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The Lost Archives of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand :

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"The Church Records of those [early days] are
more than interesting; they are precious"

(Otepopo-Kakanui Parish Historian writing in Nov 1911)

The loss of any Church record diminishes the memory of who we are, what we as a Church or individual stand for, where we have been, and how we have evolved and progressed to find a way forward in our lives and common bonds of worship together.

This site is designed to act not only as an easily accessible database confirming known records lost or placed at risk through fire, flood, decay, neglect, theft or "act of God", but also as a sobering reminder highlighting the need to ensure adequate storage and preservation of valuable Parish, Committee and other irreplaceable Presbyterian Church records and artifacts. Also listed are details of some of the unfortunate and more unusual events which have befallen Churches at various times, even when no records were lost. 

The details on this site have been compiled from information supplied by Parishes, listings of records held in regional Archives and from other records, books and Parish histories held in our Archives. What you will read is as accurate as is the information we hold. We welcome additional information on lost records or corrections to these entries. 

Collecting oral interviews and written histories from older Parishioners and Ministers is often overlooked but equally important as they can portray aspects of Parish ministry and activities not covered in more formal Church records. As one historian noted in the1930's : "Much of the most interesting matter gathered into this history has come, not from records and documents, but from people". 

Another very pertinent comment was made by the Secretary of the Historical Records Committee of the general Assembly in 1947 : "It is not likely that our generation will be over indulgent in the matter of wordly adornments to its records, we are too liable to err in the opposite direction. Our first aim is to preserve clear records which admit no possibility of misreading in the future."

Note on Communion Rolls - Parishes were always required to keep formal Communion rolls. Many registers for the 19th Century - if they ever existed - have not survived. However the dates of admission as a full Church member and the names (only) were generally entered into the Session Minute book. 

Some written references to the intended or threatened destruction, loss and placing at risk, or absence of Presbyterian Church Records :<

Crumbling History

Crumbling History - the Papers of the Rev George Brown 1830-1930

"All records seem to have been lost", "Incomplete, nothing prior to 1907", "Destroyed by fire in 1884", "Stored in vestry stationery press, always kept locked", "Laid to rest in Manse study", "Early records cannot be found", "In portable wooden locker in choir room behind pulpit", "Old records found in wash house", "65 years records, no protection", "[Records Stored] Pending purchase of suitable receptacle", "Old records presumed to be burnt", "No trace of old records", "At manse and in pantry of Managers' vestry in Church" - Some responses from a return of Parish records to the Historical Records Committee in 1931

"Will you please inform the Department that our records for the 1930's have now been reduced to the material of permanent value... We are dependent  upon the minutes of the Committee, etc." - The Assistant Director of Missions writing to a retired Missionary, 3 February 1960. 

"I was over yesterday to the Foreign Mission Office. There is a large pile of stuff stored there.  Much of it will have to be sent to the destructor. The value of keeping records, other than minutes,  for years and years, is to my mind very doubtful. For instance all the outward letters have piled up from year one.... Had I time to go through it and cull out anything that might be useful for reference in the days to come and let the rest be burned, but when I will get that time I do not know. It seems a shame to shift all this rubbish over to the new office, for that is what it is." - The Rev George Budd, Superintendent of Missions, wiriting to the Church General Treasurer, 22 November 1935. 

"Destruction of Foreign Mission Correspondence - Permission was given for the destruction of correspondence prior to 1929" - Mission Committee Minutes, 28 February 1939 -(This directive was thankfully not carried out) 

"Through the loss of records or through the neglect to keep records of the first days of  Presbyterianism in this charge, very little written material remained for use in compiling a history" - The Rev Alexander Watson recorded this comment in the Alexandra Session book when endeavouring to writea short Parish history in 1910. 

"Accuracy has been aimed at, but no doubt imperfectly attained. Records made at or near the time of events vary, and many Church records have been lost by fire and otherwise. Greater care in their preservation is desirable.... Omissions are many.... and more so through lack of information." - A Footnote to the History of the Presbytery of Auckland written by the Rev WJ Comrie in 1939. 

"There is no correspondence of any value to pass on. All of any importance has been dealt with, and it will be a good thing for you to start with a clean sheet" - The Rev L Rogers, retiring Secretary of the Temperance Committee writing to the new Convener, the Rev CJ Tocker, probably in the early 1940's. 

"I had to be my own Secretary as well as Convener - and more often than not the whole Committee - and did not keep a regular minute book, only notes for my own guidance. My job was to do the work, not to keep records." - The Rev CJ Tocker,  retiring Convener of the Temperance Committee writing to the new Secretary, the Rev SW Webber, in 1947. 

"Re another matter you wrote about some time ago, i.e. old Church records. We have raked up quite a few, some from under the rubbish thrown under  Manse - who by ? I don't know - others from odd corners - some of them date back to 1870.... Now what shall we do with these books of wisdom (or otherwise)?" - The Rev AC Hampton of Howick Parish, Auckland, writing to the Very Rev DD Scott, Convener of the PCNZ Historical Records Committee, 1947.

"It [The Historical Records Committee] wishes to emphasize the fact that minute books and other such documents are not the private property of the persons who have the custody of them for the time being" - Rev WC Comber, Secretary of the Historical Records Committee of the General Assembly, 1947.  

"[Many] records were found to have deteriorated considerably due to affection by dust and grime, fading from exposure to sunlight and general depreciation from inadequate storage arrangement. In fact, the place would not measure up to the standard of a common junk room. This is not surely good enough for our precious irreplaceable archives ?" - The Convener of the First Church of Otago Archives Committee reporting on the state of their archives in 1969. 

"The spiritual records of the church have not, for various reasons, received that strict and consistent attention which their importance demands..... We must, however, make the best of such records as we have, and strive to keep a more careful record in the future." - The Editor of the St Andrew's Presbyterian Church Levin-Waiterere Parish History 2002. 

This site devised & researched by Donald Cochrane (Curator of Photographs)

>>>>>>>> Click HERE to Search the Records <<<<<<<<



Waiuku Parish Records

Historic Waiuku Parish records saved at the eleventh hour after having been water damaged while stored in an underground concrete vault (2009).


Found ! :

Feb 2011 : The Caversham Church Dunedin Session Minute book covering the period June 1875 to Sept 1888 appeared for sale in a second hand bookshop in Sydney Australia at the end of 2010. The Archives negotiated the purchase of this historic book which is now safely in our custody. An interesting fact is that it covers the period 1875 to early 1882 when the Church was burnt down and it had always been assumed that the Session Book was burnt at this time.

Oct 2009 : After having been lost for many years, early missing Mataura Parish records were discovered in October 2009 by the local bank branch where they had been placed for 'safekeeping' in 1974. The records were 'located' after more than one assurance by the bank that nothing was held!

Presbyterian Archives Research Centre, Knox College, Arden Street, Opoho, Dunedin 9010, New Zealand

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