Discover Canterbury: My Family History Journey

Researching one’s family history or genealogy can seem like a daunting prospect at first but in my own experience it was wonderfully rewarding and eye opening. My journey with my family history started when I became a library assistant on Tuakiri|Identity at Tūranga, which is where staff assist library users with their genealogy. The Family History librarians encouraged us to research our own families so we could improve our knowledge and skills and what can I tell you, I found some gems.

To begin with, I concentrated on my father’s maternal side as they were already a well-known family and therefore very easy to find. This was because my grandmother, Patricia Deans, was a direct descendant of John and Jane Deans. I knew I came from an influential Canterbury family when I was growing up as we always had family reunions. However, it was not until l went to university that I discovered the extent of it. It was very meaningful to me to research the Deans family and their members as there were snippets of information I found that I did not know about such as the locations where they are buried and their obituaries on Papers Past.

Bill Platts and Patsy Deans by Maeve Platts. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. CCL-PH21-009.

My father’ paternal side is less known and was therefore more of a challenge. This was where I started to go down numerous rabbit holes due to their confusing names! There was a William Mummery Platts (my grandfather), two Frederick Charles Platts and a Frederick William Platts within the family tree. To make it even more complicated, I found out that my grandmother's sister (Audrey Deans) married Frederick Charles Platts, my grandfather's brother. This means the two Platts' brothers married the two Deans' sisters... I also discovered that my great-great-grandfather, Reverend Frederick Charles Platts was an Anglican clergyman (which was certainly a surprise coming from a non-religious family) and he was not so popular among the parishes he looked after. While he was in Melbourne, he sued a man called Mr J. R. Bull for slander in 1856 and again in 1857 for verbal defamation.

Another interesting snippet of information that I discovered about my family is that my great-great-aunt, Daisy Platts-Mills, was the first woman doctor in private practice in Wellington and, in 1915 the first woman medical officer to the Public Service Commission. In 1900, Daisy Platts was one of five women and 706 men on the medical register. It was incredibly moving to learn of the many achievements and triumphs she accomplished not only for herself as a doctor but also for her community.

Unfortunately, my mother’s side was not so easy to find as she was born in Ireland. However, I did search on Library Edition for both of my maternal grandparents (Harry and Aideen Kerr) and I found their marriage record from 1957 and my Gran’s birth record from 1932. This was very special as they both passed away when I was a teenager. I am so pleased I was even able to find these as Irish records are notorious for being quite hard to navigate.

Aideen and Harry Kerr by Maeve Platts. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. CCL-MaPl-003.

My journey researching my family history was a moving and eye-opening experience for me as it allowed me to find out where I came from. I would recommend anyone to go on their own genealogical journey. I am sure you won’t regret it.

If you want to find out more about exploring your own family history, come along to the Family History Expo at Tūranga on the 18th-20th August 2023.

Do you have any photographs that you would like to share? You can contribute to our collection via the Discovery Wall website.

References 2023. Ireland, Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023]. 2023. Ireland, Civil Registration Marriages Index, 1845-1958. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023].

Johnson, Lex. 2022. Rev Frederick Charles Platts. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023]

Lyttelton Times. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023].

Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023].

Te Ara. 1996. Daisy Elizabeth Platts-Mills. [online]. Available at [Accessed on June 2023].

More Family History

Discover Canterbury

Discover Canterbury is a fortnightly blog post promoting beautiful, interesting, weird, & wonderful digital content from our Canterbury Stories and Discovery Wall collections.
Read Discover Canterbury posts.

Explore local images and share your photos