Part of the worldwide genealogy/family history community

FamNet eNewsletter June 2017

ISSN 2253-4040

Quote. "Don’t take life seriously. Every genealogist knows nobody gets out alive." – unknown

Editorial 2

Regular Features. 3

From the Developer - Indexes. 3

The Nash Rambler 5

DNA Testing for Family History. 6

Index to previous articles. 6

Jan’s Jottings – Searching for Your Names in FamilySearch. 7

Wairarapa Wandering. 8

Tracey’s Contribution. 9

An Anonymous Genealogist from West Auckland. 10

Digging Into Historical Records. 13

From our Libraries and Museums. 13

Auckland Libraries. 14

June - The Book That Changed Europe, Maori Maps. 14

July – Maori Place Names, Engagement with Maori Taonga. 14

August - Family History Month. 15

Group News. 15

Whangarei Family History Computer Group. 15

Waikanae Family History Group. 15

Waitara Districts History & Families Research Group. 16

North of Ireland Family History Society. 16

News and Views. 17

A Plague of Copying: Genealogy Family Trees in a Nutshell 17

This Unique Record Set Will Blow Your Mind. 18 takes DNA Ownership Rights from Customers and Their Relatives. 19

Can Claim Ownership of Your DNA Data?. 23

Book Reviews. 24

Three Sheets to the Wind. 24

Black and British, A Forgotten History. 24

Advertisements. 25

Old Family Reunion, 20th and 21st January 2018 in New Plymouth. 25

Advertising with FamNet 25

In conclusion. 25

A Bit of Light Relief 25

To Unsubscribe, Change your Email Address, or Manage your Personal Information. 26


Back to the Top. 17


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Greetings and welcome to another issue of the FamNet newsletter.

Another month has flown by. Another newsletter is assembled.

As I sit at my computer basking in the late autumn sunshine,  I am contemplating whether to finish now and wander off to the neighbourhood coffee place in order to soak in more sun while I battle my way through the Herald crosswords and enjoy their delicious black brew or should I continue to add to this newsletter. It has been getting bigger and bigger and some discussion is taking place about an alternative way of producing it.

Lately I have been reading a number of genealogical journals from various societies. Although I find them interesting and I’ve wasted some considerable time I am struck by the fact that a printed newsletter or journal is an out of date and expensive way of getting information to members. Once printed, sent out and read they are useless and quickly become a troublesome pile on the floor of the computer room. Similarly for Conference Proceedings which are pertinent for a year or two but never opened again, if at all. Societies waste a lot of valuable financial resources, labour and time producing these "beautiful" publications which are, in fact, thrown away. I notice that what were monthly publications are now bimonthly or even six monthly, mainly due to financial considerations. I am more and more convinced that a digital journal is the way to go. Inexpensive to produce, easy to dispose of (isn't the delete button wonderful) and quickly adaptable to current trends, they can introduce all sorts of ideas and the quickly developing digital resources of genealogical research. I'm talking about genealogy journals and conference proceedings not books in general. I prefer a physical book far more than a digital book.

I try to include interesting and, sometimes provocative, articles and blogs that I hope will stimulate readers. I try to keep abreast of new developments in this rapidly growing intellectual field of historical research. I even try to inject a bit of humour. I try to make this newsletter different from a society magazine or other magazines - all have their place. But the primary ambition is the word "news" that appears in the title.

Anyway, the thought of the sun, the coffee and the crossword has won. I'm off.

In this issue:-

·         From the developer: as a consequence of my column Robert talks about putting your indexes up on Famnet

·         The Nash Rambler: I must have all sorts of problems with my genealogy cartons because, in this issue, I address the problem of what to do with all my indexes. I should highly recommend that long term genealogy addicts do not downsize their houses - it causes too many problems in finally having to deal with the cluttered "office" material.

·         Jan Gow writes on FamilySearch and its facility to store family trees and consequently searching those already posted there.  

·         Adele talks reminisces about the family yacht and using google to find where it is now.

·         Tracey Bartlett introduces us to a couple more of her ancestors in her column. They are the sort of ancestors you need to brighten your family tree.

·         Another new contributor, the Anonymous Genealogist from West Auckland continues his saga on substantiating talk of a possible half sibling.

·        Hanley Hoffmann introduces another of his relatives

·         Auckland Libraries announce their upcoming lunch time lectures

·         I have included an article about copying family trees and that scientists have discovered that this is a good thing - huh!!!!

·         Included is an article on the Sydney Gaol Photographic Description books - maybe a little look could be worthwhile

·         I have included an article on DNA Ownership Rights that caused a bit of a stir in genealogical circles. I have also included a response by Dick Eastman.


Hopefully you will find something of interest among all that. I have enjoyed assembling this month's newsletter.



Peter Nash

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Regular Features

From the Developer - Indexes

A couple of months ago I was invited to speak about FamNet to a family history group in Albany.  I’m almost always happy to talk about FamNet to any group with an interest in genealogy: I enjoy demonstrating the site, and the extra interest increases the number of people using FamNet, and getting our newsletter.   So if there are any other groups within an hour or two’s drive from Birkenhead – say Northland to Waikato – that  would like to hear from me please get in touch, and we’ll see if we can find a way to make this happen.

Anyway, over a cuppa one of my Albany audience mentioned that she was working on a project of creating an index of people from Albany who’d served in the First World War.  This led into a discussion of how she was doing this, and whether FamNet could help.   Now Peter has just sent me a draft of his Nash Rambler column, dealing with the issue of what to do with some indexes.  The subject for my June column became clear: I should talk about indexes in general, how FamNet manages indexes, and how it can help you with your particular index.  

When we’re preparing an index most of us will start with a spreadsheet, probably Microsoft Excel.   Here’s an example, in this case of burials in the Birkenhead Cemetery. 

Excel is an ideal tool at this early stage.  Data is arranged into rows and columns, we can make the columns whatever we like, and we can use visual effects like colours and fonts to highlight things.  Excel doesn’t create difficulties for us by insisting that we follow particular rules: for example if we want to write “Don’t Know” into the date column, Excel won’t complain that “Don’t Know” is not a valid date.

While your index remains a personal project and smallish (less than a few thousand rows) there’s no real reason to change, but if you want to make your index available over the Internet (or put it on a CD if you haven’t moved on from last century’s technology) you need to use a real database.  A database like SQL Server can provide search results very quickly, while precisely managing access.  I am continually astounded by how quickly a search of our main GDB database, containing more than 15 million rows, returns results.

In the early days of FamNet (then called NZGDB) we were given a database of passenger lists to 1845 and so these were put on line also.  Then we were given a few other index databases and various tables for these were created.  With each new table there were new and different column requirements: in one cemetery there was even a column of data recording the name of the horse that had drawn the hearse!   I quickly realised that if I had to define individual tables and searches with each new database I’d end up doing nothing else, so I programmed a general facility.  Now I can define a new table in minutes, and if somebody presents me with a new spreadsheet I can usually have it loaded and available on line in about an hour even when it has different columns to any existing table. 

Of course users don’t want to have to look at each table individually – imagine having to look up each cemetery in turn to find a burial – so usually new tables become a section of a larger table.  For example, a new cemetery becomes part of the burials table. Each section can be individually managed and the section owner decides whether it is available for free or requires a subscription.  This was because the facility was originally designed when I thought that FamNet would be useful to the NZSG, however they preferred to offer their databases to Ancestry and FindMyPast and so currently all FamNet’s general databases are free.

FamNet is keen to expand its resource of general reference databases, and we’d welcome an opportunity to discuss this with anybody who has something to contribute.  As with the main GDB, a feature is that you retain ownership and control, and a strength is FamNet’s ability to link one table with another.  Standard columns in recent tables include columns for links to FamNet’s GDB, to Cenotaph, and to a user-defined web page.  For an example go to the General Resource Databases page, and open the table “Servicemen and Women”.  You see a search panel where you can select the records that you want:-

Click [Show All] to see the whole table: -

Click the column headings to sort the table. 

If you’re the table or section (for example “Porirua War Stories”) owner you can update your records, including uploading and downloading spreadsheet data.  I’m delighted to see that this table now includes records of Albany WW1 Soldiers, as well as the previous two groups of Porirua War Stories, and Green Island Memorial Garden.

So, if you have any index data that you’d like to see on line, we’d love to talk to you.

Telling your story: Index

1.    Writing your story as notes, or with Word.  

2.    Embedding pictures in Word documents

3.    Saving Documents for Web Publication.

4.    Saving Scrapbook Items

5.    Sharing your Story: Managing your Family Group

6.    On Line Editing: More Facts, Family, GDB Links

7.    Comparing and Synchronising Records

8.    Producing and Using Charts

9.    Merging Trees.  Part 1:  Why Bother?

10.  Merging Trees.  Part 2:  Adding Records On-Line

11.  Merging Trees.  Part3.  Combining Existing Trees

12.  Finding Your Way Around FamNet (Getting Help)  

13.  FamNet – a Resource for your Grandchildren

14.  FamNet’s General Resource Databases
Updating General Resource Databases

16.  Privacy


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The Nash Rambler

 Last week I had a very pleasant few hours visiting a friend who has just downsized his house and was enjoying the same processes that I am with my domestic situation - too many treasures and too little spaces.

He is also disposing of his massive library of books and photographs of his ancestors. This is a difficult process but the fact is he doesn't have the wall space to display photos or to lean a book shelf against. He also has cartons of genealogical "goodies" to deal with.

But he is ahead of me in one aspect of the downsizing exercise in that he has done considerable work on his indexes and databases. Over many years he has quietly worked away at indexing all sorts of material including some time at National Archives and Church Archives, so he has accumulated many databases. So have I but I have not started to address the question of what am I going to do with them. He has spent some time and effort putting all his databases into one big database and installed a search engine to make for easy use. He has also stored this new super-dooper database in the cloud because of its sheer size. I must admit to spending some time using this for my own research in an endeavour to solve my last genealogical brick wall. I was so impressed that I am going to, in the near future, do the same with my databases. I have been thinking about this for some time and have now moved it higher up in the To Do list.

It is a fact that most genealogists who have "laboured long in the field" have accumulated a collection of indexes and or databases. It seems to be a by-product of the pleasurable addiction. The problem is that many disappear when the industrious compiler "shuffles off their mortal coil" - another lovely phrase. When I was working for the NZ Society of Genealogists I saw many databases that were assembled before the advent of computers that needed to be converted to a digital format. It seems a waste that all our databases and indexes are not saved in a place where they may be used as a finding resource for future researchers. Microfiche and early card indexes are no longer fashionable or easy to access. Remember floppy discs?  Good luck with finding a floppy disk reader! Indeed many new computers do not even have a CD drive so this platform has also become obsolete.

Over a lovely coffee, we discussed what we should do with these monster databases. We do not want to let our life's work disappear when we decide to pass on - haven't we got a lot of flowery phrases to use if we want to avoid the word "die".

There are a number of options that we discussed. The first was to donate to the NZ Society of Genealogists. You are probably aware that I am not a fit person to be a member, according to a lovely letter I received from the then president of that society when I tried to renew my membership, and also my indexing technique is not up to their standards according to one of their "leading experts". So that is not an option for me. My friend is also very reluctant because that society is apparently no longer publishing indexes in any other format than their Kiwi Index which is only available to members i.e. it is very exclusive To obtain a copy  you must join the Society (provided that you are deemed to be a fit person to be a member) and the subscriptions are very high for us very poor pensioners even if you join for one year just to get the Kiwi Index.

This exclusivity of access is against many indexers’ wishes to make their indexes freely available for use by anybody, although we do not have a problem with the society charging access by selling a CD Rom or flash drive. It is felt that publishing databases only in an exclusive format doesn't further or assist in genealogical research.

Another option is to make it available to or The problem here is that we both do not want to make a profit from our indexing. Funnily enough I have a database up on FindmyPast and, believe it or not, a Society previously mentioned receives any money generated from that database - I don't think they know about that and it does make me giggle a little.

Also some of the data may cause problems due to privacy issues and the fact that some of my indexes could be deemed indelicate for public access for all sorts of reasons including at least one arising from the New Zealand BDM indexes. I can remember the problems a branch of the NZ Society of Genealogists had when they published a database of divorces from the Truth newspaper. Much nashing - sorry gnashing - of teeth, dramatic sighing and nasty words were exchanged and I want to avoid that. Another problem to some people is the red herring called copyright. I believe that facts cannot be copyrighted, the format can be and is copyrighted to the creator but this does not seem to be generally understood.

Another point against these web sites is the exclusivity factor because you must have a subscription to use these web sites or, of course, waddle along to your local library.

Another option was to donate them to the Auckland Public Library or to Family Search but the same problems mentioned in the previous paragraphs will need to be faced. Incidentally one of my bigger databases, the Hillsborough Cemetery database was done for the Auckland Public Library and the one I'm presently working on, the Waikaraka Cemetery database, is also destined for them. So I don't have a problem here except for those of my databases with potential privacy problems.

Another option that I have used is FamNet. I have some databases (including Hillsborough Cemetery) up on FamNet and because of my role as editor of this newsletter I am in favour of using this website. Here I am able to keep the more "delicate" databases with potential privacy problems only available to a selected few - I know that is being exclusive but the Privacy Legislation must be taken into consideration. Incidentally I have put a few of my historical articles up on FamNet for public use. I was very flattered to receive some very positive feedback from a history student who was writing an article on the Dog Tax War. So I am using this website as a means of publishing some of my history articles. It is a pleasure to receive some compliments from the big bad world of academia. FamNet has proved to me its value as a publishing medium.

Another side issue I have been contemplating lately is the sometimes ridiculous situation we can get into because of the Privacy Legislation. Take that example I mentioned previously of the Society Branch that published an index of divorces from the Truth newspaper. There was much opposition to publishing, but now I can go onto PapersPast and find the whole details without leaving my warm and cosy office. How can PapersPast exist? I was speaking to a friend of mine, Bob, who was on the organising committee for a school reunion. Somebody caused mayhem with this reunion by consulting the Privacy Commission who, allegedly, verbally advised that it was against the legislation to put up any class photos with pupil's names on them. Imagine a school reunion with no class photos on the wall. Maybe the legislation has spawned a new breed of interfering busy body?

Regards to all

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DNA Testing for Family History

From the Editor: I am very sad to say that this very good series of articles has finished. Gail is out exploring the big bad world and then relocating overseas to the upper South Island. Maybe I can convince her to resume in twelve months or so.

From the Developer: Gail’s articles, originally intended to be only a few articles, have appeared since 2015.  I have really appreciated her enthusiasm for her topic and her willingness to put considerable effort into making this topic comprehensible to us.  For FamNet they signalled a step up in the quality of our newsletter.  Previously the best we could offer were various “How to use FamNet” articles and articles best described as personal anecdotes.  For the first time we had real genealogical articles that were worth indexing.   Thank you Gail.

Index to previous articles

1.   What is Molecular Genealogy?

2.   Where would I begin?

3.   What test should I take?

4.   What DNA will NOT tell you and the risks involved.

5.   Direct paternal line (men only).

6.   Direct maternal line (men and women).

7.   All the lineages including maternal and paternal (men and women).

8.   Understanding direct paternal results.

9.   Understanding direct maternal line results.

10. Understanding your Autosomal ("cousin") results.

11. Understanding the X Chromosome.

12. Bits ‘n Bobs: DNA Testing Companies, Glossary.

13. DNA Websites, Blogs, and Forums

14. Commonly Asked Questions – Some Basic, Some Advanced

15. DNA – Something a little different…

16. Current Pricings for the Three Main Genealogical Testing Firms

17. DNA Testing for Family History

18. Starting a new series on Y DNA Testing

19. DNA Testing – Getting into SNP testing on the Y chromosome to enhance your Family History

20. DNA Testing – Getting into SNP testing on the Y chromosome to enhance your Family History (Contd) 

21DNA Testing – Going over some frequently asked questions, plus, plus…

22. FTDNA Projects

23. Autosomal Ethnicity – How accurate are the maps you are seeing?


Gail Riddell 

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Jan’s Jottings – Searching for Your Names in FamilySearch

You really need to do this:

1.                  Go to (this is the Mormon Church website - free to look at & billions of records)

2.                  Cursor over Family Tree.  Click on Find.

3.                  You will have to register. Fill in the form. Look at 19-21 below.

4.                  Upper LH side heading Discover your Deceased Ancestor. You want find by Name

5.                  Type in a name - a grandparent or great grandparent - add other known data. Click Find

6.                  Click on a person in the hit list who matches your known data [hint: note their unique number]

7.                  If no matches enter different data in search fields and try again. Still no? Check ‘Match all exactly’ is not ticked. Go to 22.

8.                  Click on TREE

9.                  Move around the screen with your cursor - sweeping cursor from right to left. You may be able to see several generations back of your family. Information to be checked for accuracy of course!!

10.              Click on the grey arrow to display going back another generation!

11.              Have a play going back generation by generation!

12.              Choose a person to create a pedigree chart from. Upper RH side click on print. Watch for grey arrow and then look for blue down pointing arrow upper right corner. Click on this, then click on the top file, click on Adobe Acrobat (you need to have installed this free program, but it             should be there) click OK. You should see the - and + symbols in upper centre screen. Click on the + to make the image bigger on the screen so you can read what is there. You can print this chart. Will be different depending on which person you click on when you begin

13.              Back to 7. Click on Person (instead of Tree). This will open that person's Life Sketch. The information there has been entered by various people.  Look on RH side.        You can play here looking at different charts. Try the fan chart to get an idea of how much data has been entered.

14.              Look under Research Help for suggestions or problems.

15.              Click on each of FamilySearch, Ancestry, findmypast and MyHeritage to see the records or research held, that matches with this family. You need a sub to each site to see all the data

16.              Click on Possible Duplicates (scroll down, on RH side) - this will find others searching this family.

17.              Scroll down to Latest Changes. Click on Show All. Now you can see a link to the person who has been working on this family. Click on the link and you can email. Especially if you can    see any errors. Or have found exciting new info!!

18.              Look at Sources. Start a Discussion. Look at the Notes. Work on verifying new data.


Here is another thing you might like to do. That is register for FamilySearch.

NB you will have to register to be able to start using 4. (See above).


19.              Go to

20.              Look in upper RH corner and click on Free Account. Enter a User Name and Password. Next time you go to FamilySearch, look in upper RH corner and click on Sign In. Enter your UserName and PassWord.

21.              Now you are registered and can add your information. You will have extra choices and processes once you have registered.


BUT WAIT!!!   Perhaps there were NO matches or hits for your names!! Shock Horror!!! What to do????


22.              Go to

23.              Click on Tree.      Click on Person, click on Add unconnected person. Type in your family names

24.              FS will check if this data has been entered already. If not, enter your data.

25.              FS will keep giving you choices in case the data is already there



26.              Once your data is in FamilySearch, on the opening page scroll down and click on App Gallery.

27.              Type Relative Finder in the Search window.   Click

28.              Click on ‘Get Started’

29.              Log In

30.              See who you are related to. You could check the filter on the LH side and filter 31. Verify any new information



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Wairarapa Wandering

The photograph is of HEIDI 11, F.B 59. This yacht is a Folk Boat Class and was built for my  family back in Emsworth, Hampshire about 1959. When our family owned her, she was painted dark blue and F.B. 59 on the mainsail.  We used to sail her over to Holland and up the canals for summer holidays.

When I was visiting England in 2014, I asked the friend with whom I was staying about Heidi. Her comment was “That knowing you Adele, you will find out about it on the computer”. 

We had a visitor one day when I was still there in Burgess Hill. I had arranged that he call in to meet this family friend, Flo. The reason for my trip "Home" was to record the history of car which Flo and her now late husband owned and which was built for the Moss Family in 1950.  The visitor said he knew a person who owned a Folk Boat and suggested that perhaps it was Heidi. Thus the seed was sown and the search was on when I returned from that trip.

After my return I let it slip until I had more time, this year. A few months back, I decided to Google "FB59" and, sure enough, up it came, and for sale in Essex!  I was thrilled. I contacted the seller, and introduced myself as a member of the family who were the first owner off his yacht. Incidentally he had bought it from Cliff Taylor! Small world! More about him later.

The owner was selling the boat because he is in his 80s and it’s a bit large for him these days. I said Heidi 11 was the second yacht, we had Heidi first, then Heidi 11. We sailed from Itchenor round to Upnor, near Rochester, to moor her at the Medway Yacht Club because it easier to get to from Streatham. We missed sailing the Sussex coastal areas though, we were bought up with them: West Wittering, East Head,  Roman Landing, Hayling Island, Isle of Wight,  Birdham etc. 

I remember one holiday in Zeebrugge and Ostend, then on to Veere which meant going through the canal from Flushing. I  loved those holidays, but when we were due to sail home, Dad was struck down with a migraine. So I volunteered to sail her to Ramsgate and by then he could take the tiller from me, 14 hours later!...  I loved being in charge, Mum didn’t have the knowledge  to sail her home, and I felt comfortable in doing it, with all the safety gear in place, life jacket on, and a rope which tied me to the mast, in case off accident…I knew how to sail, do the compass everything, and I was only in my early teens!

The yacht could sleep four with comfort, and often we had a friend with us and he slept in the bow. He later had an important job to do, to be my Best Man in 1972 in Surrey

But this story is also a connection with New Zealand, as when Dad sold her it was to a British Overseas Airways Corporation Pilot, a New Zealander, Cliff Taylor. Some folk may remember he had an accident at Heathrow, and a few passengers died. It was Flight 712, I just checked it on Google!!!  8th April 1968. engine fell off… 116 passengers  11 crew… , I did find a letter to Northern Advocate about a lady who had been in the plane that very day, she is somewhere north of Auckland, would love to find her.

Adele Pentony-Graham

12 Neich’s Lane



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Tracey’s Contribution

 Sophie and Charlotte: Their immigration from Norway to New Zealand

Norwegian born Sophie (pronounced Sophia) was 40 years of age when her Swedish husband Pontus, a tailor by trade, died aged 41 years in March 1873. Living in Christiana (Oslo) Sophie was left a widow with four children, aged 5 to 13 years, to support. This was a time when immigration to America was high. Earlier in the 1800s Norwegians immigrated to seek greater religious freedom, however, the potato famine of 1866 - 1868 (the second, with the first famine spreading across Scandinavia from Ireland in 1845) caused great hardship and unemployment. Norwegian Immigration to America soared as 110,896 people were forced to leave Norway between 1866 and 1873.

Shortly after her husband’s death, Sophie married 29-year-old Fredrik, a tailor, in June 1873. Fredrik was probably known to the family and the marriage might have been one of convenience. The family was selected to immigrate to New Zealand on board the ship Høvding, which set sail from Norway in August 1873, arriving in NZ after a 110-day journey in appalling conditions. According to a letter of complaint written by a representative of the passengers on the day of arrival, the captain withheld rations of food and water, served rotten meat, refused to allow church services on Sundays and threatened passengers with lashings. The Høvding had previously sailed to New Zealand in 1872 with 365 Norwegians and 11 Danes aboard. The ship’s first captain, who had been praised by passengers, died in an accident upon his return to Norway hence a different captain for the unfortunate passengers the following year. The Scandinavian immigrants, the original settlers in Norsewood in the lower North Island, were contracted to create roads and rail lines through Seventy-Mile-Bush. Upon arrival, they had to make their own way to their “settlement” by foot. The conditions awaiting them were far worse than anything they had left behind.


Never in the History of New Zealand was there more bitter disillusion or disappointment than that experienced by these people from Scandinavia. They had out of necessity to face what lay ahead as they were anchored to the settlement by lack of money, a strange language and many children.”


It is unsurprising that Fredrik (now called “Frederick”), who was more used to wielding scissors than a machete, Sophie and family moved to Wellington, via Palmerston North, where they arrived by 1876. Here Sophie and Frederick had their first child. Sophie was noted as 40 years on the birth certificate but was in fact 44 years of age. Life in Wellington however had its own challenges; between 1880 and 1895 Wellington experienced a depressed economy, affected by a New Zealand wide economic depression.


“Land and commodity prices slumped, causing widespread unemployment, high debt levels and destitution among the working classes. The tough times were not helped by continued immigration and rapid population growth: from 1881 – 1885, 1000 new arrivals a year had to be accommodated in the crowded city.”


Sophie died in April 1888 in Wellington. Her death certificate records that she had been living in New Zealand for 15 years and had three children by Frederick, all girls, aged 12, 10 and 9 years. Frederick, who remarried and had further children, became a Naturalised New Zealander, as did Sophie’s only son Thor, who appears to have remained or returned to the Manawatu-Wanganui region.


At the time of Sophie’s death, her oldest child Amanda “Charlotte” was 28 years of age.  Charlotte had been a young woman at 13 years of age upon her arrival to New Zealand. Family stories suggest that Charlotte, with English as a second language, worked in a hotel as a chambermaid where she met her husband-to-be, a young Englishman. Robert, born in London, left a large family behind on Jersey Island and travelled to New Zealand just a few months later than Charlotte, leaving in January 1874 on the maiden voyage of the Rakaia, bound for Lyttelton in the South Island. Robert, who travelled as an assisted passenger, was 19 years of age and his occupation was noted as cellar man. He may have worked on board as a ship steward. While infant deaths occurred, it was reported as a reasonably “pleasant” journey.


Robert was 23 years old when he married Charlotte, aged 19 years, in Palmerston North in 1879.  By 1882 they were living in Wellington where their second child was born (their first child died as an infant a year earlier) and sometime before 1888 they moved to Auckland where Robert worked as a Publican/ Hotel Keeper in Queen Street, Auckland. They had a total of seven children between 1881 and 1895, with five surviving to adulthood. Their third child, Robert Edward, wrote an article in 1951 aged 63 years, which appeared in The New Zealand Herald under the title “Days of the Gold Boom” which provides a wonderful glimpse of Charlotte and Robert when he was a hotel licensee, as per the following exert:


“I can see my mother now, in her tight bodice with water-marked silk panel and huge leg-of-mutton sleeves. Her long skirt, padded in the appropriate place with a “bustle,” used to stir up clouds of dust as she trailed it along the pavements, while to cross the street on a wet day was quite an adventure on account of the muddy state of the surface.

My father used to wear a morning suit with tails, starched shirt and collar and a tall silk hat. He seemed to spend most of his evenings at the Stock Exchange, at that time open for business until 11pm, and he speculated fairly heavily in gold-mining shares, for this was the time of the gold boom.”


One of Charlotte’s granddaughters spoke to my sister about her grandmother and recalled staying at her house as a four or five year old, gazing out of the window at the fields opposite their house in Mt Albert, while tapping a spoon on the window. She recalls being asked in very kind tones by Charlotte, to please not to tap the spoon any longer. Our great aunt also spoke of Charlotte’s accent, her gentle manner and her “beautiful clothes.”


Charlotte died in November 1928 at her home aged 68 years. She was a long way from her birth country, but New Zealand was home to her. She is still referred to, however, as “Charlotte, our Norwegian ancestor” and some of her DNA traits still live on.




Robert, Charlotte and their children in Auckland, approx. 1896




Tracey Bartlett

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An Anonymous Genealogist from West Auckland

From the Editor: For some time I have been working with a fellow genealogist in West Auckland in an area of research that is "awkward" and hard to research. I have convinced him that he should write his family history because, due to his family circumstances, his research may be lost when "he shuffles off his mortal coil". He has struggled with this because he does not have much experience in writing. I convinced him to produce it as a column without any identification for very obvious reasons. Welcome aboard my anonymous genealogist from West Auckland - no, it is not me. This is his third column.

Episode 3:  Closing in on the Quarry.

And wait I did as the wheels of bureaucracy turned until early in 2017 when I received a letter from the family court. This informed me that the application would go before a judge within a couple of months. From here on the pace picked up considerably. Before the deadline mentioned in the letter I had two phone calls from the authorities within a couple of weeks of each other. The first asked if I wished to continue with the application- the answer was, of course, in the affirmative. Having put a lot of effort into the application I wasn’t prepared to lose the scent of the quarry, and let it drop.  The second phone call was more pertinent and asked about my follow up plans should the adoption file be the correct one.  Because he was part of my family history, yes, it would be my intention to follow up and make contact with the quarry or his family. I stressed that, obviously, there were sensitivities involved with any form of contact, I have no idea how someone of his senior years would take to being told he was adopted; or even if he knew he had a half-brother. He may not even have known that he was adopted although this was highly unlikely given his age he was when adopted.  Collectively these scenarios meant that the contact process would need to be handled sensitively. Previously I had contacted the Salvation Army Family Tracing Service and was keeping them updated as the research progressed, with a view to using them as an intermediary when it was time to make contact.

Within a month of the second phone call I had correspondence from the Family Court informing me that the adoption file would be opened for inspection and to make an appointment with the Family Court in Auckland.

Making some informal enquiries I found that, photographing or scanning of the documents was prohibited. Taking notes and or an oral recording was permitted, and the process would be supervised by a justice department official.

I arranged for a friend and colleague to come with me for support and act as an observer as I did not want to miss anything of importance the file might contain.

The appointment made and the day dawned soon enough.  Courtesy of public transport we got there early enough for a coffee before the appointment. At the court we had short wait before we were ushered into a meeting room.

At this stage you could say "let the games begin". The meeting from the beginning had an informal atmosphere.  I checked to make sure we were not allowed to photograph or scan any of the documents.  On opening the file, it was more of a surprise than a revelation. There were only two typed documents in it. Both were court documents formalising the adoption. There were no other documents in the file. Absolutely nothing! No formal records, affidavits from the mother, birth certificate for the child or any other supporting documents!

At the very least this was a huge disappointment.

Some discussion ensued about the whys and wherefores.  It was not known why there were no other documents in the file, or if there were what happened to them.

Once these preliminaries were over the documents were recorded orally word for word on both my I-phone and a small hand held recorder.

Other questions asked were if there was any record that the file had been previously opened?  Could they be in another file somewhere?  Of course the short answer was no. Maybe this particular aspect needs further investigation?  

The documents confirmed most of what I had already found - the adoptees new family name, that the father worked as a fisherman, probably based in a small harbour in the King Country, his date of birth, although this was not very clear in the typed document, the date the adoption was formalised, and the adopted mothers given name.  One thing pointed out to me by my colleague was that, because of the paucity of information, about, to or from the birth mother, there was no documentation linking the birth mother and the child. This was a very unusual situation indeed. 

Travelling home we had a bite of lunch at a local café. We discussed the events of the morning further. One of the first things when I got home was to transcribe the recordings into a word document.

It was very apparent that both the pre-adoption and post adoption birth certificates were required as they would be vital to establish that link between the adoptee, the birth mother and his adopted parents.

At this point the Salvation Amy Family Tracing Service came into the equation; they volunteered to apply to the Dept of Internal Affairs, DIA, on my behalf for the certificates. I needed to send them some ID documents to prove who I was. I felt it was better for them to apply on my behalf as they were familiar with DIA systems and processes and would have greater mana with the DIA in order to have the certificates released.

Using the additional information gleaned from the file after further research I found the following: the adoptee's mother maiden name that the adopted parents seem to have divorced eight years after their marriage, the year of the adoptee's parent’s marriage - one year before the adoption took place.

The electoral rolls for the year of the adoption show my mother as a married woman living at a friend’s house further up the same street as her husband and his family i.e. my father, aunty, and parents were all listed as living at the family home  address. Later issues of electoral rolls show my mother living back at the family home. This supports one theory that my parents had temporarily separated because my father or his family would not accept the child.  Given the time period, it would have been very difficult for a solo mother to raise the child without any support.

An interesting aside to this is, before emigrating to NZ, my paternal grandmother was previously married and had left five children in England. They emigrated to NZ some 28 years earlier than the adoption took place. 

The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service applied for the two certificates on my behalf but the DIA Births, Deaths and Marriages Department would still not release the pre-adoption certificate. This was a rather an ironic state of affairs as the adoption file was opened under the Adoption Act 1955 Sect 23, under special provisions.  The DIA were refusing access under the 1995 Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Act Sect.73.

Just one more hoop to jump through! It was then a need to go back to Family Court to prevail upon the Judge to make an order to direct the DIA to release the pre-adoption certificate under the 1995 Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Act Sect.73. I found about week later, after phoning the family court, that I now needed to file an application in the Family Court under the above 1995 Act - the initial application being under the 1955 adoption act. Another provision under the 1995 Act allows for the certificate to be applied for, provided both sets of parents, the adopted parents and the biological parents are deceased. There is one flaw with this idea in that the adoptees biological father is not known but given the biological father would almost certainly be deceased as well. So as a backup application I have been looking at obtaining the relevant death certificates.

At the same time, the Salvation Army Tracing Service agreed to trace the individual with a view to making contact. As much of the leg work in tracing him had already been done it will be just a matter of confirming the work done to date and making contact.

Towards the end of May an application was made to the DIA for the marriage certificate of the adoptees parents. This takes about ten working days to process.  When it arrives hopefully it will provide additional information about them.

Obtaining a copy of the pre-adoption certificate is mandatory to resolving the issue of maternity and hopefully paternity. Now I again wait, didn’t somebody somewhere that patience is a virtue.

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Getting away from the Hoffmann name to Bernard’s time serving in WW1, it is significant to note that many servicemen including Bernard Laurence Hoffmann, while serving in Egypt, were prone to VD, venereal disease. Many of them could not resist the temptation to use the Cairo brothels. Bernard’s file reveals that he had “time out” for VD.

I imagine that both Sylvia his wife, and her subsequent families would not have known this fact, access to servicemen’s files is a more recent phenomenon, so this fact would have been kept a secret by most servicemen.   In any case one could imagine relatives would have said ‘…no it could not happen to Ben (as he was known) because he was a good Catholic young man…..!’   How often have you heard relatives go into denial over a newly, not so tasteful revealed fact.  I have two female cousins who had the same burst of denial over their mother having a child out of wedlock!  “Our mother was a good Catholic…. Impossible!”

If you look at many of the servicemen of WW1 in Egypt this was a cause for leave. 

Ben was astute enough to save his money; I suspect that he did not waste his military pay, or what he saved in employment before he enlisted.  One of his eldest sons went on to ask me (because of my doing family history) where his father got all his money from, and I was astonished at this approach, I only had occasional contact with Ben as a great uncle, and here was a son who had lived and worked closely with his father in farming, most of his lifetime.  He obviously bought and sold land adjacent to his brother Harry at Yannawah after getting married at age 29 and then moved to West Wyalong and purchased a farm. That would have been no mean feat in 1922/1923 in his son’s eyes, but he never inquired of his father how he was able to muster equity to make such a purchase.

He subsequently purchased property at Parkes and then retired from farming leaving his son to do the agricultural work.

You will find Ben’s name inscribed on the western wall of the foyer of the Young Town Hall as “B L Hoffman” because he enlisted when living at Yannawah with his brother Harry, saw service in Egypt and presumably other places, and returned unscathed, to live to aged 88 in retirement at Parkes  NSW.

Hanley Hoffmann,

A New Zealand resident, born in Young.


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Digging Into Historical Records

Ship 'Timandra' 1842

The Log-book for the voyage of the ship 'Timandra' from Plymouth to New Plymouth recorded, on 24 November 1841, "all the convicts on deck this day."

On the same day the Timandra "exchanged colours with a Dutch barque" and "lowered the gig and went on board the Sampson, bound to London, with letters to report the ship." The log-book, up till the point of departure, refers only to emigrants (202), passengers (10) and crew. If there were convicts on board who were they and where did they come from? The ship is known to have been chartered to the New Zealand Company and nothing has been found so far to suggest any other arrangements. Perhaps the 'convicts' were part of the crew? Names observed so far are William ANDERSON, Thomas BONNEY, Mr CROSS (2nd mate), P.

GOUDEN (seaman), David GRIFFITHS (seaman replacing GOUDEN), Thomas HAND, James LEARY, James LOYDEN, NICHOLSON (2nd mate replacing CROSS), PEEL, Frank SEARLE, Thomas SCOTT, STEWARD, Edwin TAYLOR, W. B. THOMPSON (Chief Officer), and John WILSON. There were also "boys of the ship" - one of whom, George WALLINGTON, an apprentice, could not be found on 3 November. There was the boy COOK who was off duty due to illness on 04 December and the boy HOWARD who ended up in the hospital at Table Bay. The mention of "convicts" is certainly a surprise and was surely not a term to be used off-handedly in a public record? Hmmm...

Source: Timandra Log-book - Archives NZ AAYZ 8982 NZC 34/9/10

Dawn Chambers

From our Libraries and Museums

Triggered by an email from Seonaid (Shona) Lewis, we are offering a forum to our libraries and museums to publicise their events, and to contribute articles to this newsletter that may be of interest to our readers. Auckland Libraries is starting to make good use of this free service, let’s see if other libraries and museums take up this offer.

For readers of this newsletter: please bring this to the attention of your local libraries etc, and encourage them to participate.

Auckland Libraries

Booking: Not always essential but to secure your place, please contact the Central Auckland Research Centre on 09 307 7771, or complete our online booking form: -

Are you interested in family and local history?

The history of this country, as well as the rest of the world? 

Then why not come along to one of our fortnightly HeritageTalks and hear more about both our personal and our shared heritage.  These talks are given by experts in their field and can provide valuable insight into our histories.

Please note that Level 2 of Central Library is closed for refurbishment from Thursday 8 June - Monday 3 July. During this time HeritageTalks will be held in Waitemata Room on Level 3, Central Library

June - The Book That Changed Europe, Maori Maps

The Book That Changed Europe

with Andrew Henry.  Wednesday 14 June, 12pm -1pm, Waitemata Room, Level 3

Picart’s Ceremonies, recently called ‘the book that changed Europe’, was the first book to compare the world’s religions in a way that encouraged tolerance. A publishing sensation at the time, it is sadly still relevant almost three centuries later. Come and have a look at these beautifully illustrated volumes and hear how Auckland Libraries has ended up with two sets of this beautifully illustrated, seven-volume, 18th century work.

Maori Maps

with Peter Dowling, Wednesday 28 June, 12pm -1pm, Waitemata Room, Level 3

Maori Maps is a portal to the 750-plus ancestral marae of Aotearoa New Zealand. Relaunched in January this year in a mobile-friendly format, the site provides key information, maps and photos for each marae – going as far as the gateway to help descendants to reconnect and visitors to engage respectfully with marae communities.

Maori Maps is administered by charitable organisation Te Potiki National Trust. Peter Dowling is a director of the Trust and acts as its kaihautu. Come and listen to him speak about the project and find out how Maori can trace their personal heritage.

July – Maori Place Names, Engagement with Maori Taonga

Maori place names - Point Erin to Wynyard Quarter

with Herewini Easton, Wednesday 12 July, 12pm -1pm

E tu ake ana ahau ki Oka 

Ka tiro atu ki Te Waikokota 

Ka rongo ahau ki nga wai e tere nei

Ko Tikapa Moana, ko Hauraki ko Waitemata

Ko Ureia he tipua he taniwha

As I stand at Oka I look out across Te Waikokota

I sense the waters flowing, Tikapa Moana, Hauraki, Waitemata

Here is Ureia the mythical sea creature

Join Herewini Easton on a pictorial journey of the ancient shoreline of Auckland’s waterfront, from Point Erin to Brickfield Bay.

Engagement with Maori taonga 

with Rob Eruera, Wednesday 26 July, 12pm -1pm 

The charismatic karanga of taonga Maori over the years has left my mind and heart filled with emotional wonder at how powerful such treasures truly are. Most important to this equation, however, is how people engage and join with the taonga. Please join me in this low key chat. 

Nau mai – Haere mai  - Rob Eurera.

August - Family History Month

Various events are on at library venues around the Auckland region 1-31 August– check with your local library.

Auckland Family History Expo

When:  Friday 11 August, 5pm - 8pm

              Saturday 12 August, 9am - 7pm

              Sunday 13 August, 9am - 5pm

Where: Fickling Convention Centre, 546 Mt Albert Rd, Three Kings.

Cost:     Free. No booking required except opening event Friday. Tickets for Friday's event are $15, booking essential as seats are limited. Bookings open to public on June 1.

Nga mihi | Kind regards


Seonaid (Shona) Lewis RLIANZA | Family History Librarian

Central Auckland Research Centre, Central City Library

Heritage and Research

Auckland Libraries - Nga Whare Matauranga o Tamaki Makarau

Ph 09 890 2411| Extn (46) 2411 | Fax 09 307 7741

Auckland Libraries, Level 2, Central City Library, 44 - 46 Lorne Street, Auckland

Visit our website:

@Kintalk on Twitter / Auckland Research Centre on Facebook

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Group News

Whangarei Family History Computer Group

image001 Contacts: 

 Wayne: (09) 437 2881

 Pat: (09) 437 0692


Thursday evening venue is 6 Augusta Place, Whau Valley. Call Wayne or Pat or;

email, if you need directions.

 Saturday meetings are held in the SeniorNet rooms in James Street.

The rooms are upstairs in the Arcade leading to Orr’s Pharmacy and Tiffany’s Café, Start time 9.30 till finished before 1.30pm.

All our meetings had strong discussions of our experiences of DNA testing by a number of members. Still working an understanding how it all works. It is like going back to school, but more interesting. However, we are planning some workshops to learn more on the subject.

Waikanae Family History Group


Email: Phone (04) 904 3276, (Hanley Hoffmann)

Venue: Meets every 4th Thursday morning at the Waikanae Chartered Club, 8 Elizabeth Street Waikanae, just over the Railway Crossing from 9.30am to 12 -12.30pm, every month from January to November.

 Research days: at the Waikanae Public Library, 10am to 12 noon on second Wednesday of each month.


From the Editor: I have moved Hanley Hoffmann's article up nearer the beginning of this newsletter. Hanley writes an interesting article of general interest (not just Waikanae) and it deserves to be included among our other contributors.

Waitara Districts History & Families Research Group

The contact details of this group are:

Waitara Districts History & Families Research Group

Rose Cottage 33 Memorial Place


Tel: 06 – 754 – 3212

North of Ireland Family History Society


From the Editor: I received a copy of this Society's Journal which is published twice a year. I found that my planned day was destroyed from the moment I picked it up. It is an enjoyable read full of the day to day administration news of the society and its library and articles, mainly by members, of a genealogical nature. These articles are what I call "granny stories" but I don't mean to be derogatory. They were very readable. Even though I have no North of Ireland research I was thoroughly immersed for two or three hours. I learned a lot.


If you have any North of Ireland research you will not go wrong by contacting this society. They seem to have quite a library and publish material. They are a valuable resource.


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News and Views

From the Editor: When I read this article I laughed long and loudly. We genealogists, the true genealogists, rant about the "new style" of genealogists, the fishermen or fisherwomen who are perfectly satisfied to trawl through the internet until they net their catch. Our worst fears is that some fisherman or woman land our data and join it up to other "catches" to form a family tree that is suitable for the fisherman's purposes. Well the scientists have shown that these people are good for their fellow mankind i.e. us moaning "serious researchers". So maybe we should shut up and thank them for their good work.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Plague of Copying: Genealogy Family Trees in a Nutshell

Rules for Creating Your Own Family Tree:
1. Find a relative with a huge, online family tree.
2. Copy everything, just as the relative has entered it.
3. Post everything to your own family tree on any one of the dozens of online programs.

Genealogy is fun and easy. course, you know I am serious. >:\  (For those of you who are not up on your emoticons, see Wikipedia: List of emoticons. By the way, the text versions, such as the one I used, are emoticons. The image type, such as this one, are called emojis.

I just did a search in an online family tree program and found several identical and inaccurately copied entries about one of my ancestors. But who am I to stand up to genuine scientific evidence. On a website called, I found an article entitled, "The art of copying: Scientists tell us that even copying mistakes can be good." The article explains as follows:

            New research suggests that accidentally copying the mistakes of others can lead to some of man's greatest innovations. The international project, led by the University of St Andrews, found that mimicking the mistakes of others can ultimately aid the human ability to adapt. 

            The study, published today, also alludes to the 'secret ingredient' of what researchers call 'the super-effectiveness of human copying'. 

            The EU-funded project set out to ask key questions about the art of copying, such as who do we copy and why? It was led by Professor Kevin Laland and Dr Luke Rendell of the School of Biology at the University of St Andrews, and involved a team of leading researchers across the    world, from UCLA, Stanford, Stockholm and Bologna Universities. 

            Professor Laland explained, "Human culture is widely thought to underlie the extraordinary demographic and ecological success of our species and one of the foundations of culture is copying. I should stop writing about my frustrations with bogus entries in family trees and just go with the flow of a foundation of our culture. Perhaps all of these copied family trees are really the foundation of a new genealogy. A genealogy based on the wishes and aspirations of mankind rather  than the cold hard facts of historical research. The article goes on to quote Dr. Laland:

            "Copying pays off because the individuals we copy typically perform the most effective behaviour in their repertoire. In doing so, they inadvertently filter behaviour, making adaptive information available for others. 

            "Even if an individual copies at random, they still do better than someone learning through trial and error because the behaviour available to copy is amongst the best around. This study helped us to understand why copying is so widespread in nature.


If this is all true, then my three rules above are all that you need to know about doing genealogical research. Good Luck.


This Unique Record Set Will Blow Your Mind

Sarah Trevor  08 May 2017

From the Editor: Here is another resource for Australian researchers. If your ancestors are anything like mine there will be one or two who tested the limits of the law and found that their deeds resulted in "a holiday in a hotel managed by the government". Maybe you should spend a wee while investigating this?

NSW Gaol Photographic Description Books 1871-1969 isn't your typical family history resource. Take the notorious case of Louisa Collins, for example...

“I hold out no hope of mercy for you on earth!!!"

It's probably not the kind of sentence you expect to find while exploring historic records on Findmypast. But then, the NSW Gaol Photographic Description Books 1871-1969 isn't your typical family history resource. Spanning nearly a century's worth of crimes and misdemeanours, committed by tens of thousands of prisoners from 14 gaols around New South Wales – from Darlinghurst to Broken Hill – these records paint a colourful and detailed picture of crime and justice.

Most excitingly for family historians, they include not only transcripts but original images – which themselves contain mug shot photographs of the prisoner in question, hence the title of the records. It may even be enough to make you wish your own 19th-century or even, dare we say, 20th-century New South Wales ancestors served a stint or two behind bars.

To take an infamous case study, the NSW Gaol Photographic Description Books 1871-1969 record set provides a surprisingly personal glimpse into the case of convicted murderer Louisa Collins. the record described, Louisa was born in 1849 in Scone, New South Wales. Her mug shot – taken on 28 July 1888, as is duly noted – portrays an understandably solemn-faced woman, with black hair and brown eyes (also duly noted). Her crime? The “murder of Michl. [Michael] P Collins". What the record doesn't share is that this man was her second husband, and that his autopsy showed traces of arsenic poisoning.

Nor does it mention that her (late) first husband – who'd died just months before she married Michael – displayed similar symptoms before his own untimely demise. Tried on 8 December 1888, her sentence was as ominous as it was short: “Death."

Here's where the record gets really interesting, however. The clerk or clerks who noted down these details – and there certainly does seem to be the handwriting of at least two, possibly three, different hands scrawled across the document – also jotted down information that was perhaps less bureaucratically necessary, yet all the more fascinating.

“Executed 8th January 1889," noted one commentator, in slightly faded handwriting. So far, so good – you can see why this was necessary to record. “His Honor [sic] the Chief Justice Darley said, I hold out no hope of mercy for you on earth!!!" added another. The copious exclamation marks underscore the dramatic tone; it's almost as if whomever wrote this can't quite believe it. You can almost hear the judge's scornful cry. "Note. This is the first woman executed in Darlinghurst Gaol." This final remark, in a visibly different hand, is underlined.

Whether these anonymous commentators were titillated by the controversy of a woman being hanged, or their proximity to such a famous case, remains unclear. But their scrawled notes really illustrate how these records can capture not only the hard and dry facts of our ancestors' lives but also the more personal, emotive and colourful aspects.

Perhaps they were aware of the historic nature of the execution, since it was a rare event for a woman to suffer such a fate. But however infamous she may have been in her final days, and whatever their reasoning was for jotting down these comments for posterity, they certainly can't have known that Louisa Collins would become the last woman to be hanged in New South Wales.

Even if your ancestors weren't as infamous as Louisa Collins, the NSW Gaol Photographic Description Books 1871-1969 are well worth investigating.

If you're fortunate enough that your ancestor was unfortunate enough to have appeared amongst the photographic description books, a potential wealth of information awaits you. Many records describe in detail distinguishing marks and tattoos; some even list mannerisms such as nail-biting. These records could unearth a fascinating snapshot of your ancestor's life and times – not to mention their (potentially guilt-ridden) face! takes DNA Ownership Rights from Customers and Their Relatives

From the Editor: Here is an article that appeared and caused a bit of an uproar throughout the genealogy community. Read it and the following response from Dick Eastman.


Go to the profile of Joel Winston

Joel WinstonFollow

Consumer protection litigator. Former deputy attorney general in Trenton. Specialty credit reporting agency detective. #GoBlue

May 17

A word to the wise: Read the complete terms of service.

CREDIT: ADDRicky/iStock


Don’t use the AncestryDNA testing service without actually reading the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. According to these legal contracts, you still own your DNA, but so does

The family history website is selling a new DNA testing service called AncestryDNA. But the DNA and genetic data that collects may be used against “you or a genetic relative.” According to its privacy policies, takes ownership of your DNA forever. Your ownership of your DNA, on the other hand, is limited in years.

It seems obvious that customers agree to this arrangement, since all of them must “click here to agree” to these terms. But, how many people really read those contacts before clicking to agree? And how many relatives of customers are also reading?

There are three significant provisions in the AncestryDNA Privacy Policy and Terms of Service to consider on behalf of yourself and your genetic relatives: (1) the perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide license to use your DNA; (2) the warning that DNA information may be used against “you or a genetic relative”; (3) your waiver of legal rights.

1. Perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide license to use your DNA

AncestryDNA, a service of, owns the “World’s Largest Consumer DNA Database” that contains the DNA of more than 3 million people. The AncestryDNA service promises to, “uncover your ethnic mix, discover distant relatives, and find new details about your unique family history with a simple DNA test.”

For the price of $99 dollars and a small saliva sample, AncestryDNA customers get an analysis of their genetic ethnicity and a list of potential relatives identified by genetic matching., on the other hand, gets free ownership of your genetic information forever. Technically, will own your DNA even after you’re dead.

Specifically, by submitting DNA to AncestryDNA, you agree to “grant AncestryDNA and the Ancestry Group Companies a perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide, transferable license to use your DNA, and any DNA you submit for any person from whom you obtained legal authorization as described in this Agreement, and to use, host, sublicense and distribute the resulting analysis to the extent and in the form or context we deem appropriate on or through any media or medium and with any technology or devices now known or hereafter developed or discovered.”

Basically, gets to use or distribute your DNA for any research or commercial purpose it decides and doesn’t have to pay you, or your heirs, a dime. Furthermore, takes this royalty-free license in perpetuity (for all time) and can distribute the results of your DNA tests anywhere in the world and with any technology that exists, or will ever be invented. With this single contractual provision, customers are granting the broadest possible rights to own and exploit their genetic information.

The AncestryDNA terms also requires customers to confirm that, “You understand that by providing any DNA to us, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by AncestryDNA that may relate to or otherwise embody your DNA.” Essentially, you still own your DNA, but so does And, you can commercialize your own DNA for money, but is also allowed to monetize your DNA for millions of dollars and doesn’t have to compensate you.

Although AncestryDNA customers provide voluntary consent to have their DNA used in commercial research projects, customers are free to withdraw consent, with a few exceptions. First, “data cannot be withdrawn from research already in progress or completed, or from published results and findings.” In those cases, has access to data about you indefinitely.

Secondly, if a customer withdraws their consent, will take 30 days to cease using their data for research. Finally, withdrawing consent, “will not result in destruction of your DNA Sample or deletion of your Data from AncestryDNA products and services, unless you direct us otherwise.” Customers must jump through additional hoops if they want their DNA sample destroyed or their data deleted from AncestryDNA products and services. The policy does not specify what “additional steps” are required. U.S. customers must contact customer service at 1–800–958–9124 to find out. (Customers outside the United States must call separate customer service numbers.)

2. Warning that DNA information may be used against “you or a genetic relative”

The DNA testing service promises to analyze approximately 700,000 genetic markers. According to, the service, “combines advanced DNA science with the world’s largest online family history resource to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections.” The results of an AncestryDNA analysis include information about “ethnicity across 26 regions/ethnicities and identifies potential relatives through DNA matching to others who have taken the AncestryDNA test.”

AncestryDNA claims to use the “latest autosomal testing technology” to produce genetic identity reports and can combine the test results with “the world’s largest online family history resource to predict your genetic ethnicity and help you find new family connections.” In addition, AncestryDNA offers a genetic code profiling and matching service, advertising that “AncestryDNA can also help identify relationships with unknown relatives through a dynamic list of DNA matches.”

This raises a thorny issue that has not resolved: your exact DNA profile is unique to you, but a substantial portion of your DNA is identical to your relatives. Thus, is able to take DNA from its customers and also their relatives. Even if you’ve never used, but one of your genetic relatives has, the company may already own identifiable portions of your DNA.

The personal “Genetic Data” collected by includes “information derived from processing your DNA Sample through genomic, molecular, and computational analyses using various technologies, such as genotyping and whole or partial genome sequencing. Genetic Data is broader than just the results delivered to you when you use the AncestryDNA test and includes a range of DNA markers such as those associated with your health or other conditions.” In short, holds genetic data that reveals your health and other conditions.

Genetic diseases are disorders caused by abnormalities in a person’s DNA and are divided into three categories: single-gene disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and Huntington’s disease, result from the mutation of the protein of a single gene; chromosome abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome, are caused by disorders of the whole chromosome; and multifactorial disorders, including breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, develop from mutations in multiple genes, often coupled with environmental causes. Genomics play a role in nine out of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S., including cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, influenza and pneumonia, septicemia, and kidney disease.

Buried in the “Informed Consent” section, which is incorporated into the Terms of Service, warns customers, “it is possible that information about you or a genetic relative could be revealed, such as that you or a relative are carriers of a particular disease. That information could be used by insurers to deny you insurance coverage, by law enforcement agencies to identify you or your relatives, and in some places, the data could be used by employers to deny employment.”

This is a massive red flag. The data “you or a genetic relative” give to AncestryDNA could be used against “you or a genetic relative” by employers, insurers, and law enforcement.

For example, a young woman named Theresa Morelli applied for individual disability insurance, consented to release of her medical records through the Medical Information Bureau (a credit reporting agency for medical history), and was approved for coverage. One month later, Morelli’s coverage was cancelled and premiums refunded when the insurer learned her father had Huntington’s disease, a genetic illness.

Startlingly, the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) used Morelli’s broad consent to query her father’s physician, a doctor with whom she had no prior patient relationship. More importantly, the applicant herself wasn’t diagnosed with Huntington’s carrier status, but she suffered exclusion on the basis of a genetic predisposition in her family.

Under a 1995 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, the MIB and its members are required to comply with consumer protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Much like financial credit reports, all consumers are entitled to a free annual copy of their “medical report” file from the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). If the consumer discovers an error in her MIB medical credit report file, she must mail a letter to the MIB to begin the dispute process.

Federal laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), contain protections that prohibit health insurers from requiring, using, and analyzing genetic information in health care coverage decisions. However, both laws contain glaring exceptions that allow for genetic discrimination in certain industries. Notably, no federal laws regulate the use of genetic information, genetic testing, and genetic discrimination for life insurance companies, long-term care insurers, and employers.

An DNA test is the impetus of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Sergeant Cleon Brown, a white police officer in Hastings, Michigan against his employer, the Hastings Police Department, and several city employees. Curious about his own family history, Brown purchased an AncestryDNA genetic test and analysis report.

The results surprised him — said his DNA was 18 percent sub-Saharan African. Brown “proudly told his colleagues at the police department” about his African ancestry.

But not long after that, “his elation turned into misery.” According to Sergeant Brown’s complaint, his colleagues at the police department, “started whispering ‘Black Lives Matter’ while pumping their fists as they walked” past Brown.

The complaint also alleges that the former mayor of Hastings participated in the racist teasing, by telling Brown a joke containing racist slurs. “I just never thought it would be in Hastings, saying, like, racist comments to me,” Brown said to the New York Times. In his lawsuit, Brown, a military veteran who has worked in law enforcement for 20 years, is seeking $500,000 in damages.

The Terms of Service also warns that genetic information in its possession can be used by state or federal law enforcement agencies “to identify you or your relatives.” With the rise of forensic evidence in criminal investigations, DNA is often considered incontrovertible evidence. To propel the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operates the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database.

The CODIS DNA database, created and maintained by the FBI, consists of the following three levels of information: local DNA Index Systems (LDIS) where DNA profiles originate; state DNA Index Systems (SDIS) which allows for laboratories within states to share information; and the National DNA Index System (NDIS) which allows states to compare DNA information with one another. According to reports, the FBI’s CODIS software connects disparate databases including, arrestees, missing persons, convicted offenders, and forensic samples collected from crime scenes.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, federal law enforcement, the Army Laboratory, and Puerto Rico participate in national sharing of DNA profiles through the CODIS system. However, the FBI DNA database is not infallible. In 2015, the FBI said it discovered flawed data after it commissioned a study to retest DNA samples. In a bulletin sent to crime labs across the United States, the FBI surmised that DNA data errors were probably due to “clerical mistakes in transcriptions of the genotypes and to limitations of the old technology and software.” The FBI suspects that errors in DNA may go back as far as 1999.

3. Waiver of legal rights

Are “you or a genetic relative” a customer of AncestryDNA? If so, now has control over the DNA of “you or a genetic relative.” Should the warnings from come to pass, and DNA information about “you or a genetic relative” is used against “you or a genetic relative” by any employer, insurer, or law enforcement, then “you or a genetic relative” have very limited legal rights.

In its sales contract, takes no responsibility. By consenting to the AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions, “you or a genetic relative” agree to hold the company harmless for any damages that AncestryDNA may cause unintentionally or purposefully. If “you or a genetic relative” are “dissatisfied with any portion of the Websites or the Services, or with any clause of these terms, as your sole and exclusive remedy you may discontinue using the Websites and the Services.” The only option for unhappy customers is to stop using AncestryDNA.

In the event you or your genetic information cause harm, you agree to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless AncestryDNA, its affiliates, officers, directors, employees and agents from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees).” And customers beware, “you may be liable to others as well as to us if your account is used in violation of the terms and conditions of this Agreement.” That means you could end up owing money to, its attorneys, and others.

The final indignity for customers is that they must waive fundamental legal rights by agreeing to mandatory binding arbitration. With the exception of intellectual property rights disputes and certain small claims, customers must pursue their disputes through arbitration, rather than court. In arbitration, the established legal rules of discovery, evidence, and trial by jury do not exist.

Finally, if many AncestryDNA customers want to join together to file a lawsuit against, they are prohibited. But in fairness, similarly prohibits itself from joining with a bunch of others to file a class action lawsuit against you. By agreeing to the Terms and Conditions, “you and AncestryDNA agree that each may bring claims against the other only in your or its individual capacity, and not as a plaintiff or class member in any purported class, consolidated, or representative action.”

These arbitration provisions survive even if you cancel your AncestryDNA account. However, for good measure, notes that, “this arbitration agreement does not preclude you from bringing issues to the attention of federal, state, or local agencies. Such agencies can, if the law allows, seek relief against us on your behalf.”

4. Conclusion

To use the AncestryDNA service, customers must consent to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. These are binding legal contracts between the customer and The most egregious of these terms gives a free license to exploit your DNA for the rest of time.

Customers must understand that turning over their DNA means a loss of complete ownership and control. customers should also know they’re giving up the genetic privacy of themselves and their relatives.

Before purchasing, individuals are advised to fully read and consider the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. If you become a customer, owns your DNA for life and longer.

Joel Winston, Esq. is a New York-based attorney specializing in consumer protection law and commercial litigation. He also provides data privacy and regulatory compliance counsel to technology entrepreneurs and early-stage ventures. Joel is a former deputy attorney general for the State of New Jersey and previously served the Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Trustee, in Manhattan.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on the author’s own Medium page and has been republished on ThinkProgress with his permission.

Can Claim Ownership of Your DNA Data?

Strong words, indeed. In fact, Mr. Winston’s assertions seem to be a bit far fetched. responded on the company’s DNA blog. Without mentioning Attorney Winston by name,’s Chief Privacy Officer Eric Heath called Winston’s post “inflammatory and inaccurate.” Heath emphasized that never takes ownership of customers’ DNA. Instead, the customers license the information to Ancestry DNA but the customers always retain ownership.

At first, ownership versus licensing appears to be a minor point, one that is of concern only to lawyers. However, after reading both sides of the issue, it appears that both parties believe the other party is mis-stating the facts.

I like the explanation on, a well-respected web site that specializes in correcting the lies and “urban legends” that seem to circulate frequently on the Internet.’s analysis of the controversy is written in plain, non-legalese, English. It points out there is a major difference between owning versus licensing.

For background information, you can read Attorney Joel Winston’s original article at: The rebuttal by’s Chief Privacy Officer Eric Heath is available at:

The legally binding AncestryDNA Terms and Conditions can be found at:

If you manage to read through all of those articles, I then STRONGLY urge you to read the common-sense analysis by at

As for me, I have no concerns about licensing my personal DNA information to anyone, especially to a genealogy organization. It strikes me that DNA is simply a fact, something that is not under my control. I didn’t ask for my DNA and I had no means of influencing or changing it. I am neither especially proud of or ashamed of my DNA. It is strictly a fact, the same as my fingerprints, my hair color, and the color of my eyes. There is nothing “magic” about my DNA information.

I will suggest, however, that you need to make up your own mind about your DNA information.

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Book Reviews                  

Three Sheets to the Wind

by Pete Brown published by Macmillan in their Pans Books label in 2007, ISBN 978-0-330-44247-3. I obtained this very cheaply at a Public library book sale.

C:\Users\Nash\Documents\Peter\Cover3Sheets.JPGI love the wit, cynicism and the style of Bill Bryson and reading the cover I thought this book was well worth the 50 cents price. Pete Brown writes in a very similar style to Bryson which gives you a feeling for the environment he is writing about as well as many jokes and comical descriptions to keep you reading.

Pete Brown suddenly has a flash of inspiration, as you do when enjoying a few ales, in that he realised that beer was drunk all over the world for all sorts of reasons. He then decides to tour the world and research beer and its consumption in a few countries. I must admit to having this on my "spend list" when I win lotto and hence my interest. The book is subtitled One Man's Quest for the Meaning of Beer. During his research in Germany, Spain, Australia, Slovakia, Belgium, USA and other countries known for beer production and consumption, he visits many bars and cafes and enjoys, and I mean enjoys, many philosophical discussions and consequent headaches. He says that he visited more than three hundred bars in four continents but I must admit to being in a bit of a fog reading this book - too many bars and beers. Maybe on my next tour of Europe I will head to some of his more memorable "venues".

The book is more than a drunken odyssey. He describes the locality he visits, the "politics" of beer manufacture in that environment and talks to the local "consumers" in an effort to understand the position that beer and beer consumption holds in the countries he visits.

I loved reading this book. I had many laughs as he told his story and I remembered some of my escapades in similar places and bars.

This is a very enjoyable travel book. I recommend it

Peter Nash

Black and British, A Forgotten History

by David Olusoga published by MacMillan in 2016, ISBN 978-1-4472-9973-8, purchased in England.C:\Users\Nash\Documents\Peter\CoverBlack&British.JPG

This book was written to accompany a BBC Television programme.

To quote the sleeve

".... a rich and revealing exploration of the extraordinary long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa. Drawing on new genetic and genealogical research, original records, expert testimony and contemporary interviews "Black And British" reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination and Georgian London, and through to the late twentieth century."

In particular the book explores the abolishment of slavery in Britain, the Slave Trade dominated by the British, the anti-slavery campaign by the British navy, the American Civil War, the West Indian migration waves to Britain and more. It is a massive book which covers a lot of history but very easy to read.

I thought I knew my British history but the involvement with Africans and the slave trade has almost disappeared from public awareness. I am glad I took the time to read this book.

I recommend the book. It may be difficult to find but it is well worth the trouble.

Peter Nash

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From the Editor: Every now and then we get requests to put an advertisement in the newsletter. I have therefore created a new section which will appear from time to time. Advertisements will be included only at the Editor's discretion and will be of a genealogical nature.

Old Family Reunion, 20th and 21st January 2018 in New Plymouth.

This reunion will mark the 175th anniversary of the arrival of Richard and Jane Old and their 9 children and 1 grandchild, on board the “Essex”.

To express your interest please email Christine McDonagh on and / or visit the Facebook Page 

Old Family Reunion January 2018

Advertising with FamNet

If your organisation is not a group subscriber then there will be a charge for advertising events and services, which must be paid for before publication. Charges start at $NZ25 for a basic flier, and increase for more elaborate presentations. Like everyone else we need funds to help keep FamNet going. Fees are very minimal. If your organisation paid a yearly subscription you can have all the advertising you want all year round in the Group News section. Your group could be anywhere in the world, not just in New Zealand. The editor will continue to exercise discretion for free events.

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In conclusion

A Bit of Light Relief

From the editor: Unfortunately the Gardening Club joke wasn't as good as the last two so apologies are extended. But I found this portrait. I think it is a wonderful portrait that any genealogist would love to have in their own family history.

It is, in fact, a photograph of the first ever secret shoppers.

This reminds me of the difficulties I faced in getting a portrait of my father. For as long as I can remember he refused to be photographed and when a camera appeared he disappeared. Well, one day I decided to rectify that problem. After the greater part of a bottle of whisky disppeared I obtained the following photograph that became the family portrait of dad. It was much treasured by everyone. It appears in the book I produced for the Nash family reunion. The miracle was that it was in focus because I had contributed to the emptiness of the bottle.

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