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Unique forensic study of early Otago farmers proposed

Clocktower.

Monday, 30 May 2016 2:31pm

Hallie Buckley image
Associate Professor Hallie Buckley

University of Otago researchers are hoping to shed new light on the quality of life and identity of Otago’s early European settlers and farmers through a proposed study that would involve excavating and analysing skeletons from unmarked graves in Tokoiti, Milton.

The proposed project, which would be undertaken in partnership with a local community group called Tokomairiro Project 60 (TP60), would be the first time that such research has been attempted on an early European population in New Zealand.

The TP60 group has located records of 68 burials in the St John’s Church of England Cemetery on the back road at Tokoiti.

The first known burial was in 1860 and the last in 1926. The 67 are mostly first-generation settlers and their families from the UK who moved to the area after 1850.

State-of-the-art archaeological and forensic analysis of the cemetery and those buried within it would be undertaken by researchers, led by Associate Professor Hallie Buckley of the Department of Anatomy and Dr Peter Petchey of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

Detailed mapping and geophysical surveying of the cemetery would initially be carried out, followed by careful archaeological excavation of selected areas. The researchers hope to recover 20-30 individuals, and would initially concentrate on parts of the old cemetery that are outside the presently-fenced area.

After DNA, bone and tooth analysis — including isotopic investigations — had been completed, the remains would be re-interred in their original plots and the research team and TP60 would co-operate in restoring the lawn cemetery and marking of any then known burial sites.

Identified living descendants of the 67 burials would be asked to have their DNA profiled to help determine which remains are those of their ancestors. Associate Professor Buckley’s departmental colleague Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith would conduct these DNA analyses on the skeletons and their living descendants.

“As well as helping families to identify the graves of their ancestors, this research would also provide a unique opportunity to trace the diet and health effects of the European colonisation process —from leaving their homeland via extended sea voyages and arrival to unbroken farmland,” Associate Professor Buckley says.

The researchers would also be able to compare the detailed life histories the TP60 members have compiled for the 67 people with the new forensic evidence.

“For example, differences in strontium isotope ratios can pinpoint where in Britain a person grew up or moved to,” she says.

The project has been endorsed by the Rt Reverend Dr Kelvin Wright, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin and the TP60 research team. A public meeting will be held at the Milton Coronation Hall at 7.00pm on Tuesday 14 June to present the project to interested people in Milton and the wider community.

A list of the names of the 67 people identified through historical records as having been buried at the cemetery appears below.

For more information, contact:

Associate Professor Hallie Buckley
Department of Anatomy
University of Otago
Tel 03 479 5775
Email hallie.buckley@anatomy.otago.ac.nz

The names of 67 people known to have been buried at the cemetery:

  1. Albert, Olivia 1878
  2. Barrett, Jasper 1903
  3. Barrett, Elizabeth, 1892
  4. Bedson, Leonard 1875
  5. Bennetto, Jane 1881
  6. Bugden, Emily 1893
  7. Bugden, Edward 1875
  8. Butler, Edwin 1875
  9. Caudle, Stephen 1887
  10. Caudle, Stephen jnr 1865
  11. Caudle, Catherine 1873
  12. Caudle, Lucy 1873
  13. Clegg, Joseph 1877
  14. Clegg, Mary 1880
  15. Clegg, Frederick 1877
  16. Clegg, Frederick #2 1879
  17. Clegg, John 1876
  18. Farrell, Eleanor 1877
  19. Farrell, Peter 1887
  20. Farrell, Henry 1890
  21. Finch, Elizabeth 1875
  22. Finch, John 1897
  23. Finch, William 1875
  24. Finch, Mary 1875
  25. Flahive, Mary Ann 1892
  26. Fyfe, James Watson 1899
  27. Fynes-Clinton Fanny 1888
  28. Higgins, Joseph 1877
  29. Jordan, Nita 1892
  30. Miller, Robert 1864
  31. Moore, Anna Bella 1893
  32. Moore, Emma 1916
  33. Moore, John 1926
  34. Ottery, George 1898
  35. Ottery, George 1898
  36. Parker, Catherine 1876
  37. Parker, Mary Buchanan 1891
  38. Parker, Thomas 1870?
  39. Parker, Mary Smith 1880
  40. Parker, Joseph 1919
  41. Pilkington, Richard 1877
  42. Powley, John 1891
  43. Powley, Jane 1864
  44. Powley, Ann 1859
  45. Powley, Nanny Bradberry 1862
  46. Powley, Hanorah 1873
  47. Powley, George 1877
  48. Powley, Henry, 1885
  49. Ronaldson, Grace 1877
  50. Seed, John 1878
  51. Seed, Ann 1893
  52. Shaw, Henry 1881
  53. Shaw, Sarah 1893
  54. Shaw, Elizabeth Bell 1909
  55. Snow, Levi 1875
  56. Squires, Westbrooke 1862
  57. Taylor, Annie 1880
  58. Taylor, Walter 1881
  59. Thomson, Robert 1877
  60. Toogood, William 1873
  61. Weber, Flora 1874
  62. Weber, Bertha 1873
  63. Weber, Dr 1874
  64. Welham, Jane 1906
  65. Welham, George 1879
  66. Welham, William 1889
  67. Woodhead, Elizabeth 1860

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