Cheryl Carnahan and Judith Fitchett from Ancestors’ Attic, the Nelson branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. The Nelson branch has been running for over 30 years and members are dedicated to preserving Nelson’s history, collecting for the future and helping others. Photo: Kate Russell.

Helping to uncover Nelson’s past

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To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know your past: that’s the message from a group of passionate Nelson genealogists.

Tucked away in the Trafalgar Hall is a library bursting with stories of Nelson’s history.

Records of births, deaths and marriages, cemeteries, education, electoral rolls and passenger lists are just some of the things you’ll find on the shelves of Ancestors’ Attic, the Nelson branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists.

Member Judith Fitchett has made it her aim to connect these records to inquisitive locals, and will be running a beginner’s genealogy course throughout August as part of family history month.

Judith has been running the courses for ten years and says she loves to start people off on their family history journey.

“A lot of people think everything can be done on the internet, but actually, only a tenth of all information is online. We help people tease out the information and get the facts down,” she says.

Her interest in family history research started in the year 2000.

“It was right at the start of the internet. I had a lot of photos and heirlooms handed down to me from some of the first settlers and wanted to find out more about their stories – just little things like knowing the name of the ship they came on,” she says.

“For me, I like to do family history to look at the social history – looking at what life was like for them. People led quite regulated-type lives [back then].”

The Nelson branch has been running for over 30 years and members are dedicated to preserving Nelson’s history, collecting for the future, and helping others.

They are open Mondays 1-4pm, Thursdays 10am-4pm and Sundays 2-4pm at 67 Trafalgar St. Nelson Photo News, family announcements indexed from various Nelson newspapers, old age pensions, headstone transcriptions, college magazines and school scrapbooks and centennial booklets are just some of the other records you’ll be able to peruse.

Judith says that it’s important for people to know where they came from.

“I think it gives a firm base and centres people. Anyone has access to records and we get a whole range of people coming in. We’ll help anyone walking off the street.”

Judith’s course, ‘Starting Genealogy’, is on August 7, 14 and 21, 9.30 – 11.30am at the Elma Turner Library. The cost is $10, bookings are essential – phone 546 8100.

The Family History Centre at 119 Nayland Rd is also having an open day on 8 August, 10am – 2pm. For a full list of family history month events, go to www.nelsonpubliclibraries.co.nz