Russell Crowe's kiwi heritage is for real

21:17, Feb 06 2011

Hollywood actor Russell Crowe is very much a Kiwi and 1/16th Ngati Porou – but he may also be distantly descended from an Australian convict.

It may not settle the trans-Tasman tussle over whether New Zealand or Australia claims the award-winning actor, but website has compiled a family tree for the star of Gladiator and American Gangster.

Content manager Brad Argent said despite having a "United Nations" heritage, most of Crowe's ancestors settled in New Zealand.

"Particularly that he has Maori ancestors shows that he's very much a Kiwi. It's a fantastic thing that he has that kind of connection."

Crowe's maternal great-great-great-grandfather, John Hayes, was a trader on East Cape in 1834.

"Statistically, it's very likely that he came from Australia. He may have been like many others who were convict people and they were coming to New Zealand to start again." But though a convict history was once shameful in Australia, Mr Argent said it was now celebrated.

John Hayes wed a Maori woman, and their son Hone Hayes was Crowe's maternal great-great-grandfather. Ngati Porou was a proud tribe with a long warrior history.

"Crowe's warrior connection clearly must be in his blood considering the roles he has played on the big screen, including Gladiator, Cinderella Man and Robin Hood."

The Karori cemetery was full of his relatives. "His ancestry includes North and South Island ancestry, tribal connections, a Welsh grandfather, Scandinavian Forty Mile bush connections, Italian and possible also convict ancestry."

Crowe was born in Wellington but moved to Australia with his parents when he was four, returning to Auckland when he was 14. His cousin, former cricketer Martin Crowe, said he didn't share Crowe's Maori heritage as they were related on their fathers' side.

"That's probably why Russell's got the edge on us," he said.

The global website, the biggest provider of genealogy records in the Western world, with six billion records, launches in New Zealand today, providing access to 20 million records and 140 years of history online that have previously only been available on microfiche in public libraries.

Six major collections – all electoral rolls from 1853, some jury lists, some Canterbury provincial rolls, some Maori voter and electoral rolls, Maori land claims 1958 till 1980, and New Zealand naturalisations till 1981 – will now be available at the click of a button, though for a fee. They'll also be available free on library websites.

The rights to put them on-line were bought from the descendants of Anne Bromell, a New Zealand genealogist who spent more than 20 years converting them to microfilm.


The Dominion Post