Gold Miner in New Zealand

One cousin in my tree, William Parsonson Anderson, I had no idea where he was during the 1871 census. A timeline for him simply had a gap. Then today, when I brought up one of the records I had already attached to him in Ancestry, there was a suggested record for the same name in New Zealand.

His name is somewhat unusual. Parsonson is not a common Unst name. He appears to have been named after the minister who baptised him who was called William Parsonson. This combination of names therefore make you feel it is likely to be the same person when you find another record with the same name.

Before today, I knew when he was born, and had found him in the 1851, 1861 and 1881 census. I also know that he got married in 1878 in Unst, and his occupation on the marriage record is stated as Goldminer. Although married in 1878, unusually, their first child was not born until 1883.

So my questions about him were:-

  • Where was he in 1871?
  • Why did this couple not have children for 5 years after being married?

I found a man with the same name living in Sowburn, Otago in New Zealand, recorded as a miner, in an 1880 Electoral roll, and also in the same region in 1871. If this is the same man as my Unst-born cousin, it would answer both the above questions with “he was in New Zealand”. It would also suggest that he went to New Zealand sometime between 1861 and 1871; came back before 1878 and got married; went out again after that; and came back again before 1881 – possibly before, or because, his father died in late 1880.

Sowburn, Otago is now called Patearoa. It is a small settlement in the heart of the Maniototo Plain that is a rural farming community that has links going back to a gold rush in the 1860’s. The location he lived in New Zealand and the occupations listed on various records, suggest he went to New Zealand for the gold rush.

Also, he is one of the few people in my Unst tree from this era that had a will. When he died in 1918, he left his wife £573. 12s. 5d. suggesting he was successful in his foray in gold mining.

6 thoughts on “Gold Miner in New Zealand

    • Indeed – quite a large number of his family emigrated to New Zealand so it is not a surprise that he went there too.

      He is my 1st cousin 4 x removed. His father William Smith Anderson is my 3rd great-granduncle. William Smith Anderson’s brother Andrew is my 3rd great-grandfather. This makes you and I 5th cousins.

  1. Hi Morag – and Caleb – Willian Anderson travelled with whānau from Norwick, Unst, to Brisbane, Australia, in 1868

    The family story told by cousin Helen is that they were in search of their fortune from the Australian goldfields – however the gold was almost worked out by that time. The Gilbert Anderson returned to Scotland (or Unst) while Magnus Mouat and Gilberrt Harper went over to the Charleston fields on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand which were booming. William either went home also (which I had previoulsy thought) or went to the Otago goldfields (you found him there in 1871 so I expect this is the case.)

    After setting up an innovative gold dredging operation on the NIne Mile (a beach) Magnus Moaut and Gilbert Harper called on their old travelling mates (cousins) it seems, to join them. This beach is now known as Shetlanders Beach. A whole chapter of the book ‘Charleston : Its Rise and Decline” is dedicated to the Shetlanders at Charlseton. This book is out of print now but comes up on quite a regular basis on Trademe.

    Gilbert Anderson returned with his family to Charlseton via Nelson in 1876 on the Howrah. William, however, it seems returned to Unst and lived beside their parents William and Charlotte in their old age. I am aware that at least one (if not more) of his children returned to New Zealand and settled in Otago – Dunedin early 20th century.

    The men who travelled from Unst to Brisbane on the Young Australian in 1868 were:
    • Gilbert Anderson (my great Grandfather – Caleb’s great great grandfather)
    • Willian Anderson – his brother and the subject of the above korero
    • Magnus Mouat – (Gilbert’s brother-in law – Married to Ursula Johnson, Ann’s sister))
    • Gilbert Harper – (Gilbert Anderson’s cousin – son of Elizabeth Ursula Russel – Charlotte Smith Russell’s sister)
    • John Johnson (A brother or cousin to Gilbert Anderson’s wiife Ann)
    • Thomas Henderson (I am not sure how this man fits in – a cousin of some sort no doubt – not sure what happened to him – perhaps you can help??
    (Ancestry.Com Queensland Passenger Lists, 1848-1912. Original Data: Queensland State Archives, Series ID 13086 Registers of Immigrant Ships arrivals, Rolls M471, M 732, M1696-1710.)

    Cheers, Deni

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