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.

The corner of Cashel and High Streets, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

The corner of Cashel and High Streets, Christchurch. CCL Photo Collection 22, Img00803.

The corner of Cashel and High Streets, Christchurch [ca. 1880].

Cobb & Co. established their line of coaches in Christchurch in 1863. By 1864 their coach office was on the corner of Cashel and High Streets, facing east on the Triangle. The coach driver is thought to be Joseph McFarlane (1849?-1885). In High Street to the right of their depot are Royse, Stead & Co. (William Royse and George G. Stead), grain merchants and the Simpson depot (Bernard Simpson, tobacconist and fancy goods). The music warehouse of Spensley & Co can be seen on the left, in Cashel Street.

Do you have any photographs of the corner of Cashel Street and High Street? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Children taking donkey rides on Sumner beach, Christchurch: Picturing Canterbury

Children taking donkey rides on Sumner beach, Christchurch. CCL PhotoCD 5, IMG0019.

Children taking donkey rides on Sumner beach, Christchurch [ca. 1905]

Do you have any photographs of summer in Christchurch and Canterbury? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

100 years ago: Canterbury Hall fire

“One of the biggest and most destructive fires experienced in the city in recent years took place last night, when the big block of buildings known as the Canterbury Hall, comprising His Majesty’s Theatre, the Alexandra and Victoria Halls, the offices of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association, the offices of the Canterbury Industrial Association, and suites of offices used for other purposes, were practically totally destroyed by fire.” (Press, 12 Nov 1917)

A little after 8.30pm on 11 November 1917, clouds of smoke were noticed by passers-by coming from the roof of His Majesty’s Theatre in Manchester Street. Hugh Crawford, caretaker of His Majesty’s, lived on site with his wife and daughter. Crawford had been at home that evening but it was his wife, returning home after being out visiting, that alerted him to the sound of cracking. On opening a door to the theatre they saw the stage was on fire.

Within minutes, the Central Fire Brigade Station had been notified, and by 8.45pm the brigade were on the scene. The fire, thought to have started in the dress circle, was intense. After a portion of the roof collapsed, the fire moved to the auditorium, and through the windows the big pipes of the city organ could be seen burning fiercely.

By 9.40pm the fire had spread to the front of the building and the meeting rooms of the Canterbury A & P Association. Mr Pemberton, Secretary to the Association, who had been alerted early to the fire, had managed to save the books from the safe but the Association would lose its library, memorabilia and portraits of past presidents in the flames.

After this the fire steadily mounted, and by 11 pm the whole of the Canterbury Hall block was gutted.

Construction of the Agricultural and Industrial Hall (later the City Municipal Chambers) in Manchester Street [1900]. CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0068
Construction of the Agricultural and Industrial Hall (later the City Municipal Chambers) in Manchester Street [1900]. CCL PhotoCD 14 IMG0068
Canterbury Hall (also known as the Agricultural and Industrial hall) was owned by the Canterbury Hall Company, a group that included the Canterbury A & P Association and the Canterbury Industrial Association and was erected in 1900. William Albert Paxton Clarkson and Robert Anderson Ballantyne, architects, had designed the building, while Rennie and Pearce were responsible for its construction.

His Majesty's Theatre, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-003987-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22770930
His Majesty’s Theatre, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-003987-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22770930

The hall hosted a number of events and receptions during its lifetime but its main event was the Jubilee Exhibition which opened in the hall in November 1900. By 1906 it was divided into three halls – the main hall was His Majesty’s Theatre, while the hall on the ground floor became Alexandra Hall, and the top floor hall was Victoria Hall. The building also housed the City’s Organ, purchased for the International Exhibition held in Hagley Park in 1906.

The municipal offices in Manchester Street, Christchurch. 1925. CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0083
The municipal offices in Manchester Street, Christchurch. 1925. CCL PhotoCD 2, IMG0083

Over the years, the Canterbury Hall Company tried to sell the building to the City Council, but each time the proposal to purchase was defeated in a public vote of ratepayers.

Hayward’s Pictures used the hall for several years as a theatre, but in early 1917 after the last failure to secure the Council as a purchaser, a 10 year lease was taken out by Fuller Vaudeville Proprietary to run it as a vaudeville theatre.

When the hall, valued at £21,000, was lost to fire in November 1917, only the Manchester Street façade was left standing.

In 1918, plans were made between Fullers and the Canterbury Hall Company to rebuild a new theatre on the site – but these plans must have fallen through, as the empty shell of the old building stood on the Manchester Street site for another two years before Christchurch City Council bought it for the site of their new municipal offices.

Find out more about the history of the building and the fire:

Follow our tweets from @100chch to discover life and events 100 years ago in Christchurch and Canterbury.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

It’s 1940 and the Chilbury village men, young and old alike, are called upon to fight to defend their heritage and their immediate future.

The Chilbury Ladies choir

The Vicar leaves a note on the church noticeboard stating that ‘As all our male voices have gone to war, the village choir is to close’.  This high-handed attitude rattles on the remaining but suddenly defunct females of the choir.  Action has to be taken and it is …

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the result and a few prominent members of both choir and village are prompted to divulge their thoughts, actions, and emotions through correspondence – letters are written; journals are jotted in and generally, the fictional village of Chilbury and its occupants, are brought to life in what is a very uncertain and frightening time.

I debated whether I wanted to read about an all-female choir but it was essentially the ‘glue’ that held all the characters together and propelled the sub-plots along within the main storyline.

Blackmail, black marketeering, village hierarchy and social status combined with a healthy dollop of romance all play a part in the unfolding drama but it is the diverse female characters – young and old – who symbolise what mental and physical reserves of strength were required to survive yet another German invasion when still experiencing the effects of the previous one some twenty years ago.

I especially warmed to the precocious but somewhat naïve 13-year-old Kitty Winthrop who starts a diary as a result of an announcement on the wireless that ‘keeping a diary in these difficult times is excellent for the stamina’.  Her entries are funny, optimistic, deluded and very in keeping with an adolescent who feels she has a very old head on youthful shoulders when, in fact, her inability to understand the subtleties of life, make it both sad and funny at the same time.

The epistolary style of writing is reminiscent of other amazing reads such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and The Colour Purple  by Alice Walker.

This novel will prove a very popular addition to any book club list – and at some future point in time possibly as a TV series.

This is Jennifer Ryan’s first novel and I look forward to reading whatever else she has in the pipeline.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir
by  Jennifer Ryan
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008163716

Heritage Week 2015: Sentimental journeys

Heritage Week logoBECA Heritage Week starts this week though it should more correctly be called “Heritage Fortnight” since this year it runs from 9-26 October – with an impressive range of events on offer (more than you could fit in a mere 7 days, even).

This year the theme is “Arrivals and departures – the journeys that have shaped us” and events over the course of the “week” include Akaroa’s French Fest, tours, seminars and talks, and heaps and heaps of other stuff. Check out the brochure of Heritage Week events [9MB PDF] for the full roster of heritage-goodies.

The big event on Saturday 18 October is a Central City Family Fun Day. All sorts of fun activities will take place at various “hubs” dotted about the inner city including face-painting, Highland Games, bouncy castle, ki-o-rahi (the traditional Māori ball game), music and performances.

Double decker busAs well as the entertainments there will be opportunities for people to investigate their own heritage with genealogists and whakapapa offering advice. And best of all, a free double-decker bus will be available to travel between hubs.

Have a look at the Family Fun Day map.

Library events

The library has a range of activities to celebrate our local heritage:

Spirited cemetery tours with Richard Greenaway 10-25 October (various locations)

Join Richard Greenaway, local historian and genealogist, on one of his colourful tours of local cemeteries. Richard will share information on the graves of people – important, interesting or about whom there is a positive,sad or quirky story. Useful for local historians, genealogists and those whose children need an original subject for a school project. Handout material will be supplied for a gold coin. Walking shoes recommended. Tours are one to three hours.

Explore your family connections Sunday 18 October – Victoria Square

Visit us at the Mobile Library Van to discover more about your family history. Staff will show you how to access resources where you can find key information such as births, deaths and marriages as well as migration and military information, or build on what you already know.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Storytime on the Double Decker Sunday 18 October

Join Zac and Tania for stories, rhymes and songs all about transport as we ride on the double decker bus. Stories are best suited to children aged 3 to 7 years, caregiver required. Departs from Victoria Square, Armagh Street bus stop at 11 am and 12 noon. Bookings essential! Please phone 941 6649 or email libraryevents@ccc.govt.nz

Christchurch Photo Hunt

Photo Hunt 2015Our annual photo hunt takes place in October. As well as helping to boost important historical records, entrants are in line for some great prizes – an eReader or a tablet.

So dig out your photos of any and all modes of transport, people heading off on, or arriving home from trips big and small, images that document our travels, homecomings, and journeys of all kinds.

Entries can be made online, or by dropping into your local library.

Previous years’ photo hunt entries can be found on Kete Christchurch.

Take a trip with the 2015 Christchurch Photo Hunt

Since 2008, Christchurch City Libraries has been pursuing your old photos. Why? Because they are a fantastic record of local history. The pics go onto our Kete Christchurch – the repository of all kinds of Ōtautahi images.

This year’s theme is ‘Arrivals and Departures — The journeys that have shaped us’. We want your images related to this subject. You could win a tablet or eReader. Find out more, and enter in a library or online.

Christchurch Photo Hunt

There are four cool postcards you’ll spot in libraries – feel free to grab a few. They feature some top travel pics – perfect inspiration!

Christchurch Photo Hunt postcards
Christchurch Photo Hunt postcards [2.24MB PDF]

Akaroa Regatta
Regatta. Akaroa. 1907. Kete Christchurch 1907_Regatta_Ship_R_3391B.jpg
Boyce Refrigerated Truck being manoeuvred off the steamer Hinemoa
Boyce Refrigerated Truck being manoeuvred off the steamer Hinemoa, Kete Christchurch CCL-Kete001-002.jpg
London to Christchurch Air Race 1953
London to Christchurch Air Race 1953, Kete Christchurch IMG_0001.jpg
Waka, Okain’s Bay, 1977
Waka, Okain’s Bay, 1977.  Flickr HWC08-SO-101

Have a look back at Photo Hunts gone by:

Christchurch Photo Hunt 2014 – The Winners

The Christchurch Photo Hunt has produced a bumper crop of Christchurch images. Thanks to all of you who shared your wonderful historical photos and memories.

The judging took place on Thursday 20 November. The judges were Rosemary Baird and Bridgit Anderson, with the help of staff members Paul Sutherland and Sue Colyer.

Winners and highly commended entries

Two Views in Time

Waiting for Moira - Chris Andrew


Waiting for Moira Chris Andrew

Judge’s comment: A wonderfully evocative image and story of the past and present. The railway lines that crisscross Christchurch have played an important part in many peoples’ lives. I remember a similar moment from my own childhood waiting for my father to return by train from Lyttleton standing on the Moorhouse avenue over-bridge. Bridgit Anderson

Summer Sunday outings at the Waimakariri River - Merle Conaghan


Summer Sunday outings at the Waimakariri River Merle Conaghan

Judge’s comment: Classic images of a summer Sunday outing. Beautifully composed family portraits. The only real changes are in the clothing. Bridgit Anderson


Cashel Street, December 1900 - June E Blank


Cashel Street, December 1900 June E. Blank

Judge’s comment: You can feel the wind in this image! The street life and signage is fascinating. There’s a lot to observe and I particularly like the mass of muslin bunting used to decorate Cashel Street. It’s as if the two sides of the street have become the walls of a rather grand marquee. Bridgit Anderson

Ballantynes Fire - Robert Brettmeyer


Firemen at Ballantynes Fire 1947 Robert Brettmeyer

Ballantyne's Fire - Robert Brettmeyer


Ballantyne’s fire, 1947 Robert Brettmeyer

Judge’s comment: A very moving group of images of the Ballantyne’s fire. You get a real sense of the deeply distressing nature of the event from the firefighters point of view. Bridgit Anderson

Escalator in Millers Building, late 1970s - Des Pinn


Escalator in Millers Building, late 1970s Des Pinn

Judge’s comment: Any child born in the sixties will remember the endless fun and simple entertainment to be had riding the Millers department store. The perspective of the photographer, the colours, the signage and the people moving through the space captures the experience beautifully. I love the way the photographer has has chosen the moment a child is about to ascend the escalator to press the shutter. Bridgit Anderson


Railway office staff hostesses, 1958 - Mary Boyle


Railway office staff hostesses, 1958 Mary Boyle

Judge’s comment: What a joyous moment has been captured here. It’s a wonderful staff photo and a fascinating showcase of women’s 1950s fashion. Bridgit Anderson

Camping at Leithfield Beach - Valerie Allen


Camping at Leithfield Beach Valerie Allen

Judge’s comment: Camping is such a New Zealand tradition and this image from 1939/1940 captures it all. It’s delightful and from the way the photograph has been framed you can feel the families pride in their Caravan, car and the ubiquitous thermette. Bridgit Anderson

Skating In North Hagley Park - Bruce Baldwin


Skating In North Hagley Park Bruce Baldwin

Judge’s comment: Skating in North Hagley Park is not something you see everyday, so it was a pleasure to come across this image. The photographer has really captured some of the fun and excitement to be had for all. What I see as a real strength in this image are the candid moments it captures. There are people engaged in lots of different activities and you can almost hear their conversations. Bridgit Anderson

Overall collections – commended

Building the 3YA Radio Transmitter at Gebbies Pass, 1933

Gebbies Pass Radio Transmission Tower Alison Moore

Judge’s comment: A great series of images that really tell the story of the place and the people who worked there. Bridgit Anderson

Naomi Poulsen on her way to Art School

Poulsen family photographs, 1920s and 1930s Bronwyn Horgan

Judge’s comment: A wonderful family album that gives the viewer a fascinating insight into family life and the city from the 1930’s – 1950’s. The accompanying notations really expand the experience. Bridgit Anderson

Spectators and Participants in the annual Avon Bike Race

Collection from a photograph album June Boslem

Judge’s comment: Another fascinating album for those who love cycling. Bridgit Anderson

American sailors at picnic at Ashley Gorge, 1920s

Winsor Family photographs Alison Wilson

Judge’s comment: There are many fascinating historical images in this album that cover many important civic moments in the life of the city. Bridgit Anderson

Portrait of a Young Woman

Collection of glass negatives Glyn Williams

Judge’s comment: This collection is made even more interesting through it’s lack of provenance. The images have been reproduced by Glyn Williams from glass plate negatives with the people and places are largely unknown. Bridgit Anderson

Judge’s comments – Rosemary Baird

It was so much fun judging the 2014 Christchurch Hunt although it was very difficult to choose between so many incredible photos. These photos will be an amazing resource for historians, researchers and art historians and I’m very grateful to all the donors who have shared their precious family photos.

My favourite photos were those which told a story and made me curious about the events in the photo. For example, the winning photo in the people category was a  delightful display of 1950s fashion, but it also made me curious about the women’s job’s as hostesses on the railways. What would it have been like for those women to have worked in the mostly male environment of the Addington Railways? Did they wear a uniform usually or were these their usual dresses?

I also enjoyed seeing photos that were about quintessentially Christchurch events such as the commended picture of the Ballantyne’s fire – those photos brought us into the midst of the firefighters and made the event feel real and personal.

The winner of the places category was a beautiful image – not only a great visual record of Cashel street frontages (now lost to redevelopment and earthquakes) but also a record of how Cantabrians celebrated and decorated their public spaces in 1900 – it reminded me of the recent SCAPE festival. These historical photos reveal continuities as well as differences.

The albums were especially valuable as they gave broader coverage of Canterbury life from a personal perspective, and told a sustained narrative about events and places.

Previous Photo Hunts

Finding your World War One soldier – a quick online guide

With the centenary of First World War taking place over the next four years, now is the ideal time to start some research into those who served in the war. This is a very quick guide to six online resources that will help you begin research into those who served in the New Zealand Forces and help you find contextual information.

Produced by Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Cenotaph database contains biographical information about New Zealanders who fought in First World War – and other wars that New Zealand has been involved in. This is still a work in progress. The length of entries varies as does the information included, but all those who embarked with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force should have an entry.

New Zealand soldiers’ official service records have been digitised and can be found on Archives New Zealand‘s Archway resource. These can provide all sorts of information about a soldier’s service and background. You can potentially find out such things as home address, next of kin, pre-war occupation, when and where they served, and wounds and injuries. Records of nurses can be found in the same way. These records are full of abbreviations, but the New Zealand Defence Force’s glossary is very useful.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission looks after the graves of and memorials to those from the Commonwealth who died during both world wars. Their website includes a fully searchable database of graves, cemeteries and memorials, so this is the place to come if you want to find out where a soldier is buried or memorialised (if they have no known grave). Some records may contain further information about individuals.

If you are interested in war memorials in New Zealand, New Zealand History Online has a memorials register with lots of illustrations. This site is also a good place to find out more about First World War in general and how it affected New Zealand, although the number of websites and books about the war is increasing all the time.

More and more digitised material is being made available these days and one of the most useful is the National Library’s Papers Past, which contains a number local newspapers from the war years, including The Press. Newspapers can include casualty lists, letters home from soldiers and In Memoriam notices, as well as showing how the war was reported at the time.

Christchurch City Libraries has put together a dedicated WW100 page which is a gateway to lots of information about the war, both on the library website and further afield – it is well worth exploring, and includes booklists, links to further resources and details about events. If you wish to go further with your research the New Zealanders in World War One page will be of interest.

Over the next four years the amount of websites, books and digitised material will only grow, but the resources mentioned here will go along way to get you started.

Heritage Week a go go

IMG_2032BECA Heritage Week starts today – check out the rather splendid range of events on offer.

The big event on Sunday 19 October is Discover Central City. It is a day of family fun. There will be Tales for the kids on the Caterpillar in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens (book now on 9417923), and historic re-enactments in the newly-opened conservatories (yay Garrick House – with the crazy cactii and succulents- just re-opened today!)

You can enjoy free rides on the trams and events along the way. A retro zone at New Regent Street will feature bands, food, retro stalls, street tours and vintage motorbikes.

Library events

The library has a range of activities to celebrate our local heritage and the theme of: Making Connections — Experience our past – present – future:

  • Tales on the Caterpillar – Kids get to ride on the neat Botanic Gardens caterpillar and have stories as they ride. Sunday 19 October (book now on 9417923)
  • Adult storytram with Joe Bennett regaling you as you ride. Sunday 19 October (book now on 9417923)
  • Cemetery tours with Richard Greenaway.

Holding onto home – Friday 17 October 6pm at Canterbury Museum

The First World War seeped and stormed into every aspect of New Zealander’s lives. The things that survived – a crumpled theatre ticket, a knitting pattern, a crucifix made from rifle cartridges – bring this distant event back into our hands today. Join Te Papa history curator, Kirstie Ross, as she talks about the importance of things in maintaining individual, family and local identities during a conflict that was global and globalising. Her talk will focus on some of the stories featured in her new book, Holding on to Home, co-authored with social historian Kate Hunter.

The Berry Boys Project – Saturday 18 October 2pm at Sydenham Room, South Library

Since 2011, Te Papa’s history curator, along with university interns, volunteers, genealogists and members of the public, have been on the trail of the identities are 120 First World War soldiers who were photographed at the Wellington studios of Berry & Co, prior to their departure for war. Join Te Papa history curator, Kirstie Ross, as she shares about the detective work undertaken to reveal the identities of more than 90 of Te Papa’s ‘Berry Boys’. Bookings essential. To RSVP please phone 941 5140. You are invited to provide a gold coin donation.

Finding my First World War soldier – Saturday 18 October 3pm at South Learning Centre Lab

Finding my First World War soldier [2.4MB PDF]
Finding my First World War soldier [2.4MB PDF]
Searching for New Zealand biographical and service details during the First World War

Join a workshop with Christchurch City Libraries staff, who will introduce a range of New Zealand digital resources that will help you unravel the mysteries of your First World War photographs and official records. This is an introductory session for those just beginning to research their family war history. Follow-up workshops or support may also be offered to interested participants.Bookings essential. To RSVP please phone 941 5140.

Christchurch Photo Hunt 2014

The photo hunt takes place in October. As well as helping to boost important historical records, entrants are in line for some great prizes – one of two iPad minis or a Kobo ereader.

Previous years’ photo hunt entries can be found on Kete Christchurch.