The wedding church

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I recently heard someone refer to St George’s Anglican Church in Auckland, as being the ‘wedding’ church. I’d been to a funeral once there, a few years back, and thought it was a
pretty amazing historic building with all the wood and the stained glass windows and the old fashioned pews. But I'd never thought of it as a wedding church, and in fact had never realised there was such a thing. Granted, the person who told me this was of an age where she had seen her children married in the kind of weddings that require a PhD in Organisation along with a serious talk with someone at the bank. Barefoot on a beach with a single daisy was never going to cut it with those girls. But for there to be such a thing as a wedding church? My ignorance on such matrimonial matters is clearly appalling.
Thus it was quite a co-incidence when I was checking out the new books here at the Central Research Centre this week, that I saw a copy of  a book celebrating the centenary of St George’s Church in Epsom. Surely this was a sign that I should write about the wedding church. Plus we are still in June, and June is the month of weddings (Juno being the Roman goddess of marriage). I've no doubt the wedding churches of the world are overflowing with marital loveliness right now.

Back to the book. Besides general information on the church and its history (although previous histories were written at the 50th and the 75th anniversaries) for the family historian, the gems lie in the accompanying disc. It lists office holders from 1914-2015 so if you wondered if your Anglican ancestors were on the parish council, then he or she will be named.  It doesn’t provide much more information than names but its a good start or confirmation of info you might have.
The other nice touch, though, is the pdf of the 1953 St George’s Messenger, a charming little publication that gives heaps of parish info for the year. The parish had benefitted from the estate of the late Mr H. Butler to a hundred pounds, and Mrs Partridge was much appreciated for playing the organ and managing the Sunday School. A Coronation
Dance was being planned in June to celebrate Her Majesty's coronation the month before, and a nice tribute was paid to Mr G. Chevis who had 'the remarkable record of over 50 years of continuous choir work, many of which have been spent at St. George's. His choir service has been an inspiration, as there have been few Sundays on which he has not been present twice a day. We offer him our heartfelt sympathy in his illness..." So there are lots of little gems like that within its pages about parishioners.

What caught my eye as I flicked through, though, was the following comment on page seven, about purchasing the property next door.  "In addition to the many present advantages, the parish now has adequate land for a rebuilding scheme, when the time comes in the far distant future for our wooden buildings to  be replaced." The church as we know it was built in 1926. No doubt there are a good number of brides and grooms eternally grateful that the old wooden building wasn't knocked down and replaced.
We have a selection of church histories of all denominations in the research centre, including the St George's Church Golden Jubilee book from 1965. There is so much information in these books, they're worth a browse for any gems you might find, if not for a look at an aspect of New Zealand culture in the early parts of the last century. You can do a search on our catalogue. Just typing in the name of the church in the catalogue will do the trick.

Joanne - Central Research Centre

Tombstone Tuesday: Finding out more about ‘stories on stone’.

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As part of Auckland Libraries’ Family History Lunchtime Series I was able to hear Lyn Whelan speaking on ‘Stories on Stone'. This talk on monumental inscriptions provided a wealth of information about the purposes of the inscriptions, what can be found, and tips for using these in our family history research.

Reynolds Family grave, photographed by James D. Richardson
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC284
Monumental inscriptions have the ability to tell as more about the lives of those they memorialise. For family historians the information to be found can range from names, relatives and dates, to unique historical events and clues to the history of the community. Clues are important; they may not provide us any answers but they can point us in the right direction, towards our next step or to new information on family we already knew about.

Inspired by Lyn’s talk I spent time looking into monumental inscriptions of my own family.

Using the Auckland Council page of cemetery databases as a starting point for those who I knew lived in Auckland proved fruitful, as did more specific searches for relatives where I knew the name of the cemetery.

Auckland Libraries has a wealth of information about cemeteries in Auckland, and further afield. Coming into one of our Research Centres opens the door to a wide range of resources and indexes of cemeteries, as well as the help of our knowledgeable staff when your search hits a wall.

My journey into discovering more about my relatives leads me to the next step of visiting their final resting places in Pukekohe. I am lucky enough to still live in Auckland where many of my relatives are buried. Those who would have to travel further afield may find that the wealth of headstone transcriptions and photos now online and in the library provide them with a similar experience. For everyone monumental inscriptions provide us with the ability to use the information we find as the next clues for discovering more about our families and the world they lived in.

The Close Family, photographed by James D. Richardson, 1890-1899
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-RIC334
Monumental inscriptions for Symonds St Cemetery can be found in our Family History eResources and Databases.

Some photographs of headstones can be found in our Heritage Images database, and there are other photographs that haven't been digitised yet, that can be ordered from Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Central Auckland Research Centre has a large number of monumental inscription and tombstone transcription books available for a wide range of countries.

For those that missed out on Lyn’s talk, or who want to look further, can also find videos of a number of talks that took place during New Zealand Cemeteries' Heritage Week on our website.

Be sure to come along to the Family History Lunchtime Series for 2016 at Central City Library: more information about the talks and booking your place can be found at the link.

Happy researching


Carrying on at the homefront

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As the introduction to this lovely little book says, the history of the Second World war continues to horrify and fascinate us, and often leaves us wondering - how would I have coped? What would I have done?
The British Home Front Pocket-book is a mix of official documentation from the second world war that covers aspects of life from rationing, to how to build an air raid shelter, conscription, the uses of radio and TV, to how to deal with an incendiary bomb in the street. 
On the latter, the advice if the bomb has landed in an unsafe place is to pick up a sandbag (placed in doorways and at lamp posts for just this sort of thing), approach the bomb, place the sandbag on it (don't throw it, whatever you do), then run!

The author has taken leaflets and official publications such as The Evacuation Leaflet, Public Information Leaflet No. 3 issued in July 1939:
There are still a number of people who ask "What is the need for all this business about evacuation? Surely if war comes it would be better for families to stick together and not go breaking up their homes?"...If we were involved in war, our big cities might be subjected to determined attacks from the air-at any rate in the early stages-and although our defences are strong and are rapidly growing stronger, some bombers would undoubtedly get through.... one of the first measures we can take to prevent this is the removal of the children from the more dangerous areas.

On the chapter covering Air Raids: "Your Home as an air raid shelter" (Issued by the Ministry of Home Security, 1940) offers practical suggestions:
"There are three ways in which you can provide your household with shelter. First, you can buy a ready-made shelter to bury or erect in the garden. Secondly, you can have a shelter of brick and concrete built into or attached to the house. Thirdly, you can improve the natural protection given by your house by forming a "refuge room."  The first two of these generally give better protection against bomb splinters than the third but cost more."

From "The British Home Front Pocket-Book 1940-1942"
This is a fascinating little book to have a browse through. There is only one copy on Auckland Libraries catalogue, and it's a reference only copy at the Central Research Centre. You'll find it on the shelf along with plenty of books that detail this period of England's history, memories that still live on with some of our families today.