Tag Archives: family history



It is ANZAC day here in New Zealand. Today we remember all the members of the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces who have served in wars.

Today I am remembering the following members of my family who served in the two world wars and who, remarkably and thankfully all returned home.

Harry Morrison, Army Sapper, Tunnelling Company of NZ Engineers. WW1

Tunnellers at Arras, WW1

Tunnellers at Arras, WW1

Reginald Morrison, Wellington Infantry Battalion, WW1 and Home Guard WW11

Raymond Morrison, 33rd Reinforcements, E company, WW1

Alexander Grey, Medical Corps, Egypt, WW1

Albert Edward Simmons, Rifleman, Western Front, Europe, WW1

Alexander(Lex) Grey, RNZAF, Seconded to Fleet Air Arm, WW11

It has been my interest in family history and the research that I have done that has bought this aspect history alive for me. I have a much greater appreciation of their contributions, sacrifices and the long term effects on them all now.


“Love at the end of the road” by Rae Roadley

The interesting play on words in this book’s title and the name of the author drew my attention recently in the library.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I found it hard to put down at times.

I love peoples’ stories, how they grow in life, what makes people tick and this all forms a good deal of this book as Rae documents her evolving relationship with Rex.

But there is so much more in this book that held my attention. Rae cleverly intertwines the history of the area in which she lives. The Kaipara is steeped in history both pre- European and since European settlement. Family history abounds and again Rae cleverly links the people she meets and is surrounded by in her life, back to past generations and their lives. The family trees in Appendix one are very useful reference points to assist the reader with the detail and intricate connections Rae writes about.

I’m a “townie”, just as Rae once was, so I found her stories and experiences learning about rural life entertaining, informative and amusing. I think she adapted to the life remarkably well and in ways I would not have done.

But the house she comes to live in with Rex, at the end of the road, is not just a very old, now historic house, which is in a rural location. It also sits on the edge of the Kaipara harbour and alongside the Otamatea River. Naturally there is a wealth of history and activity to be mined from these important waterways, all of which enriched my understanding of an environment very different from anything within my experience.

The book is packed with colourful characters, both human and animal. In typical rural New Zealand fashion there are endless anecdotes around food and a sprinkling of never fail recipes included in the book.

The photography and illustrations provide visual impact and information.

It is a rich, well researched and well referenced read. I came away having learnt a lot about people and how they tick and how lives and ways of living can be so very, very different. Rae’s book has piqued my interest in, one day, visiting this beautiful part of my lovely country.

You can visit Rae’s website here and she blogs as well.

“Recipes of Life”

Quite recently I heard a piece on the radio about a retirement village in Auckland which was raising funds by selling a recipe book. The purpose of the fund- raising was to ensure that money would be available to take the residents out and about on short trips. They particularly like going out to see houses decorated with Christmas lights in December each year.

However this recipe book was not in the usual style of such community based initiatives. The residents and staff in this village were asked to contribute a favourite recipe and to offer a memory or story pertaining to the recipe.

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I have a special interest in food and recipes in families having made two family history recipe books for my own family. Food and how we produce and cook it, how we then share it together can offer fascinating details across the generations. So this book caught my interest and the cause was a very good one so I sent off my cheque.

The book contains recipes that date back to the 1930’s through to the present day. So that in the accompanying stories the reader hears about the tough times back in the Great depression days when families were often large and the various ways in which parents stretched meagre resources to ensure growing tummies were filled. It is also a very accurate representation of just how multi-cultural our New Zealand population has become in the 21st century.

There are food anecdotes from England and many, many other countries around the world and plenty from New Zealand that I relate to from stories my Mum told. Stories about picking wild blackberries, boiling a billy, cooking on a coal range, selecting veggies from a large and well-tended garden plot, substituting ingredients when others were scarce or unobtainable.

The means of cooking the recipes include: coal ranges through to modern microwaves and traditional umu. Ingredients range from foraged apples from trees growing alongside the road, to exotic spices, Asian sauces and plants, Pacific island fruit and veggies, European dishes, a very sophisticated dessert and current “off the shelf, ready to use” products.

The book is a fascinating journey through time but also into diverse cultures and the myriad of ways people use food to celebrate occasions and to show their love. Many recipes have been handed down from generation to generation and live on with great affection still.

Food is to be enjoyed and shared and this book offers me a wide range of new recipes to experiment with as well as a “feast” as I sit and enjoy the associated wonderful stories.

Genealogy in a garden

As the garden bursts into more colour, leaf and flowers I have been around it this afternoon and taken photos of plants that have family history attached to them.

This Campanula or Canterbury Bell plant was my maternal grandmothers. My mother took a cutting many years ago and by my reckoning shifted it to at least 4 different gardens she kept. After her death I brought a cutting home to my garden and here it is many, many years later still flowering nicely from the original plant.

This variegated thyme has come to my garden from my mother’s final garden. She saw the plant growing well in a garden of one of our country’s large airports and commented that she would like a piece of it. The story goes that my Dad quietly bent down and plucked a small piece and once planted, it romped away in her garden. (Note here – my Dad was a very law abiding citizen but he enjoyed this wee story and his daring!) Again it shifted with her several times and it now lives in pots in my garden. It is pretty, delicate and smells lovely when touched.

And here are the chives that Mum gave me a clump of many years ago. I divided the clump last year but here they are growing apace and putting up the lovely mauve flowers that the bees just adore.

“Snow rose” was one of the first carpet type roses and keeps a very low growing, spreading profile. Its position here does not suit it that well but the hardy wee thing keeps on. My parents gave me this plant back in the early 1980’s and it transplanted to this garden in 1988 very happily. As its name suggests it can look like snow when the small papery white flowers cover it.

These lovely carnations are from a plant Mum gave to her good friend. After Mum died her friend was happy to give me some cuttings or slips to try and get these flowers established here. I don’t have the perfect spot for them but after several failures they are now growing well. Mum used to bring us bunches of them when she visited. It is wonderful to have them as a reminder of her and her abilities as a gardener.

The last photo is one of the more recent “historical” plants in my garden. Again it began in Mums’ garden. It is a Nemesia, one of many different colours in this useful plant’s family. My Mum enjoyed seeing the results of all her gardening work but she also took great delight in cutting things back to stimulate new growth and to keep the garden tidy.

Her advice to me on Nemesias was to give them a “good haircut with the hedge clippers” once they became leggy and seedy. I was a little cautious the first time I did this but her advice was correct. The plants bounced back with renewed vigour and began to flower prolifically again.

Another bonus and one Mum also enjoyed as a gardener and thrifty person, is that Nemesia seed easily and so new plants pop up in all many of spots, resulting in a ready supply of new plants to pop into gaps.

Some Nemesia have a lovely scent which makes weeding and gardening near them a real pleasure.

And I posted about the lovely miniature rose that bears the name of one of my children.

Do you have genealogical history in your garden I wonder?

Across time and space

I sat next to an 86 year old woman at our local genealogy group last night and learnt that she had emigrated from the UK in 1949 as a young woman in her twenties.  She had travelled light thinking she would only stay two years and return to her homeland.  Instead she married, had a family and settled here.  She has only managed two trips back to the UK since 1949.

With utter delight she showed me two photos that she had just received via the internet of her as a baby with her parents and sisters and another of her extended family.  She explained that she had not thought to bring any photos with her when she left the UK and after her Mum died, her Dad burnt most of the photos and papers because he did not want other people digging through their private matters.  She had long given up hope of ever having any photos of those earlier times.

A small subscription to a genealogical website resulted in a connection being made from UK to New Zealand from a distantly related family.  My new friend proudly stood before our group and told of her wonderful “find” .  She glowed with happiness.

Our sense of belonging

Since I became a  grandmother recently I have been thinking a lot about why all members of the baby’s extended family have spent a lot of time gazing at old and new photos.

The new photos are of the baby and we all admire him and comment on how much he has grown and changed already.  We also search for physical similarities, such as “does he have his mother’s eyes?”, “does he have my nose?”, “will he be tall like his maternal grandfather?”

The old photos are of adults in his life.  His father, aunty and uncle, his grandparents and great grandparents.  We seem to need to connect with all of these people when they were babies or young children but for reasons not readily explained.

To be healthy human beings we need someone to hold our story for us as we grow up.   It is essential to us developing a sense of belonging.  At first it is to the immediate family, to the history of the family and over time to the cultural group and the community. All this helps to provide us with a sense of security and an increased ability to face the world and its challenges.

And there has been plenty of story telling as well as photo gazing.

So maybe we have all been adjusting to a shift in the history of our extended family with the arrival of this wee chap and to our new roles in the family.  Maybe we have been stopped by his arrival and need to contemplate our time as babies that we can only grasp from photos.  I don’t know.

I also wonder how it would be if we had no photos to refer to. 

I’d be interested in your thoughts on it all.