Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific

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Two academic staff at the University of Otago, Judith A. Bennett and Angela Wanhalla, have edited this excellent book, Mothers' Darlings of the South Pacific, tracing stories of those children born to Pacific Island women and American servicemen during the Second World War.  Making use of oral histories, the various authors interviewed children of these love affairs: relationships that took place in the South Pacific islands during the war.

There are chapters covering islands from New Caledonia, to Tonga, the Gilbert Islands and the Solomons, but a must-read is the chapter on New Zealand: "I don't like Maori girls going out with Yanks." Between the years 1942 and 1944, 100,000 American soldiers were stationed here, as the February 1942 Battle of Darwin made the threat of invasion frighteningly real. The Kiwi girls were taken with the American men, as Mihipeka Edwards remembered: We (would) gaze at these beautiful specimens of manhood, so handsome. Even the not-so-handsome are tall and beautifully turned out, smartly uniformed and very military in their stance. I am carried away. I forget I am married.

The book is about the children born out of these relationships: some relationships were short lived, while others were true love stories that existed amidst the social climate of the time, the difficulties in dealing with bureaucracy, and the reality of men serving in a world war, men who were always going to leave New Zealand. Some of those babies were raised under the Maori whangai system, with young mothers playing the part of aunt or even a much older sister. There are stories of the men who wanted to stay with their "new" family but were unable to, such as Raymond Gipe who served in the US Navy, fell in love with Vivienne, fathered a son, Leroy, but who had to return home. As his family recalls:
"He loved Vivienne. It was not just a one night stand. He married her. He had his son registered and he was named after his father...  I think he tried on several occasions to get Leroy and Vivienne to come over. We understood that she was fearful of the ugly side of America, being Maori." Raymond provided for Leroy and on his death, left his estate to him.

There are the stories of mothers and families who tried to keep the identity of the father secret, of men who promised to return but couldn't or wouldn't, and stories of those children anxious to learn the truth of their birth parents. In some cases, information was deliberately withheld; for some mothers, there was a fear the children would be sent to America to live. John, for example, went searching for his birth father, Don, but discovered he'd passed away some years before. Yet in finding his American family, he learnt his father had known all about him, that his birth mother had sent photos and news of him to America, that Don had told his wife he had a New Zealand son, and that up to his death, he carried a photo around of John - the son he had never known.
Rusty Floyd (US Navy)
His niece has been searching for her Tongan relative. (p.173)
There are wonderful stories of reunions, although stories of sadness, too, from both sides of the "family." The descendants of Rusty Floyd who served in the US Navy, know he fathered (and abandoned) a child in Tonga but have no idea if the child was male or female, making the search for their relative near impossible. And in the chapter on the Cook Islands, Helen talks about having a pampered childhood as the only American in her family, and treasuring a photo of her USA grandmother that her father, Tom, left for her.  But there was grief for her mother, Ito. "When Tom learned he was being shipped out, he requested an army transport to bring Ito to the base to say goodbye. This request arrived too late, and Ito was so upset she refused to talk about this for many years. Helen believes her mother was traumatised by this experience of being pregnant, and not having the opportunity to say goodbye."
Might pay to grab a tissue for this one, people!
There are borrowable copies on the catalogue but be warned. This is one popular book, and you'll most likely need to place a hold/request, but there's no charge to do this, and you can pick the book up at any of our 55 libraries - whatever is convenient for you.

Joanne - Central Research

Saturday settlers: Settling New Zealand

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With the tens of thousands of refugees seeking safety in countries other than their own, we might reflect on the European settlers of NZ in the 1800s and their (comparatively) less traumatic but often torrid, journeys to this land of hope.

There are a number of books written on the subject. Some describe the voyage over of these immigrants and the lives they'd led in their lands of birth but also how they settled into this new country.

No Simple Passage : The journey of the London to New Zealand, 1849 – a ship of hope  describes the London’s journey to New Zealand in 1849. The author has created a diary of the trip her ancestor, Rebecca Remington, and fellow migrants made using, among other sources, the journals of the ship’s captain and that of a cabin passenger. She describes the England they escaped, the perils of the trip and follows the lives of the families on-board when they are in New Zealand.

The immigrants : The great migration from Britain to New Zealand, 1830-1890, is a scholarly read, describing the journeys of more than four million people who left the British Isles for New Zealand.  Tony Simpson looks at the reasons people left Britain, why they chose New Zealand, the schemes and incentives encouraging them to come here, their expectations, and how they found it when they arrived. Charlotte Godley wrote to a friend from Riccarton in 1852:

‘I am a little afraid of being alone. There are a number of somewhat disreputable people among our neighbours in the bush, some thirty or forty men, I should think, living [in] it for the present, to cut timber, and whose songs and jollifications at their evening tea parties, we can hear till late at night.’

On another level, but giving a compelling picture all the same, Mrs Shirley Kendall transcribed the Medical and Surgical Journal of the freight ship “Sir Robert Sale” 10th of June to 22nd of November 1847 by John James Lancaster, Surgeon Superintendent, M.D. from the original document held at the Public Record Office, Kew.

Divided into different sections we have Dr Lancaster’s Daily Sick List:

with another section on particular case studies

and a nice extra;  brief family histories of those London immigrants.

The above resources are just tasters of what we have in our collections at Auckland Libraries. They tell the stories of these hardy travellers who sought refuge for whatever reason in an unknown country, millions of miles from their own.


Family history Friday:- Free genealogy app for children

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Sharing family stories with your children is a great way of connecting with them, and also connecting them with their past. Often it sparks an interest in history as children begin to understand the context of the times that these family members lived in.

Children are very adept at technology, and frequently learn about the cool apps before the adults do. Many games and educational tools are developed for them, with some taking off and becoming a craze.

A new app out, is Little Family Tree which is designed to help teach younger kids about their family relationships and personal heritage using photos, games and activities pitched at their level.

It requires log-ons to connect to a family tree in FamilySearch or PhpGedView and offers five games for free, with an additional five games for $US3.99.

Great fun!

Read Thomas MacEntee review on Geneapress for a broader perspective.

Happy hunting