New Genealogist of the Week- David Jack

12 Dec, 2016

New Genealogist of the Week- David Jack

What started your interest in genealogy?

My interest started during my last year of high school aged about 16. I wanted to learn about my family’s past particularly my Jack patrilineal side as neither my parents or grandparents really talked about anything. I fashioned an art folder into sections then went to see grandma Jack and uncle Murray Jack who lived with her. I proceeded with my first ever family interview making notes and drawing family trees into my art book, as my grandmother reminisced about what she new of the family’s past. I still have this material some 44 year later, but in hindsight, do wish I had recorded the conversation and taken some photographs.

What are your specialist areas of interest and why have you chosen them?

I have a large knowledge of researching within New Zealand resources and love the challenge of discovering new client’s Maori Whakapapa. My current Genealogical MSc study through Strathclyde University has been extremely inspirational in further developing my love for Scottish genealogical history as I delve into clan origins, ancient genealogies and oral traditions. This research and learning has also fulfilled the development of my overall understanding of the various types of genetic genealogy and analysis, and is the area I now wish to specialise in.

 office-timaru  david-a-jack

My Office, 17B Roayal Arcade, Timaru

David A. Jack


Your most exciting discovery, either personal or professional

A recent request comes to mind which got the better of me during one of my volunteer shifts at our local NZSG branch archives. My client had lost track of her 3xgrandmother Jane LONGWORTH and mentioned she had spent the best part of two years trying to find her. Apparently Jane had literally just vanished after the birth of her last child.

In 1858 Jane had married John MILLS in Manchester and after the birth of their first son John had emigrated to New Zealand. Their second son Ellis was born in Timaru, New Zealand in 1862. In February 1868, Husband John died aged 44 leaving Jane alone to bring up her two sons and three-year-old daughter Sarah. Records during this period are very scarce and I spent the remainder of my shift checking the usual deaths, burials and shipping records to no avail.

I asked my client to contact me the following week which gave me time to consider my research options, did she re-marry? A search of the NZ BDM archive revealed three marriage records for a Jane Mills between 1868 and 1874. The latter two seemed my best option as she can’t have re-married the same year her husband had died, or had she? rather than spend money on three register copies, I decided to search the deaths for all three surnames, surely if she did re-marry her death will be recorded with either one of these three surnames. No deaths were found that matched.

Still reluctant to spend a dollar, I then proceeded to eliminate potential husbands wondering if she had married twice therefore hiding her name in that way. Bingo, was I delighted, my theory panned out, I felt like a real detective. Jane had re-married William COWDELL in 1868 the same year her husband John had died. Unfortunately, William then died in 1869 and she re-married her third husband William BURROUGH in 1870. Poor Jane, after such a terrible run with her husbands she died in January 1883 aged 56. Then in May 1883, her third husband William, while on his way back to his farm house crossing the wet paddocks of Washdyke, had an unfortunate accident and drowned after falling into a water hole.

After all that wonderful detective work, I thought finding the location of her burial would be easy. She must be buried in our local cemetery, but alas, no listing could be found and I was finally had to part with some hard earned cash, ordering a copy of her death entry. When it arrived in the email, I was speechless, what a waste of money, she is buried in our local Timaru cemetery after all. Back online I went, this won’t beat me, and finally there she was, after searching for as many name variants I could think of like Barrow, Burrow, Burough, etc – finally she jumped out of the page at me, Jane Borrough, and William lying side by side in separate unmarked graves. Yippee. I rang and arranged to meet my client the next morning at the cemetery where I had previously marked out their sites. Her reaction made my day and a lovely bottle of Chardonnay dropped into my office later in the week made my think that’s why I just love genealogy.


A typical day’s work.

Weekdays normally a 6:30-7am rise, coffee and a chat some days with my breakfast buddies in the local café near my office and then into my man cave base in the Royal Arcade where I am surrounded by my large genealogical library and dozens of fascinating items of memorabilia.



A wee peak inside the man cave


My current workload sees most of my time absorbed by my Genealogical MSc study. Between my study and clients genealogical work, my days are broken up working as an elected district councillor, a Director of Trust Aoraki, where we distribute gaming machine proceeds back into the community, and finally as a rostered volunteer (Sunday afternoons) for the South Canterbury branch of the NZSG. As volunteers we assist the general public with their genealogical research enquiries from our archives room which is housed in the Timaru District Museum.


David A. Jack PgDip. QG

Professional Genealogist

17B Royal Arcade, Timaru, 7910, New Zealand

m: +64 21 770 0000  |  h: +64 3 686 9320




Clare O'Grady