How to Write Your Whanau History

If you have a whakapapa program you may have alot of facts for each person, but you can also write your whanau history in more of a story format. Here’s how.

We will start off with these facts – NOTE: The following example is not a known whakapapa, it has been created to show how to write a whanau history with the basic facts.

Born 1/1/1900, Wahi
Occupation: Factory Worker
Died 31/12/1980, Auckland
Buried 5/1/1981, Urupa, Wahi
Married Hine WAHINE at The Church, Christchurch, 1/1/1918
Tahi TANE (M), 1919 – 1945
Rua TANE (M), 1922 – 1922
Toru TANE (F), 1932 – 1962

Now using the above information we can start to write a whanau history for this whanau, as follows:

We may never know where and when Tama TANE and Hine WAHINE met, but we do know that on the 1st January 1918 they were married in Christchurch and settled there for over twenty years.  One year later their first child was born, Tahi TANE, who unfortunately died as a result of World War II. Another two children were also born to the couple while they were in Christchurch.

Expanding Our Story
So now we have the basics covered, but we can fill out the story even more. Looking at the birth records of the children we would get an idea of the places that they lived, and if the children were born at different places, we can add into our story about the whanau moving. If some of the places where they lived no longer have a settlement, then putting in a snip of a map, marking where the area is will help others to know where the whanau have ties to.

Photos are another great resource to help create a story as adding in a photo will always help to create interest in the history that you are writing.   Look at the photos that you have of this whanau – what conclusions can you draw from them?  For example, are they gardening, at the beach, riding horses or playing outside the house? What interesting things can you see in the background? Is there an old metal tub that would have been used for bathing? Do the horses have saddles? If there were gardens, was there an orchid and did the whanau at this time make their own jams or preserve fruit?  Did they have chickens?  This is where the old whanau photos may be able to give you a clue.

Another great way to get more story ideas is to go to DigitalNZ and do a search for the place. When the results come up click on images and have a look there – try and match the images with the time period you are talking about. Some of the photos are taken from a newspaper, so clicking on them may give you the newspaper page and with that you can find the story. What activities are there in the photos?  While you may not know if the people you are writing about did those activities, you could always write something like this.

Christchurch Cathedral. Head, Samuel Heath, d 1948 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-007151-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23065492

Christchurch Cathedral 1920
Credit: Christchurch Cathedral. Head, Samuel Heath, d 1948 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-007151-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23065492

In the 1920’s Christchuch was not the bustling city that it is today. Instead there were alot of open spaces and trams running around the cathedral, as can be seen in the photo to the right. However, we can see that even back then it snowed!

If you live in the area, you could go and take photos in the same place as the old one – that way you have a nice contrast of old and new.

If you add in a photo that you get off the net, make sure you put in the credit if one is required.  If you put in whanau photos, make sure you name who is in them if there are people.  While you may all know who everyone is, in 50 years time will everyone still know?

If you know the mahi or where the people you are writing about worked, you could research that and add in a bit of a korero as follows:

While Hine WAHINE did not go to paid work, she worked hard looking after her whanau, home and gardens while her husband went to work at the Cadbury factory.  Needless to say, chocolate was something that was always in the house and may explain why many of us have a sweet tooth 🙂

From here we can talk about the move to Auckland – do we know why the move and when?  Lastly we can talk about how Tama TANE died and why he was taken back to Wahi to be buried.

The whanau moved to Auckland in 1941 and Tama TANE  lived there until 1980, when he passed away at the ripe old age of 80 years old.  As his last wishes were to return to his whenua where he was born, his wife of sixty years and their children took him back to Wahi and laid him to rest alongside his parents.

Look to see if you can find a copy of the bereavement notice, which you can add into your korero.

From just the facts stated at the top for Tama TANE, we have created a story that will help to preserve the history for this whanau and you should be able to do this for your whanau also.

How to Write Your Whanau History Pt 2