Head­stone mis­takes a headache for lo­cal ge­neal­o­gists

Waitaki Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL BIRCH­FIELD daniel.birch­field@ wait­ak­i­her­ald.co.nz

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.

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