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A treasure trove of ancestral tales

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2014

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Lorna Clauson was lucky to be born.

Her grandmother narrowly survived being poisoned by her first husband, a Scottish conman who went on to desert his second, third, fourth and fifth wives. His sixth wife died under mysterious circumstances.

That's one of many extraordinary ancestral tales told in Mrs Clauson's new book of family history.

Called They Sailed to the South, the 430-page tome tells the story of three families, the Druitts, the Fowles and the Bakers, and their journeys to the South Pacific.

It's divided into four parts: The Convicts, The Missionaries, The Immigrants and The Pioneers.

The last is the story of how Mrs Clauson's father, the descendant of an Australian convict, married her mother, the descendant of one of New Zealand's founding missionary families, and ended up in Drury raising a family.

They Sailed to the South is the result of 30 years of her own research plus a treasure trove of family history gleaned from her mother, other relatives and academics.

Mrs Clauson, who now lives in Papakura, wrote the book because relatives were constantly picking her brain about their ancestors.

"I was very lucky I had a natural interest in family. I just loved to know what happened to people. Nosy, I suppose you could call it.

"Now I can say to the relatives: ‘Here you are, it's $30, go away and read your history'."

The book is worth reading for non-relatives as well, giving context for the very early history of Europeans in New Zealand.

Mrs Clauson's ancestors crossed paths with many notable eras and people in history, from fighting in the Napoleonic Wars to following Samuel Marsden to New Zealand.

It includes such treasures as a paraphrased transcript of the 150-year-old journals of the Rev Charles Baker, which were preserved at Auckland Museum.

Readers have called the book "riveting" and "fascinating", and it's already in its second print run.

Mrs Clauson is well known for her musical work, having helped found the South Auckland Choral Society.

But the former Papakura High teacher says her book was a particularly special achievement.

"I'm very pleased with the result because it's made a huge amount of history available within readable portions."

They Sailed to the South is available from Mrs Clauson for $30 - email lornaclauson@digicake.com or call 298 3536 to order. It will also be available soon at Auckland Libraries.

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- Papakura Courier

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