Settler's 500-year family record found

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 22/08/2012
Seonaid Lewis
Fairfax NZ
REMARKABLE FIND: Seonaid Lewis with the 500-year-old Jennings family tree.

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Click here to view a high-resolution copy of the Jennings family tree

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Details of a 500-year history of the family of an early Nelson settler have been found in the attic of a house on Auckland's Waiheke Island.

The document, titled A Genealogy of the Jennings, covers the family history of David Jennings, a solicitor who emigrated from England to Nelson in 1849 and eventually became a farmer in Lower Moutere and later Motueka.

Auckland Libraries desperately wants to reunite the family tree with its owner, or a descendant of the family whose history is charted on the document, which was created more than 40 years ago.

The large family tree has been intricately documented on an A2 (large poster-sized) sheet of paper. It was found in the attic of a house on Waiheke Island and given to the local library for safekeeping.

Family history librarian Seonaid Lewis, from Auckland Libraries' Central Auckland Research Centre, said the family research went back about 500 years and included images of significant family members.

Ms Lewis said that after the 43-year-old document was handed in to the Waiheke Library, it was restored and preserved by library preservation specialists.

She described the find as a "remarkable example of genealogical research".

"You might expect to find such a comprehensive family tree in England, so it is pure gold to find a piece of work like this in an attic in New Zealand."

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Provincial Districts] lists Jennings as an "Old Colonist", who with his wife and two children left Gravesend on the ship Mary and arrived at Wakatu in February, 1849.

Details recorded on the family tree reveal that from 1831 to 1848, he lived at various London addresses, including the Strand and Whitechapel Rd. He then "emigrated to the Nelson province via France, where the third child was born".

Jennings settled in Lower Moutere and bought the property named Moutere House, where he farmed and raised cattle. In 1852, he bought about 81 hectares of land on the west bank of the Motueka River at Pangototara, and in 1855 he built a new house for his family.

He was instrumental in getting a post office for Motueka, was a member of the local road board, and for many years was chairman of the Riwaka School committee.

He had an active interest in the building and management of schools under the Nelson Education Act, and in building bridges and other road work under the Provincial Road Board Act.

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Jennings remained at his Motueka property until he died on December 10, 1877.

He and his wife had six sons and five daughters.

“It is very apt that we begin this search during Family History Month, and we hope to return this information to its family,” Ms Lewis said.

Features of the family tree which may assist with identification are:

Titled A Genealogy of the Jennings.

Compiled from the records of the Drapers' Company of London and family records in A Kentish Country House by Mary Adelaide, Lady Jennings.

Details the line of David Jennings following his arrival in New Zealand in 1849.

Features a drawing of Hall House, Jennings' English home.

Compiled by a son-in-law of Laurence Arthur Jennings, elder son of the Rev Charles W Jennings, 7th of the 12th issue. Signed and dated "Keiller 1969".

To find out more about A Genealogy of the Jennings, contact Seonaid (Shona) Lewis on Seonaid.Lewis@auckland council.govt.nz or call 09 301 0101.

- The Nelson Mail

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