This morning YouTube recommended a film about New Zealand genealogy, Skeletons in the Cupboard.   I watched a bit of it at morning break and was “drawn in”. Focusing upon the peoples who occupied New Zealand before the Maori arrived – yes, I understood the land to have been previously unpopulated too – a Pakeha grabbed my attention.

bestelsdonElsdon BEST (1856 – 1931) had earned the trust of a number of Maori elders and of dominion officials and, though seemingly untrained for the task, found himself employed as the colony’s first ethnologist. His story is compelling – at least I found it so. Find a brief biography at Te Ara. Elsdon was born in Tawa Flat, about 15 km north of central Wellington but he later owned a house in Tinakori Road, a short walk from where I lived for a while in the 1970s. Ah, if only I’d known then what I know now.

Naturally, I headed over to FamilySearch to see if he had a deserved place on the World Tree. Elsdon didn’t find a wife until he was 47 years old and although Mary Adelaide WYLIE was only thirty the couple didn’t have any children. His pedigree isn’t extensive but after an hour or so of research this afternoon I think I can add a few bits of information – somewhat in the manner of putting small stones on a Jewish grave.

Skeletons in the Cupboard Episode 1

Best of Both Worlds: The Story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Today’s Image

Serendipity strikes again. Elsdon fell off his horse, broke his leg and was “rescued” by Mary Adelaide Wylie. A year ago I photographed the hoofprints on Muston Sands and as I reached the end of Royal Parade on my walk this morning…


Mrs. Nicholson Does Good

District Intelligence: Filey

School Treat

[Last] Saturday afternoon the children of the Church day and Sunday schools had their annual treat. A substantial tea was provided, and in the evening prizes were distributed to about three hundred. They were given by Mrs. Nicholson, of the Crescent, who last week gave a tea to twenty-nine little girls, whom she teaches sewing. She also has provided a soup kitchen in Hope-street, and distributes soup to the poor twice a week.

Scarborough Mercury, 14 January 1882

Annie NICHOLSON was 34 years old in 1882, a mother of three girls and engaged in the kind of good works you might expect from an older woman whose children have flown the nest. But she’d met her husband at the age of thirteen (perhaps earlier) and buried him at 29 so perhaps she was old beyond her years. (She would die in 1902, aged 54.)

For the second half of her life, she lived at 11, The Crescent, Filey – the photograph below was taken this morning, her front door just visible in the twin portico.


Her husband, Walter NICHOLSON, was the fifth of thirteen children born to the wealthy and ennobled Leeds Magistrate and Landed Proprietor, William Nicholson NICHOLSON, and Martha née RHODES. (William had changed his birth name, from William Nicholson PHILIPS, so that he could inherit the Nicholson estate at Roundhay Park.)

Walter led a busy and financially rewarding life as a manufacturer and farmer yet still found time to be a Guardian for the Wharfedale Union. He left Annie well provided for when he died aged 37, in 1877. No. 11 The Crescent had five servants in 1881, 3 in 1891, and 4 in 1901.

Annie WHITAKER was born in Liverpool in 1848 but the Census snapshot of 1861 captures her visiting the home of William FISON in Burley in Wharfedale. He was a manufacturer who employed over 400 workers. Another visitor that Census night was 21-year-old Walter NICHOLSON. The couple must have made a great impression on each other, and married seven years later at St George’s church in Everton.

The Nicholsons of Roundhay Park are well represented on the FamilySearch Tree – and two of Walter’s brothers threaten to draw attention from the dutiful Annie. The colourful story of Rhodes Tudor and Albert Henry can be found in this PDF. It complements the NICHOLSON and Nga (Wha Wha) RITAKA pedigrees on FST.

When I first looked at his pedigree, this morning, Walter was lacking a wife. Annie was on the Tree with her parents so I united her with her six siblings, joined her unto Walter and gave them their three girls. The youngest, Maude, married the 40-year-old vicar of Filey when she was just 21. Arthur Nevile COOPER is still talked about today as “The Walking Parson”. (He would leave his Filey flock untended for months on end to ramble across Europe, once to Rome, another time to Florence.)  For all his elevated position in the community and long life, I couldn’t find him on FST. He has a presence now but there’s work to be done to give him some forebears.