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Portrait of Murial (sic) and John Cameron, Greymouth, New Zealand

Update: This one I consider to be solved and as I suspected, would be John Sellars Cameron (1906 - 1956) and Muriel Mary Cameron (1907 - 1961); 2 children of John Hendry Cameron and Constance nee McGarvey. I think the most likely theory is that the photographer had a traveling studio at times in his career.


I don’t often post here these days because I am pretty good at cracking most cases that look impossible. However I am stumped by this one. A portrait noted to be of ‘Muriel and John Cameron’, taken in Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
The photographer is James Ring (1856-1939). Ring headed to Greymouth soon after arrival in New Zealand and operated his independent studio from about 1879 until 1924; so an incredibly long time and this is not particularly helpful for narrowing down dates. There are no other clues to go on, besides the photo looks to have been taken maybe between the mid-1900s to mid-1910s, and the girl, who looks under 2 years old is slightly older than the boy who looks about 1 year old; so assuming they are siblings they were born 1-2 years apart. Both of these data points tee with the only potential match.
Cross-checking Camerons who had children with both these names historically, only reveals one couple, John Hendry and Constance Cameron who had a daughter Muriel Mary Cameron in 1907, and a son John Sellars Cameron in 1906.
However I have zero evidence the Camerons were ever in Greymouth/West Coast/Westland or had any reason to be.
There is a lot of information showing that these Camerons resided in the mid-North Island area over the decades around Wairarapa, Taranaki, Manuatu-Whanganui, and Hawkes Bay. This is where they consistently crop up. References are regular enough it is difficult to believe they ever had a period in the South Island but, it is certainly not impossible; people moved around a lot in those days depending what line they were in. It just looks unlikely they are the same people and there’s nothing to back it up, especially any electoral records. To me it doesn’t look to me like they ever left that central area of the North Island.
Anyway, I thought I’d post this on the off chance one day someone is looking for Cameron family and they can match it with something. Unfortunately ‘Cameron’ was an incredibly common surname, with thousands of immigrants arriving from Scotland in the C19th and many had a habit of naming their children with the same small roster of names, meaning trying to figure stuff out is a hard ask. That’s another point, there is of course the possibility these Camerons could well have been recent arrivals to New Zealand meaning Muriel and John were not born there at all.

3 comment(s), latest 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Sutton and McGorman families of Christchurch

A large cache of family photos in the form of glass plate negatives belonging to the Sutton and McGorman families of Christchurch, New Zealand. Featured in it is famous Kiwi artist Bill Sutton. They are currently for sale from a Timaru store Vintage Wonderland. Album is here: https://tinyurl.com/y2jvnyst

1 comment(s), latest 9 months, 1 week ago

Large Collection of Richards/Watkinson Family Photos from the UK and NZ

Yet again a large collection of photos from one family was being sold off last week on Trade Me. This one is from the Richards and Watkinsons, who intermarried, and along the way there are Taylors, Firths and Plucks involved. There are a number of early-late Victorian photos from the UK as well as many from the 1920s-1940s, which seem to have been taken around Christchurch then Taranaki,and King Country New Zealand. There are a few notes with the images like ‘R. Richards, August 1904, 39 Glebe St, Penarth’ on the back of one group portrait which have allowed me to figure out who theywere and put names to some portraits. The Richards family were from the Glamorgan, Wales area and claim a connection to the Richards family of Connecticut, from which Nobel Prize winner Dickson Woodruff Richards was descended. The Watkinsons and Taylors were from Leeds/Sheffield area. Both eventually immigrated to New Zealand. The only couple in recorded history with both surnames who married in New Zealand was in 1931, and that was William Humphrey Richards and Elizabeth Hannah Watkinson. Elizabeth was born in Leeds, which tees with many of the older portraits. William was born in Penarth, Cardiff and his father’s name was Richard Richards.

You can read more and see about 30 images here. http://tinyurl.com/y54vpkc8
There were many more which I have kept copies of. Feel free to get in touch if you require more information.

Seeking Information on Lorna Jenks known as Anna Hoffman

Update: This enquiry has been resolved.


Lona Jenks, 1938-2014, restyled herself as Anna Karina Hoffman, and crossed the ditch to Sydney to go adventuring.

Hoffman was notorious in both Sydney and Auckland where she claimed to be a witch, amongst other things. She was labelled as a 'great eccentric' and often as a 'femme fatale.' The former is pretty much the real deal, but the latter was probably not (she was often quoted as saying her reputation in this respect was 'over-rated'). There's no doubt she was a character who reveled in her own antics and the minor celebrity that came with it - just letting weeds of stories grow up around her.

She had several run-ins with the law on both sides of the ditch which were liberally showcased in papers of the time like the Truth whose stock-in-trade was the titillating and scandalous. She released her life story in three parts, which are now all out of stock and near impossible to get.
It's the second installment I am after which possibly details her antics in Sydney including her alleged dalliance with Bumper Farrell in which she's said to have given him drug-laced chocolates and recorded the whole thing, in order to blackmail him. This was apparently followed by a swift deportation.
At this point in time I am now pretty sure that this was almost complete fiction but Hoffman was a master fable weaver, when it came to herself. I think it's clear she just really loved publicity and happened to be really talented at it!

I'm seeking information and/or a copy of one of Hoffman's autobiographies particularly the one that outlines her time in Australia. If you have the book, or you once knew Anna and have some stories to share, please let me know. I'm hoping to write a story on her life and times in Kings Cross for an upcoming publication.

Looking for Jessie Taylor/Medvidoff

In 1923, my great aunt Mannia Zam married David Medvidoff in Gorbals, Glasgow.
The family's name was originally Medvedev, and they'd come from Cherkasy in the Kiev province of Russia. Later on, David and Mannia changed their name to the westernised 'Taylor.' David had a number of sisters, the youngest being Jessie. Little is known of Jessie as there is no date on exactly when and where she was born, or what happened to her. The only thing that is recalled is, she immigrated to New Zealand, and nobody seems to have heard from her again. Of course, again there is no evidence of this, so technically hearsay, but it's specific so no reason to discount it. However, it's a real family mystery.
Jessie Medvidoff was definitely not married in Scotland. If she left it was 1912 or later as she was still present living at home for the 1911 Scottish census. There are no Australasian records for Medvidoff, or variations that were used such as Medvedev, or Medvedov. So I assume that she adopted the surname 'Taylor' and was using it by the time she left Scotland.

According to a cousin this family photo which I will try to attach (this has not been successful for many FTC members lately, a frustrating exercise), shows David Medvidoff-Taylor's family in Glasgow. David is at the back, and Jessie who looks about 8 years old at the time, is at the right end of the picture, seated. From the ages of everyone, it seems to have been taken about 1903, which means Jessie would have been born around 1895.
I checked NZ BMD records for a 'Jessie Taylor' after 1915 and using some obvious clues like, circa when she was born (c 1895), and the supposition she would have married a Hebrew man, as anything else would have absolutely been a rare exception.

I got 30 marriage results from 1915-1936 for 'Jessie Taylor' (a lot less than I imagined). Out of that, the only Jewish sounding names were Goldfinch, Robson, Inkster and Scarf. Out of those four, Jessie Robson's death record shows she was born around 1894-1895. I wonder if this is the same person? It's the only realistic possibility out of the lot, at this point. I wish there was more information to work with but there are no documented details of her life at all, with which to narrow things down.

It makes me wonder why Jessie may have gone to New Zealand, so far away, and the only sibling to do so. However my great aunt Liza went to New Zealand from Glasgow to see through a marriage arranged with a Jewish man from Kiev who went straight from Russia to NZ, that the family had known there. She went to marry him But she was at least escorted by my grandpa as most women did not travel alone in those times. So one logical theory is that Jessie came to New Zealand to see through an arranged marriage also.
The Jewish community in NZ was not large, and it was tight-knit and reasonably insular, so if Jessie did indeed go to New Zealand then someone knew someone who knew something.

2 comment(s), latest 3 years, 3 months ago

Constant issues with Image additions

Over the last couple of years there have been issues on and off with FTC journal entries refusing to add images. In the past there's been a couple of workarounds. But at the moment there seems to be no solution. Hitting publish it simply heads to a blank page until you refresh. Editing text or anything else is no issue, it's just when you attach pictures. This is across multiple browsers. Anyone else having the same problem?

5 comment(s), latest 3 years, 3 months ago

Looking for UDOVICH connection to SCHNEIDER HOLLINGER and PAUL families

Update: This has now been solved.

My great uncle was Jacob K. Udovich. He came to New Zealand in the early 1910s and adopted the gentile name 'Jack Mann', although he never made it official. He married my great aunt Liza Zam, who arrived to Wellington with my grandpa on the Rotorua in 1916. Jack and Liza married immediately; they were sweethearts in Crimea originally. They remained in Wellington for life where they had a series of grocery and garment manufacturing businesses. Jack is a bit of a man of mystery; although there's a picture of him in uniform there is no enlistment or service record. His immigration records cannot be found, and his death record cannot be located. All we know about him is that his father's name was Dov Ber Udovich and they were from Starodub, Russia where Jack was born in 1893. I notice in Ancestry.com the SCHNEIDER HOLLINGER and PAUL families have Jack in their online trees but we don't know what the connection is to these families. If anyone can make a connection, then great.

Looking for McConkey of Wellington and Auckland

I bought this stoneware hotel plate in a little junk shop in West Auckland a number of decades ago just because it amused me and it was only a couple of bucks. I am amazed I have owned it this long without actually breaking it yet it has survived over 25 years of use off and on.
I'm interested in finding out more about it, though. After some previous aborted attempts at finding out anything of its provenance, recently I think I had a breakthrough on some of the history.
There was a Joseph Sherlock/Shirlock McConkey who ran a tearooms in Palmerston North in the 1910s named the 'Kosy.' Seemingly he emigrated alone from Ireland in the mid 1890s and had some history in Wellington and also possibly Masterton in different professions before he relocated to the Manuatu-Wanganui area, by which time he was describing himself as a confectioner. In the late 1920s he appears to have moved to Auckland where he was in catering briefly before retiring. I think this plate comes from the Auckland period of his career, although I have no evidence he ever ran any kind of business during this time. Other than that, there's little explanation for how it ended up in Glen Eden, where I found it If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below.

Looking for History of Dick's, Henderson, Auckland, New Zealand

Update: This has now been solved.

I'm looking for information on Dick's Milk Bar, Henderson, in the 1950s-1960s. It was apparently "a few doors along from ANZ bank on Great North Road." Although there were a couple of older cafes that had hung in there, like The Tradewinds which I was taken to for lunch often as my father had his business almost opposite it, I certainly don't remember Dick's still being there when I was a child.

Judy Julian wrote: "Dick's Milk Bar was in the Ozich Buildings and was along from Railside Ave (Station Rd) towards Valley Rd. I am not sure what is there now - could be a locksmith. My dad used to go down to Dick's on a Saturday night to get the 8 o'clock and a couple of bob worth of mixed lollies."

In this image from the 1950s, a light up perspex sign under the awning on the left says "MILK BAR." Image entitled "Ozich Buildings completed, Henderson." unknown date in the 1950s, courtesy of J. T. Diamond Collection, West Auckland Local History Online, West Auckland Research Centre, Waitakere Central Library, ref JTD-14A-03975-1.

8 comment(s), latest 9 months, 1 week ago

Looking for Avidon Family

Update: This has now been solved. I am now in touch with the Avidon family and we have worked out the relation.

This image is noted as being 'cousins Matthew and Kenneth Avidon.' These were passed on from my great grandfather's sister's side of the family, the Greenshpoons, who asked if I knew of them. The image was taken by a studio based in Feodosiya on the Black Sea in what was then Crimea but now the Ukraine. To the rest of the world it was all simply 'Russia'. An older Matthew was photographed with Itta's husband alone, later on in life, again Matthew was noted as being a 'cousin', so this indicates that the Avidons were likely his nephews rather than being related to the Zam family. Avidon is quite an uncommon name, so I have been able to find out that Matthew left the Ukraine and arrived in New York in 1922. He states he was from Feodosiya, where my family, the Zams, were also from. Matthew married Rose Tapo and had two sons, John and Kenneth born 1936 and 1937. They seemingly spent time in Queens, NY, Illinois briefly, and later Florida. There are still Avidon descendants in the U.S. today and I believe that John or Kenneth had a son they also named Matthew Avidon who is still alive. I am posting this in the hope that there is someone out there who can make the connection as to which female sibling of either the Greenshpoon or Zam family married an Avidon.

3 comment(s), latest 3 years, 6 months ago