Those Places Thursday: Norsewood - A special settlement

No Comments »

A few months back, on a day trip around the Hawke's Bay, I happened upon Norsewood, just north of Dannevirke. Norsewood was famous for that line of outdoor clothing Norsewear and appropriately the day I passed through, I could have done with some Norsewear. Wild weather was bashing the North Island, and by the time we left Norsewood it had begun to get dark and the passengers were starting to get a little nervous. We were about to head through the Manawatu Gorge. At night.

The home of Ole Lund and family
Secretly, I thought the advantage of driving through the Manawatu Gorge in the dark was that you couldn't see how far down you'd fall if the car went off the road. It's quite a drop. The other plus was that we were on the side farthest from potential doom, although with the tendency for the gorge to suffer slips, I would never be bold enough to assume I'd get through in one piece, even in daylight.
We had stopped at Norsewood in the freezing, violent wind, to take photos, but  not of anything Norwegian. It was Massey graduation week, and we were having a bit of fun taking pictures wearing graduation robes. It was a quite brilliant idea that had struck me with amazing clarity the day before. Since we were heading up for a tiki tour of Hawke's Bay, why not, I suggested, take our wizard robes and caps, stop off heaps along the way and take pics. It was a great plan until we hit Norsewood. At that point, wrecked by the wind, we lasted about ten seconds standing in front of the Jail sign at the Pioneer Museum before we threw ourselves back in the car, wondering if we'd make it through the Gorge in one piece while dreaming about the fish and chips we were going to have when we got home. Fish is a very Scandinavian thing, although probably more preserved herring than, say, deep fried snapper in batter.

Well. You can imagine how intrigued I was, some weeks later, to be back at the library and to find a book all about Norsewood and its settlers. Quite the co-incidence. Not that I have any claim to Scandinavian ancestry, but if you do, or just have an interest in that part of New Zealand, you'll find heaps to keep you occupied while flipping through the pages of  Norsewood: A Special Settlement by Diane and Terry Kitt.
It's a comprehensive history of the area and the (predominantly) Norwegian and Danish settlers, and it has so much detail. It began as a project by the authors who realised there was a lot of incorrect information on the pioneers, and that they needed to go back to the primary sources to figure out what was the truth. Much of their research relates to the land allotments of the special settlement from 1872 up until around 1930 in the area known as the Seventy Mile Bush.  The 'special settlement' was a government system "whereby immigrant men with families should take up the land, finding part-time employment at road making to tide them over the difficult period until their holdings became productive." Thus the aim was to provide labour to build roads and to settle the bush lands.
The book covers detail not only about the land allotments, but about this new tough life, from the jobs (such as sawmilling), the hotels and establishments, the churches, notable identities, to building the railway.  At one point in the 1880s, after nearly a decade of hard work, some settlers had apparently had enough and were planning to abandon the settlement, charter a couple of ships and head to America. You'll also find photos, information sourced from newspapers, and listssuch as a list of all the resident doctors over the decades.
Kudos to the authors for the meticulous work that must have gone into producing all 500 odd pages of the book. Note that their research includes items from the Bush Advocate, the local paper of the time, and that the Bush Advocate can be accessed via Papers Past. I am so going back to Norsewood again to take a better look, and this time, not just to perch outside the old jail for a few gratuitous pics.

Joanne - Central Research

Motivation Monday: NZ Family History Month at Auckland Libraries

No Comments »

August is New Zealand Family History Month!

It is an opportunity for us all to celebrate and commemorate our ancestors. To focus on learning and perhaps contributing to the knowledge that helps us to find out more about our personal heritage.

Libraries, archives, museums, heritage/historical societies and genealogy/family history societies around New Zealand are holding tours, events, lectures and workshops.

Auckland Libraries is no exception. Throughout August, there is a programme of events held at about 20 different Auckland Libraries' venues, From family history storytimes for children, to beginners' classes for new researchers, through to advanced classes for those who may have been researching family and/or local history most of their lives.

As well as the different events held in libraries throughout the Auckland region, there is also the Auckland Family History Expo, that Auckland Libraries and the Genealogical Computing Group of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists have organised for the weekend of Friday, 12 August to Sunday, 14 August.

After the Expo, we have another exciting event at Central Library, on Monday, 15 August. Another opportunity to hear our Expo keynote speakers, Dick Eastman and Shauna Hicks, speak on additional topics. Dick on "Genealogy searches on Google" and Shauna on "Skeletons in the Family: Looking at asylum and prison records."

Some researchers may also be interested in events and tutorials our friends at the NZ Society of Genealogists are holding during Family History Months.

August will be a fun-filled, information packed month for keen researchers!

Happy hunting


The wedding church

No Comments »

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