From Peterhead to Grave

Northern Cemetery Dunedin
Otago Harbour from Northern Cemtery Dunedin

Sometimes as genealogists we have to wait years for answers.
Waiting for the required records to become available.
Waiting for the chance to visit somewhere that may hold the key. Waiting for some kind of miracle.

But by some extraordinary stroke of luck, I didn’t have to wait long at all (or do much work) to find the answers to the puzzles I listed on my Emigrating to New Zealand post.

As I searched for more information on the Rimutaka (there were a few ships with this name), I came across The Northern Cemetery site. This site, I’m told on the home page, “brings together information from many different research sources to offer you a unique view of one of New Zealand’s most interesting cemeteries”. On this site I found excerpts from the book “From Peterhead to Passchendaele” written by Roy Buchan, who also turns out to be one of my distant relatives.

It also contains the following transcribed monumental inscription for some members of this family buried in the Northern Cemetery, Dunedin:

Monumental Inscription
In memory of
1830 – 1910
and Wife
1830 – 1915
1888 – 1908
1858 – 1926
and Wife
1860 – 1910
Arrived in NZ on ship Rimutaka, 1893
from Peterhead, Scotland

and lie buried here.

In loving memory of

Died 5th June 1988

Aged 41 years.

In loving memory of

Dearly loved wife of ROBERT
And loved mother of
Died 22nd March 1972.
Died 4th January 1995
Aged 90 years.
“Keep a green bough in your heart,

And God will send you a singing bird.”

In loving memory of

Dearly loved husband of LORELEI
Loved father of ROSS, MURRAY & ALISTAIR
17-11-1926 – 6-1-1999
1894 – 1978
The information I found on this site allowed me to answer the questions I had on my Emigrating to New Zealand post :

* Which Jessie and John are recorded above Alex’s family and how do they link to my family?

Jessie is Alex’s sister and John Buchan is her husband – I would now like to find out if John’s family were closely connected to Jessie’s.
*What happened to Alex’s sister Jessie (is she the Jessie mentioned above) and brother Charles?


Jessie also travelled to New Zealand on the Rimutaka (see answer above). It appears Charles stayed in Scotland:

“Four of their children were: Peter (1858), Jessie (1860), Alexander (1862), and
William (1872). These sailed with their parents to New Zealand, but there is
thought to be at least one other who stayed behind”.

* Which Jessie Buchan is buried in the family grave with Charles and Jessie (born Janet RITCHIE)?

“Their daughter Jessie died at the age of twenty in 1908 of meningitis and is buried in the same plot with her mother, who died two years later in 1910”.


* Who is Master John? I’ve had no record of this person so far – is he Charles and Jessie’s son?


He is John & Jessie’s son, apparently just tagging along with his grandparents.


I also now have more family members to fit into the tree.


NOTE: I did find an error in this information, which should be a warning to all of us NOT to accept all that we’re given without question. It appears the author confused Janet/Jessie Buchan (1833) with her daughter Jessie Buchan (1860) when he writes that her maiden name was also Buchan. I have much evidence to prove that her maiden surname was RITCHIE.


Thank you to all the people involved in sharing the information I found on The Northern Cemetery site – it is VERY much appreciated.
Image on left: “From the Road to the Northern Cemetery” by George O’Brien found on Auckland Art Gallery
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R.I.P. Rose

On Thursday night at 9pm, my husband’s grandmother Rose died.

I only knew her for a few years but would have liked to have known her more. She had a great sense of humour and many stories to tell.

Although she was 83 and having some health problems lately, it came as a surprise to us. Mainly because she never really complained about how she was. My husband joked that they probably asked her how she was at 5 to 9 and she would have replied, ‘I’m fine’.

Goodbye Rose – you’ll be missed.

Rose Ebbans (nee WHEELEY) on right.

Rest In Peace

26 Mar 1926 – 6 Aug 2009

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Murder Most Foul

While combing New Zealand newspapers for mentions of my ancestors on the magnificent Papers Past site, I came across a terrible tragedy. I can’t help but think that this is somebody’s family history waiting to be discovered.

In what seems to be the typical journalistic style of its time, the descriptions are quite graphic.

3 December 1896 – Star

[Per Press Association.]
A shocking tragedy happened at Pangatotara, near Motueka, last Saturday night. John Grooby, who, a fortnight ago, was released from the Nelson asylum on probation at the request of his wife and sons, who undertook to take care of him, about halfpast five o’clock on Saturday evening took an axe used for cutting firewood, and attacked his wife.
Mrs Grooby was, at the time, in the act of drawing bread from an oven. She apparently held up the bread tin to ward off the blows, as the tin was found cut right through.
The unfortunate woman was apparently then forced to the ground, and as she lay there helpless the maniac knelt down and with the axe completed his murderous deed. The whole of the front and sides of the head were cut and beaten into a fearful and unrecognisable mass. After finishing the deed Grooby washed his hands and face, laid the axe beside the house and walked to and fro beside the body. He told one of his sons that he committed the act with a tomahawk, and he subsequently said that the devil did it.
Grooby’s sister, who was close by, heard screams and rushing in saw her brother chopping at his wife’s head. She spoke to him but he did not reply, and she then sent for help. The murderer was subsequently arrested by the police, and at the inquest a verdict of wilful murder was returned against him. Grooby has since been brought before the Magistrate’s Court, and stands remanded. The family is well known in the district.

The next source mentions how Grooby was remanded so that the family, who were witnesses to the event, could attend the funeral that afternoon.

Apparently, mental health issues ran in the family. John Grooby’s sister, who is mentioned only by her husband’s name is recorded in the same edition of the Colonist (2 December 1896):

“Mrs Joseph Graves, who was formerly committed to the Lunatic Asylum, but was released some two or three years ago, has again exhibited strong symptoms of insanity. It is rumored that she left her home on Monday night, and was wandering about the whole night”.

John Grooby and his sister ended up in the asylum together. The whole affair is indeed “a most sad one”.

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Emigrating to New Zealand

R.M.S Rimutaka via NZ Shipping Company Association

Going through the cemetery records yesterday inspired me to look further into my family’s immigration. The Dunedin Cemetery Records often include the (original) nationality of the deceased as well as how many years they had been in New Zealand.

My Buchan family immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland in the late 19th century. For years, I’d only had a scrap of paper with family names scrawled on it, said to be from the ship my family sailed on – the Rimutaka (1893). The scrap was given to me by my grandmother, who had been given it by someone else. Although I believed the information to be accurate, any good genealogist knows the original source should be consulted. Luckily has made outgoing UK passenger lists between 1890 – 1960 available online. Although, not the same as the feel and smell of using the actual records themselves, it’s certainly a lot better than transcriptions (these are available too).

Shipping Schedule of the Rimutaka 1893

Despite having this information for my great grandfather Charles (and his parents and siblings), I wasn’t sure how his grandfather, also Charles Buchan, made it over to New Zealand.

Charles Buchan was born in a small fishing village in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1830. I have used the census to trace Charles through his life. A fisherman, and sometimes ship carpenter, Charles and his family were last seen in the 1891 census in Peterhead, Aberdeen but I knew he died in New Zealand. A search on discovered him on the same ship as his son and grandchildren!

Buchan, Mr Chas; Mrs Jessie; Mr Peter; Mr William; Master John

The first and last pages of the document were provided for free which fortunately contained my 5 year old great grandfather Charles with his parents and siblings!

Buchan, Mr Alex; Mrs Agnes; Master Chas; Master Alex; Master James

So, in 1893 Charles Buchan (Sr) moved with his wife, children and grandchildren to New Zealand.

I now have a few new puzzles to solve:

  • Which Jessie and John are recorded above Alex’s family and how do they link to my family?
  • What happened to Alex’s sister Jessie (is she the Jessie mentioned above) and brother Charles?
  • Which Jessie Buchan is buried in the family grave with Charles and Jessie (born Janet RITCHIE).
  • Who is Master John? I’ve had no record of this person so far – is he Charles and Jessie’s son?

SOLVED – answers to these questions can be found here

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Dunedin Cemetery Records Online

image via flicker

I have just spent a fascinating day researching.

The same distant relative I mentioned in my last post, had sent me digital copy of a cemetery record print out (to tie up some loose ends). At the bottom, I noticed the source was a website and a previously locked door was opened!

The Dunedin City Council website has an online search facility of the city’s cemeteries. The results are more detailed than I’d expect – death date, burial date but also last address of the deceased and sometimes occupations. It also links to others buried in the same plot. This in particular has enabled me to discover people and links to other people, I wouldn’t otherwise have connected.

I don’t know how long this has been available for but I am so pleased I have finally discovered it. I know have some more pieces to help fit this puzzle together.

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