Using local histories when doing your family history

The old adage about putting flesh on the skeleton used by genealogists reinforces the beauty of using local histories when building a picture of your family.

Heritage et al recently blogged about the most recent winners of the J. M. Sherrard award in New Zealand regional and local history.

The ultimate award went to Robert Peden for his book, Making sheep country: Mt Peel Station and the transformation of the tussock lands (Auckland University Press, 2011). Writing on early agriculture, “the economic and ecological transformation of New Zealand”, the information on the early high country sheep farmers and the decisions they made about where they, and how they, farmed provides social context to those others farming in nineteenth century New Zealand. Although focussing on Mt Peel station and John Acland’s experience of establishing large-scale sheep farming, what Mr Acland went through could easily provide the background for a family historian’s understanding of how life was for their own ancestor. As written in the book’s preface, "Acland’s story is in many ways typical of the experiences of his fellow pastoralists."

Making sheep country: Mt Peel Station and the transformation of the tussock lands
by Robert Peden 

Another winner from the J. M. Sheerard awards for 2010-2013 was David Verran's book on the North Shore, The North Shore: an illustrated history (Auckland, N.Z. : Random House, 2010).

This book is also an excellent example of how you can glean a picture of the way your ancestor lived through studying the local history. One of the chapters is on boat building and the various boat yards that existed. Described are these various yards, their owners and how they operated; “At about the same time that the Holmes family was building the Waitemata, George Beddoes’ shipyard was constructing a schooner and three cutters. Other work this yard undertook included the repairs and alterations to a paddle steamer. It was this shipyard that built the paddle steamer Devonport in 1870, the first timber and steel ship built in New Zealand."

Bailey and Lowe's boatbuilding yard at Sulphur Beach, Northcote Point, around 1910
The North Shore: an illustrated history by David Verran

Auckland Libraries holds a large and varied collection of local histories from throughout the wider Auckland region to around the country. You can search our catalogue under the name of the area to see what we have in our collection.

Author: Bridget