e-librarynz logo



By Jeff Pyle

Family researchers and historians are often fascinated by cemeteries and the monuments, headstones and plaques that fill them. Often neglected by our present day descendants and local government departments; our future generations never appreciate the stories that lie within the grounds of these old cemeteries.

This article looks at just one female member of our family who must have been a strong and supportive member to her husband and family who achieved so much in their own life stories. What was a true 1st generation KIWI who raised a strong and trustworthy family from where the New Zealanders attitude of "She’ll be right mate" must be attributed too.



Headstone reads:[i]

"In Loving Memory


Matilda Puckey

Who entered into rest July 15 1884

Her children arise and call her

blessed. Prov XXXI 28

Blessed are the dead which die in

The Lord from henceforth yea, saeth

The spirit, that they may rest from

Their labours, and their works

To follow them. Rev XIV.13

Who was Matilda Puckey?

Matilda Puckey nee Davis was born 1814 Dorsetshire, England.The daughter of Richard and Mary (nee Croker). When Matilda Davis was 10 years old her father decided to emigrate to New Zealand from their family from Woodrow House in Dorset to New Zealand.[ii]On the 15th August 1924 the Davis family arrived at The Bay of Islands and "they were welcomed by the Reverend Henry Williams and a horde of inquisitive Maoris."[iii] The family moved to Kerikeri and were all deeply involved and busy at the mission station.

At Waimate North on 11 October 1831 Puckey married Matilda Davis (who was then aged 17), second daughter of Rev. Richard Davis, thus becoming the first European couple to be married in New Zealand.

William Puckey and his wife Matilda worked hard in the upper north of New Zealand.

"Puckey's fluency and empathy in te reo Māori helped him establish effective relationships and understandings with Māori in Northland. Few other Pākehā in the early years of contact could communicate as effectively between races. Puckey often referred to himself and his wife in his Journals as mere 'labourers in the vineyard', and though he was both modest and humble, the actual effect of his labours may have been under-rated, in his lifetime by Bishop Selwyn, who refused to support him as a candidate for ordination, and by subsequent historians."[iv]

It is probably very fortunate that pioneers like these (and they are in every true Kiwis family tree) (our roots) breed (large families) and established our foundation stock of early settlers, their families and their descendents, while those in prominent positions seemed more interested in their own glory and status than breeding or remaining to build New Zealand of today.

It is with awe that one must look at the achievements people like Matilda managed in her lifetime, the hard work, the education she inspired her own children, the support to her husband and to all those around her, She must have spent considerable time with her family and especially caring for her husband William (a very active person once) who late in life became bedridden, another unwritten episode in her untold life.



Ref: Thames Star, volume xv, issue 4842, 16 july 1884, page 2


Death and legacy

William Gilbert Puckey died at Kaitaia on 27 March 1878, age 73, and was buried at St Saviours Church, Kaitaia. His wife Matilda died on 15 July 1884 in Thames.[v] Some prominent relatives of William Gilbert Puckey include his son Edward Walter Puckey, who became a Maori Land Court judge.

William and Matilda's 11 children were:[vi]


Matilda Puckey (nee Davis)[vii]


Matilda Puckey nee Davis was indeed a very early New Zealand settler; who chose to spend her last years in Thames and make it her home. Matilda is buried at Shortland Cemetery Thames, if you stumble up the worn tracks, pause and look at the weathered headstone and ponder the experiences of this special pioneer lady, and her part in the early settled history of this land; that includes having the first european marriage in New Zealand.[viii]

References & Background Reading

·         ^ The Family Research of Monique Jones

·         ^ a b Earliest New Zealand: The Journals and Correspondence of the Rev. John Butler accessed 11 September 2007

·         ^ "Muriwhenua Land Report" (PDF). Waitangi Commission. pp. 65-66. http://www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz/scripts/reports/reports/45/414D637B-BE61-40F3-AAD6-BA3265D9FCD5.pdf. Retrieved 9 June 2009. 

·         ^ a b The Descendants of Richard Davis

·         The Story of Paihia (2000), Nancy Pickmere, Calder’s Design and Print, Whangarei, ISBN 0-473-06767-6



[i] Jeff Pyle: Photo

[ii] “Kaitaia and its People” by Florence Keene. Chapter on “Mary Ann Matthews and Matilda Puckey, The first European women to live in Kaitaia”

[iii] ibid

[iv] Wikipedia "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Gilbert_Puckey"

[v] ibid

[vi] ibid

[vii] “Kaitaia and its People” by Florence Keene. Chapter on “Mary Ann Matthews and Matilda Puckey, The first European women to live in Kaitaia”

[viii] ibid

NOTE: Over the many years of family research as the quiet family genealogist - I have assembled many, many documents, files, photos and historical documents on our New Zealand and overseas connections which you can find throughout the elibrarynz index mostly under folders titled ANCESTRY, or similar which I recommend you obtain for yourselves, especially all our extended family members as I would like to insure they are shared around and recorded in as many databases as possible.

So if you aren't already a member - join today.

Also I plan to produce/publish in limited small runs via our local professional publisher, a few hard copies of selected family files into books. Watch for these in this BLOG as they are issued. They will virtually be limited to ordered runs only and will contain alot of information and photos that will not and can not be found elsewhere.