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Tracing your ancestors at Purewa Cemetery

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Among the many services provided by Purewa Cemetery and Crematorium is the assistance given to families researching genealogy and family trees.

Since the first recorded burial in 1889 tens of thousands of people have been buried or cremated at Purewa. Diffculties will always arise when tracing ancestors, friends, colleagues etc, particularly in the cases of cremation where ashes may be interred or scattered in a favourite location. But if there is a Purewa connection then the cemetery’s archives will contain the relevant information.

Practically every day Purewa’s administration manager Agnes Vaelua receives requests from the general public trying to find lost relations, looking for the graves of family members or records of their cremation and disposal of ashes.

‘‘People searching their genealogy or looking for family they’ve long lost contact with can phone or pop in, or contact us via the Purewa website burials and cremations database,’’ says Agnes. ‘‘We’re happy to help them with their search, to see if there’s a match in our records. If so there’ll be a serial number, date of death, information on the dispersal of ashes and the name of the funeral director.’’

Cremations began at Purewa in 1957 so their records go back almost 60 years.

Agnes says the search for family members, particularly still-born children, is an important part of the grieving process which can be life-long.

Purewa Cemetery was established in 1889 through a gift of land by the St Johns Trust to the Anglican Church, so while many of the persons interred there are Anglican, a significant number are not.

Purewa general manager Clifton Thomson observes that modern technology, TV and fewer social hang-ups about family histories have brought a huge increase in enquiries.

"We are constantly updating our records. With the help of John Priestley, Chairman of the Purewa Cemetery Trust Board - plus the work of Massey University Professor of History Peter Lineham - we are documenting much of Auckland’s history and identifying ‘names of significance'".

‘‘In this way we are contributing to the life of Auckland, past and present.


- Courtesy of East & Bays Courier (Fairfax Media)
Story and photos by Keith Whitten                          

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