Headstone mistakes a headache for local genealogists
After a decade of meticulous research, Oamaru now has on disc a close- to- full record of headstone transcriptions for graves in both of the town’s cemeteries.
Members, both past and present, of the Oamaru branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) took on the huge task, which has been 10 years in the making and caused plenty of head scratching. ‘‘We started in 2002. ‘‘The first thing we had to do was put the burial register on to a data base,’’ NZSG Oamaru branch convener, Beryl Miller says.
‘‘Then we went and got the text register and found there was quite a few anomalies between the two . . . people in the early days couldn’t really spell.’’
Mrs Miller says because many of the group involved with putting together the records have lived in the area for some time, they were able to ‘‘ nut out’’ quite a few misspelt names.
The information based on the archives and headstones has been updated in the collected data from the first known burial at the site in 1867, up until early 2012.
In addition to the council burial register and headstones, the group used resources such as the sexton’s burial register, plot purchaser books and information from the North Otago Museum.
Headstones at the old cemetery have been previously updated, with records up until 1980 found on the NZSG cemetery fiche.
Oamaru Lawn Cemetery, across the road from the old cemetery, has had its headstones transcribed for the first time since burials took place there in the 1950s.
Mrs Miller says the past several years have been dedicated to ensuring transcriptions are as accurate as possible.
‘‘For the last three or four years we have been checking burial
making sure we have names spelt correctly.’’
She says the group referenced hundreds of newspapers along with information already known.
‘‘In theory, we have updated from 1980 in the old cemetery until 2012.’’
Mrs Miller says burial plots in some sections of the old cemetery aren’t in any real order, which caused a few issues for the group.
‘‘In the Catholic section we had burials all over the place . . . it was a real hassle.’’
The disc the group has produced contains headstone transcriptions as well as other useful pieces of information to help people find the graves of their family members or friends.
‘‘We have got two maps on there.
‘‘It has the cemetery plan on top of the council imagery. There was a very basic plan of the cemetery available and it’s been superimposed.’’
While the group has managed to gather as much information as it could, Mrs Miller says there are a lot of unmarked graves at the old cemetery, often buried beneath grass paths.
‘‘It’s a jolly relief to have it done,’’ she says.
The disc has been made available to coincide with Family History Month, which takes place every August. The group will help people track down their family history on August 7 at the Oamaru Public Library.
Mrs Miller says there is bound to be some errors and invited feedback from families by contacting the North Otago Museum or the Oamaru branch of the NZSG, where the disc is available for sale.
Job done: New Zealand Society of Genealogists Oamaru branch convener, Beryl Miller, with her group’s recently completed disc of headstone transcriptions at Oamaru Old Cemetery.
Resting place: The first burial at Oamaru Old Cemetery took place in 1867.