NOTE:   These articles are contributed to our newsletter by individuals and do not necessarily represent branch advice and/or policy.






Particulars of several thousands or more wills made over the past three hundred years can be found in the Reports of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records notably the 55th, 56th and 57th reports. Details such as the name of the testator, his place of residence and date of probate of will are set out in tabular form; you can consult copies of the reports at the National Library and of course at the Public Record Office itself. The actual wills themselves can be inspected at that office which on request will make copies available at a nominal charge.


Wills are a wonderful source of information for the pedigree hunter but not always: the following extraordinary will was made in Ireland in 1674:


I John Langley, born at Wincanton, in Somersetshire, and settled in Ireland in the year 1665, now in my right mind and wits, do make my will in my own hand-writing. I do leave all my house, goods, and farm of Black Kettle of 253 acres to my son, commonly called stubborn Jack, to him and his heirs for ever, provided he marries a

Protestant, but not Alice Kendrick, who called me “Olive’s whelp”. My new buckskin breeches and my silver tobacco stopper with J. L. on the top I give to Richard Richards, my comrade, who helped me off at the storming of Clonmell when I was shot through the leg. My said son John shall keep my body above ground six days and six nights after I am dead; and Grace Kendrick shall lay me out, who shall have for so doing Five Shillings. My body shall be put upon the oak table in the brown room, and fifty Irish men shall be invited to my wake, and every one shall have two quarts of the best acqua vitae, and each one skein, dish and knife before him: and when, the liquor is out, nail up the coffin and commit me to the earth whence I came. This is my will, witness my hand this 3rd of March 1674.

Signed  John Langley

(April 2003)


NOTE:   These articles are contributed to our newsletter by individuals and do not necessarily represent branch advice and/or policy.




Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June.  However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.  Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.


Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the others sons and men, then the women and finally the children – last of all, the babies.  By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.


Houses had thatched roofs – thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath.  It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs”.


There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.  This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed.  Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection.  That’s how canopy beds came into existence.


The floor was dirt.  Only the wealthy had something other than dirt.  Hence the saying ‘dirt poor’.


The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing.  As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside.  A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway.  Hence the saying ‘thresh hold’.


Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.  When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off.  It was a sign of wealth that a man could ‘bring home the bacon’.  They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and ‘chew the fat’.


Those with money had plates made of pewter.  Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death.  This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.


Bread was divided according to status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle and guests got the top, or the ‘upper crust’.

(Oct 2003)


NOTE:   These articles are contributed to our newsletter by individuals and do not necessarily represent branch advice and/or policy.



Notes taken at lecture by Mr G. Ross

1 May 2003


Gary has been busy cataloguing on computer, much of the information held by the Museum.   When visiting for research, first ask for the Index and hope that Gary is still there or that whoever is on duty has some knowledge.  Outlined below is some of the material available.


Photos – The collection has about 1200 photos grouped under headings of People, At Work, Houses (limited), Weddings (not many), Sports, School, Military (includes brass bands, picnics, lodges) and Others.   All are cross referenced where possible and indexed.

2-300 are named; there are some portraits and families, many needing naming.  Sports section contains 1-200, mostly 1900 onward with names embossed on.  Military photos include Balclutha Mounted Rifles with officers named.  Eight portraits from WWI.   School reunion photos.  The Portrait Room is upstairs with few named.  Have McSkimming industry photos and other records.


Booklets – Have proof copies of a lot of groups and societies; A & P Soc. 1878-1949.  A good way to pin down where people were in the area.  Jubilee celebration booklets are a great resource.


Newspapers – Clutha Leaders on line (would like to index but not allowed access to originals, doing from microfilm a huge task).   Otago Witness 1883, 83, 91, 92 – go to Country Columns.  Have some Bruce Heralds.  Other bits and pieces worth a look.

Some national papers.


Lodges – Have minute book of Alexander Lodge, Kaka Point.  Have IOOF records – indexed to 1908.  Most locals joined in first 50 years.  Lot of information from these.


Maps – A few early maps with names on them.  Later Power Board maps, farm maps 1950’s – 70’s.


Documents – Some early programmes, receipts, very few letters or certificates.


Directories – Have 1890, 1935, 1949, and 1954.

Electoral Rolls – Balclutha Borough 1905 (south of river), 1935, 1970’s.  National roll for 1903.

Gazettes – 1864-1927.  Difficult to find individual.  Doctors, dentists, JP’s, postmasters.  Patents, naturalisations, gold shares (hard to find).  Frozen estates, missing persons, statistics gazetted.  Military – militias, volunteers if promoted or demoted, Maori land wars detailed.  Boards gazetted – Road, Land etc.


Index of John Wilson’s book on early reminiscences of South Otago at Museum, also “The Early Runs” by Beattie.

12 – 15 recently published family histories.

Under alphabetical files have some complete family trees and some bits and pieces on one family (photocopies).

Archives of wound up societies are upstairs (have McSkimming industry photos etc).


Museum has Benhar School records.

(May 2003)


NOTE:   These articles are contributed to our newsletter by individuals and do not necessarily represent branch advice and/or policy.



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Last updated 7 Feb 2007