Hi WikiTreers,

Welcome to a new installment of “Meet our Members.” It’s time to get to know another awesome member of our community: Meet Fiona.

Fiona Gilliver became a WikiTreer in July of 2016.  She’s very active in our New Zealand Project and enjoys participating with the Kiwi Crew in our annual “Thons“.

What are some of the surnames you are researching?

Initially, Lovell, Lacey and Woolcock. Grey, Edwards, Riley/O’Riley, King and McFarlane pre-1837 are just too much of a challenge.

What are some of the locations you are researching?

New Zealand especially the old Nelson Province; Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Leicestershire in England and the South West of Scotland.

When and how did you get interested in genealogy and family history?

Both sides of my family were storytellers. My Scottish dad even recorded his stories in the 1990s and I still refer to them for clues when creating profiles. They are surprisingly accurate. During my childhood, every major holiday was a long road trip to visit my maternal grandmother.  Just inside her back door was a hand-coloured photograph of her grandmother, Mary Ann (Grey) Edwards. Nana always regaled us with stories of the “olden days”. Her father and uncle had been All Blacks, her other grandmother, Helen (Riley) McMinn, had been a child during the Land Wars in Taranaki and she was married to an early newspaper journalist, so there were lots to tell.

When I was at high school, my mother casually commented, “My cousin wrote that,” when she saw my history textbook by an eminent New Zealand historian. She hadn’t seen him since her wedding in 1950. A couple of letters later we discovered that my great-grandfather and his brothers had changed the family surname from Woolcock to Lovell. There was a whole Cornwall branch of the family we knew nothing about that was just dying to be researched.

Who’s your favorite ancestor and why?

Lydia Woolcock was the Cornish half-sister of my great-grandfather who changed his name. For a young woman whose father deserted her by fleeing to New Zealand, Lydia chose to make a difference for children considerably less fortunate than herself. She was one of the first matrons of the National Children’s Homes in England, especially Penshurst, which specialised in the care and vocational training of physically disabled children. Currently, children’s homes get bad press, but the care she provided must have been ground-breaking. I often wonder if my great-grandfather knew of her existence.

Tell us about a brick wall you were able to break down or one you hope to bust through.

Finding James William Massey was a relief. Because I knew that I would need to provide details for my ageing mother-in-law’s death certificate, I asked who her father was. Although she had always been quite forthcoming about her mother, step-father and half sisters and brother, she said she had forgotten her father’s name. All she was prepared to disclose was that he had died in WW1. As she was born in late 1913, I was a little skeptical. Long after her death, I found James Massey whom her mother had married a few months before his death in 1916. He was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He will never be forgotten again.

I’d love to find a link to Daniel McMichael that is more than legend. Daniel was a martyred Covenanter shot in the Dalveen Pass, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland by Sir John Dalyel in 1685. He is buried in the churchyard at Durisdeer which is in the area where my ancestors lived. The McMichael family Bible held by my brother sadly only goes back to 1801, but I believe we are direct descendants.

If you could pick one person in history to be related to, who would it be and why?

Catherine Wilson Lovell-Smith aka Kate Sheppard was instrumental in New Zealand being the first country to give women the vote 125 years ago. In a new country like New Zealand, women had worked tirelessly bringing up families and breaking in the land. Giving them the opportunity to have some say in their destiny was only equitable. Because Lovell is one of my family names, I always hoped to find a connection, but I never realised how many Lovells there were.

My second choice would be Scottish poet, Robert Burns. He worked as an exciseman and it is highly likely he met some of my ancestors who were fisherfolk along the Solway Firth. Given his pursuit of woman, maybe we are related.

What are some of your interests outside of genealogy?

Although I am officially retired, I still do relief teaching at the local high school, especially in the winter. Dealing with teenagers, even the occasionally tricky character, keeps me young. Supervising my husband, a fantastic gardener who prefers edibles to flowers, keeps me busy. There is invariably something to cook with or freeze for later. As an English teacher, I still enjoy a good book, and to keep me off the computer, I do try to fit in a daily walk or bike ride.

How long have you been on WikiTree and what do you spend the most time doing? If you’re  involved in a project(s), tell us about how you participate in it.

I joined WikiTree in July 2016. After doing as much as I can with my own family, I’m now working on connecting, sourcing and writing the biographies of New Zealand settler families who have been orphaned or neglected as part of the New Zealand Project. I have taken part in the Source-a-thon and the Clean-a-thon as part of the Kiwi Crew.

What brought you to WikiTree? (In other words, how did you find us?)

Initially, I joined WikiTree because it was free. I had family twigs on a couple of free websites, but there were so many errors being perpetuated by others that I decided to start again. My WikiTree version was going to be well-sourced, accurate and more than just a list of dates.

What is your favorite thing about WikiTree, or which feature(s) do you like the most?

I love the expectation that information will be sourced and that at least a simple biography should be written. Stories make our ancestors come to life, and on WikiTree there is the encouragement to tell those stories. New Zealand newspapers on Paperspast can make research so rewarding.

If you could improve one thing about WikiTree, what would it be?

I’d like profile managers to understand that having a profile on WikiTree is a responsibility. It shouldn’t be ok to drop off an unsourced Gedcom and disappear. A day when there is no need for a Source-a-thon or Clean-a-thon would be amazing. The emphasis for competitions could then be quality sourcing and well-presented profiles.

What is an example of how WikiTree has helped you with your genealogy or how you’ve helped genealogy with WikiTree?

Having family profiles on WikiTree has helped me to connect with people from all over the world who find their own relatives and give me extra information. I’ve heard from Australia about Scottish ancestors, and the US for people born in New Zealand. A few brick walls have been broken down.

Any tips for someone just starting out on WikiTree?

Expect collaboration – your profiles and connections may change. If you provide good sources, unwanted changes are less likely to happen.

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  4 Responses to “Meet our Members: Fiona Gilliver”

  1. Hi. I saw your post on early New Zealand settlers. My wife’s family settled in New Zeakand twice. The first was Stephen Stockbridge, 2GGU, who landed at Port Nicholson on 1May 1842 with his family on the New Zealand Settler Ship London. Wife, Mary Ann Archer, and four children. Three others died at sea. Sailed from Gravesend on 2 Jan 1842. Second family arrived in April 1955 – Fred Hope and Violet Stockbridge. I have to Stockbridge back to Abt 1680. If I can help let me know.

  2. Hi Fiona,

    It is so so good to finally “meet” you at long last!! LOL


    Robynne Lozier
    Fellow Kiwi Crew Member and Kiwi
    Currently living in Canada.

  3. Hi Fiona
    Just seen our link through Dorothy fuller my great grandmother
    She had been married previously here in Australia to john hodges davies
    She actually married Joseph fuller while still married to john
    They had my beautiful nana mona Elaine who stayed in nz when her mum having remarried again to Walter gray
    Nana married dare u Port having 4 children then remarried to laxton Edward smith from kiakoura having a further four children
    I my self born nz
    Have been researching along with an cousin of my mothers
    Our may eternal line came from Somerset 1853 to Australia Elizabeth bruford escott after her husband passed year earlier. She bought out most of her children one daughter Elizabeth wi penny escott married almost straight away to William browning they had a lot of children in fryerstown Melbourne . Sadly mother Elizabeth passed in 1856 and her grave is restored as it’s next to public road. Another daughter rosa and son Thomas moved and stayed in nz Otago links to hawkers flats and john McCormick who built the big bridge there

    Our Elizabeth also passed early and her daughter rosa my nanas nana was only 3 so raised by her older sister Elizabeth
    Had a tragic grief life twins one passed then husband then 6 months later the other twin remarried had two more girls who lived past 100 years
    I too am trying to make connections of paternal and maternal lines for our family story and would love to keep in touch
    As we know nz small but believe me so is Australia really
    I love that all people are related as I believe when people see that it may help to heal the world of useless conflicts

  4. You supplied, our ancestor Pethein to Henry VIII ! What, a gift.

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