A new project – getting started

It’s interesting to examine something I’ve done for so long (e.g. genealogy) and see how I do things. I guess it could be interesting for others as well.

For my latest project, I’ve been given my client’s maternal grandparents’ full names, birth dates (all since 1900), and where they were born (all New Zealand), and the same with her paternal grandparents.

The first thing I do is add the information I know into Ancestry.com, setting it up as a new family tree.  To do this, I need to connect the four names, by adding in my client’s parents’ names.

I’ve also been told that my client’s maternal grandfather is deceased.

It makes it a little easier as the client is a friend of mine, and I know that her grandfather lived locally.

Cemetery Records and Headstones

I then searched the local cemetery records for information about the maternal grandfather’s passing (in this case, the Napier City Council Cemetery Database – http://www.napier.govt.nz/services/napier-cemeteries/cemetery-database/) and found the following new information (e.g. not provided to me before the search):

  • Last Known Address
  • Occupation
  • Date of Interment – compared to Date of Death
  • Funeral Director
  • A picture of the headstone, complete with a digital copy of the inscription.

With this information, I added the Last Known Address, Occupation and Date of Interment to the Ancestry tree.

With the Funeral Director information, I could email the Funeral Director to see if they will provide any further information on the deceased – e.g. if I didn’t know the next of kin etc.  Not required with this person.

With the headstone information, I now know the first names of two other children of the maternal grandfather (e.g. my client’s uncle and aunty).  I added these into the family tree.  I also saved a copy of the headstone image into the family tree as well.

I also use cemetery records and headstone images as confirmation of spelling of names, and for confirming birth and death dates.  However, these are not always correct.

I’ve seen middle names spelt incorrectly on headstones – in my own family research.

I would complete this same process for other deceased family members.  However, this only works when you know where the person lived, and if the cemetery records for that area are online.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

The next thing I look at is whether the maternal grandfather’s records are available online.  Because this person was born and died in New Zealand, my first point of call is https://bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/search/.

In this case, his birth was in 1929 – e.g. 86 years ago, so his birth record isn’t online.

Because of this, the earliest he would have been married would be 1948 – e.g. 67 years ago, so his marriage record isn’t online.

However, as his birth was more than 80 years ago, his death record is listed online.

When looking at the listing, the only thing new is the registration number for the record – in case I need to purchase the record.  I note it in the family tree (you never know!).

I can find the other records at my local library – using microfiche.

The other grandparents are all born after 1915, so all their birth and marriage record listings could be found at the library too.


  1. Set up family tree on Ancestry
  2. Checked cemetery records online
  3. Checked Birth Deaths and Marriages online

What I could do next:

  1. Email Funeral Director
  2. Check BDM record listings on microfiche at local library
  3. Purchase any BDM records (if required)

Using Google Maps for Genealogy

I’ve recently started piecing together where my family members/ancestors lived and where they moved to.  Using the Google Maps Engine Lite has made that easy, as I can create each ancestor as a layer of my map, give all markers for each ancestor a different colour or style, and write notes on each marker.Google Maps ScreenshotFor instance, if you clicked on any of the markers in my map, you would see the year he lived there, and his occupation.  This information is easy to find in the New Zealand Electoral Rolls – you can find out full name, address (or road), and their occupation.

Google Maps Screenshot - marker closerup

I haven’t yet added in this particular ancestor’s map where they were in World War II – but the best things about Google Maps, is I can add that in at any time.  And change things if I’m wrong!

I’m adding this to my template Trello card for each ancestor from now on – this may take me a while!

Part 3 of my search for Barb, Ron and Don

Author: Rachel Bell

I really didn’t consider the future when coming up with this blog title.  I plan on contributing to Find A Grave for a while, so when we get up to “Part 59…”  I’m going to look a little silly!

Somehow yesterday I coerced my husband into a “quick” trip to the Hastings Cemetery to take a couple more photos.  As usual, I chose the hottest part of the day (supposedly we hit 35ºC yesterday).

Even though I’d searched for Barb (Barbara Dryden) in my two previous visits, I took advantage of the second set of eyes, and we looked again.  No luck this time either, definitely going to assume that her plaque in the rose garden is either one of the unreadable plaques, or missing altogether.

We both then went in search of Juanita Dorothy Wini King – but again, no luck.  This should have been easier – as the date of death for Juanita was September 2002 – thus the plaque should have been readable, but nothing.

By this stage, my husband is getting a little frustrated.  “You’ve got me looking in this heat for nothing?”

One more I promised…

Just down from where Juanita was meant to be, we went searching for Phyllis Agnes Walker and Victory Peace Walker (surprisingly born in 1919 – with a name like that, I expected him to be a child of the 60s/70s).

Victory Peace Walker and Phyllis Agnes Walker

Bingo, I found one (or two – depends how you want to count this)!

I also decided to return to the place where Donald Raymond Roe‘s headstone should be (I found the empty plot last time) – to take a photo of the empty plot for his relatives.

Donald Raymond Roe

I find an empty plot like this a little depressing.  Did Donald never have a headstone?  Was it damaged?  Was it stolen?

I’m not sure my husband will ever help me again – but we worked out why I was so nauseous after my last visit to the Cemetery.  I get motion sick really easily, and of course I was walking through the rows of headstones, and the rose garden looking from left to right at each name of the plaques.  Needless to say, the heat was probably a factor as well, but I was more motion sick than sick from heatstroke.

My Find A Grave contributions are now up to 6 – and there are no more new requests for the Hastings or Havelock North Cemeteries.  Does anybody have any New Zealand relatives they need help with?  They don’t have to be from Hawke’s Bay…

The continued search for Barb, Ron and Don

After my previous unsuccessful search for a few of the headstones that I wanted to photograph for Find A Grave, I decided to give it another go yesterday.  I packed up a backpack of my cemetery map, my reference information for each of the 8 people I was trying to find, and a water bottle – and along with a huge hat, I went back to the Hastings Cemetery.  Did I mention how hot it was in Hawke’s Bay yesterday?  It was hot!

First on my list was a Donald Raymond Roe.  I followed my map and went up and down a couple of rows of headstones for a while, before realising that Donald’s headstone didn’t actually exist anymore.  In fact, there was nothing on the exact plot that he was meant to be.  Now I’m only a new contributor to Find A Grave – so what am I meant to do?  Should I take a picture of the big blank plot?

My next search was for Barbara and Richard Dryden.  I had the exact plot number and a map of where this plot was meant to be – but unless it was one of the small plaques that had become unreadable over the years, they were not to be found. Frustrating!

Next was Ronald James Haywood.  By this time, in the heat, I just wanted to find somebody!  Just one headstone I was after.  And after a good 20 minutes looking through all the cremation plaques, I found him.

Ronald Haywood

Yay my first contribution to Find A Grave!

Next was Juanita Dorothy Wini King.  I’ve got to admit, at this point the heat was getting to me.  I’d been at the Cemetery for about 50 minutes, and was starting to get a bit nauseous – heatstroke?  However, I continued.  But Juanita was hiding from me – will have to find her another day (hopefully a cooler one!).

At this point, I was ready to give in, and go home to my air conditioning.  However, I knew Albert Climo was in the RSA Block, and should be pretty easy to find (the RSA plaques always seem to be in good condition).  Sure enough….

Albert Climo

My total so far was 2 headstones from the 5 I was aiming for, and I had one more to try.  So in the heat, I headed to the complete other side of the cemetery and started looking for William Tankersley.  When I searched the Hastings District Council Cemetery Search, there was a headstone image in the search results.  And it’s wrong!  (Must let them know that…)  At this point, I was really nauseous and even the bottle of water that I was continually sipping from wasn’t helping.  However, surprisingly, I found William.  The correct William.

William Tankersley

So from my expedition yesterday, I found 50% of the headstones I was after – not bad!  And they have all been uploaded to Find A Grave – hopefully their relatives will be happy 🙂  I’ve also claimed another two people to find in the same cemetery – but I think this time we will leave it until a cooler day.

(After-note – I got home and was rather unwell after this.  Is that heatstroke?)



Starting NZ genealogy – births

For a young country, New Zealand has a lot of helpful genealogy records available.  Depending who and what you’re trying to find, many old births, deaths and marriages are online.  By going to Births, Deaths and Marriages Online, you can access the following:

You can search for:

  • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago.
  • Stillbirths if registered at least 50 years ago.
  • Marriages that occurred at least 80 years ago.
  • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago.

When searching for births, try searching with the family name and the first name(s) you know, with the “Search From” date set at 01/01/1840, or if you have an idea of what year the person was born, try a “From” and “To” date as appropriate.  If you don’t find the results you’re after, just search with the family name and a “Search From” date.

Still not finding what you want?

  • Try spelling the family name different
  • Try putting the family name in the first name field, and the first name in the family name field – sometimes records are typed in incorrectly.
  • Try spelling the last name different
  • Try a different date range
  • Try no date range (just a “Search From” date of 01/01/1840
  • Was the person you’re looking for born at least 100 years ago?  If the person was born less than 100 years ago, you’ll have to go to the local library and look at the non-historical records on microfiche.
  • Try putting in the family name, and then reordering the search results by either “Mother’s Given Name” or “Father’s Given Name”.  This is useful for finding siblings – if you know the parents’ names.  Every birth record will show the “Mother’s Given Name” and “Father’s Given Name” so if you don’t know what this is, there’s some extra information for you.  However, your “John Smith” isn’t the only “John Smith” out there, so double check other records to corroborate that you found the right person.

New Zealand births have been officially recorded since 1848, but Maori births were only required to be recorded from 1913.  However, as it was hard to enforce this, some Maori births were not recorded – frustrating to us genealogists!

Good luck in your searching!