I love History. Not all History, but the personalised everyday History of Yesteryear. I love tracking my ancestors and finding out all about them.
Last year, I had a wonderful serendipitous day when I found my maternal Great Great Grandmother on a trip during our stay in England. We knew her married name was Kitty McCormac, and that she had been born in Tingewick, Buckinghamshire. I suspected that her maiden name may have been Cross, as my grandmother had that name as her second Christian name, and often surnames from the maternal line are used as forenames. It was so amazing, though, to drive into Tingewick and see the very first road named Cross Lane. The houses there were built prior to 1833, the year Kitty was born. One of the buildings was dated so we were positive about this.
Seeing the Cross name on the signposts prompted me to search in the genealogical site for Tingewick and there I found Catherine Cross, who married Charles McCormac- plus a number of generations of her earlier family to boot!
Those many people who have searched for their own roots will understand the delight of these discoveries, and the satisfaction it brings to an outing. Just to see a small piece of what they saw and knew brings these distant people closer and more to life. Much of our travels around the United Kingdom was spent looking for evidence of our historical family, and imagining how their lives were. I love it.
So, when we were staying in Whangarei Heads (in Northland, New Zealand) this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to explore some of the places that my family had lived and worked. One of my Great grandfathers has proved to be a trifle elusive in the past, so I wanted to focus on finding out a bit more about him.
His name was Robert Howie, and we knew he had been a boat builder in the Whangarei Heads area. (In the sixties Robert Howie established a shipbuilding yard on the shores of Whangarei Harbour and turned out several fast-sailing coasters. https://teara.govt.nz/en/1966/whangarei)
The first hint we found was his name on the Pioneer Map at the base of the Mt Manaia track. It placed him between Munro Bay and McLeods Bay, a location I mentally had anticipated as his daughter had lived just across the hill.
The next day we went for a wander along the beach. And Eureka!
We certainly found something. The first indication was a series of very old poles in the water that suggested a slipway and as we got closer we could see uplifted rail lines that supported the idea. Following the slipway up the beach there were more tracks jutting out of the bank. We climbed up the incline, and followed them into the overgrown bush. A cutting had been made into the hillside into a large well shaped basin cut into the landscape- either by nature or man- it was hard to tell after so many years. A few rusted pieces of equipment lay semi-buried under earth where the walls had slipped over the years, but the entire site was overgrown with trees that would have not even been seeds in Robert’s day.
Had we found the site of Robert Howie’s boat building business? Are those steel leftovers that old? I wonder. However, it is located in the right place, and it is the right type of remnants that I would expect to find. And I have not heard of any boat builder in this location since then. I am having trouble confirming whether this is the real thing. Maybe I will find out for sure one day….until then I will keep searching for answers..…and other family tree orientated adventures….
Update: We have since found out that this is the remains of a Kaolin clay mine, so is not where my ancestor lived….or not exactly….so the search goes on..it was a fun adventure anyway!