Who are you? Playing with genealogy in the library

In attempt to answer this question or rather who am I, I have been delving into my past using Christchurch City Libraries family history eResources to find out who I am or who my ancestors were. I thought I was a fairly boring Pakeha, with my ancestors coming from Ireland, England and Scotland. While most of my ancestry is from these places, it is not as boring as I thought it was. One of the first things I found was that my great-grandfather was a bookbinder and marbler, so that is possibly where I get my bookish librarian-ness from.

Some of my ancestors arrived in New Zealand in 1842 and one gave birth on the shore straight off the ship, that child was my great-great-grandmother. There seems also a steady stream of my ancestors who came from the incredibly hipster filled Shoreditch, although there may have been lots of beards back then, I don’t think it was very hip in 1800.

Family history display asks "who are you?"
Family history display asks “who are you?” Central Library Peterborough, 12 February 2017. Flickr 2017-01-28-IMG_3895

So where do you start, with the little bit of information I was armed with? I started on My Heritage. This one is available for free from home, and one of the brilliant things is it not only searches records such as births, deaths and marriages, census records, and immigration records, you can search other family trees. The Library Edition of My Heritage doesn’t let you make you own family tree, only search them. Family trees can be very useful although the connections are not always correct, and no two family trees are the same.

If you want to make you own family tree, you will need to head into a library and use Find My Past, create a login and and you can create your own tree. You don’t have the option to make these public, but it a great way of saving your research. Whilst in the library, you can use Ancestry Library Edition which has the greatest amount of records to search and you can also search other people’s family trees – although again, you can’t make your own using the library edition.

One other thing I have learned about researching my family history, is that there was some dodgy spelling even on official records, so if you aren’t finding the information you need, try spelling the names differently.

As I have always had a thing for tartan, I am going back to researching my family connection to Scotland, I wonder if there is a Douglas, Angus or Flora amongst my ancestors and what clan and tartan I might be able to claim.

Step into a River of Words

You can become part of Christchurch’s own River of Words.

River of Words is a ten metre wide installation in the South Quad of the Arts Centre, part of the House of Travel Botanic D’Lights (6pm to 9pm from Wednesday 8 August to Sunday 12 August). It is an interactive animation featuring a flow of words in six languages, and representing the changing nature of the people of Christchurch. Your shadow becomes a space for animations related to the words. We dived into the river last night, and had a ball – moving around, shining torches, and becoming part of the art.

River of Words has been developed by artist John Maillard from Ara (Programme leader, Photography), installed by Spectrum Lighting, and supported by Enliven Places Programme at the Christchurch City Council.

That’s us in the River of Words – my child to the left, me to the right.

Making the River of Words

John had the idea for the river of words, and put out a call on social media for people to share their words representing Christchurch:

Making the most of the expertise at Ara, John worked with Te Puna Wānaka Māori and Pasifika – Ara who suggested appropriate Māori words.

Once he had the words and kupu, John explored game design and technology to see how it might work. The project started out as a mystery technically, but due to working with colleagues and experts like Spectrum Lighting, his knowledge grew exponentially. Using the programme Isadora (known for its use in theatre lighting and effects), vector animation, and security cameras, he came to a technical solution that brings his vision to life:

Christchurch has been through many painful experiences in the last few years, both personal to the people, who are the city’s lifeblood and to the buildings and roads that make up the city.
Even though the infrastructure of the city was damaged, the people of Christchurch have moved and flowed through its changes adapting and embracing its reinvention, though the process has been slow and stressful.

The inhabitants of this city are part of a human river, are always moving and flowing in this, our city. Each person is a part of the changes to the landscape of the city, and we are all linked by the words that we share about the city. These words bond us together. I have asked for people in the city, my friends and neighbours to lend me words that represent Christchurch, the people the cultures and the languages of the city. The words in the river represent the ever-flowing people in our city. The words within each person represent their humanity and resilience as we navigate through our lives in this city.

John’s workspace.

John says “I think people truly love Christchurch”. He’s right, and going into the River of Words feels like a warm embrace of Ōtautahi.

Creating this work is his way of giving something back to the community. It’s the antithesis of art as a commodity – this is art that can’t be bought. It is art for everyone to experience and enjoy.

River of Words – The Future

River of Words will carry on as a legacy piece from the House of Travel Botanic D’Lights. This 18 metre wide version will be installed for six months at 110 Cashel Street, and projected on to the vacant wall of 112 Cashel Street. This project is part of the Enliven Places programme, completed in partnership with the events team and Ara with the aim of enhancing the night time experience in Christchurch through innovative lighting.

One of the interesting aspects of River of Words is its adaptability. In September, it will be themed around Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week.

More about artist John Maillard

John Maillard has exhibited in galleries around New Zealand and the United Kingdom for over three decades. John has specialised in documenting people and landscapes. For the past sixteen years John has been studying New Zealand landscapes and in particular the culture of rural New Zealand, assembling a body of work which will reflect his love for this country.

He has published or collaborated in four books on native plants, New Zealand landscapes and cultural history. John is working on a new book documenting the location of native habitat for migrating birds from the Alps to the ocean with Canterbury University Press.

John has worked as a photographer in many countries around the world, notably, Gambia and west Africa, the United States and Europe.

John’s previous works at Botanic Night of D’Lights

A brief history of Botanic D’Lights

Light up the Leafy Night was an event run in July 2013 as part of the 150th birthday of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.The gardens were lit up for 8 nights with installations and performances.

In July 2015, The Press Night of D’light in the Botanic Gardens took place (also part of KidsFest). It expanded in August 2016, and became Botanic D’Lights.

In July 2015, it began as The Press Night of D’light in the Botanic Gardens – part of KidsFest. It expanded in August 2016, and became Botanic D’Lights.

In 2018, the House of Travel Botanic D’Lights is bigger and better – and it’s on in both the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and the Arts Centre of Christchurch.

Come and visit – Wednesday 8 August to Sunday 12 August, between 6 to 9pm each night, with recommended last entry at 8.30pm. Prepare to be stunned! Here’s a sampling of what you will see: