Within whanau (families) there will be the people who hold the whakapapa, who nurture and cherish the whakapapa and who have the korero (stories) that go with the whakapapa. These people will not necessarily hand you your whakapapa to you on a plate. You need to prove first to the whakapapa and the person holding it as well that you are worthy of having this knowledge and with all things, this takes time.
However, that being said, there are places and things that you can do to start you off on your journey. And maybe one day, the keeper of the whakapapa for your whanau will hand over to you the whakapapa so that you can care for the whakapapa and in time pass it onto another.
Korero – Talk to People
Talk to people in your whanau. Find out all the good stories they have to tell about themselves and other members.
Are there certain kinds of mahi (work) that your whanau is mainly in, for example, teaching, ministry, farming?
What are the talents in your whanau? Musicians, speakers, comedians? Do your grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles have these skills? What side does it come from, your mother’s side or your father’s side?
What have people in your whanau died from? Are there certain diseases that run in your whanau? What side does it come from?
By gathering this kind of information, you will see patterns that will start to appear and this will give you more of an insight into your whanau and who you are.
Marae and the people of the marae hold a wealth of information about their whanau. It is at the marae that you can find out the iwi, hapu, history and where the urupa (cemeteries) are.
There is also a high possibility that the people you talk to on the marae are also related to you, as most marae that are not urban are made up of whanau from the area, associated by blood.
Many Marae have produced Centennial Booklets and Marae Histories. The Marae could also have on display photographs of many of the people who are from there. The photos may not be labeled so ask around as people will be able to tell you who they are.
It is appropriate for you to visit in person and not make a phone call. Be prepared to spend a bit of time, and not try to fit your visit into a 1 hour appointment.
Start with the living and the recent dead, NOT the tupuna for they need to get to know you first to decide if they will let you work with them.
Start with your grandparents then list under them all of your parents brothers and sisters, INCLUDING still born, those who died as infants and those who have gone.
With your uncles wives, make sure that you have their maiden names, as that is the name for their whakapapa – do not use their married names as they do not have whakapapa rights to those lines. Also, where are the wives from? Their iwi? Are they also related it your lines? If so how? Where are those connections? Then add them in, again working from the common tupuna down to tie in the lines.
Is there more than one marriage? More than one relationship? Who with? Where are they from? Iwi? Connections with your whanau lines?
Add in all your first cousins, their spouses, where they are from, if they are related, including once again still born, infant death etc.
Then the next generation down with the same information and so on.
You can work a line at a time, say your parents’s eldest sibling, the marriage(s) the children etc then the next sibling of your parents, but make sure you come DOWN!!!
Working with these people is not as draining as when you start to work with the older people back in your whakapapa, hence another reason why you start here to build up your stamina for the time when you start working with the tupuna.
maori.org.nz recommends GeneWeb Software for keeping your records as it is free and it is brilliant for whakapapa and will show all of the relationships. Here is a link to our evaluation of the software and why we recommend it.
The link for GeneWeb Software can be found in the links section under Software.