Book traces an­ces­tor’s jour­ney

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

Af­ter in­vest­ing seven years and tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, first-time au­thor San­dra-Faye Nagy has fi­nally fin­ished what she calls ‘‘a labour of love’’.

This month, the ex­pat re­leased Brompton: The Smith Legacy, a 600-page tome that traces the path of her great-great-grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Smith on his jour­ney from famin­er­av­ished Ire­land to life as a Fen­ci­ble in One­hunga.

The Royal New Zealand Fen­ci­bles Corps con­sisted of re­tired sol­diers who were re­cruited from the Bri­tish Isles to pro­tect the fledg­ing set­tle­ment of Auck­land from a feared in­va­sion by Maori tribes in the mid-1800s.

There were Fen­ci­ble set­tle­ments in One­hunga, How­ick, Pan­mure and Otahuhu.

In re­turn for seven years ser­vice around 720 Fen­ci­bles were pro­vided with free fare from Europe, an acre of land, a cot­tage and a wage.

Smith was ac­cepted into the Fen­ci­bles in 1847, at which point he had 10 days to pack up his fam­ily and head to the de­par­ture point in Kent, Eng­land.

Af­ter around 124 days sail­ing on the Ori­en­tal Queen, they were wel­comed to a coun­try where they were no longer sub­jected to crip­pling poverty af­fect­ing parts of the moth­er­land.

‘‘For a lot of th­ese peo­ple, their pen­sions in Ire­land or Eng­land were mea­gre. A shilling didn’t go very far,’’ Mrs Nagy says.

‘‘Here they were out of the class sys­tem, they were free agents to make their way in life. So it was an enor­mous ad­van­tage for hun­dreds of peo­ple to be given this op­por­tu­nity.’’

Mrs Nagy was born in Mata­mata but has resided in Canada for the last 40 years and says it was tricky re­search­ing from across the other side of the world.

Luck­ily, she had the aide of New Zealand-based rel­a­tives Is­abella Brown, Beth Hall and Diana Free­man, who are descen­dants of Wil­liam Smith.

Mrs Nagy also used the in­ter­net to con­duct re­search into the fam­ily his­tory, as well as un­der­tak­ing a fair amount of globe-trot­ting.

‘‘I went to Ire­land and did a lot of re­search around there, I went to Eng­land and did more re­search around there and then the rest was from my seat in my of­fice.’’

Mrs Nagy has been in­ter­ested in ge­neal­ogy since

Brompton: A Smith Legacy kind of fell into her lap.

It be­gan with her sec­ond cousin Wendy Pond, who was try­ing to lo­cate Smith’s plot in the grounds of St Peter’s Church in One­hunga.

Ms Pond turned to Mrs Nagy af­ter hit­ting a wall in her re­search.

‘‘So we started writ­ing the book and it just kind of grew. The more you re­searched the more there was in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion to gather,’’ Mrs Nagy says.

The re­searchers traced 2546 descen­dants from four of Smith’s chil­dren.


Lit­er­ary un­der­tak­ing: Au­thor San­dra Nagy, right, out­side St Peters Church in One­hunga where her rel­a­tive Wil­liam Smith is buried. She is pic­tured with Rev­erend Anne Priestly.

Dearly de­parted: The plot where Smith was buried was re­cently dis­cov­ered to be un­der church ex­ten­sions – so the fam­ily chipped in for a plaque to mark the spot.

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