A Century Since the Great War – Memoirs of a Soldier

IN HIS OWN WORDS

FROM THE MEMOIRS OF MY GRANDFATHER

To mark this year’s Rememberance Day, I’m going to write a copy of my Grandfather’s memoirs which were included in my Uncle Jim’s book “Our Father”. What better way than to write it from his own perspective. We are lucky to have this account of his war years.

“Harold has left an account of you youthful years in Hoylake which he has entitled “Memoirs of a Cheshire Cat”. The story begins in 1914 when he was 18 years of age. Quote: “Meet you as usual on the ‘Prom’ tonight, near the band.” “Right-o, Ernie!” The ‘Prom’ in question, my home, a small seaside town (Hoylake) some eight miles from Liverpool. The Band – a small band of Hungarians who came for the season each year, making a living from the collections amoung the seaside visitors. Ernie – my pal, Ernie Bryers with whom I spent most of my leisure hours. Time – the last week in July, 1914. The sun was just setting behind Hilbre Island, in a fiery sea.

Ernie was already at the rendevous when I arrived … but no band! Odd clusters of people waited around; there was a rumour going about that the Hungarians has been suddenly recalled because of a threat of war with Austria. On that beautiful evening, with straw boater worn at a rakish angle attached to the lapel of my coat by a thin black cord, set off by a bow tie and a winged collar, there were no thoughts of war which meant nothing to us.

Within a week, ‘war’ was on everyone’s lips. Ernie and I still met on the Prom, but all our mates had gone, being Territorial Reservists. Come the 6th August – Yes, we’d better go to town and enlist like everyone else; the show will be over by Christmas, and we may as well be in for the fun. Upon enlisting, our first taste of things to come was to stand naked in long rows, waiting for the doctors to ‘pass’ us. I walked out of St. George’s Hall in Lime St., a soldier for the duration – Private 16471, H. Norris of the 18th Kings Liverpool Regiment, with the customary shilling.

Little did I know ‘which’ Christmas would see me home again. There followed five years of intense military training, crammed into twelve months, by officers and N.C.O.s of the Grenadier Guards, under Colonel Trotter. By the time we were to go overseas – sailing from Southhampton in November, 1915 – we had been tested to carry our 90lbs pack on a route march of 28 miles in one day. In truth, the regiment was fighting fit, the men at their physical peak.

A murky November morning found us in Calais, being herded into cattle trucks for destination unknown. We arrived eventually at Doullens, whence we trekked to Bray on the Somme, taking over a quiet part of the trenches in the village of Carnay. Then followed six months of soul-destroying boredom, living with lice, filth and general physical misery. Alternate 8 day spells in the trenches and out, until June of 1916, when things began to stir all around us. Heavy artillery, shell dumps, new troop concentrations. Our own preparations were pepped up by special courses and lectures: all talk was of the coming offensive. On or about the 24th June, the bombardment started, the din indescribable, night and day; as each day progressed, the tempo increased.

On the 30th June, we moved up the line for going over next morning. Most of the fellows were writing letters. I am sure that many of them had some premonition it would be their last, and so it was for 75% of the battalion. We were detailed to go over in waves. Some only reached the parados, others fell immediately in front of the trench and very few of the first wave reached their objective. What hell let loose! What slaughter! What a sorry line up for roll call after that first Somme scrap! So many of my cobbers missing.

I am transferred to Battalion transport and given charge of two mules in a limber wagon, ride and drive. Our work consisted of transporting ammunition and food rations as close to the front line as possible under cover of darkness. Food is packed in sandbags, water in bensine tins, Mills bombs and .303 bullets in boxes. A Transport Officer with sergeant would lead the convoy, usually three limber wagons and a medical cart. Trips up the line varied according to the amount of shelling and the nature of the road or track. In the intense darkness, one developed cat’s eyes, and we dreaded moonlight. ‘Jerry’s’ artillery could spot our silhouettes and at times we became sitting targets for them. Our mounts sensed the danger and a near-hit made them bolt on many an occasion. Several times I have crouched over the centre pole between the mules, hoping for protection from shell splinters. Am sure I’d have made a good trick rider in either a rodeo or a circus! The risk of falling in front of the wheel was of no concern; my only thought was self-preservation.

war-medal-roll-harold-joseph-norris

War Medal Roll – Harold Joseph Norris

After a short spell behind the line, back again for the second battle of the Somme, this time alongside the New Zealanders at Dicketbush near Ypres. The intense cold, that Silver Fern Y.M.C.A. Marquee where one could get a steaming cup of cocoa for a penny, worth all of a quid. To see those Kiwis opening their wonderful parcels from home – real butter, cakes and cookies that made our eyes goggle. What a wonderful country New Zealand must be! The boys found a piano in a deserted house and hauled me along for a sing-song. The house was crammed with Scots, Aussies, East Lancs, Bedfords, everyone singing their heads off. Jerry planes were overhead dropping bombs too close for comfort, but no one worried.

We move up to Ypres, Zellebeck Lake, Stirling Castle and those hellish duckboards. Everything goes up front by packhorse. The Battalion dump is at the end of about 1 ½ miles of duckboards along which, in pitch darkness, we lead our pack mules, and on frosty nights, it was a nightmare trying to keep one’s feet. To slip off was to plunge into a sea of mud. I can still smell the dead mules and horses left abandoned alongside those duckboards.

the-battle-of-the-somme-nov-1916-the-ancre-river

Living conditions around Ypres were very bad. Constant shelling made ‘bivvying’ in shell holes the safest, with one ground sheet stretched across the top; underneath, with one’s mates, it was warmer to sleep together on the other ground sheet. No baths, no change of under-clothes for weeks; we are now lousy. In fact, it becomes a relaxation to burn the eggs under our armpits with a lighted match.

We shift to a new sector, behind Zelleback Lake, next to a battery of 4.7 howitzers, a very unhealthy position. The horses were restless on the line. Bill Watts, my mate and I had rigged a ‘bivvy’ with empty shell cases and in a few minutes we were asleep, with the horses fed for the night. A mightly crash woke us and instinct made us run to release our horses. Our camp was being shelled, pandemonium reigned among the horses that, in their fright, had pulled tight the halters on the line. I was one of the last to free my two, hanging on to them like a demon. I hung on to their bridles whilst they carried me into the pitch darkness, racing to catch up with the others.

My delay in getting away proved providential for me. Just as we caught up with the tail end of the other horses, a shell dropped in their midst. What a mess! The screams of horses and men! My mate was killed, together with a number of other drivers and were all buried together in a mass grave the next morning.

I think this was the hottest part of the line and we were more than thankful when relief came so that we could move back from the trenches for a spell. At last, a bath and change of clothes! My skin was pitted all over with bites and scratches from the lice. These rare spells gave us the opportunity to scrape the mud off the horses and our clothes and try to restore the harness to fit state for inspection, even to the polishing of our brass buttons.

During these periods we generally had the opportunity of hearing Mass and going to Confession, mostly out in the open or, if available, within the remains of a church. If there wasn’t time before going back into the line, the padre would give us general absolution sitting on his horse as we passed by en route. We instinctively made an act of contrition. What a tremendous comfort that was to us, and I’m sure, to many non-Catholics also.

british-troops-eating-their-christmas-dinner-in-a-shell-hole-beaumont-hamel-1916

British Troops eating their Christmas dinner in a shell hole

As the war progressed, we seemed to get hardened to the dangers, the hardships and the food, but life could still be made miserable by the sergeant if he wasn’t strictly fair and just with his men. For instance, the convoy work was allocated equally among the drivers. The strain of one convoy per night was usually quite enough, but if a driver had to do two trips it was tough for both horses and driver. If one was unfortunate enough to annoy the sergeant during the day, he could and did make a man do more than his share of driving The horse lines were picketed every night in three shifts, 9-12, 12-3 and 3-6. Naturally, the worst picket was from 12 to 3 a.m.

It might happen that after long periods in the saddle, when the opportunity to sleep does come, it is very deep sleep, and if one happens to be on the 12-3 picket, unless the man on duty before you wakes you up properly, it is inevitable that you will fall asleep again, so that the 3-6 picket is also not called. A hiatus of 6 hours! This would be a very serious offence, and according to the leniency or otherwise of the officer in charge, could have dire consequences.

For some time I had been in the sergeant’s bad books, and things had been most uncomfortable. My turn came this night for the 12-3 picket. I could have slept standing up but a kick woke me, the sergeant standing over me. “What’s the meaning of this? No picket all night! Norris, you’re for it!” Fortunately for me, our Transport Officer, Lt. Williams, was human and undoubtedly was well aware of the amount of strain and work we had undergone; furthermore, it was now nearly two years since I had been in the line without leave. The matter was prevented from going to the Colonel, and it was with relief I took my medicine from the sergeant.

March, 1918 – We move through Abbeville to face Ham. Rumours that “Jerry” is massing in from St. Quentin. Intelligence thinks Zero day will be either the 20th or 21st. Sure enough, before dawn, the bombardment began and we were pasted with everything. About 7 a.m. he broke through on our left; soon we realised he was encircling us and our only line of escape lay across the Ham bridge. All roads led to the bridge. In no time, the road to the bridge was jammed with remnants of different regiments, and by the next day it became a rout. We on transport followed the leader until we approached Amiens where we came to a line of Frenchmen newly dug in. By this time the English were well and truly disorganised; we seemed to have lost contact with our battalion. However, we continued our trek to the coast, where we handed over our transport to the newly arrived Americans.

After being re-grouped, I was transferred to the 13th Kings, 13th Platoon, 13th Section. In no time we were engaging the “Jerries” near Maubeuge, close to the French – Belgium border. We appear to be on the move north. Jerry is really on the move at last. We seem to be taking the front line in relay with the rest of the brigade. At least we are now in open country and moving, but for how much longer? Again we are moving up front. After one of our usual road-side fall-outs, we get the order to “About turn!”. What’s this? On the way back, whispers, wild guesses pass through the ranks until we arrive at our camp of the previous night. We are lined up in front of the Colonel seated on his dapple-grey horse. “Well boys, the job is over.” In the stunned silence that greeted his announcement, hardly a voice could be heard. It took some time to sink in. For myself, I felt like bawling like a kid.

After nearly fiver years of continual misery, hardship, tension and grief … to end so suddenly! My first thought – I’m sure to see ‘HOME’ and all it means, again. Over the next few days, we regain our spit and polish before moving into Germany for the occupation. We trekked through Namur, Liege and Aix-lachapelle, finally arriving in Kerpen, a suburb of Cologne. We were billeted with German families. How heavenly to taste civilisation once again, a soft bed and in my case, a Catholic old couple. The walls were adorned with photos of their sons in U. boats, in Artillery, some draped with black bands.

Now I lived for the day when I would board a train from Cologne to Boulogne, en route to London and HOME. It was not to be until Feb. 1919, and when the day of my discharge came, I received a petty 25 pounds for five years service. It scarcely paid for my working clothes.

Upon reaching home, I found that my brother Doug had arrived before me. I saw him only once overseas in the Ypres sector. He was with the artillery, the 18 pounders, I think. I exchanged just a few words with him, hoping to get a chance for a yarn the next day, but when I returned, his battery had moved during the night to the Italian front. My first days at home saw a thorough de-lousing, burning every vestige of under-clothes. How heavenly to feel clean again! The terrible toll of the war was brought home to me when I found that so many of my cobbers had not returned, but how soon they were forgotten in the mad round of dances, parties, etc. that followed when the chaps returned from overseas.”

The memoirs go on to describe Harold’s emigration and early years in New Zealand, where he met my grandmother and went on to have nine children including my father Cyril. He passed away when I was just 2 years old. It’s only been in the last few years that I have been researching my family tree, that I have come to appreciate his war service and what it meant to his country and all the Allied forces. It’s a miracle that he survived, considering so many didn’t. He is buried with my grandmother in Rotorua cemetary.

norris-family-1945

Remembrance Day

This blog post is going to go off track, for a very good reason. It is dedicated to my grandfather, Harold Joseph Norris, who fought in World War 1. Up until now I have been writing about my mother’s paternal side of my family. I will be revisiting my father’s side of the family in greater detail in the future, but for now I want to briefly tell my Grandfather’s story. The information for this is from my uncle’s book about the Norris family, Our Father, a Prodigal Son, by Rev, J.D. Norris.

Google Earth view of 44 Walker Street, Hoylake.  This is my grandfather's childhood home

Google Earth view of 44 Walker Street, Hoylake. This is my grandfather’s childhood home

Screenshot of the Google Earth view of Harold’s childhood home in Hoylake (on the left-hand side of the road – 44 Walker St. is where the white car is. This building is likely to be the same building due to its age).

Harold Joseph Norris was born in Cheshire, England, on 6th March 1896. He lived at 44 Walker Street, Hoylake, a village on the cost near West Kirby, known for its golf-links and promenade. It is about 8 miles from Liverpool. At the age of 18, in 1914, he enlisted in the 18th Kings Liverpool Regiment as Private 16471. 100 years ago, in November 1915, he had completed his basic training and was on his way to war, sailing from Southhampton to France.

The Cover of my uncle's book showing Harold Norris in his army uniform, 1914

The Cover of my uncle’s book showing Harold Norris in his army uniform, 1914

He endured lice, filth and general misery in the trenches at Somme, until June 1916 when they were hit by heavy artillery, shell dumps and bombardment night and day. On 30th June they were moved up the line for going over next morning – very few of that first wave reached their objective with 75% of their battalion losing their lives in that first Somme battle.

Harold was transferred to Battalion transport and given charge of two mules in a limber wagon. His work consisted of transporting ammunition and food rations as close to the front line as possible under cover of darkness. After a short spell behind the lines, they returned to the front line for the second battle of the Somme, at Dickebush near Ypres. Many of his comrades lost their lives here because they were so close to the enemy lines.

In March 1918 they moved through Abbeville, to face bombardment from German forces. Many of the English battalions were severely diminished in size so Harold’s remaining regiment joined with the 13th Kings Liverpool Regiment. They engaged with the enemy at Maubeuge, close to the French – Belgium border. After moving again up to the frontline, they were suddenly ordered to about turn. A colonel rode up on his horse and announced that the war was over, to their surprise and delight, after nearly five years of continual misery, hardship, tension and grief.

They trekked through Namur, Liege and Aix-la-chapelle, finally arriving in Kerpen, a suburb of Cologne, for the occupation of Germany. Harold was billeted with a German family. It wasn’t until February 1919 that he boarded a train from Cologne to Boulogne, en route to London and home, to be finally discharged from the Army. He received 25 pounds for 5 years’ service.

I have been able to research his war records and he discovered that he received 3 medals: The 1914-15 Star, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. I don’t know what became of the original medals but I plan to order replicas and frame them in his memory.

The 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.  These are the medals Harold received after WW1

The 1914 Star or 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. These are the medals Harold received after WW1

Harold emigrated to New Zealand in 1921 on the Waimana. The British Government were offering a free passage to any of the colonies in the Commonwealth to returned soldiers who could pass a medical examination. Because the prospects in England weren’t to hopeful for him, he decided to go to New Zealand. He met and married my grandmother Louisa, who had descended from Polish and German immigrants, and they had nine children including my father Cyril.

Grandad passed away in 1968 when I was 2 1/2years old. My memory of him in the front room of his house in Rotorua is probably my earliest memory. He was very tall with a moustache which was popular in those times. I have so much respect for him and all the other WW1 allies who fought for our freedom, and if he hadn’t survived the war, many descendants would not be here today.

Harold Norris in February 1968. six months before he passed away

Harold Norris in February 1968. six months before he passed away

A Scotsman in our Clan

Alexander Wallace Young – A Scotsman in our Clan

We are just as much Scottish as Irish in our Geraghty side of the family. Alexander Wallace Young is my mother’s paternal Great Grandfather. He was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in about 1825 (see my previous blog post where I discuss the difficulty in finding out the exact date due to differences between his marriage certificate and death certificate).

My great great grandfather, Alexander Wallace Young's birthplace - Kilmarnock, Lanark, Scotland

My great great grandfather, Alexander Wallace Young’s birthplace – Kilmarnock, Lanark, Scotland

Source:  http://maps.nls.uk/ National Library of Scotland.

In my mother’s papers I found two certificates for Alexander Young – his marriage certificate to Grace Thompson in 1884 and his death certificate in 1902. She had researched this line of the family in depth, and I have been able to find further records of his life as well.

In the 1861 Scotland Census Alexander lived in Glasgow with his wife Jane Blair (married in Gorbals, Lanark on 14 November 1853) and 3 children – 5 year old James and 10 month old twins Alexander and John. Gorbals is an area on the south bank of the River Clyde. By the late 19th century it had become over-populated and adversely affected by local industrialisation. Many people lived here because their jobs provided their homes and they could not afford their own. It became widely known as a dangerous slum associated with the problems of drunkenness and crime. It was subject to efforts at redevelopment, which contributed to more problems such as homelessness and the spread of disease (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorbals).

His life as a grocer in the industrial part of Glasgow would not have been easy, so it is not hard to see why he emigrated to New Zealand in 1862. The Young family emigrated to New Zealand on board the Indian Empire, arriving on 20 October 1862. By then one of their twins had passed away, and Jane had had another baby, Helen (or Ellen) Jane in 1861. It is interesting to note that Alexander had listed his occupation as labourer on the passenger list, which would have helped him with the application for assisted migration. Labourers were a listed occupation but grocers weren’t!

INDIAN EMPIRE FROM GRAVESEND UK TO PORT OF ONEHUNGA. NZ Daily Southern Cross, Volume XVIII, Issue 1638, 21 October 1862, Page 2 SAILED 4 JULY 1862 ARRIVED ONEHUNGA NEW ZEALAND c20 OCTOBER 1862

NZ Daily Southern Cross, Volume XVIII, Issue 1638, 21 October 1862, Page 2

NZ Daily Southern Cross, Volume XVIII, Issue 1638, 21 October 1862, Page 2

From 1853 to 1870 Scots came in sufficient numbers to keep New Zealand more Scottish than the United Kingdom – in those years they made up more than 30% of New Zealand’s UK-born immigrants, even though they formed only 10% of the United Kingdom’s population. Auckland continued to draw a smaller proportion of its immigrants from Scotland than from England and Ireland. But recruiting agents in Glasgow in particular ensured that considerable numbers of Scots came to Auckland as land grant immigrants between 1858 and 1862.  Source: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/scots/page-4

Once in Auckland, Alexander did what he knew best and opened a grocery store in College Hill in the 1860s which was an area of Auckland where many Roman Catholics bought land in the new subdivisions in order to be near the Catholic centre with its Church, Convent & Schools. Names such as “Dublin” & “Green” reflect this development. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponsonby,_New_Zealand#History

These photos show what College Hill was like in the time that the Wallace family lived and worked there, in the late 1800’s:

This is a view east across Freemans Bay to Hobson Street. The church in the upper left is St Mathews in the City (next to it is the smaller wooden version which it supplemented - it then served as the church hall). The shops at the bottom of the photograph are directly behind the Destructor (now Victoria Park Market).   Source:  'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213

This is a view east across Freemans Bay to Hobson Street. The church in the upper left is St Mathews in the City (next to it is the smaller wooden version which it supplemented – it then served as the church hall). The shops at the bottom of the photograph are directly behind the Destructor (now Victoria Park Market). Source: ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213

Looking west from the City Destructor towards Ponsonby Road, showing Gasometers on the corner of Franklin Road (centre foreground) and College Hill (right) and the Rob Roy Hotel (centre left foreground), Beaumont Street (right off College Hill)  Source:  'Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213'

Looking west from the City Destructor towards Ponsonby Road, showing Gasometers on the corner of Franklin Road (centre foreground) and College Hill (right) and the Rob Roy Hotel (centre left foreground), Beaumont Street (right off College Hill)
Source: ‘Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W213’

Alexander owed two grocery stores, one on Chapel Street and one in College Hill. The electoral rolls support this. He suffered the loss of his wife Jane in 1877 and his daughter Ellen in 1883 aged 21. A year later Alexander married my Great Great Grandmother, Grace Thomson, when he was 52 and she was 38. My mother had a copy of their marriage certificate amongst her papers.

scan marriage cert Alexander Young and Grace Thomson

I’ll tell Grace’s story in my next blog post – she led a very interesting life.

Uncle Hughie wrote some interesting stories about Alexander Young in his letters to my mother. He said that he had some land granted to him in Arapohue, which he never lived on. It was granted to him through a land settlement or ballot. He never lived on it, but he supported Jim Young, his son by Jane Blair. His great grandson still lived on the land in 1985. My grandfather Terence Geraghty looked like Alexander Young according to Uncle Hughie.

My mother also kept letters that her Auntie Virgie (Virginia Ellen Geraghty) had written to her. Auntie Virgie said that Grandad Young (Alexander) had a shop in Auckland but a depression came and they moved to the goldfields near Coromandel and the three children went to school at Kuatuna. He got lost in the bush and was wet and cold for a few days and developed a rare disease called Locomotive Alexi. The poor man was in a wheelchair for five years before he died. My mother had to leave school at age 10 and go to work. There was no social welfare in those days. Grandad had a grown family when his first wife died. Two married sons Jim and Bob got farms out of Dargaville and his only daughter Ellen died at 21. Gramma Grace was a widow with four young children and she met him, he was over 60 when they married. They had Lizzie, mum (Annie – my Great Grandmother), and Uncle Dave

I haven’t been able to find any information about Locomotive Alexi but the closest thing I can find is a reference to a syndrome that the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) described called locomotive syndrome. This syndrome, or “locomo” in short, refers to those elderly who have come to need nursing care services because of problems of the locomotive organs, or have conditions which may require them to have such services in the future. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184225/

Death Certificate - Alexander Young

Death Certificate – Alexander Young

His death certificate says he died from Tabes Dorsalis and Hemiplegia in an Old Mens Home in Thames. Tabes Dorsalis is a disease of the spine. The first description of the disorder was given by a French neurologist , Guillame Duchenne in 1858 who called it l’ataxie locomotrice progressive (progressive locomotor ataxia ). But the word tabes dorsalis was coined in 1836 even before the actual cause was discovered. Tabes in Latin means “decay” or “shriveling”; dorsalis means “of the back.” These indicate the location and type of damage occurring in the spinal cord. It is also called “spinal syphilis” or “syphilitic myelopathy.” Syphilis was widespread in the early part of the twentieth century but there has been a ten-fold decrease in incidence since then due to better screening measures and effective antibiotic therapy. Therefore classic, full blown forms of tabes dorsalis are seldom seen in the twenty-first century. Pain is quite bothersome and has a serious impact on quality of life. Ataxia, dementia and blindness are incapacitating. Death usually occurs due to rupture of enlarged blood vessels and damage to heart valves, which occur as a part of tertiary syphilis. Rarely, a urinary infection will lead to sepsis and death. Source: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Tabes_Dorsalis.aspx

It doesn’t sound like a very nice way to live out your final years. Alexander lived a very tough life from the rough area of Glasgow to the early days of Auckland, and finally a painful last few years in a nursing home in Thames. He fathered seven children including my great grandmother Annie Frances Young.  He is buried at the end of the Auckland Harbour Bridge with his first wife and daughter.  May they all Rest in Peace.

 Alexander Young 1825 -1902
 Annie Young 1887 – 1967
 Terrance Geraghty 1908 – 1984
 Diana Rose Mary Geraghty 1937 -1991

Brick Walls and Road Blocks

Alexander Wallace Young

When researching my Scottish ancestors I came up literally against a brick wall. This brick wall:

Screenshot (5)

source: https://www.google.com.au/maps/@55.8510031,-4.261613,3a,75y,17.19h,86.55t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKXQS7lUOZi7X75JzSNIHbA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

I’m just as fascinated by where they lived and what their lives were like before they came to New Zealand. I was keen to find out what their house looked like in 1861. I searched Google Maps for their address that I found on the 1861 census and all I found was a brick wall at 44 Cook Street, Glasgow. I haven’t yet found photos of their street from that time, however, I found a nifty tool on-line on the National Library of Scotland website, which overlays today’s map with historical maps. With the aid of this tool I discovered that, even in 1861 they lived right near a railway in the middle of factories:

Cook st today

Above photo: Cook Street, Glasgow, today

44 Cook street Glasgow

Above: the overlay of today’s map with historical map

Glasgow map 1861

Above, Glasgow map, 1861

cook street showing what the buildings were for

Above: Glasgow map, showing what the buildings were used for.

Source of maps: http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=18&lat=55.8513&lon=-4.2635&layers=80

There’s no escaping the fact that my ancestors the Youngs lived in a very seedy area of Glasgow, right near the railway lines. Alexander Wallace Young lived here with his wife Jane Blair and four children in the early to mid 1860’s. He worked as a grocer, and he possibly had his shop here and the family lived behind the shop.

The census records for the United Kingdom are a fascinating record of how my ancestors lived. It shows the occupants, their ages and relationships with each other, their address, and occupations. While researching my mother’s Scottish great grandfather Alexander Wallace Young was relatively straight forward, records for my Irish ancestors are not as easy to find. I’ve come up against many roadblocks in my research which can be very frustrating. Roman Catholic Church records from 1864 onwards are starting to be digitalised, but you need to know their Parish, and take into account that many records were written in Latin so the spelling can be very different to today’s spelling. Names were also abbreviated, so Patrick Geraghty can be listed as Pat or Patt, and Geraghty has many different spellings as well, like Gerty, Gerraty, and Gerhty.

It’s part of the challenge while researching our ancestors and it’s always exciting when you finally find their marriage certificate or emigration documents after looking for them for months. I suspect that many of my ancestors from that time period were illiterate or only spoke Gaelic as well, meaning that the person writing the official records had to transcribe them phonetically. Interpretation of these records from originals dating back to the 1800s creates another challenge. I’ve tried reading the originals when they’re available online, and I can appreciate how difficult their job is.

It’s easy to be led astray by false leads as well. There were two Census records for Alexander Young for 1861, both married to Jane Young, and with children named the same. One had him born about 1825, the other 1832. To confuse matters even more, his death certificate and marriage certificate also had different dates of birth, so it took a while to sort that out. I’m confident that I now have the right Alexander Young in my family tree! My next blog post will have more information about Alexander Young – he had a very fascinating life.

scan - 1861 census Alex Young

http://search.ancestry.com.au/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1861Scotland&h=1099377&ti=5544&indiv=try&gss=pt&ssrc=pt_t77315246_p42409730612_kpidz0q3d42409730612z0q26pgz0q3d32768z0q26pgplz0q3dpid

From Ireland to New Zealand

My maternal great great grandparents emigrated to New Zealand from County Cavan in Ireland, in 1866.  Three generations of Geraghty’s lived in Tuakau, on the Waikato River (between Auckland and Hamilton) before my grandparents moved to northern New Zealand.  Here are some photos of how Tuakau looked in the early 1900’s

Main street, Tuakau township

Tuakau Hotel. Main street, Tuakau township. Price, William Archer, 1866-1948 :Collection of post card negatives. Ref: 1/2-001523-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22556804

Tuakau township, photographed by William Archer Price, possibly between 1910 and 1930. In the foreground flax fibre is laid out for drying and bleaching. In the middle distance is the railway station and yards, with the main street in the distance. The Creamery can be seen near the tall trees in the middle distance.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23117228

Tuakau Hill with railway yard and rolling stock in the foreground. A road leads up a slight incline towards houses and church buildings. Near the railway yard flax is laid out to dry. Photographed by William A Price in early 1900s.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23073105

Railway yard at Tuakau, photographed possibly between 1910 and 1925 by William A Price.
Shows railway shed, rolling stock, and livestock loading ramp. In distance on left is the Post & Telegraph Office.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23130861

Before roads were improved, railways provided faster, more reliable transport. By 1875 a line stretched from Auckland to Mercer to connect with river boats. The railway reached Ngāruawāhia in August 1877, Frankton (near Hamilton) in December 1877, Ōhaupō in June 1878 and Te Awamutu in 1880.  Auckland and Wellington were finally connected in 1908.

source: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/waikato-region/page-7

Overlooking the Waikato River, and Tuakau bridge under construction, 1902. Photographer unidentified.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22781310

The Waikato River is the longest river in New Zealand, running for 425 kilometres through the North Island. It rises in the eastern slopes of Mount Ruapehu, joining the Tongariro River system and emptying into Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake.  It is fast-flowing, fed by snow-capped mountains in central New Zealand.  Transport inland to the Waikato region from the ocean was via the mouth of the Waikato River.

The Creamery at Tuakau.
Delivery carts lined up outside the creamery at Tuakau (situated at the railway end of the main street). An importing business is situated across the road on the left. Photograph taken by William A Price in early 1900s.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22569854

Dairy farms were an important industry in this area and  Waikato land was ideal for cows – flat or rolling – with high rainfall and sunshine hours, and mild winter temperatures that allowed grass to grow nearly all year round.  There was an increasing export industry of milk products especially after the 1880s when refrigerated containers enabled exports to England.

Tuakau Hotel. View of the front facade of the hotel, a two-storeyed wooden building with french doors opening onto the 2nd storey verandah. Photograph taken by William A Price in early 1900s.

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23218773

 Seventy years old, Tuakau, 1983.

This is St Andrew’s Catholic Church, Tuakau, which was opened on 26 October 1913, photographed the month before its 70th anniversary.  The Geraghtys were devout Catholics so my grandfather would have worshipped here as a child.  Source:  Manukau Research Library, Courier collection, box 18/67.
Footprints 00509

An excellent source for further reading is the following:

Taukau Structure Plan Built Heritage Assesmment – https://www.waikatodistrict.govt.nz/Documents-Library/Files/Documents/Plans,-reports,-publications/Structure-Plans/Tuakau-Structure-Plan/Built-Heritage-Assesst1.aspx

It mentions the Irish Immigrants arriving on the Ganges in 1865

 “Immigrants  from  the  Ganges  (arrived  in  Auckland  on  14  February  1865  from Queenstown,  Ireland),   the  Dauntless (arrived   15   May   1865   from   Kingston,   Dublin)   and   the  Lancashire  Witch (arrived   2   June   1865   from   London)   were   granted   a   ten
acre   block   along   with   a  quarter acre  town  section  in  Tuakau. From  their  ships  most  of  the  settlers  went  first  to  barracks  in  Onehunga,  then  on  to  Drury.  Women  and  children  were  housed  there  while  the  men   travelled   on   the   Great   South   Road   to   Pokeno   ‘and   thence   by   way   of   Whangarata  through   a   bush   track   on   foot   to   Tuakau  where   the   Government   had   provided   military  tents.
The  women  and  children  followed  later  and  generally  began  life  in  Tuakau  in  nikau  whares  with  earthen  floors.  Conditions  for  the  early  immigrant  settlers  improved  only  slowly  and  a  letter  writer  to  the  Daily   Southern   Cross in   November   1866   suggests   that   things   got   worse   before   they   got  better:
A  few  days  ago  I  visited  the  settlement  of  Tuakau,  and  was  not  only  disappointed, but pained  at  the  appearance  of  the  place.  Of  the  fine  body  of  immigrants  planted  there   but   few   remain,   and   with   one   or   two   exceptions   there   is   a   sad   poverty-stricken  appearance  about  it. “
In  the  early  years  many  male  settlers  were  employed  by  the  government  to  construct roads.  The flax industry was also an important industry in the area.  By  1870  there  were 161  flax  mills  in  New  Zealand, including  those  in  the  Waikato,  and  these  employed 1766  workers. The demand for rope made from flax was high in the 19th century.
Production  and  export  peaked  in  the  early  20th century,  by  which  time  Tuakau  was well  established.  The  Waikato  River  was  used  to  transport  the  flax to the  Great  South Road  where  it  was  carted  the  rest  of  the  way  to  Auckland.   In   1992   long time   resident   Percy   Lapwood  recalled  that  there  were  ten  or  more  flax  mills  in  operation in  and  around  Tuakau  in  the  early 20th century:
“The  first  I  remember  were  at  Tuakau  Beach,  John  Poland’s  and  EC Frost’s.  Later
Poland’s   was   taken   over   by   Chas.   Dromgool   and   also E and G Lapwood.  Somervilles had  a  waterpower mill  on  the  creek  below  Mrs  M Dromgool’s  and  this was later worked by  Mr  M  Geraghty  and  then  Mr  JJ Dromgool.  A  little  further  up the  creek  Mr  Chas. Dromgool  had  a  waterpower mill.  Messrs  Poland  and  Black  had  a  water  mill  at Black’s Bridge  on  Buckland  Road,  Mr  BG Geraghty  at  the  foot  of  Harrisville  Hill,  while  Mr  F Geraghty  had  one  on  Mill  Road.  Later,  Mr  M Geraghty had  a steam powered plant  just a  few  yards  up  the  creek  from  the  bridge  a  little north  of  St.  Andrew’s  Church.”
The Geraghty’s he referred to are probably Bartholemew Ganges, Patrick Michael (Mick) and Francis.  Laurence Terence, my great grandfather was a “flax miller” in the 1914 census, so possibly many of our ancestors were employed in this important industry.  It’s interesting to see their names mentioned in historical texts, which gives us some insite into how they lived.  Descendants of the original pioneer family still live in the area.

A Series of Tragedies for the Geraghty family

The Geraghty grave in Tuakau cemetary

The cemetary at Tuakau has many Geraghtys. There is a large monument which contains Bridget and Patrick and a number of their descendants. One of their sons, Patrick Michael, is buried there along with his wife Charlotte. I knew their story would be tragic because the inscription on the gravesite reads : “Patrick Michael Geraghty who was drowned in the Waikato River 25 April 1904 aged 32yrs. Also his wife Charlotte died 8 March 1896 aged 21 years”.

I searched the internet for newspaper articles about his death, because I was certain it would have made news, and this is what I found:

LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS

New Zealand Herald, Volume XLI, Issue 12559, 28 April 1904, Page 4

Source: National Library of New Zealand. Papers Past

Newspaper article re. drowning of Patrick Michael Geraghty in 1904

A flaxmiller of Tuakau, Mr. Michael Geraghty, has been drowned. It seems he was a passenger on the steam launch Victory, which runs from Huntly to Mercer. The deceased was taken aboard during the trip, and stood in the stern. When about two miles below Churchill he fell overboard when attempting to avoid some overhanging willow trees. Mr. Soffett, who was in charge of the launch, immediately turned back, and searched for the deceased for two hours without success. Another attempt was made to find the body by a party in charge of Constable Waterman but again without result. Mr. Geraghty was 32 years of age, and leaves a widow with a young family.

LOCAL AND GENERAL NEWS.

New Zealand Herald, Volume XLI, Issue 12561, 30 April 1904, Page 4

Source: National Library of New Zealand. Papers Past

Newspaper article re. Inquest into the death of Patrick Michael Geraghty in 1904

An inquest was held at Mercer, before Mr. F. Webster, J.P., concerning the drowning in the Waikato River of Michael Geraghty, flaxmiller. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that the deceased was accidentally drowned.

The circumstances of his death are tragic indeed, which must have impacted on the Geraghty family very much. Names are commonly passed down from generation to generation, and the name Michael is no exception – one of my great uncles was named after him, born the year following his death. And one of my uncles is also named Michael – his father was born four years after the death, and would have grown up hearing the story from the family.

One sentence in the newspaper articles caught my eye –

Mr. Geraghty was 32 years of age, and leaves a widow with a young family.

I knew that his wife Charlotte had died on 8 March 1896 aged 21 years, from the inscription on the gravestone, so at first I thought the newspaper had got it wrong. On further investigation, however, I discovered he had married again after her death, and had had five children to Mary Hannah East between 1900 and 1905. I also discovered that Charlotte had had a baby, Michael, in 1896.

This raises another question – did Charlotte die during childbirth or soon after? I don’t have an exact date of birth for Michael, but I will be investigating this further – even if I have to pay for her death certificate and his birth certificate.

The Geraghty family must have been thrown into turmoil during those years – they first lose a young daughter-in-law, possibly in childbirth, leaving them with an infant. Then, 8 years later they lose their son, leaving his second wife a widow with five children. I would like to think the large Irish family rallied around her and supported her while she brought up five children on her own.

There are further questions raised here. I know that Bridget and Patrick adopted a boy named Joey from my great-uncle Huey’s letters to my mother. In the same grave as them is buried their son Joseph, who died 25th June 1912 aged 16 years. This would have put his birth date as 1896. Did Bridget and Patrick adopt him because his mother had passed away? It was very common in New Zealand for families to “adopt” children within the family. Whether it was done legally is another matter. I wouldn’t know where to start looking!

Here is what Uncle Huey said about the adoption:

One day after Mass, where they were told, a woman had had a baby, who couldn’t survive, because she had no milk and there were no women nursing at the time – he was a “prem” and slightly deformed with only 1 finger on his right hand – they had no cattle at that time – they went around to this place and on the way home old Bridget wanted the child. Well there was a hellova row. Pat had to give in and they went and got the babe, and kept a 24 hour vigil over him. She had a tin of condensed milk and managed to keep him alive for about 3 days, when he started to liven up. She sent a guy off on horseback to Auckland to get more condensed milk and she saved him. He was the very first child to be reared in this colony by that method. Old Brid kept and reared him, they called him “little Joey”. I believe he helped Uncle Mick to plough “Cloudlands” Hamilton, that included Ruakura. He could handle a 3 horse team with that one finger. He’s buried with them all in the family grave.”

It’s a very intriguing story, and it just confirms my belief that the early settlers in New Zealand were made of incredible stock. They faced such adversity but just got on and dealt with it with hard work and lots of love.

The Geraghty Name

The Geraghty Name

My grandfather, Terence David Geraghty, was a lovely, gentle, happy man. He was born in Tuakau in 1908. As kids we knew he was from Irish stock, which he was very proud of. He often wore a green jersey – the Irish colour. He was the quiet half of the couple – my grandmother Kath was extroverted and loud! Grandpa was happy to sit and listen to everyone else and because he was quite deaf I’m sure a lot of it washed over him. His favourite party trick was to recite an old ditty “There’s a hole in my bucket” – he spoke both male and female parts of the poem, swapping a ladies hat and a man’s hat on his head for each part. Inevitably he would end up mixing the words up and having us all in stitches.

“There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

        Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Oh fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it.
 
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I mend it, dear Liza, with what?

        With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, with a straw.

But the straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long.

        Cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it.

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

        With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, with an axe.

The axe is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The axe is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.

        Sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Oh sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, hone it.

On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
On what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, with what?

        On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        On a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

But the stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,
The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.

        Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Then wet it, dear Henry, dear Henry, wet it.

With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
With what shall I wet it, dear Liza, with what?

        Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry,use water.

In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, dear Liza?
In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, in what?

        In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,
        In a bucket, dear Henry, dear Henry, a bucket.

There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,
There’s a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.”

Grandpa used to drive an old car, an Austin A40, and whether it was because his hearing was so poor or perhaps he had a little bit of dementia, he drove like a horse with blinkers on. Every Sunday he and my nanna would drive to our place for lunch after church. There was a huge busy intersection at Lake Road, which he’d drive through whether the lights were red or not, oblivious to the chaos it caused. My nanna would regail us with stories of near misses while grandpa never seemed to worry too much. That car was his pride and joy, along with the vegetable garden.

Grandpa’s gentle nature passed on to my mother, and her two brothers resembled him in looks. I was always concerned about my second son Daniel’s weight because he’s very tall and skinny, but when I compare him to his great-uncles and great grandfather, I can see where he gets his looks from and worry less about how thin he is.

My grandparents married in 1934 and started their family in Kaipara which is in Northland, the north of the North Island of New Zealand. They had four children, two boys and two girls and lived  in Dargaville until their daughters moved to Rotorua. My grandparents then packed up and moved to Rotorua as well where they lived happily in retirement.

1969 photo - my Nanna Kath, father Cyril, Grandpa Terence, mother Diana and uncle Terry

1969 photo – my Nanna Kath, father Cyril, Grandpa Terence, mother Diana and uncle Terry

Grandpa's grave in Rotorua cemetary

Grandpa’s grave in Rotorua cemetary

My mother Diana, sister Suzanne, Grandpa Terence (in green jumper!), brother James and Nanna Kathleen on my brother's First Communion day October 1971

My mother Diana, sister Suzanne, Grandpa Terence (in green jumper!), brother James and Nanna Kathleen on my brother’s First Communion day October 1971

I’ll talk more about my grandmother Kathleen’s family heritage in later posts – for now I’m just concentrating on the Geraghty family story.

My Irish Ancestors – their story of Immigration to New Zealand

PATRICK AND BRIDGET GERAGHTY

Attracted to New Zealand by the promise of free land, my great-great grandparents sailed to New Zealand from Ireland in 1864 on board the ship Ganges. The journey by sea took over 3 months, with Bridget being pregnant with her first baby. The couple’s first baby, Bartholemew Ganges Geraghty, was born on board the ship, along with 15 other babies. The voyage was difficult and uncomfortable for the steerage passengers and illness swept through the ship quickly. 474 passengers left Ireland, but there were 56 deaths on board due to bronchitis and whooping cough, 54 of them being young children. Two crew members were also lost overboard while attending to look-out duties on the mast.

Once they were allowed to disembark, the Geraghty’s were sent to Tuakau, a settlement on the Waikato River south of Auckland, 9 km south-east of Pukekohe. Tūākau was originally a trading centre for passing waka, but after war broke out in 1863 it was occupied by British troops. They built the Alexandra Redoubt, which still stands, on a tall bluff above the river. The Invasion of the Waikato was the biggest and most important campaign of the 19th century New Zealand Wars, fought in the North Island of New Zealand between the military forces of the colonial government and a federation of Māori tribes known as the Kingitanga Movement.

Hostilities lasted for nine months, from July 1863 to April 1864. The invasion was aimed at crushing Kingite power that was seen as a threat to British authority, and also at driving Waikato Māori from their territory in readiness for occupation and settlement by Europeans. The campaign was fought by a peak of about 14,000 Imperial and colonial troops and about 4,000 Māori warriors drawn from more than half the major North Island tribal groups.

After the confiscation of surrounding Māori land, Tūākau became a farming service centre. The New Zealand government had offered immigrants land, but, unbeknown to the immigrants, the land came at a price. There was a lot of tension due to the fact that the land had been confiscated from the Maori in order to provide farming land for the settlers. The town had been razed to the ground the previous May, and was under seige for the next 20 years. The young couple, with their baby, wouldn’t have known what hit them. It would have been very different to their hometown of Cavan in Ireland.

In the 1840’s the blight had killed all the potatoes in Ireland. The “tata famine” killed 1.5 million people and afterwards the Irish mass emigrated to America and all parts of the world, including New Zealand. So the Geraghty’s were leaving for what they thought would be a better life, only to be faced with incredible hardships and amid tension with the Maoris. They lasted because of their tough nature from growing up in Ireland. They had been encouraged to emigrate because of a scheme set up by the New Zealand government which promised a free passage and a few acres of land or half the passage and a much larger block of land – up to 500 acres. This land was undeveloped so preference was given to farmers and labourers.

‘Waikato’ Immigration Scheme 1864-1865

This immigration scheme was part of an attempt by central government to bring large numbers of settlers from the British Isles and the Cape Colony in South Africa to the North Island. The aim was to consolidate the government position after the wars of the 1860s and develop the Waikato area for Pakeha. A loan was to finance the migration and be recouped by the sale of land neighbouring the new settlements. However:

  • The loan could not be secured in London, and in the end only 3000, instead of the hoped for 20,000, immigrants were brought to New Zealand on 13 ships 1864-1865. About 2000 came from Britain and 1000 from the Cape.
  • There were considerable delays in making land available to settlers, who were temporarily housed in poor conditions in Auckland and the Waikato. Nor was land available for sale to defray the expenses of the scheme.
  • When migrants got onto their land much work was needed before it could sustain a family, let alone make a profit. Public works, such as roads, gave immigrants temporary employment. In spite of the difficulties most stayed and claimed their crown grants three years after settlement.

(source: http://archives.govt.nz/research/guides/migration)

Their family rapidly expanded over the next few years. Bridget gave birth to 12 children in 22 years. Owen only lived to 5 years but the rest of the family had long lives, apart from Patrick who drowned in the Waikato River aged 32. My great grandfather, Laurence Terence, was the 10th child. They also adopted a baby, Joseph, who was disabled and only lived to 13 years. The Raglan general roll (census) of 1914 listed Patrick as a labourer living at freehold lot 14, Tuakau. Bridget was listed as doing “domestic duties”, very apt description of what their lives would have entailed.

The Geraghty family have made their mark in Tuakau. There are a couple of roads named after them, and the cemetary in Tuakau has many of the descendants of Patrick and Bridget. They are buried in a large grave with an impressive monument to the Geraghty name along with several of their children. They began what is now a huge number of descendants who bear the Geraghty name in their family tree.  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=70865797&ref=acom

Laurence Terence Geraghty and Annie Frances Young

Laurence Terence Geraghty and Annie Frances Young

Laurence was the 10th child of Patrick and Bridget, Born 11/1/1882.  My grandfather, Terence David, was their 4th of 8 children, born 1908

What Inspired me to Research our Family Tree?

The anniversary of the ANZACs is this year and there was a lot of media coverage of the Gollipoli landings in 1915. There were also a lot of advertisements on TV for Ancestry.com for a free 14 day trial, along with new records being available for research into ancestors who had fought in WW1. This spurred me on to finally start researching my grandfather, Harold Joseph Norris, who fought in WW1 in the English Army. Harold had survived the war, and emigrated to New Zealand where he married my grandmother and had nine children. It never ceases to amaze me that our huge family stems from the one man, and, if he had not survived the war, none of us would be here today.

Once I started researching the Norris side of the family, this whet my appetite for more and I started researching my grandmother’s family. She descended from Polish immigrants who settled in the South Island of New Zealand in the 1860’s. The Polish bloodline is strong throughout the family, and many of us have features reminiscent of our heritage, like our large bulbous nose and stocky build. My uncle had written down our family tree which stemmed back to the original immigrants which was a wonderful boost to my research. He had also written a book of memoirs about our family which was a great source of information, particularly his father’s story.

My interest did not wane, and I went on to research my mother’s side of the family, who descend from Irish and English immigrants. I uncovered some very surprising information about our forebears which completely changed my perception of our family history including some very well kept secrets! I was lucky enough to have in my possession all my mother’s photo albums, journals and documents. She had a keen interest in genealogy and had written down our family tree stemming back a few generations so it was a great start to my research. It seems that she had written to some of the older relatives to ask for information and had kept all the letters. These provided a fascinating read and made my task both easier and more difficult as I tried to piece together some of the facts and figure out which particular relative they were talking about. Everyone had a nickname which made it harder.

I have only really started on this journey of discovery. Ancestry.com makes it easier to uncover information. I feel really blessed to have in my possession all the information my mother and uncle had. They certainly didn’t have the resources we have today, with a wealth of information available on the internet and in books. I want to write down our family history, and include photos and copies of documents so that this information is not lost to future generations. I feel like I am honouring my forebears by telling their story. I’m also researching what New Zealand was like for immigrants in the 1860’s so that I can fully appreciate what it was like for pioneers in a very young country. The hardships they endured make their story more remarkable. This is a record for my family, and for anyone else who may be interested in genealogy. I am no expert genealogist, and I’m no writer either, so you may have to forgive me as I attempt to tell my story.

Some of the resources I had - photo albums, family records, newspaper clippings, memoirs, letters, family trees, etc.

Some of the resources I had – photo albums, family records, newspaper clippings, memoirs, letters, family trees, etc.

Our family’s story

I love being part of this family.  We’re a massive family with lots of branches on the tree and a few nuts as well but one thing I  know , and that is we have a bond.  Our shared history means we’ll always ‘get’ each other.   We come from strong stock, originating from Polish, Irish  and English immigrants who chose to make New Zealand their home in early days of settlement of that country.  What  they would have endured in those days is hard for us to relate to because our world is so different  from  theirs.  I  hope to tell you some of their stories because they’re fascinating to me.  I  hope you enjoy my blog.