De­scen­dants gather to dis­cover roots

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - KAROLINE TUCKEY

De­scen­dants from some of the ear­li­est set­tlers in Manawatu and Ran­gi­tikei gath­ered dur­ing Easter to learn more about their his­tory.

The Rush and Rodgers fam­ily re­u­nion brought to­gether more than 160 peo­ple at the Awa­puni Func­tion Cen­tre in Palmer­ston North, in­clud­ing sev­eral from overseas. This was from an es­ti­mated 3000 de­scen­dants of Ce­cilia El­iza Rush and Charles Rodgers, fam­ily his­to­rian Dale Har­tle said.

The pair ar­rived in Welling­ton on the sec­ond set­tler ship there in 1840, she said.

Two months later, their first child Thomas Rodgers was born, the sec­ond Euro­pean born in Welling­ton.

Then sev­eral months later, Charles Rodgers drowned.

Ce­cilia then mar­ried Richard Rush and they had four chil­dren be­fore he was mur­dered. Next, she mar­ried his son John Ge­orge Rush and they had five chil­dren.

The Rush and Rodgers clans stuck to­gether, fol­low­ing Thomas Rodgers to Ran­gi­tikei and Manawatu, some of the area’s first Euro­pean set­tlers. Many of their de­scen­dents are still in the re­gion, Har­tle said.

Learn­ing more about your fam­ily and the his­tory of a place helps you un­der­stand who you are, she said.

It was amaz­ing how tough life was for early set­tlers. Trav­el­ling to New Zealand was a one-way trip for most and the first groups were shocked lit­tle of the promised in­fras­truc­ture was in place when they landed.

By the 1870s, ‘‘Manawatu was newly opened area, just be­ing set­tled. Palmy it­self was a clear- ing in the bush, a big marshy swamp, and The Square was the cen­tre of the swamp and only the Maori knew about it.’’

They lived un­der canvas at first, hauled wa­ter from streams, es­tab­lished crops and farms, and helped build the towns.

‘‘The [fam­ily] ar­rived and started clear­ing the land, and they all con­trib­uted to the lo­cal cul­ture by join­ing clubs or in politics. They were just so hardy and strong and re­silient.’’

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

Stephen Rush stud­ies his 80-me­tre fam­ily tree at their big fam­ily re­u­nion of early set­tler fam­i­lies in Palmer­ston North.

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