SOLDIER SETTLERS: from England to New Zealand
by Eric C. Bowater, 2008 (plus supplement 2010)
Why write this story, focussed as it is on my maternal grandparents, and recording their ancestors and descendants?
Firstly, because it gives me (and, I hope, my fellow-descendants) a better sense of who we are and where we have come from, both genetically and culturally.
Secondly, because discovering and recording the identities and stories of these earlier generations is a way of honouring the tupuna in our whakapapa, of giving recognition to our ancestral people, especially in the context of our New Zealand history, which is not as well known as it should be.
Thirdly, because “doing genealogy” is essentially something to be shared with other people, both the process and the results.
There can be a lot of frustrations, blind alleys and blank walls, but every little piece of information newly-discovered that interlocks with other pieces in the puzzle is immediately rewarding to the researcher. There are many similarities between genealogy and science. In both, the driving motivation is curiosity. In both, every question answered generates new questions. But just as in science, the family history researcher eventually has to stop and publish what has been discovered, even though it is still a “work in progress”.
I made a tentative start on this project about 5 years ago as a raw beginner in genealogy, learning from others in the North Shore Branch of the NZ Society of Genealogists. I have used the resources at both the NZSG Family Research Centre in Panmure, and the LDS Family History Centre in Takapuna.
The North Shore and Auckland Public Libraries provided access to many resources, including subscription access to the website Ancestry.com. However the best harvesting of data was on my own computer after I had taken a paid subscription to the very user-friendly website Ancestry.co.uk, and had given the task my concentrated and sustained attention. The valuable English census records give us an intriguing glimpse into the households of our ancestors. This year the National Library in Wellington, the Library of the Army Museum at Waiouru, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and Archives New Zealand Auckland Regional Office have all provided evidence of the Taranaki story.
A more experienced and proficient genealogist would have found answers to questions which have eluded me so far, but I set 2008 as my deadline for presenting my findings. This year seemed fitting as the centenary of the marriage of Herbert Pratt and Ethel Wright, as well as my principal informant’s 90th birthday!
I am grateful for the stories and family tree data (which I have called “family tradition”) passed on to me by my aunt, Shirley Matthewson, and by my late mother, Muriel Bowater. And thank you to my siblings and cousins who contributed to the “stories of the descendants”.
I hope people enjoy reading it, whether members of the family clan, or those just interested in New Zealand pioneer stories.
Eric Bowater, Auckland, October 2008
(100 A4 pages, spiral bound, many photos)
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