In January 2006, The Press published a series of articles on the Canterbury Association’s First Four Ships. The genesis of the series was the rediscovery by Christchurch man Peter Day of four group photographs taken in 1900 of surviving passengers of the Charlotte Jane, Randolph, Sir George Seymour and Cressy.
Christchurch Press Project editor Mark Wilson wrote in 2006:
“The photographs were first published in The Weekly Press in 1901, each with a simple caption list of names. We decided to enlist the help of our readers to find out who these people were and what had become of them.
In the case of the better-known names, such as the Hon. C. C. Bowen, much was already known. But in the case of others, particularly women identified solely by the name of their husband (eg, Mrs J. Thompson), we knew very little. So we commissioned two researchers, post-graduate history student Victoria Cook and Randolph expert Margaret Copland, to write a brief account of who these individuals were, when they were born, when they died and where they lived.
The information was to be gained from secondary sources, such as published books. The intention was not to find new information but rather to summarise what was readily known and, in so doing, point to where there were gaps. We then asked our readers to help fill those gaps.
I was not prepared for the avalanche of information that followed. Several hundred emails and envelopes came in through January and early February. New material was still arriving six months later.
Some readers provided information about people who were on the First Four Ships but were not in the photographs. Others expressed disappointment at their descendants not being mentioned in the series; more than once I was held responsible for someone’s ancestor not being in the line-up in 1900. Those wishing to do so can add information on such individuals to this website.”
Mark Wilson is features editor of The Press. He has a BA (Hons) in New Zealand
and Pacific history from Canterbury University.
Chief researcher Victoria Cook wrote in 2006:
When I started researching the photographs of surviving passengers of the Charlotte Jane, Sir George Seymour and Cressy (Margaret Copland researched the Randolph), my goal was to find out the person’s first name, when they were born, when they died, and who they travelled with to Canterbury. From there, I could search a number of sources for other information.
I found that for some people, particularly those of some renown in Canterbury, there was much information and this needed to be edited for publication. For others, particularly women, there was no information. In some cases my assumptions were based on speculation, and I was aware at this stage of the project that some of my guesswork would be wrong.
The response to the articles in The Press was overwhelming. After the many bits of new information were collected, it was my task to sort and sift them to produce additions and corrections to the material already published.
The information received varied greatly from person to person. For some, a number of family members wrote in; for others, only one was forthcoming; and for a few, no further information was received. Nonetheless, it was possible to add to and correct much of the initial research.
This project has relied on information gathered from family histories, family trees and personal testimonies. Some correspondence came with notes on where the information was obtained – for example a marriage or birth certificate – but some did not. For a historian, this lack of documentation is problematic. This is not to say that the information is incorrect or not sourced from reliable data, but there needs to be caution. Memories fade, and family myths can turn into reality. Hence, it is possible that some of the additional information is not based on reliable evidence and will itself be subject to future correction.
Victoria Cook has a BA (Hons) in New Zealand history from Canterbury University. She is currently researching an MA thesis on the relationship between New Zealand women and US servicemen during World War 2.
The Canterbury Pilgrims & Early Settlers Association wish to thank The Press and Stuff.co.nz for their permission to use the “1900 Photos” and the information about the early settlers published by The Press in 2006.