The 6 o’clock swill

31 Aug 6 oclock swill
Friday night is nearly here and I’m looking forward to a few glasses of wine to mark the end of the working week.  Times have changed since I was a young, single, professional working in Wellington.  Instead of nights on the town, I’m now more than happy to spend the night in with my prior commitments (aka Little Miss A and Little Miss B).

It got me thinking how much times have changed for all of us, particularly when it comes to having a ‘quiet drink’ after work.  It wasn’t so long ago that six o’clock closing was just a way of life for New Zealanders, and publicans of the time were in favour of keeping it that way.

It all started back in World War One when six o’clock closing was introduced as a ‘temporary’ wartime measure.   The prohibition movement had a lot of support at that time and the Government agreed to introduce six o’clock closing rather than put an outright alcohol  ban in place.  This temporary measure became permanent in 1918 was to remain in place for 50 years.

Six o’clock closing was supposed to increase efficiency in the wartime workforce, but it had an unexpected effect:  the six o’clock swill.

In the short space of time between the end of the working day and closing time at the pub, hoardes of men would descend upon the pubs and drink as much beer as they could before last drinks were called.  This became a way of life for most New Zealanders, to the extent that a public referendum in 1949 decisively endorsed retaining six o’clock closing.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, and all that the 60s brought with them, that attitudes began to change and six o’clock closing began to be seen as outdated.  Another public referendum in 1967 overwhelmingly supported a return to 10 o’clock closing and licensing hours seem to have steadily increased since that time.

The NZ History Online site says that “Six o’clock closing has been seen by many commentators as teaching two generations of Kiwi men to drink as fast as possible, contributing to a binge drinking culture.  While early closing was promoted as a way of ensuring that men got home to their families at a respectable hour, critics questioned the condition most men returned in.”

Well, it’s been two generations since they got rid of six o’clock closing and everything points to us still having a binge drinking culture.  Perhaps the cause is deeper than they thought … ?

Finding the right ship

31 Aug Taroba

There’s a real sense of accomplishment when you manage to trace your family tree back to your first ancestors to step foot onto New Zealand soil.  I’m pretty fortunate in this respect, because my research has given me the knowledge that my immigrant ancestors came from England, Ireland and Scotland.

This isn’t as glamorous as I’d hoped it would be.  A small part of me was hoping for a more exotic blend with maybe some French or Italian hidden back in the gene pool.  But glamorous or not, my lineage is absolutely typical of around 80% of all New Zealanders because that’s the approximate percentage of us who have ancestors who came here from the United Kingdom.

Once we know where our ancestors came from, the next piece of the puzzle is to find out how they came here.  It’s a safe bet that they arrived here on board a ship, but what ship?  How long did it take them?  What was it like on board?  To answer these questions, you will need to do a bit of digging into New Zealand shipping records.

Unfortunately, many shipping records no longer exist and many more are not indexed or are not easily accessible.   Shipping records relating to early immigrants who arrived under Government sponsored schemes are the most likely to have been retained, so if your ancestors arrived before 1875 then there is a good chance that you will be able to find their shipping records somewhere.

There is no single database or website that will answer these questions for you, but there are various passenger lists and other bits of shipping information dotted around the Internet.  You just need to know where to look.  In this week’s blog I’m going to share with you top websites to use to track down a New Zealand shipping record or New Zealand passenger list, as well as some good Australian sources.
Top of the list has to be Their extensive database of New Zealand passenger lists covers the period from 1855-1973 and has been created using Archives New Zealand’s microfilm copies of the actual passenger lists.   This database is easy to use because it is searchable by name and/or date and it will provide you with a digital image of the actual passenger list.  I have been told that not all of the entries have been linked to the index though, so if you can’t find your ancestor on a standard name search then you may need to browse through the images.

Auckland Library
The Auckland Library has an easily searchable database of Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals 1838-1889, 1909-1921.
If your ancestors were early immigrants into Auckland then chances are that they will appear on this database.  This was the source which finally cracked the question of when my “Vickery” ancestors arrived into Auckland, and this information then led to other new discoveries.  Bear in mind that this database is an index only so it will not give you an image copy of any passenger lists.  This is still a valuable search tool, and can give you the name of the ship that your ancestors arrived on as well as their date of arrival.  Once you have this information you can then do some more in depth research to find the actual passenger list.

Australian Shipping Records
A surprisingly high proportion of immigrants to New Zealand came via Australia, in which case their shipping records may be held by Australian archives.  If your ancestors were fortune seekers, they may have stopped off in the Victorian goldfields and their shipping records might be found at the Public Record Office Victoria which offers three different databases of passenger lists (indexes only, no actual digital images).  Don’t forget to check their “Interstate” passenger list because this can often identify people who travelled from Victoria into New Zealand.

The New South Wales State Archives has digitised nearly 60 years of passenger lists from 1838-1896 and has made these available online for free searching.  These are not indexed by name though, so you really need to know the name of the ship that your ancestors arrived on and/or the date that they might have sailed into Australia.  To find this, you can do a name search through their “Index to Assisted Immigrants” which covers a range of ports and arrival dates.   This same link will take you through to the “Online microfilm reel of Assisted Shipping lists, 1838-1896” which has the digital images of passenger lists.

Queensland State Archives also has an online index to passenger lists of ships that arrived in Queensland between 1848-1912.  This is an index only, but you can order copies of any passenger lists that are of interest to you for only AUD$12.50 per ship.  Also worth searching is the Archives Office of Tasmania’s database of passenger arrivals during the 19th century, mostly into the port of Hobart.

White Wings
Once you have identified the ship that your ancestors arrived on, and the date that they arrived, you should always check Henry Brett’s “White Wings” publications which are hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre.  These two volumes provide in depth commentaries about many of the ships which entered New Zealand ports between 1840-1900, and you may well find your ancestors’ ships mentioned there.

These are by no means all of the shipping resources that are available online.  There are many talented and dedicated New Zealand genealogists who have created their own websites of passenger list transcriptions, and these are also extremely valuable search tools.   But that’s a blog for another day !


31 Aug

Can you see that bare piece of land, where the small lavender bush meets the hedged border?  That nicely tended piece of earth, in that quietly peaceful cemetery, is where my Great Great Great Grandfather lies buried.

Found, at last.

He wasn’t in the exact spot that I thought he would be, but I guess I should have expected that!   After hiding from view for a hundred years, I should have known that he wouldn’t give up his location quite so easily.  In spite of a false start, I knew he was buried in a plot just to the left his son Henry’s marked grave.  Using that as a marker, I was soon able to find Daniel Dee Hyde’s final resting place.

It was a beautiful Waikato morning, and I found myself thinking that the lavender must have been tickling his toes as the sun warmed his final resting place.

It was a special day for me, and I was lucky to share it with two more Hyde ancestors:  my Aunty Ngaire and my Uncle Vic.  They also came to see the land where our tupuna lay, and to remember the man who was small in stature (his military record records him as being only 5’5″ tall) but large in life and in legacy.  The next step is to mark his grave, and Hamilton Council are helping us along with that process.

As an aside, we live on a half hectare block and have lots of bird visitors, mainly plovers and thrushes.  I have only seen a fantail around our house on one occasion, but a fantail came to visit the day before I flew out to Hamilton to find Daniel’s grave.  It hovered at our window long enough to cause the cats to go mental, then darted away, returning again about an hour later for another look inside.

Today, as I sat down to write this blog, the little fantail appeared again, long enough to make its presence known, then disappeared.

In Maori myth, the fantail is stongly associated with death and is often seen as a bad omen.  But some tribes believe that fantails are spirits of ancestors past, popping in to say hello.  For me, I believe that our fantail visitor was Daniel’s way of giving me his blessing to find his grave, and to share his story.  I hope to see it again.

Hunting for graves

31 Aug
I’m off to find a grave and it’s not going to be easy. 

This is an unmarked grave in an historical cemetery and I know that many before me have tried to find it, without success.  I’ve done my research and have my map marked out, and I’m quietly confident that I’m going to solve this mystery.  With luck, I will be the first person in maybe half a century to pay their respects to one of Hamilton’s founding fathers, Daniel Dee Hyde.

Daniel wasn’t famous, wealthy or saintly.  He was an ordinary man of ordinary means who just happened to lead an extraordinary life.

Daniel was born into a working class family in London but was lured to Australia by the Victorian gold rush and the promise of a better life.  He soon married and had three children, then lost his wife to tuberculosis.

Perhaps Daniel had little choice but to accept the “King’s Shilling” because he signed up to move to New Zealand and fight in the Waikato War just two months after the death of his wife.   In return for his service Daniel was promised a steady wage, 1 acre of land in the township and at least 50 acres of farmland.   Despite the obvious dangers, this must have been a fairly attractive package for a solo father whose family had never been landowners.

Daniel became soldier number 271 in the 4th Regiment of the Waikato militia and was in the group of military settlers that first set foot on the site of the present town of Hamilton on 24 August 1864.  He remarried in New Zealand and had a further nine sons and one daughter, founding a “Hyde” dynasty which now numbers in the hundreds of descendants in New Zealand and Australia.

I think he’s an amazing character and the more I learn about him the more I warm to him.

I know that Daniel was ambitious and adventurous because he left London when he was only 17 to seek his fortune in Australia.   I know that he was heroic because he once risked his own life to save a little girl who had fallen down a water-filled well.  I also know that he was courageous because he left his Australian life behind him and took on a new and dangerous profession in the hope of securing land and a future for his young family.

But what I love about Daniel is that he was a deeply flawed human being who had a liking for the drink and the odd bit of public nuisance making.  He was once convicted of using obscene language in public, and his wife was so fed up with his exploits that she got a court order preventing local publicans from supplying him with liquor.

What I have learned about Daniel is that he had real strengths and real weaknesses, and this makes him real to me.  I admire his acts of bravery.  I can relate to his character flaws and I sincerely hope that my own children, his 4th great grandchildren, will carry a little of his adventurous spirit and strength of character.

Acknowledgements:  My understanding of Daniel’s life and character has been greatly informed by the prior research of other Hyde descendants and researchers, namely Georgea, Dawn and Suzanne.  I remain indebted to them for the genealogical generosity and hope to meet them all one day and share a drink with them in honour of our shared ancestor (and maybe create a bit of public nuisance of our own).

Finding NZ Military Records – Part 3 – WW2 records online

31 Aug

I had a call earlier this week from a gentleman who wanted to know how to find information online about someone who had served in the New Zealand military in the Second World War.  This person had not been posted overseas and had, therefore, survived the War.

Of course, the kids chose that precise time to launch an all-out offensive of their own.  You know, the kind of aggressive meltdown that follows you from room to room as you try to escape.   Between the screams and the slamming doors, I managed to pass on a couple of places to look for more information.  But now that I’ve had a moment to reflect I’ve come up with a few more hunting grounds.

So, Stan, wherever you are, this one’s for you.

Records from the Second World War are a lot harder to access than earlier conflicts.  We have some fairly robust privacy laws in New Zealand and most of the official records that genealogists are interested in, particularly the records that contain personal information, are sealed for around 100 years from the date of their creation to protect the privacy of living persons.  Most of the records which were created during the Second World War will fall within this privacy window and public access to those records is often restricted.  This is why there are very few online resources or searchable databases for this time period in New Zealand.

Bearing that in mind, some good information is still out there.  You many not find it easily or all in one place, but that’s all part of the fun, right?

Without a doubt, the best starting point for finding information about Second World War veterans is the New Zealand Defence Force Archives at Trentham Army Camp near Wellington.  They will send you a copy of a veteran’s service record for no charge, provided that you fill in the form that you will find here and give them some proof that the veteran in question is now deceased.  I know that this isn’t exactly an instant, online source of information, but it is the best source which is why I’ve put it first.

If you are looking for an Army Veteran then you can search the New Zealand Army WWII Nominal Rolls, 1939-1948 database at  This is a subscription based site but the index is free to search and you can always sign up for a 14 day free trial if your search gets a result that you want to see.  The database contains the names of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force which fought in Egypt, the Middle East, Greece, Italy and many other battles in the Mediterranean region and the Pacific.  This database only covers Army personnel, so if your veteran was Navy or Air Force then they won’t be listed here.

If you suspect that your veteran might have served with the 28th Maori Battalion, then you should search their online Battalion Roll which lists the 3600 men who fought with the Battallion between 1941 and 1945.     The Battalion Roll search page also has a link through to a list of people who served in units which worked closely with the 28th Maori Battalion.

The newspapers of the time are also a good resource.  Not only did they print Rolls of Honour and casualty lists, but they also printed many of the appointments, names, ranks and postings of military personnel.  The PapersPast website has digitised a range of historical newspapers up to 1945 and the site will allow you to search these newspapers by keyword.  Enter your veteran’s surname into the search field, limit the search to the war years and see what you find. If you get too many results, try limiting your search even further by adding in “Army”, “Navy” or “Air Force” into your key words.

Also have a look at NZ History Online which has an entire section dedicated to the Second World War. This site has at least one searchable personnel database (Boer War embarkation database), but you can also do a name search over the entire site to see what comes up for more recent conflicts.  Be aware that even if you get no results in your main search, there is a text box which comes up on the right hand side of the screen showing results from related sites.

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre is a magnificent resource and should never be overlooked.  Try a name search in the main search screen and see what you find.  Even if your veteran doesn’t appear by name, this site will definitely have something of interest to you.  For example, I think that Stan’s veteran was in the Air Force but served exclusively in New Zealand.  In that case, this chapter on the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s base organisation in New Zealand between 1943-1945 will be particularly relevant.

Once you know where and when your veteran served, you can drill down to get a lot more information about how they experienced the War.  There is a range of Veterans’ Associations, including the RSA, which maintain the bonds forged during the War, so if you are able to find the right organisation for your veteran it might even be possible to track down another living veteran who served in the same unit.

There are an astonishing number of publications available which can provide amazing details about Unit histories and the like.  From my own personal experience, I was able to read a full account of the moment that my Great Uncle Alastair was recovered unconscious from the ocean on his final, fatal flight by reading a history of the aircraft carrier that he had been stationed on.

Information leads to more information.  So keep chipping away.
You never know where the next clue is going to take you.

Genealogical serendipity

31 Aug

I had a moment this week when I found myself just shaking my head with disbelief.  It was one of those moments where you don’t quite believe what you’re seeing, but you’re smiling.  I call it a moment of ‘genealogical serendipity’.

‘Serendipity’ means the aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, or having the wisdom to link together apparently unrelated facts to come to a valuable conclusion.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that I seem to be having more and more of these moments of genealogical serendipity as I do more and more research.

This time, my moment of serendipity started with the Battle of Waterloo.

I have a distant relative called Althea who is an accomplished genealogist.  A week ago, she sent me a copy of a her latest find: the obituary of one of our common ancestors, Margaret Cornes (nee Graham ).  It made fascinating reading.  It turns out that Margaret’s father was a soldier and as a young child she was at Sir John Moore’s retreat in Corunna.  She must have lived and travelled with the Army, because her obituary says she was 8 or 9 years old at the Battle of Waterloo and marched into Paris with the allied armies.  Afterwards she saw Napoleon on board the Bellerophon as he was exiled to St Helena.Wow!  Waterloo!  Napoleon!  Sir John Who?  I had to look it up.

I learned that Sir John Moore was a British soldier and General who died at Corunna after having been fatally wounded by a canon shot to his chest.  The retreat to Corunna, where Margaret found herself as a young child, was one of the epic campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars.  Sir John Moore was with his small army deep inside Spanish territory, and the French were advancing, so he had little option by to order a retreat to the port of Corunna.  This was reportedly extremely arduous and involved the armies travelling over mountainous terrain, with appalling roads, in the depths of Winter.

So where’s the serendipity?

Well, just two days after I’d learned about my family’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars I was doing some research for a close friend of mine.  She has “Vicary” ancestors and I have “Vickery” ancestors so I was trying to find a connection.  Nothing.  More research … still nothing.  More research  …  still nothing.  Then I found her Great Uncle’s obituary:

“Mr George Carder, a colonist of 55 years’ standing, died at Hobsonville last week, at the age of 78. 
Mr Carder was a great-grandson of Sir John Moore.”  


Sir John Who?!?!  What ?!?!

Sir John Moore.  This great man had suddenly gone from being someone who I had never heard of to someone of great meaning to both of our family lines, appearing twice in two days.  Genealogical serendipity.

The curious fact here is that George’s obituary says he was Sir John Moore’s great grandson, but Sir John Moore never married and has no known children.  There are reports that he did have illegitimate children, though none of these seem to have been verified.  All that we would need to do to prove that Sir John Moore’s line lives on in New Zealand would be to find a living male descendant of Sir John Moore’s equally accomplished brother, Vice Admiral Sir Graham Moore, and check a swab of their DNA against that of my friend’s father.

So, tracking down Sir Graham Moore’s living descendants.

How hard could it be …. ?

Leaving a disaster zone

31 Aug

The newspapers are full of reports of families who have fled Christchurch and will never come back.  And who can blame them.  The city is a mess.

Aftershocks keep rattling our homes with gut wrenching frequency, and some residents are now into their third week without power, water or sewage facilities.  To top it all off, a well known psychic and a notorious weatherman are both predicting that there is worse to come.  Great.

The fact is that many people are choosing to leave Christchurch permanently.  That is a perfectly logical response to a disaster of this scale.  It is estimated that 70,000 people left Christchurch immediately after the 22 February earthquake and a good percentage of these people will not be coming back.

Looking into the future, this is the sort of mass migration that will become a marker for the next generation of genealogists, sociologists and historians.   People “fall off the grid” for a variety of reasons, but most commonly because they have either changed their name or changed their location through migration.  Because of this, it is particularly important for researchers to have an understanding of the events and circumstances which have caused people to migrate.

Most of us are pretty familiar with some of the “push” factors which caused our European ancestors to emigrate.  The Great Famine in Ireland caused more than a million Irish from their homeland between 1845 and 1852, and the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries led to mass Scottish emigration to the Scottish Lowlands and North America.  But we often overlook the causes of smaller migrations, particularly when they’re much closer to home.

Like the Pike River Mine disaster last year, 34 miners lost their lives in South Otago in 1879 when there was an explosion in the Kaitangata Coal Mine near Balclutha. The Roll of the Dead published in the Christchurch Press reveals the bleak reality of those left behind.  The entire community was decimated.  As one example, five men of the Beardsmore family were killed, leaving at least 19 women and children of that one family group without financial support and without the safety net of modern social welfare payments.

Although I haven’t researched any of families who were directly involved in this disaster, it seem likely that many of the widows left Kaitangata permanently and either returned home to the “Old Country” or started new lives in new locations, far away from the memories.

We remember the magnitude 7.8 Hawke’s Bay earthquake in 1931 which levelled much of Napier and Hasting and killed at least 256 people.  The city of Napier was evacuated the day after the quake because the lack of water and sewage meant that the risk of disease was high.  Napier was a city of 30,000 at that time, and over 5000 people left the city immediately.  Although the city was rebuilt, it’s reasonable to assume that many of the quake refugees would never have returned.

If you come across an ancestor who seems to have disappeared somewhere in New Zealand, then it would pay to have a look for any major events which might have caused them to uproot.  New Zealand History Online has a timeline of New Zealand disasters which might help to explain why your ancestors suddenly moved on from an area where they had been well established.  Try to place yourself in their shoes and think what you might do if you were faced with similar circumstances.   

For most of us, the answer to disaster is to seek shelter and comfort with close friends or family.  So if you have lost an ancestor in a disaster zone, find their family and there’s a good chance that you will find them too.


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