercise.

Marie Hickey -  Central Research

Wisdom Wednesday: Researching Chinese laundries in New Zealand

No Comments »

The Chinese have a rich history in New Zealand and are amongst our earliest settlers - with large numbers arriving in the 1850s for the gold rush.

Unfolding history, evolving identity,
the Chinese in New Zealand

by Manying Ip
There have been some awesome books written about early Chinese. On our Chinese history and family history pages we highlight the famous books Windows on a Chinese Past written by James Ng and Unfolding history, evolving identity, the Chinese in New Zealand by Manying Ip.

However, we also have several books in our collection written by other authors and researchers such as Helen Wong's In the mountain's shadow : a century of Chinese in Taranaki 1870 to 1970 = Zai shan de yin ying : yi ge shi ji han ren Taranaki 1870 dao 1970 and To be Jungseng in New Zealand : descendants of Jungseng villagers who migrated to New Zealand from 1890.

Search in our catalogue using keywords "Chinese" and "New Zealand" for many other titles.

At the Auckland Family History Expo in August, the Chinese community of researchers had their own table, where they displayed many of the books that they had published.

The Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust has commissioned a project to research and produce a book about the history of Chinese owned and operated laundries in New Zealand, from the first laundries in the 1890s to the 1960s and 1970s when few remained.

They want to ensure that this significant part of New Zealand's social history is not lost. This project aims to preserve their memories of those times.

So if you know anyone in the Chinese community, or anyone else, who may be willing to share information, photographs or their memories of Chinese laundries, please contact:

Joanna Boileau, phone 09 528 1174 or 0226 710 334, 
or you could email her on

Happy hunting