Feb 2, 2011

Posted | 4 Comments

Waitangi Day – A New Zealand Connection

This is my contribution to the Waitangi Day Blog Challenge – Your Earliest Known New Zealand Ancestor. While most of my ancestors were Australian based, I do have New Zealand connections like many other Australian families. In a lot of cases this is a mining connection with many people crossing the Tasman in search of their fortunes.

My son’s gg grandfather John Barrow Atkinson went to New Zealand first before being attracted to the gold fields of Gympie in Queensland. I couldn’t find his arrival in the immigration indexes at Queensland State Archives so I suspected that he had arrived elsewhere. Similar searches of indexes in other States was also unsuccessful but initially I did not suspect New Zealand.

The breakthrough came because John Barrow Atkinson ended up a very successful miner, mine manager, entrepreneur and philanthropist with 8 children who all continued to live in the Gympie area. He was featured, along with other Gympie personalities, in The Queenslander, on 27 March 1897 – there was even a photograph of JB!

The article gave an account of his life starting with his birth in 1845 at Calthouse in Lancashire and his various jobs including working at the Barrow Railroad Company and the Barrow Ironworks. In September 1867 he left for the West Coast of New Zealand to try his hand at mining. His first miner’s right for the goldfield of Waimea was issued on 20 January 1868 in the district of Canterbury on the South Island of New Zealand. His youngest son Clyde inherited the New Zealand miner’s right certificate issued to JB Atkinsonon in 1868 and it is a treasured family possession.

However, in 1868 Gympie was being seen as the new El Dorado and many New Zealand miners were moving to Queensland to try out the new mining field. John was persuaded to go too and he reached the Yarrell Station field, 60 miles north of Gayndah in April 1868 but it was a ‘duffer’. He then moved on to the Two Mile at Gympie where he was very successful.

John Barrow Atkinson was probably only in New Zealand for a matter of months but he still left a record of his visit. We are lucky in that we have John’s own account of his movements on the mining fields through the newspaper interview and that he kept his first ever miner’s right. Without those two pieces of evidence, I might have had a hard time proving that John had spent time in New Zealand.

This is true of a lot of miners who spent time on both sides of the Tasman. Suddenly they disappear from one area and you then find them in another. A lot of times there is no official documentation surviving to prove/disprove their wanderings. I hope to do some research on John Barrow Atkinson in New Zealand at some time in the future and at least visit Waimea to see what it is like today.

I have other New Zealand connections but I will save them for the next blogging theme! Thanks for the opportunity to participate.


  1. brissiemum2 says:

    Shauna, your account of John Barrow Atkinson is very interesting. I am descended from the other Atkinsons in Gympie – Thomas – who was also a gold miner (but not successful, I assume) and who was from Ireland. I have often wondered if there was a connection between the families or whether the common surname was just co-incidence. I’m thinking that it was probably the latter. Mine lived around the Mt Pleasant/One Mile area which I’m beginning to think of as ‘Little Ireland’. I do know that some of our Irish Atkinsons also went to NZ but a generation or two before the Gympie ones came over. Good luck with your continued research.

  2. Shauna Hicks says:

    Unfortunately there is no connection between the Atkinson families – mine were from Lancashire but interesting there were in the same area. Thanks

  3. Lynn atkinson says:

    John barrow atkinson was my great grandfather.. His son Clyde started farming in the GYMPIE district. My dad Noel is one of his 9 children.. I actually married anatkinson, not related.. We are going to England in my 2013 .. Hope to connect with some relatives

  4. shaunahicks says:

    Hi Lynn we may have met many years ago at an Atkinson reunion. I’m happy to share any info – have a great trip.

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